Celebrating the history of dance music culture.

Potato Head proudly presents Wild Life Archive –a world-renowned collection of ephemera, books, magazines and other related artefacts documenting dance music culture from its early origins through to today’s global scene.

Our connection to dance music culture is part of our foundation here at Potato Head – the DJs, producers, artists and dancers we welcome here on a daily basis help us to build the unique community of creators we call family and design the soundtrack to our lives.

The arrival of Wild Life Archive at Desa Potato Head offers us the exciting opportunity to curate original in-house exhibitions in collaboration with our wider music community that will act as a living historical document of our scene and help preserve the culture for future generations.

Wild Life Archive is a collection 25 years in the making with over 4000 rare and archival items dating back to the early 1970s, spanning New York disco, Chicago house, Detroit techno, Belgium new beat, Ibiza balearic and UK acid house. This unique archive has been exhibited at world class museums and galleries including the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles, Tate in Liverpool and Vitra Design Museum in Germany.

Ahead of the exhibitions at our new gallery space at Desa Potato Head, we will be showcasing dance music artefacts from Wild Life Archive across our digital channels every week.

Find Wild Life Archive digital here and across Desa Potato Head Instagram and Facebook, and Wild Life Archive Instagram. #goodtimesathome

Wild Life Archive: Artefact Spotlight No.1

Keith Haring’s lifelong association with music culture acted as a central theme throughout his work alongside his involvement in the ongoing aids crisis from both a philanthropic and activism standpoint. After his arrival into New York City in 1978 he soon became involved with Club 57 alongside the likes of Futura 2000, Fab 5 Freddy & Klaus Nomi. From there he went on to dance at and collaborate with many era defining clubs including Paradise Garage, Danceteria, Palladium, Mudd Club and DV8 among many others.

This screen printed bandana designed by Keith Haring acted as the invite to his first ‘Party of Life’ event held at the Paradise Garage in May 1984. A rare item of which not many survived due to its practical nature and lives on as a defining example of Haring’s club related artwork.

Wild Life Archive: Book Spotlight No.1

Albert Goldman

One of the definitive books on disco. There was a time when this book was the only in-depth study on disco available in print. Since then there have been many well researched publications into this dance music genre, but Albert Goldman’s ‘Disco’ still holds up as a dance floor expose par excellence that showcases images from many of the era’s legendary disco clubs from the Sanctuary to Studio 54 and provides a lengthy narrative in Goldman’s own open minded and often controversial style, one had had developed as a popular music critic at Life magazine.

Wild Life Archive: Artefact Spotlight No.2

The Hacienda originally conceived by Rob Gretton and brought to life by the record label Factory Records, the band New Order and local empresario Tony Wilson. Inspired in part by New Orders trips to New York and nights danced away at likes of the Paradise Garage, the club first opened its doors in 1982. Over the ensuing years resident DJs included Mike Pickering, Graham Park, Greg Wilson, Dave Haslam & Jon Da Silva and legendary nights like ‘Nude’ & ‘Hot’ acted as an entry point for house music to the UK.

The iconic interior of the club was designed by Ben Kelly on recommendation from in-house Factory graphic designer Peter Saville. The Hacienda became FAC 51 in the Factory catalogue – designating the club as an official Factory product. Saville who had already designed some of his generations most influential album artwork and promotional material for Factory now turned his attention to the Hacienda. Working on everything from the in-house signage to the club’s membership cards Saville designed the club’s seminal graphic aesthetic.

This offset printed poster designed by Peter Saville marks the 1stanniversary of the Hacienda in May 1983. A classic piece of graphic design that incorporated the hazard stripes that lined the main dancefloor of the Hacienda.

Wild Life Archive: Book Spotlight No.2

Notting Hill Sound Systems
Brian David Stevens

Starting out as a local community event in the mid 1960’s, Notting Hill Carnival has slowly developed into what is now Europe’s biggest block party bringing together over one million people each year on the August Bank Holiday. 

The Carnival itself centres around a parade of floats that wind their way through the local area to the sound of soca & calypso rhythms in the true Caribbean Carnival tradition. The addition of Jamaican style sound systems on residential street corners started in the early 70’s with some of London’s most notable sounds bringing a dancehall element to the party.

Today the carnival host’s legendary reggae & dub sound systems including Aba Shanti-l, Channel One, King Tubby’s and Saxon Sound. These systems play side by side with the likes of Mastermind, Rapattack, KCC, Good Times and Rampage who together deliver a more eclectic mix including soul, funk, hip hop, house and R&B.

Brian David Stevens photographs document a selection of the speaker rigs and sound systems that together help to create the carnivals almighty sound. Shot in the early morning before the dancers arrive these images allow the viewer to study these towering stacks in all their majestic beauty. 

Wild Life Archive: Artefact Spotlight No.3

The team behind Energy operated under the promotion name Karma Productions organising over 50 events in a prolific 5 year period. Just prior to launching Energy the team had put on a party called Hypnosis at Brixton Academy in October ’88 promoting under the name Exodus. Heading out into the London orbital the Energy team held some of the eras most legendary raves with events held in film studios, aircraft hangers and the great outdoors.

The parties were promoted via pirate radio, word of mouth and flyer distribution with ravers tracking down the venue on the night by calling 0898 numbers to listen in for directions and updates. They were often advised to gather at a meeting point, often a motorway service station, to wait for the next update – these ad hoc get-togethers often erupted into a party in their own right with car stereos playing mixtapes at full volume.  The raves themselves featured huge turbo sound systems, laser rigs and fairground rides which together helped to create an out of body sensory experience.

This flyer is from Energy’s ‘Pushing up the Power’ party which was held at Westway Film Studios in London on 27th May 1989. It featured 12 DJ’s across 5 rooms with themes including a Greek temple, the pyramids and Blade Runner.

Wild Life Archive: Book Spotlight No.3

What We Wore
Nina Manandhar

What We Wore started out in 2011 with the aim of documenting a grassroots personal history of British Style from 1950 through to 2010. The project crowdsourced imagery focused on both British street culture and subculture taking in contributions from people’s own personal photo albums. The resulting book released in 2014 features punks, new romantics, ravers, indie kids and everything in between.

A communal photo album that is accompanied by personal anecdotes which allow the reader to trip back in time and explore the changing styles of British fashion over the last 50+ years. The book features contributions from British dance music culture luminaries including Jazzie B, Don Letts and DJ Harvey.

Wild Life Archive: Artefact Spotlight No.4

New Order’s 1983 tour kicked off at the Hacienda in Manchester before taking them through Europe and over to North America. The band’s New York date was at the legendary Paradise Garage – a club they had visited on previous US tours as both New Order & Joy Division and somewhere that had originally inspired the Hacienda.

A camera crew followed the band around New York shooting video footage for the upcoming single ‘Confusion’ – a track produced by Arthur Baker. The final edit captures the energy of the city’s nightlife at that time with excerpts of the band live on stage at the Garage and some great dance floor footage from their visit to The Fun House.

The gig itself was packed to capacity with crowds outside looking to somehow get in – a hot ticket. Mike Pickering’s Quango Quango played support ahead of New Order taking the stage and launching straight into the classic Kraftwerk esque ‘Your Silent Face’. The set took in ten tracks including the club smash Blue Monday and about to be released Confusion, both testing the full range of Richard Long’s iconic sound system.

This bootleg LP records New Order live at the Paradise Garage on July 7th 1983 and was released the following year on white vinyl in a limited edition of 500 copies.

Wild Life Archive: Book Spotlight No.4

Ewen Spencer

The early 90’s origins of UKG can be traced back directly to a pub in South London where early on Sunday mornings Timmy Ram Jam’s Happy Days sessions attracted dressed up clubbers spilling out of the Ministry of Sound’s Rulin’ night on the lookout for an after party. Music came courtesy of DJ’s Matt Jam Lamont, Mickey Sims & Justin Cantor who spun pitched-up US Garage dubs by the likes of MK, Todd Edwards & Masters at Work accompanied by resident mic man MC Creed . The high tempo mix and hype MC not only created the energy to maintain the party, it birthed a new dance music genre.

In time a whole Sunday scene exploded right across the capital with homegrown producers emulating the style and pirate radio stations raising the mast to broadcast live and direct 24/7. The scene developed its own unique dress code with high end Italian ready to wear from the likes of Versace, Gucci & Moschino dominating the look. By the late 90’s UK Garage was attracting worldwide attention as records crossed over into the charts and nights like Steve Gordon’s Twice as Nice began to attract A-list stars and grab coverage in the national press. Ewen Spencer who was Sleazenation Magazine’s nightlife photographer at the time, started a personal project in 1998 aimed at documenting the scene. Focusing in on Twice as Nice he followed the night from the Colosseum in Vauxhall to its new London residence at The End in Bloomsbury and out to Ayia Napa during the summer months.

The intimate dancefloor moments he caught on camera are presented here in UKG – a brilliant work, published in a limited edition complete with archival inkjet print. 

Wild Life Archive: Artefact Spotlight No.5

In post war Britain, in the industrialized North during the early 1960’s a new scene began to emerge out of the existent mod subculture, initially carrying on both it’s fashion and love of American R&B, the Northern Soul scene soon shaped its own unique sound and style code giving birth to the UKs first true underground dance music genre.

Although all-nighters were happening elsewhere in the UK by the mid 1960’s, it was Manchester’s Twisted Wheel that can lay claim to having hosted Northern Soul’s original all night events bringing in live acts from the USA to play alongside the resident disc jockeys. A blueprint formed here as DJ’s played ever more obscure uptempo US imports and dancers introduced an athletic style of dance alongside a change of attire in response to the music.

An underground network developed with crowds & DJs moving between a chosen few venues, each with their own rare soul anthems. 50 miles north west of Manchester in the seaside town of Blackpool lived the Mecca, a large entertainment complex that housed the Highland Room a venue that would later go on to become a Northern Soul institution under the stewardship of Ian Levine & Colin Curtis.

While Forty miles south in a converted cinema was Stoke-on-Trent’s Golden Torch, a club which quickly became hallowed turf in its own right hosting many of the scene’s top DJs including Tony Jebb & Keith Munishall, briefly taking over from the Wheel in ‘72 as the venue for weekly all nighters. There were other notable clubs at the time including the Catacombs in Wolverhampton with DJ ‘Farmer’ Carl Dene, Samantha’s in Sheffield with DJ John Vincent and later the Talk of the North in Cleethorpes with DJ Ian Dewhirst.

In 1973 local DJ Russ Winstanley approached the owner of Wigan’s Casino Club with the idea of hosting all night events. In an old ballroom that could house well over 3000 dancers it was a big ask, but in September 1973 the first all-nighter happened with a turn out of around 600 in attendance. Word spread and the Casino quickly became the country’s top all nighter with crowds heading there from all over the UK, queuing for up to 3 hours in order to find their way onto the sweat soaked dance floor. DJs Richard Searling & Kev Roberts made their names there alongside Winstanley and many other respected selectors.

By this point the scene was fully formed with its own signature dress code including Oxford baggies & bri-nylon sport vests for the guys to allow free unrestricted movement and full length circle skirts for the girls to maximise twists & twirls. Club & society patches adorned clothing & the signature bowling bags that would contain both spare wares & beer branded towels. Talcum powder graced the floor to enhance footwork and energy was found elsewhere as most clubs had no alcohol license.

All the while record dealers and DJs dug hard in search of additional copies of existing anthems or in the hope of unearthing that next rare side. Cover ups were not uncommon as DJs tried to protect their finds sending punters off on wild goose chases scrambling to locate a copy.

At Northern Soul’s absolute peak the Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca were world famous with the Casino winning Billboards ‘best disco in the world’ in 1978. In time the scene began to split as Levine introduced a more modern playlist at the Mecca while those loyal to the traditional stomping soul style stayed with the Casino & others. The Mecca closed in 1979 and the Casino’s 500th all-nighter was to be it’s last in May 1981. Emotions ran deep on the dancefloor as everyone danced hard to the final 3 before 8 – a tradition of playing the same three records to close out every all-nighter. The titles loaded with meaning as ‘Time will pass you by’ was followed by ‘Long after tonight is all over’ before Dean Parrish’s seminal ‘I am on my way’ rang out across the room for one last time.

This woven patch commemorates Wigan Casino’s 2nd anniversary all nighter in 1975 – the Casino produced various patches to mark special events as did many other clubs offering a momento to dancers to mark the occasion.