You can find our digital releases @ Black Market Records on-line shop, a legendary store from Drum and Bass scene.
About Black Market Records
Created in 1983 by Rene Gelston, Black Market began by hosting club nights in London. In 1984 Black Market began its seminal Friday night residency at London’s famous Wag night club on Wardour Street. Straight away BM had a huge impact on clubbing in the nation’s capital.
Djs Barry Sharpe and Lascelles delivered what was to become known as Rare Groove to London’s West End. With each week the queues grew longer as savvy clubbers wanted in on London’s most rockin’ dancefloor. From the outset this set Black Market apart. A great mixed crowd descended on Soho every Friday with one aim – to get in. Winston, the Wag’s legendary head of security and his crew, along with Rene and Billy McIntosh on the door, made sure everyone was welcome to share and enjoy the vibe.
More djs were coming on board adding to Black Market’s stellar line up – Steve ‘The Jerve’ Jervier, Frankie Foncett, Noel Watson, Derek B, Steve Jackson, and Horace. Black Market soon earned its reputation as the preferred club night for fellow djs who loved to come and check out the tunes firing up the dance floor. And what a dancefloor – with every available space taken up by a crowd determined to take the roof off. Stateside djs and musicians in particular were knocked out by the dancing – always taking time to watch, in particular, the guys who were The Pasadenas. It was always a moment of pride when they would show respect for a crowd of black and white kids getting down together, something they didn’t really see back home. Rene fought hard to make sure young black kids were welcome on a weekend night in the west end and The Independent newspaper noted it was the first night to do so.
Black Market’s reputation saw a growing number of music celebrities turning up out of curiosity only to find themselves having a blast. One evening Grace Jones showed up and just took over. Black Market was only going to finish when she had had enough. An amazing evening with a real diva went on till sometime just before 7am. Every time Alan, the manager, tried to wind down she was not having it demanding that the dj “play more – now”. She said it was one of the best nights she’d ever had in a club. A no brainer to say it was the same for those who partied with her that night too.
Press attention grew and grew. Time Out realised Black Market’s influence as it said “when Black Market sneezes club land catches a cold”. In response to demand further afield, Black Market hosted nights in Milan, Paris before later going on to take up a residency in New York in the summer of 1987. Rene was working out of New York as a session hairdresser with his wife Vivien taking up her slot on the door with Billy and Winston as well as sitting alongside Louise on the desk upstairs. As Vivien always maintained “it wasn’t like work at all, rather it was like going out with a great big happy posse”. The club on W20th was perfect – a small venue that still had a huge disco ball in place over the dance floor. At their first meeting the owner told Rene… that ”no way would a little white kid from England fill his club”. There lay the challenge. After some innovative promotion that even included flyering outside Paradise Garage and Radio shout outs, Black Market opened. Soon it became a gathering spot for clubbers and artists alike. The Village Voice was proclaiming…..”thank god for the brits”. ID Magazine said…”many brits bullshit about opening clubs in New York, but Black Market was the only one to have success”. Manning the decks were Maurice Watson and Dave Piccione who got his first break as a club dj at Black Market. As Chicago House Music was having a real impact on clubbing, Black Market put on some great live acts – Liz Torres and Master C&J, Moon Fou, Cultural Vibe.
What Rene had learnt by the time he returned to the UK in 1988 was that the phenomenon that was House Music was going to be a game changer. As a regular at paradise Garage and a frequent visitor to The Loft and The Zanzibar, he could see it’s irresistible pull was beginning to have a massive effect. His belief that this music heralded the future in club land lead him to make a brave and bold decision. No longer would Black Market at the Wag club concentrate mainly on rare groove but rather London and indeed the UK would be treated to an all out assault of Chicago House and New York Garage sounds along with stateside hip hop and rap. Alas it was not the immediate success Rene envisioned and after only a couple of months he decided to call it a day. Later Chris Sullivan from the Wag went on to acknowledge that Rene’s Trax night was ahead of its time.
But that’s not the end of the story because what came next proved to be phenomenal – namely the Black Market Records store in London’s D’Arblay Street. Along with Steve Jervier, Rene put his vision for an innovative dance music store into practice. Pride and place went to a fantastic sound system manned by djs spinning new and unbelievably exciting sounds that drew customers hungry and ready to devour. The store frontage was a window through which the djs could be seen spinning their wares. The vibe extended out into the street as people going about a busy Soho were stopped in their tracks amazed by Black Market’s vibe. They were blown away by the queue spilling out onto the street and the sounds and of course the Black Market vibe. Weekends were total road block!
As for the record distributors, Black Market was their primary and essential first port of call. The store was selling faster than they could deliver! Black Market Records was the engine firing up the explosion in dance music. The tales from these heady days have become legendary. As the illegal rave scene started to kick in along with the advent of the “Summer Of Love” the store became notorious. The press were desperate for inside info on the illegal scene and especially the ecstasy driven side of things. It was a time of “2folk devils and moral panics”! The Sun was particularly insistent so Rene and Steve decided to spin them a line. With straight faces they informed the Sun reporter that it was a Mr T who was the main player. Unbelievably the guy fell for it and the paper duly provided it’s readership with tales of this shady Mr T and his evil empire of drugs and enforcers. One particular promoter would often forget to collect his rave nights takings from the tickets the store would sell on his behalf. Carrier bags full of cash would be kept for him in the basement. One Saturday afternoon a guy entered a packed shop telling Steve Jervier he was a plain clothes detective from the Surrey police and he would be working on getting the store closed down. Everyone just laughed at him. Somewhat miffed he started to pick a fight with Steve Jervier, which didn’t go too well and he was told in no uncertain terms to get out. Steve was also arrested and taken off to Lincoln jail as part of the government’s attempts to clamp down and criminalise anyone involved in promoting illegal raves. He was released the following day after lawyers intervened. Then there’s Frankie foncett’s talent for throwing irritating customers out on their ear when they failed to appreciate his recommendations! There is a wealth of great stories yet to come out… but they will!
As new genres started to emerge Black Market was ever ready to deliver to our customers – Mickey D became the go-to-guy for the new swing beat tunes. And Ashley Beadle just loved to immerse himself in great music. And there was Paul Martin with his second hand spot downstairs and of course Stafford too.
By now word had reached the US about the Black Market Record store. Billboard ran a front page piece describing it as a phenomenon. During this time Rene started his independent record label and signed tracks from Chicago, Detroit and NYC. Artists such as Larry Heard and Fingers Inc, The It, Adonis, and Underground Resistance. Rene still enjoys enduring friendship with many of the pioneers of house and techno through his involvement with the record store and his label as well as his club promotions. In 1990 Rene moved on, concentrating on the music label. He sold the store and granted Dave Piccione and Nicky a temporary licensing deal for use of the name Black Market Records.
Black Market signed a major record company deal with MCA/Universal which proved to be successful for both parties. Record sales topped 2 million albums and even more singles. The label garnered a collection of record discs in recognition. In 1997, along with dj Darren Jay, Rene set up Mecca Recordings specialising in cutting edge genres such as drum ‘n bass and rap and other rave related releases. The label picked up a prestigious MOBO award for best Hip Hop Artist – Pheobe1. One of the first, and still regarded as one of the finest, female UK rappers.
On the electronic music front, Mecca Recordings released Larry Heard’s seminal album Sceneries Not Songs and The Aliens album on Black Market International. Both acknowledged as some of his finest work. In 2002 Rene decided to return to North America, operating out of Toronto. He opened a minimalist design record store and a promotions company along side Carl Collins, who managed operations.
The promotions company specialised in cutting edge electronic dance music, which constitutes a very healthy scene in North America. In 2004 and 2006 Black Market took the accolade of Toronto’s Promoter of The Year. Many of the acts promoted by Black Market now enjoy considerable global acclaim. Memorable events hosted by Black Market included Skream, Jeff Mills, Quest Love, Derrick May, Larry Heard, Robert Owens, Morgan Geist, Alexander Robotnik, Steve Bug, Adam Beyer, Magda, Dillinja, Hype, Marcus Intalex, High Contrast, Kerri Chandler, Danny Krivit, Marshall Jefferson, Juan Atkins, Theo Parrish, Stacey Pullen and exclusive label events for Ghostly and Kompact/Red Bull Music Academy. Since returning to the UK, Rene and Nick Dunlop (a new tech partner) have been researching and preparing for its next exciting venture for Black Market: a highly innovative digital platform, a small collection of distinct dj/fashion headphones developed with maximum aural quality and design, smart, cool t-shirts and hoodies with some exciting promotions to come…. watch this space.