When Marcus Liesenfeld, aka DJ Supermarkt, released the Too Slow to Disco compilation back in 2014, he had an inkling there would be more to the story. He’s telling it now with The Ladies of Too Slow to Disco 2, a 16-track assortment of underappreciated dance floor gems from 1974-82 — including Holly Near’s “Back Off,” which closes the set and is below.
“We released the first one, where there’s more male-oriented stuff, and I just realized there’s so much more to discover,” the Berlin-based Liesenfeld tells Billboard. “Most of the stuff that came to me after (the first one) was written by female musicians. I found that annoying about the situation at that time in L.A., that the recording industry was so macho. I thought it was really interesting to look into the (female) side of things.”
Liesenfeld estimates he spent four years gathering the tracks for The Ladies of Too Slow to Disco 2, making discoveries via YouTube, social media and fan recommendations. “We share things because we’re all excited about this (music) and turning each other on to things,” Liesenfeld says. Musically, Liesenfeld says there was “not a big difference” between songs made by men and women. But he did find that the industry’s chauvinism allowed many of the female performers to fly below the labels’ radars — “They have absolutely no paperwork or anything for many of these songs,” he notes — which actually worked to the women’s advantage.
“The ladies are really well-organized — that’s maybe the biggest difference from the men,” Liesenfeld says. “What’s interesting is the amount of female musicians that actually got the rights back from the majors. That’s stunning. Maybe it’s because they had to struggle so hard at the time, they knew how to fight and actually get their material back, so I could license directly from them.” He also credits Franne Golde, whose “Here I Go (Fallin’ in Love Again)” is included on the set, as “a saint” who helped him connect with the other artists.
“She really kicked ass,” Liesenfeld says. “She organized all the musicians because she knows everybody, and she gave me all the contacts. If I have a question, she knows everybody and everything.”
For Near’s “Back Off,” Liesenfeld came across another DJ’s edit, which introduced him to Near, an artist-activist who’s now 70, as well as to the song. “I never even heard of her, but she’s one of the major players in women’s music and does so much good work in the world. She’s an interesting character,” he says. Near wrote “Back Off” in 1982 for that year’s Speed of Light album, and she feels it “remains true to its time and intention” nearly 40 years later.
“The 1980s are when much of the discovery, investigation and activism put forth by feminists and lesbian feminists of the ’60s and ’70s started to find its way into the mainstream,” Near says. “The climate had changed and my support team and audience encouraged me to move into this new space carved out by previous decades of hard work. I wrote the song ‘Back Off’ putting my foot into the crossover or cross-into waters. It was fun…. Off and on throughout the years I leaned into the mainstream, but in truth I was never comfortable there. It was not my home. My home was directly linked to activism, to community and to the long tradition of social change music.”
With his DJ Supermarkt live work on hold, Liesenfeld is currently working on two more Too Slow to Disco compilations, though the themes, he says, “are still a secret…And I don’t have enough songs yet. That’s how it works; I’m collecting songs until I realize there’s enough material to do another one. When I have them, I’ll put (an album) out. It’s really that simple.”