An Invitation to my school disco circa 1973-1976 ( you must be 13-18 in your head to attend)


Hello Good people and Tiger Feet who still read this blog…

  THIS IS MY MOST AMBITIOUS BLOG ENTRY TO DATE. THIS POST MAY TAKE SEVERAL SECONDS TO DOWNLOAD FULLY.  IN THE MEANTIME READ MY PRE-AMBLE AND THEN JOIN ME AT THE DISCO!

Last entry I made comments on the dreary songs of Mumford & Sons and Ed Sheeran, this post follows on from that. As many of my readers will know, before he was convicted for murder, Phil Spector was a legendary music producer. He multi-tracked many instruments playing simultaneously, until it created his notorious “Wall of Sound”. Now UK bands have many instruments playing simultaneously but end up with a “Wall of Bland”.

As an alternative, I am sending you a warm invitation to join me for a historical recreation of a 1970s school disco. This has little relation to “hippie counterculture” and is purely done for my pleasure and hopefully yours. 

Are you feeling down? If you come to my disco you will feel 100 times happier and perhaps 4 decades younger. (Bring friends!)

An explanation of what I am doing:

I am recreating an authentic playlist of music, that I remember dancing to at a variety of school discos in South London between 1973 and the beginning of 1977. The schools employed professional disk jokeys who supplied music and sometimes lighting. Later when the punk, reggae and other underground music scenes exploded, I was going to punk gigs, heavy dub reggae clubs, and then moved north of the Thames to become part of an alternative music scene, leaving my school disco days behind.

Setting the scene: School discos were of course free of charge. We as pupils thought it was very funny that the teachers attended. They sat at a table at the back of the school assembly hall, where the discos took place. We were amused to see the female teachers with their glasses removed, exposing lashings of bright blue eyeshadow and mascara, wearing flowing evening gowns and giggling. The male school teachers stood around in their flash 70s leisure suits, a bottle of beer in hand, getting drunk. They were vastly outnumbered by the women.

Normally our teachers were strict and angry with us, and loudly condemning all sexual activities outside a loving marriage. If we exposed the slightest bit of flesh, we were seriously reprimanded. But at the school disco, the teachers were now giggling and flirting with one another in a very scary way.

It was the teacher’s night off and so we also got the night off, to dance to sexy tunes, but we were pretty well behaved. The general age group was around 13 to 19 years old. Strangely I don’t remember being accompanied by parents to or from any discos or parties in my early teens. I seem to remember that we were allowed alcohol in a weak punch (mostly lemonade). No one got actually drunk, a few girls my age went outside to have cigarettes (usually forbidden at school). There was no sex or drugs that I knew of. Occasionally couples “snogged” on the dance floor or outside.

I went to discos at different schools in South London but they were pretty much all the same.

The lighting was simply done by turning most of the lights off! Some DJs supplied lighting, such as a strobe, which would be used during the final set of rock numbers. How I loved to dance in the strobe light, all self-consciousness gone! Occasionally the DJ would have a tiny lighting rig, which looked like a miniscule set of traffic lights, with four or five dim lights of different colours. This was set up in front of his decks which were on a table. Occasionally there was a glitter ball attached to the ceiling which made the school hall sparkle during the disco numbers. Sometimes there was a smoke machine used during slow romantic numbers.

I have little recollection of the DJs, anonymous young men with hundreds of 7 inch singles in cardboard boxes. If you went to ask them for a request, they usually told you to shove off.

There would be EXCELLENT sound quality, this was everything in the 1970s. Big speakers, loud music. The “cartridge” attached to the stylus, was usually incredibly rare and expensive. When music lovers handled their records and put them back in their sleeves, they did this with the same care and expertise that a Catholic would treat the ancient relics of some saint’s fingers or other revered body parts. I also remember being dragged to a massive “Hi-Fi” show spread across several posh hotels, where people would buy the latest stereo, or sometimes quadrophonic, hi-fi equipment. It all had to be perfect and newly developed, it had to be the right brand, and the sound of the music had to be perfect.

Dancing: generally speaking the boys didn’t dance. It was deeply uncool for boys to dance. If they did dance it was usually to their favourite rock tune. When self-conscious long-haired teenage boys heard their favourite band being played at the disco, they felt compelled to get on the dance floor to pay tribute to their most hallowed musicians. They would do this kind of Neanderthal adolescent swaying, sometimes with a sort of “hopping” movement, whilst trying to head bang at the same time. It was rarely in time to the beat. They managed to make their long hair cover their faces enough to hide their self-consciousness. I think this kind of dancing evolved into punk pogoing and rock “moshing”.

But there were also many boys with short-hair who liked dancing and were fearless in doing so, they danced like the girls mostly.

Other more “square” and timid boys, whose own clothes resembled school uniforms, hung around in the shadows like patient fishermen angling under the full moon. They were only here in the hope of enticing a girl to dance with them during the smooching songs near the finish.

The girls danced together usually in pairs or groups of friends. I recall several main types of dance although you could just about get away with anything, in fact I had invented a “finger dance” for when I was tired.

The main “girl’s dance” was swinging hips from side to side with slight stepping left to right, in time to the music. Hands and arms were not used much. I still use this dance technique today and get away with it.

Then there was the “funky chicken”, which was basically pretending to be a chicken.

Then the “bump” which was great fun. Usually a friend would interrupt your chicken movements by suddenly “bumping” into your bottom with their bottom or hip.

Then there were more sophisticated dances that accompanied “Jive Talking” and “the Hustle” and any songs mentioning the twist. They usually involved doing something with your arms and hands and legs at the same time and were hard to maintain.

Also there was the wild head banging which I was very good at especially as I had long hair and loved rock music.

Apart from that there was the “slow dance” ritual. The DJ would play several slow songs in a sequence. The start of each song could be the cause of some fear and trepidation.

Those boys who had been waiting around patiently for the chance to dance up close with a girl, would emerge from the shadows. They asked the girls and were mostly rejected. The girls weren’t expected to ask who we wanted to dance with, that would be controlling, unfeminine and totally unacceptable. Mostly the boys who asked us to dance were just not the ones we wanted to dance close to, let alone kiss, so we rejected them. Often girls danced with each other to avoid the whole embarrassment of it.

Others who paired up to dance to the slow tracks would often end up “snogging” and dribbling all over each other while the rest of us looked on. During these slow dances, the boys often suffered from what we called WHD or “wandering hands disease”. Things didn’t usually go too far at the school disco though, but some new romances developed between the older teenagers.

The music that was played was often the stuff I vowed NEVER to have in my own record collection. For a start they were all singles, I collected and listened to albums by dozens of “serious” artists such as Genesis, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and others. I hated to listen to “soul” music and disco songs but conversely I loved to dance to them with my friends. Now when I hear these same tunes I feel totally invigorated.

Now I can hear the musicianship in these songs. I can understand why and how I resent bland music that is produced now (I am also guilty of this in my own song writing). Perhaps the rock journalist in the film “Almost Famous” was right, maybe pop music should be “dumb”. Maybe once pop music gets too clever, it’s just no fun anymore for anyone.

This is escapist music but it isn’t stupid, there’s a lot of skill in the arrangements, orchestration, dynamics, and in the playing and singing techniques.

Some of these tracks are much older than 1973 but were obviously favourites of DJs and dancers at that time.

As we danced we thought that the music of the future would be so incredibly superior to the songs we danced to at our school disco. We thought these songs were a “flash in the pan”, a passing trend, of disposable songs for “teenyboppers” that would be dead and forgotten within 6 months. Sometimes it’s probably better that we don’t know the future…

So make yourself some weak shandy, get your best dance moves ready, and join me for this authentic 1973-1976 school disco playlist and I guarantee that you will feel life is better!

N.B. please play this through the best speakers you can find, and LOUD!

Once you’ve danced to all of these, it will be like taking acid and going to the moon, you’ll never be the same again.

Oh and I forgot to say… it is usually in fancy dress. I used to just wear my every day clothes, add a head band and paint flowers on my face, and declare myself a hippie, which I was anyway! Others made an effort. At one school disco, a boy in my class was wearing full scuba diving gear, complete with flippers, a black whole body frog suit, snorkel and goggles. I spoke to him for some time and he just nodded back. I thought it was probably difficult for him to speak. Then he turned away and I watched him walk off, slowly raising his big flippers and slapping them onto the floor. I kind of felt sorry for him, as it wasn’t ideal footwear for a disco, or walking, or speaking. I then turned round to look at the others, and saw the guy I thought I’d been speaking to, standing next to me, not in fancy dress. I’ve no idea who the bloke in the frog suit was!

This is an epic playlist. I chose a total of 58 songs from over 170, so there are quite a few I had to leave out. I wanted the timing to fit the length of an evening. The disco starts at 7 pm and closes at 11pm because otherwise your parents would worry!

It’s a mixture of soul, rock, early disco, pop, early reggae and novelty records. Some sections are for fast dancing, others for less vigorous dancing, one section for “headbanging”, and one for smooching and bringing the evening to a close.

I’ve put these songs in an order so that it more or less flows, this was before DJs did proper “mixing”. They just tried to get the mood to flow from one track to another rather than try to match bpm.

***************************************************************************************************

FINALLY THE DISCO STARTS HERE, THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE:

  1. Crocodile Rock – Elton John (3.53   )

  1. Cum on feel the noize- Slade (3.21)

  1. I can help- Billy Swan (3.57) fade before end

  1. My coo ca choo- Alvin Stardust (2.44)

  1. Tiger Feet- Mud (3.50)

  1. 25 or 6 to 4 – Chicago (4.59)

  1. Kung Fu Fighting (3.11)

  1. Who’s that lady- Isley Bros (5.36)

  1. Layla- Derek and the Dominos (7.04)

  1. Wishing Well- Free (3.31)

  1. Feel Like Making Love – Bad Company (5.05)

  1. Nutbush City Limits- Ike & Tina Turner (2.59)

  1. Boogie Nights- Heatwave (3.11)

  1. That’s the way- K.C. and the Sunshine Band (3.07)

  1. Love is the Drug- Roxy Music (2.41)

  1. Monster Mash- Bobby Picket (3.15)

17. The Leader of the pack- the Shangri-las (2.38)

  1. Seasons in the sun-Terry Jacks (3.26)

  1. Make me smile – Cockney Rebel (3.55)

  1. The Jean Genie – David Bowie (4.38)

  1. Now I’m Here- Queen (4.14)

  1. Hocus Pocus- Focus (3.20)

  1. Pick up the pieces – Average White Band (4.00)

  1. Boogie Wonderland- Earth, Wind and Fire (4.52)

  1. The Hustle – Van McCoy (3.49)

  1. You Sexy Thing- Hot Chocolate (4.04)

  1. Heaven must be missing an angel – Tavares (3.31)

  1. Sugar, Honey, Honey- The Archies (2.45)

  1. The Isrealites – Desmond Dekker (2.35)

  1. Hey Fattie Bum Bum- Carl Malcom (2.08)

  1. Uptown top ranking – Althea and Donna (3.55)

  1. Superstition – Stevie Wonder (4.27)

  1. Lady Marmalade- Labelle (3.58)

  1. Green Onions- Booker T & the MG’s (2.58)

  1. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting- Elton John (4.57)

  1. Blockbuster- The Sweet (3.11)

  1. Remember you’re a Womble –The Wombles (3.46)

  1. Sugar Baby Love- The Rubettes (3.30)

  1. Money, Money, Money – Abba (3.07)

  1. This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us – Sparks (3.01)

  1. Black Night- Deep Purple (3.26)

  1. Silver Machine- Hawkwind (4.38)

  1. Hi-Ho Silver Lining- Jeff Beck (2.51)

  1. You really got me – The Kinks (2.14)

  1. Whiskey in the Jar – Thin Lizzie (3.52)

  1. Pinball Wizard- The Who (3.02)

  1. Easy Livin’ – Uriah Heep (2.36)

  1. Radar Love- Golden Earring (5.03)

  1. Born to be Wild – Steppenwolf (3.30)

  1. All the Young Dudes- Mott the Hoople (3.27)

  1. A Whiter Shade of Pale- Procul Harum (4.00)

  1. Killing me softly- Roberta Flack (4.50)

  1. Air that I breathe – The Hollies (4.08)

  1. Without You- Harry Nilsson (3.28)

  1. Sailing – Rod Stewart (4.51)

  1. Bridge Over troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel (4.51)

  1. Samba Pa Ti – Santana (4.52)

 

Goodnight all you “Tiger Feet” out there.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

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Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


Hello Good people who read this blog…

This week I thought I’d write a bit about Steve Hillage. It’s very difficult if not impossible to write about Steve Hillage without referring to my life and that of others in relation to him. This is an entirely subjective view of Steve Hillage . I have no detailed knowledge of his music after 1980 although I have seen System 7 several times.
So just like Douglas Adam’s description of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, due to hazy memories and subjective nonsense some of the contents may be “apocryphal” ( doubtful ). So to any fanatical fans of Steve Hillage, System 7, academics, musicologists , or the man himself if he reads this (and he might), or my ex for writing about him without him being there,then I apologise in advance for anything stupid, crass, innacurate or silly that I say.
I do not however apologise to any music journalists who might read this as they specialise in writing stupid, crass, innacurate and silly things about musicians but in an authoritative way.
No I assure you what I am about to write may be complete and utter bollocks, fiction in fact which bears only coincidental resemblance to any people living or dead, ever, anywhere.*(see footnote)

So here we go…

I first saw Steve Hillage as a teenager at the Queen concert in Hyde Park on 18th September 1976. It was the first “festival” type gig I’d been to. I’d seen the film of Woodstock and Hyde Park turned into a mini Woodstock without the mud for the day. I seem to remember that Brian May of Queen was a big fan of Steve Hillage and of Jimi Hendrix. Bung in Jimmy Page and you’d probably have my favourite 4 electric guitarists.

The gig was organised to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix on the 18th of September1970. Hendrix died in Notting Hill in circumstances which have never been fully explained. This could be the subject of a whole other blog and an area of perhaps morbid curiosity for me after reading Kathy Etchingham’s autobiography.

Anyway back to Steve Hillage….

I went to Hyde Park to go and see Queen but I was hanging around at the side of the stage where the most bizarre people I had ever seen were sitting on the grass. They were such over the top hippies that I was fascinated by them. One of them was wearing a duck on his head ( a decoy duck as a hat..it was hot). There were people going in and out of the backstage area to join the strange group on the grass no doubt smoking grass and I was wondering if it was Steve Hillage who also was wearing some kind of weird hat. I was so young I didn’t really know what grass was , in those days there wasn’t drug education in schools. I remember there were some people looking quite high swaying about or meditating cross-legged next to burning josticks planted in the ground and I didn’t know if that was some kind of drug too. My parents certainly would have thought it was. There were huge crowds and it was very exciting, very alternative, full of hippies and a bit scary as I wasn’t quite sure what was going on and was young. I got photographed at least 20 times by different people at that gig maybe because I had dressed up in a T-shirt I’d made saying “Prophet” in big letters on the front and was wearing a home-made black corduroy floppy hat and was hanging around the side of the stage/backstage area.

Later on I scrutinised the stage and realised it was Steve Hillage I’d seen hopping in and out of the backstage area and his music blew me away.

I remember his rendition of “It’s all too much” a George Harrison song which I was already fond of for having a celestial quality to it but Steve Hillage was taking it to another world. The music shone and glittered and took you through harmonic waves turnstiles into other audio dimensions ( God I sound like one of those terrible Music Journalists…I must apologise!) .Basically Steve Hillage was something I’d never heard before. He used pentatonic scales from the East that I’d only heard in snatches of Indian Classical music. World music was not really broadcast then. It was Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, Womad etc ..which brought it to the attention of us young westerners and later Whirlygig etc.. .

I think for most of the Queen audience maybe the music was just too different for them to understand but I was completely smitten by it.

Well in the context of the variety of sounds in 2008 this won’t sound the same and apologies for poor quality but here is Steve Hillage at that Hyde Park Gig. The most interesting parts are the instrumental bits after he finishes singing the song. It looks like they were having quite a few technical problems. There is footage of faultless live gigs available but not here yet! ( more about that next time)

Later my problem was that none of my friends or anyone I knew had any interest in this kind of music. Most of them liked pop or straight classic rock like Thin Lizzy. I was well into punk as well and knew a few punks. Around the same time I got into Gong from finding a collection of Gong albums in my local library but had no idea that Steve Hillage had been in Gong until later.

Anyway to cut a long story short when I was at college doing my A-levels I met my ex partner Michael . One of the main things we had in common was an almost identical record collection and a total obsession with music and the hippie movement which was verging on the fanatical (now I’m older of course I’m not like that at all).

In particular we both knew and loved the music of Steve Hillage and Gong. Our subsequent relationship was very much based around these things.

We used to have a record player that could play a side of an album repeatedly without pausing and there were times when we listened to a side of Green or Rainbow Dome Musick , or Live Herald for 8 hours or more , once I think we heard side one of Live Herald for an entire weekend going to sleep and waking up with it in the morning. But it never seemed to do us any harm and I can still listen to these records now, you’d think I would have got bored with it!

As well as the music we were finding and exploring the alternative scene in Notting Hill, at free festivals, playing music in bands together and later running gigs .

At first we ran a few gigs together under the name “Dead Dog Promotions” , then at a later stage this became ” Club Dog” which later still once we had split up for some time became “Megadog” . You can guess who Michael wanted to book .

1. Anyone who sounded like Steve Hillage

2. Steve Hillage

Of course I’m joking and many other types of act were booked and the club enjoyed diversity. In fact other acts booked in particular for Club Dog were all about fusing different styles of music to create something totally new and original just as Gong and Hillage have done as well as representing an alternative community.

It ‘s not the first time I have been a fan of someone and then got to meet them through being involved in the music scene. But it’s hard to explain what huge fans we both were and how ironic it is that System 7 then became one of the acts associated with Megadog.

Hurdy Gurdy Man (song by Donovan)

This was filmed on March 20th 1977 at the Otto Hahn School in Bensberg Germany for the Rockpalast TV programme. (go to http://www.rockpalastarchiv.de/welcomee.html for more info on this music series)

Steve Hillage and band:

Miquette Giraudy (synthesiser and vocals) Colin Bass ( great name for a bass player!) , Clive Bunker (drums) Christian Boulé (guitar), Phil Hodges (keyboards), Basil Brooks (synthesiser)

I think this is correct and would have been the same line up on the previous video at Hyde Park

Ranting about music and connections between people and events…

I think it is fair to say that the impact of the music by Steve Hillage and Gong in an indirect way changed the course of my life and that of many others. When I studied music at University they kept telling us that “Music is all about relationships”. The relationship between notes, the relationship between beats , instruments, musicians in a band , the relationship between bands and their audience, the relationship between music and the media and opportunity for broadcast, the relationship between fans of a particular band , the relationship we create emotionally with the music we listen to and the thoughts and memories we associate with each piece of music. Steve Hillage has been weaving in and out of my life since 1976 and I am sure, the cosmos willing , that our paths will cross again.

If you read my entry on Solfest 2007 you will see that was the last time our paths briefly crossed and you will understand why I said to him that I thought that the crackles at the beginning of our vinyl copy of Rainbow Dome Musick were due to us playing it so much!

In fact it’s a fault with the pressing. That’s the autobiographical bit done, I hope I haven’t embarrassed Michael as he will read this at some point. I was trying to do this blog anonymously but then of course I started to tell people about it and so it’s only half anonymous now!

I am so tired that I cannot spell anymore but next time I want to write about Steve Hillage’s musical journey, and various thoughts about numbers and (vaguely) spiritual stuff!

Goodnight….

More Soon….Please go to

http://www.planetgong.co.uk/maze/blurbs/hillage.shtml

for more info on Steve Hillage!

*P.S. This isn’t really fiction I just got carried away in my apologies

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