I'm not a dancer.
I've never married so that cringeingly embarrassing bride and groom dance routine hasn't come my way thank god (or as Richard of RBB would say that mythical deity created by people who are looking for meaning in their lives).
When I was young (a long time ago) I went to dances and socials from the age of 13 on. The dancing wasn't the attraction. The opportunity to get my hands on a girl, any girl was. I used to 'borrow' my older brother's clothes because they looked 'cooler' than mine. Unfortunately they also were a bit bigger than I needed so I looked like a refugee in a UNESCO blanket. There was even a time when in Paraparaumu I 'borrowed' an older cousins winkle-picker shoes to go to a skating rink dance evening. I was about 13 and the cousin was 19 so the shoes on me, a skinny kid, looked like sharp barrage balloons on the end of a stick insect, but hey, it's all how you feel isn't it?
Well it should be except for the fact that when I was in my mid-teens my eyesight failed (no jokes Richard please, this is sensitive stuff). I had to wear glasses at school but outside of school I carried on without - these were the days of being called "square eyes' or 'speccy' if you wore spectacles not like today when Hollywood types wear clear glass spectacles to try and look cool and, or intelligent.
Obviously there were some mistakes made like grabbing the arm for the next dance of a girl who wasn't the one I was with or, on on occasion commiserating with a dance partner at her injury indicated by the bandage on her arm. Said bandage was some sort of stupid stretchy device that young women (girls) then used to hold their handkerchief. Embarrassing? It was then, today I'd think it a laugh.
The dancing involved a kind of box-step movement (one step forward, one step across to the right, one step back, one step to the left repeated). This was to '60's music - British R&B, Pop, Rock, whatever it didn't matter it was all covered (badly) by local bands. Upper body movement wasn't featured and even discouraged. A bored, 'who cares' expression was de-Rigeur. Don't believe me? Look at some film clips of the era.
In my sixth form at college I attended dance classes at Erskine Girls in Island Bay. I was at St Patricks in Wellington, a small, all boys college and Erskine was a small, all girls college. Feverish and repressed sexual urges were pants-bustingly obvious hence the nuns at Erskine and the priests at St Patricks would arm themselves with rulers and straps. This was in 1969, I think that things might have changed since then.
Picture the scene: Randy young guys who have had the sense to sign up for ballroom dance classes (and not the college band - take note Richard and Robert) in a mad rush to grab the best looking girls to practice (dancing) with. After a lot of undignified behaviour more suitable to the rugby field than a dance floor, the nuns created a system whereby everyone would swap partners after a couple of minutes. This was excruciating when you'd landed the lookers but a blessing when you were dancing with the wallflowers.
The result of all this was a basic understanding of the waltz and fox-trot for the school ball and..... blue balls.
In the '70's, at parties, or certainly the parties that we used to go to, no-one danced. Either everyone stood around drinking out of bottles or, on other occasions lay around smoking marijuana and listening to Pink Floyd -type music.
In the '80's the crappy disco dancing and later trance music dancing didn't feature with me as I never went to discos and night clubs, preferring a good wine bar.
Today I never go anywhere where dancing is an option and if ever it is, the Old Girl knows that there are only 3 things that will get me on to the floor:
- Love Shack by the B52's
- I think I'm turning Japanese by the Vapors
- A Van Morrison romantic ballad (for a waltz around with the Old Girl).
So where is this going?
In 1977 I had an Arthur Brown album that I really liked. The title is Dance. I liked Arthur Brown's earlier music and this was a departure from that, more commercial if you like but I thought that several tracks on it were stunning. We don't have a turntable anymore and the old LP's have been in the shed for years, slowly deteriorating. I haven't been able to buy Dance on CD so yesterday looked on i-Tunes to see if I could buy it there. No luck. While looking though I came across several trolls who fancy them selves as music critics who totally slammed Dance. These supercilious wankers (probably 17 y.o wannabes) crapped on about how Arthur Brown had been wonderfully avant-garde in his earlier career but sold out in the 70's with Dance being too commercial etc. etc. Tossers. I only found one guy who had anything good to say about the album. Here are some excerpts:
"Unbelievable - a commercial album coming from the hands of the maestro, just as he started engaging in truly mind-blowing Seventies progressive music? No more Kingdom Come? Now we're invited to 'dance with Arthur Brown', and not a single tune on this album can be truly called experimental, at least not if we go by Mr Brown's own standards. The album is nearly impossible to find nowadays, and it's equally, if not more, hard to find out anything about the circumstances of its release, so I'm not even sure if this was Brown's attempt to create a true commercial appeal for himself or he just, well, felt like it.All I know is there's a kind of unexplainable, weird coolness flowing from well nigh every track on here, even from the covers. This is dance music, although it's not brainless dance music - for one thing, it's pretty diverse, and your hips are offered some assistance from such diverse genres as waltz, rock'n'roll, whitebread soul, reggae, gospel, funk, and even music hall. And every single of these attempts is moderately - or highly - successful, with impeccable production, Brown's ecstatic vocals, and even hooks galore. But, once again, I reiterate that Dance does not give the impression of a desperate sellout; its joyful eclecticism, weird choice of covers and unpredictable moods and settings of the originals probably couldn't be all that appreciated by the general public, and certainly weren't. ........
........ One song, though, does stand out solidly and seriously against all the others, and that's Dalby's 'Quietly With Fact'. Waltz tempo, a nice build-up, and some of the most expressive guitar passages on a Brown record ever; Dalby's double-tracked solos in between the verses are economic, majestic, rhythmic and, well, just the kind of guitar solos it takes for a guitarist to master to prove he hadn't actually taken up the six-string for nothing. And, of course, a tempo that switches to rock at the very end - who wouldn't like just a little bit of acceleration at the end of a lengthy waltz?
Still, only the very last track really provides a tiny glimpse into the true (or, at least, the most common and usually beloved) nature of Arthur Brown, when the band chants 'is there nothing beyond God?' for two minutes and a half, interrupted only by an unexpected false ending in the middle and punctuated by weird phased syncopated guitar playing and thick, pompous 'mmmmmm' vocal exclamations/incantations throughout. That's 2:25 for you; the rest will certainly muddle and confuse the typical Arthur Brown fan, but then again, if you happen to be an Arthur Brown fan, you gotta be ready for anything.
I got to thinking though that in this modern word of instant communication via websites, facebook, twitter and blogs where any idiot can voice an ill-informed opinion (like this post for example) that there is rarely a right or a wrong but just something in the middle. Everything is personal and one person's love is another's hate. For me, I love Arthur Brown's Dance and happily recommend it to anyone - if they are ever lucky enough to find it.