Musical History- “Hold onto my Love.”

Musical History- “Hold onto my Love.”

DJ Robbie Leslie mix.


The 40th Anniversary

“Hold onto my Love”                           

DJ Robbie Leslie remembers:

It was on a cold winter’s afternoon in early 1980 that I trudged down to the Hudson River from the 14th Street IRT subway station. After jogging right and left a bit on the skewed West Village streets, it was mostly a straight shot down to the West Side Highway and 12West, where I had made plans to be let in during daytime hours. The wind coming up off the river scorched my cheeks as I trudged west to my destination.

12West.  The name sounds somewhat like coordinates on a map, and on a map it deserves to be. This legendary club, opened in 1975, was one of Disco’s pumping hearts. It was the place where thousands of happy feet pounded and sweaty bodies swayed on weekends and Wednesdays – quite literally Where The Happy People Go. Such luminaries as Jim Burgess, Jimmy Stuard, Tom Savarese, Alan Dodd, and Vincent Carleo dazzled discerning ears and pioneered mixing styles in practice to this day. Having created quite a positive “buzz” at Fire Island’s Sandpiper in the late Seventies, and doing well at my audition at the club, I was hired as one of two resident DJs (with Jim Evangelista) after the departure of Dodd. I was now in that illustrious pantheon of DJ legends! I was working at the ultimate expression of Disco as entertainment, playing for an audience who truly understood the artistry involved in creating a night of dancing! The club owners were intelligent, supportive, and nurturing; to put it succinctly, they got it. Despite all the glories that followed, it was and it remains the pinnacle of my career.

Back to that winter day in 1980: My trip downtown to the club was with the intention of laying down audio tracks in the booth for later editing on my apartment tape deck. Because I had not yet installed full recording and mixing equipment in my apartment, I could only create simple edits on my Pioneer RT909 reel-to-reel deck and had by 1980 created many of these edits for club use. But what I had in mind that day was a more elaborate project, with overdubs, pick-ups, and multiple copy layering. For this I needed a mixer and two audio sources (turntables) and my employer had the best equipment in the business.


After laying down the necessary tracks (and tricks) in pieces on audio tape, I could take the separate fragments back to my own home and edit the entire rough draft together. And this is how the first version of Hold On To My Love was born. This first adaptation of Hold On is now gone; the original acetate and tape copy were lost with the passage of time and because of the auspicious emergence of a second generation release – an historic mix that lives on as a disco classic forty years later.

Hold On To My Love was released to select record pools in 1980 as a 3:36 7-inch 45. On the flip-side was a 3:35 instrumental version (not uncommon in the Seventies and Eighties) and it was this blessed B-side that allowed for the extension of the “little record that could”. Jimmy Ruffin, the Motown artist and brother of Temptations lead David Ruffin, was the singer. He was famous for his single What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (U.S. Hot 100 #7/U.S. R&B #6/UK #8) and had an early disco hit with Tell Me What You Want (U.S. R&B #42, UK #39). After playing the 45 a few times at 12 West, I saw clearly that this song had a special potential, but its short length handicapped it. Other DJs also struggled with the 45 in an era of long versions and
12-inch releases, and soon retired the track. But none thought to breathe new life into the record. I decided that I could easily marry the A and B sides for a seven-minute extended mix. Well, after a few tries it became apparent that this would not be an easy fix, primarily because of modulation, and vocal pick-ups/lead-ins/decay (phrasing that begins prematurely or lasts too long). For this challenge I needed a mixer, much like at a recording studio where vocals are raised and lowered manually. A disco mixer would suffice.

The result of this 12West session/edit was a steadily growing hit. It became “that Robbie Leslie Song”. My signature.

It wasn’t long before Mike Wilkinson, president and owner of Disconet, got wind of this underground phenomenon. Disconet was a “For DJs Only” monthly subscription service of advance releases, promotional material, and special edits. I had been playing the acetate (a custom made one-off disc made by actually ‘engraving’ a lacquered aluminium plate) of Hold On To My Love for a couple months at 12 West, Underground, and other venues. Mike proposed that I create a higher quality, longer mix of Hold On for his label. The new version would be fashioned at his Upper West Side apartment-cum-recording studio. The engineer was Raul Rodriguez who became famous for his incredible extension of ABBA’s Lay All Your Love On Me also on Disconet (the signature orchestral crashes/crescendos in the ABBA remix were originally an editing mistake, but Raul seized on the exciting sound and built an incomparable club anthem). Together, Raul and I forged the 8:25 version of Hold On To My Love – he editing the ¼inch tape on the Pioneer 1500 deck while I fashioned the mixes, overlays, and overall structure. Though this final mix was about one minute longer than I wanted, Mike insisted that it break eight minutes so that he could put the song alone on one side of his double-disc releases.


Well, you know the rest of the story. Hold On To My Love became a standard in clubs and a disco classic in its remixed form. Jimmy Ruffin performed the track live in 1983 at the opening of the Saint’s 1983-1984 season. It was the last dance song played at the closing of the club. It has been played at major events and circuit parties down the years. It is as well known today as it was four decades ago. In the ensuing time since it was first pressed, re-released, bootlegged, and covered, multiple interpretations and have come and gone – you might call them the ‘children’ of Hold On To My Love… some scions, some stillborn, some illegitimate. Many were included in my 2010 Thirtieth Anniversary Edition package.

To be a part of the creation of this memorable mix is one of the highlights in my career and to know that it still has power over the dancefloor – that it can bring smiles and evoke heartfelt tears – is a source of never-ending pride and joy.

Never Underestimate the Power of Music,
Robbie Leslie

Hold on to My Love Lyrics

Today, you came by, to tell me you are leaving me, and to say, that
the love, and all that we knew had just drifted away. And I look, in
your eyes, and I couldn’t bare the pain I felt inside, of my heart. To
think I’m gonna be lonley again, and if e-ever, then I know at a glance
that I don’t stand a chance.
Hold on, to my love, I’m nothing, and I can’t get along without you.
Your the light of my life. There no living without (your love).It’s so hard, to believe, that your going away could make me feel so
down. Cause I know, that from this moment on I won’t have you
around. And if e-ever you go, then I know at a glance that I won’t
stand a chance.
So hold on, to my love, I’m nothing, and I can’t get along without
you. Your the light of my life. There no living without (your love).Ooooh, oh baby, nobody’s taking you place. But for you, but for me,
our love would live on for the whole world to see.So hold on, to my love, I’m nothing, and I can’t get along without
you. Your the light of my life. There no living without your love. No,
no, no, no, Hey. Whooo
Honey hold on (hold on), to my love (my love), I’m nothing (hold on)
and I can’t get along without you (hold on). Your the light, your the
light, of my life (my life). Theres no living without (your love. Hold on,
to my love). Hold on, cause I’m nothin girl, and I can’t get along
without you, you, your the light of my life (my life). And I just can’t live
without you.

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