Ceroc Heaven’s big night doesn’t disappoint

Ceroc Heaven’s Summer Prom, held at The Friesland School in Sandiacre just outside Nottingham, was a real first. It was the first Ceroc Heaven two room event I could remember that went on until two in the morning, but it had also had an innovative programme that was a first for the East Midlands.

The second smaller room was to open with a two hour Motown & Soul slot, followed by two hours of music suited to the new SILC dance syllabus, and for the final two hours the room would revert to a Blues Lounge. Ever since the format was announced in June I’ve been counting down the days in anticipation of a special night of dancing, and I’ve used articles on this blog to enthusiastically promote it.

I know I wasn’t the only one looking forward to it – The Dance Gang had been counting the days too, and they were all in attendance in some very posh frocks – that’s the ladies of the group of course, and pleasingly the men scrubbed up quite well too! So did the night live up to its billing?  Without a doubt. At one in the morning the Main Room with DJ Mark O’Reilly on the decks was still very lively, and DJ Ashley Davis was holding court over one of the busiest seconds rooms I’ve seen on my travels this year.

Three reviews should do the night justice

It was always going to be hard to keep a review of this night within the normal word count so I’ve decided to write three separate articles in the hope of giving the readers of the blog a real sense of what was on offer at this first ever Summer Prom. In this first article I’ll concentrate on the Motown & Soul opener in the Second Room. I’ll use the second article to talk about the great fun everyone was having in association with my pick of Terry Jenkins’ wonderful photographs of the night’s events. I’ll also feature some of the great music that Mark provided for the Main Room dancers.

The SILC Zone and Blues Lounge warrants its own review

In a third posting I’ll review the exciting music variety that DJ Ashley offered during his four hours on the decks in the SILC Zone and Blues Lounge. Often second rooms are given over exclusively to Blues music, and can be quiet affairs. Impressively this wasn’t the case and the second room had a vibrancy that warrants its own review.

I’ve been regularly attending the SILC in 6 series of lessons run by Ashley, and I feel at last I’m making some progress. There were a few other people there on Saturday night whom had also been to the lessons, so I was really looking forward to seeing how we all got on.  I asked Terry if he would kindly video some SILC dancing and I hoping to include the results in the review.

A Motown fix I’d been asking for

Regular readers of the blog will know that I’m a bit of a Motown Junkie. I’ve long been an advocate for more Motown music being played at freestyles and I go out of my way to promote modern jive events that promise a fix of Motor Town Magic. I’d been asking Mark O’Reily for some time to do a Motown & Soul class night. I’d written reviews of very successful nights at Peterborough, Derby and Buckingham, and I was confident that if Ceroc Heaven did one it would be well supported.

I was so pleased to get the news about the two Motown hour opener, but I was even more pleased when Mark asked if I’d help out with the playlist. Mark had already played many great Motown and Soul tracks during his regular freestyle nights, but he felt he just needed a few more to ensure the slot didn’t fall flat.

An opportunity I relished

Suddenly I had an opportunity to get some unheard Motown classics played for the first time. In the list I provided Mark were all the Motown  Soul classics that already get a fair few plays at modern jive freestyles – The Isley Brothers This Old Heart of Mine, Marvin Gaye’s Little darling (I need you) and Ramsey Lewis’s Wade in the water, but now I had a chance to push forward two of my all time favourites – Fontella Bass’s fairly well known Rescue me and Barbara Randolph’s almost unknown (to modern jive dancers at least) I got a feeling.

Would The Ceroc Heaven faithful share my enthusiasm?

Having been given this opportunity to help out I suddenly had doubts. Would the Ceroc Heaven faithful share my enthusiasm for music that packed the dance floors and disco when many were still in short trousers. Further doubts surfaced. The Prom was on until two in the morning – no need to get there early then, and if people did turn up for eight would they prefer the Main Room, where DJ Ashley would be playing a set of popular contemporary music – all tried and tested at previous Ceroc freestyles. I had visions of a poster promoting a contest between an ‘up and coming young gun of the Ceroc circuit’, which Ashley is, against a ‘has seen better days ’70s disco dancer’ under a picture of myself.

It’s eight thirty and I’m a little worried

Of course I wasn’t the DJ, but having gone on so much about how great it would be to dance to Edwin Starr and Marvin Gaye every week, I somehow felt some ownership of the project. I’m sure all DJs worry about the numbers through the door, but Mark seemed very cool. There were people in the room from the beginning but at eight thirty the numbers were still a little thin on the dance floor, and I was a little anxious to say the least.

With the numbers still suggesting my enthusiasm for this music might have been misguided, Mark played Thelma Houston’s version of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes Don’t leave me this way. It had been high on my lists of recommendations, so you’ll understand I was somewhat saddened that so few got to dance to it. Well here it is now. Please dance round the kitchen with it on full blast – it will make me feel a lot better.

By nine o’clock the Spirit of Motown is alive and kicking

It was a little naïve of me to think that the dance floor would be busy at eight fifteen or even eight thirty, but by nine o’clock the room was filling up nicely and a wonderful vibe was taking hold on the dance floor. As I danced to Junior Walker blowing his saxophone on How sweet it is, I noticed people disco dancing amongst the modern jiving – and why not. Just connect with the beat, do our own thing and put a smile on your face.

That’s the spirit of Motown. It’s feel good music. It was constructed in a way that made it easy to dance to. Four-four time, a solid drum beat, those uplifting saxophone breaks and wonderful sing-a-long lyrics. That spirit lives on in the growing retro Motown Nights, and it was alive and kicking in Sandiacre on Saturday night.

As always Tel was on hand to capture the magic from the night, and this shot with its special effects shows the special vibe the Motown sounds helped create.

DJ Mark rocks the floor with three Edwin Starr Classics

Mark had saved his best tracks for the second half, so with the room really rocking it was time for Edwin Starr. I consider Edwin Starr’s Stop here on sight (S.O.S.) to be one of the greatest dance records ever made. It was actually recorded before Starr joined Motown. Interestingly the two other Starr tracks Mark played were recorded after he left Motown.

The first of these is a true modern jive classic. H.A.P.P.Y Radio is probably the most popular modern jive soul track we dance to and looking around the room you can see why. It has everything. The beat is just perfect and Starr’s distinctive voice gets the very best out of the joyous lyric. The track I’ll feature though is the third of Mark’s Edwin Starr’s selections – Contact.

It’s a track that Mark often digs out at regular freestyles and it never fails to fill the floor. Who can’t connect with the hypnotic bongo drum intro, and if you’re anything like me you’ll be singing along to its great hook line ‘We made eye to eye contact, eye to eye contact’. I hope Edwin was looking down from the big disco in the sky seeing the joy on everyone’s faces.

Mark puts his own stamp on the proceedings

Mark picked out some very danceable Motown tracks – Baby Love from The Supremes, He was really saying something by the Velvelettes, and a fabulous modern Reflex remix of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t no mountain high enough.

One of the best Motown dance tracks is the Temptations Get Ready. Written by the hit factory of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Get ready is often played at modern jive freestyles, and it had been on my list of must-play tracks. Mark however surprised me by playing a version, with the same you’ve-gotta-dance-to-this message, I’d never actually heard before. ‘So who was that Mark?’ ‘Ella Fitzgerald.’ Wow, loved it.

Soul dance classics from the early ’70s up the tempo even more

With the room really rockin’ DJ Mark could pull out his best floor fillers. In the early ’70s a whole host of American soul artists created another wave of great dance music. A lot of these tracks are already proven floor filler at Modern Jive freestyles, and Mark used them to great effect. My favourites were Sister Sledge’s We are family, Candi Staton’s Young hearts run free, and one of the greatest disco records ever produced – McFadden and Whiteheads Ain’t no stopping us now.

Mark still had one more great ’70s disco track up his sleeve though. Unbelievably this track only had limited success when it was first released, but its inclusion in the soundtrack of the film Saturday night fever propelled it to global dance floor domination. It’s a track my dance brain knows every note of and in my head I’m screaming ‘Burn Baby Burn’. It is of course Disco Inferno by the Trammps. Disco Heaven more like.

Good things must come to an end

As the driving pulse of Disco inferno faded out, I knew there were probably only another couple of track to go. I looked around the room. It was as busy as any time in the night. I sensed that there was a desire to go on a little longer. Perhaps another half an hour – I knew there was still another hour of tracks left on the playlist. I looked at Mark like a little boy looks at his mum when he wants some more sweets. Sadly Mark had a schedule to keep to, and DJ Ashley was probably winding down his own set in the Main Room. It was almost time for the change over.

This Old Heart of Mine adores Ramsey Lewis

It had been a wonderful two hours and the last hour in particular had shown how much modern jivers love these tracks. Good things must come to an end, but hopefully it can all be done again. But there were still two tracks to go. I’ll mention the last one first. This old heart of mine by The Isley Brothers is possibly the most well known Motown track anyone has ever danced to.

It was played at the Palais in Nottingham all those years ago, when I started my dance journey, and it is played without fail at every single Retro Motown Night across the land. Modern Jive dancers also get a chance to dance to it on a regular basis. It is that good, but for me there is one track that hits an even higher note in my dance brain, and DJ Mark played it as his penultimate track. It is one of my top five dance tracks of all time. I got to dance to it with my regular dance partner, who loves it as much as I do, and it was for us both the best dance of the night.

The track is Ramsey Lewis’ Wade in the water. It was played at the first ever disco I attended, but then slowly faded from my life. Then five years ago I was reunited with it again at a Motown night. Hopefully it will not fade away again. Before I play it (there I go sounding like a DJ again) I want to go back to the moment when This old heart of mine faded out, and Mark thanked everyone for coming. Without any prompting a warm round of applause broke out. I was tempted to shout ‘More, More’, but sensibility got the better of me. Here then is Ramsey Lewis with Wade in the water.

A great start to a great night

I thought that Kali, Mark and Sue, the holders of the Ceroc Heaven Franchise, had been very brave to give Motown and Soul an opportunity to open Summer Prom. The warm round of applause Mark received at the end of his set proved just how much everyone had enjoyed it. In the Main room Ashley had been serving up great tracks for an even greater number of people. It had been a great start and there were still four hours to go.

To read my second review of the Summer Prom please follow the link. You’ll read about the selfie stick that went viral, the guy with six chicks, and a table tennis match with a difference, plus lots more info about this great night including videos of the great dance music Mark played in the Main Room.