I’m always looking out for Soul nights

I’m a great lover of Motown and Soul music from the late ’60s, and have unashamedly used my blog to promote it.  My radar is constantly scanning Facebook for Soul Nights, and as a result I’ve had some great nights reliving the dance halls of my youth.

The first, and one of the best, was a Ceroc Passion class night at Peterborough with DJ Chad Bloomfield on the decks.  Other notable dates include a visit to a Ceroc Beds & Bucks Motown and Soul class night run by Marc Forster at Buckingham, a two-hour slot at the Ceroc Heaven New Years Eve Party with DJ Mark O’Reilly, and a Jive Plus Motown night in Oxford with DJ John Brett.  All these nights served up great memories of my dancing heritage.

Every Soul Night has a different mix

Soul nights come in all shapes and sizes.  Chad Bloomfield kept it very late ’60s, and I was able to modern jive to Fontella Bass’ Rescue me for the very first time.  Marc Forster and Mark O’Reilly mixed in Disco Classics from The ’70s with their Motown hits – both played my all time favourite disco anthem Ain’t no stopping us now by McFadden and Whitehead.

DJ John Brett played it differently by keeping it mainly Motown, but mixed in some great modern reworkings – the best being Rod Stewart’s version of The Isley Brothers This old heart of mine with Ronald Isley, who sang vocals on the Motown original.

Another Dance Road Trip

Last week I got another chance to go on a weekend Dance Road Trip with my mate Neil, and dance photographer friend Tel Jenkins.  Every so often I try to make my road trips co-inside with a visit to see my grandson, who lives in Surrey, so I was pleased to see that Ceroc Surrey were advertising a Soul Night in Aldershot.

It seems that they had done it before and it had obviously been very successful:

As requested from many of you, we are bringing back an evening of Soul and Funk.  Bringing the most dance-able classic and contemporary tunes from the last 6 decades.  Come down to Potters and strut your funky stuff to the best in Motown, Northern Soul, Disco, Funk, Rhythm & Blues and Contemporary Soul.

The ’70s have not just left a great legacy of music, but it seems the decade also gave us some great dance slogans too.  So everyone get ready to ‘strut your funky stuff’!

Dancers Strut their funky stuff at Potters International Hotel on Saturday

Can you fill four hours with Motown and Disco?

I’ve long thought that there is a enough great dance music, from The ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, to put on a great night of dancing, but other people have suggested to me that it might end up a little samey.  Which probably explains why such nights are few and far between.

For all my travels over the past eighteen months this was the first Soul Night I had attended, and so I was particularly interested in how DJ for the night Pete Ashton, AKA Bandana Pete, would play it.

This is an established night at a top venue

Potters International Hotel is a top venue.  Easy to find on the outskirts of Aldershot it has plenty of parking, but it’s the dance hall that is particularly impressive.  This is a large modern room with ample seating around the perimeter, but I did have a concern that it might not be busy.

This had been one of the most glorious days of the summer so far, and I half expected the idea of sitting outside the pub or feasting on a BBQ to win out over dancing.  There had also been the small matter of a Royal Wedding and FA Cup Final to distract people.

However it seems that the Soul Nights here have built up a bit of a following, and by half past eight the dance floor was very busy.  Perhaps I should mention here, that Pete’s fellow DJ Kevin Meager has also helped build this night’s solid reputation.

Let’s get the party started

Enough musing, let me get the party started by picking out one of Pete’s fab tracks from Michael Jackson.  As part of The Jackson 5, Michael created some iconic dance tracks, but it was once he left Motown and teamed up with Quincy Jones at Epic Records that we really saw the best of his dance music.

Here’s his first hit after leaving Motown.  Producer Quincy Jones introduces some ’70s Funk into the 1979 recording of Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.  Loved it back in 1979 and loved it on Saturday night.

DJ Pete plays the two sides of Motown

Of course Motown tracks played a large part in DJ Pete’s playlist, though perhaps not as much as ’70s disco – more of which later.  In amongst the Motown tracks we all love from Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and The Four Tops, was a track that shows the rawer side of early Motown beloved by the Soul Boys and Girls of the ’60s and ’70s.

I mentioned earlier that Motown and Soul Nights might end up being a little samey.  Not when you have tracks like Junior Walker and The All Stars’ Shotgun.  Even in 1965 Motown made sure it injected some funk in to its recordings.

’70s Disco lights up the dance floor

In the early ’70s a new record label took over the dance music baton from Motown.  The Sound of Philadelphia, from its Sigma Sound studio, released some of the greatest disco tracks of all time.  Pete’s playlist was sprinkled with many examples.  Possibly the best was Disco Inferno from The Trammps.

Surprisingly this track had only limited success when it was first released, but it cemented its place in the Disco Hall of Fame when it was included in the soundtrack of the 1997 dance film Saturday night fever.  Every time it’s played at a Ceroc event it lights up the floor.  Saturday night was no exception.

Tel’s photo’s capture the joy on the dance floor

People love Motown and Disco music and it certainly showed on everyone’s faces on Saturday night.  Claude and Christine, who run Ceroc Surrey had kindly given permission to my travelling companion Tel Jenkins to take photographs of the evening.

Tel’s photographs capture the joy that comes from dancing to music you love.  This photo is typical of so many of Tel’s photos showing the smiles on peoples faces.  See the link to the full album below.

The Three Degrees bring back a dance hall memory

In amongst Pete’s Sound of Philadelphia hits were The O’Jay’s two monster Disco hits, Backstabbers and Love Train, and two hits from The Three Degrees, When will I see you again and Givin’ up, givin’ in.

Now I mention When will I see you again for a reason.  Givin’ up, givin’ in is a real belter of a track, and I remember just how much it rocked the floor, when Debbie Attwood played it during her Southport Thunderball set last year.

I’d always thought that When will I see you again was a bit too gentle, but it actually has a strong beat and I had a fabulous dance to it.  As I thanked my partner for the dance she commented:

It brings back memories of when I was thirteen.

For me the song brings back memories of being twenty three, but there’s a point to all this.

You are as young as your dance floor memories make you feel

As I mentioned above I love these ’70s tracks because it reminds me of a younger time on the dance floor, but sadly it also reminds me of how old I’m getting – especially when I realise I know all the words.

So, recently I’ve taken to using the phrase You are only as old as the music you dance to, and it’s one of the reasons I love the contemporary music I’m able to dance to every week.

However, thinking about my dance partners comment, I realised that we shouldn’t forget our dance floor memories and we should instead celebrate that they actually make us feel young again.  So my latest mantra is You are as young as your dance floor memories make you feel.

Which possibly explains why so many people love dancing to these tracks.  It makes us feel young again – and why not!  Here are the Three Degrees – see what youthful dance hall memories it brings back for you.

DJ Bandana Pete lifts the lid on something special

I don’t care if you are a lover of ’60s Motown or love to dance to contemporary chill-out Tropical House hits, you have to listen to this next track.  Whether you are twenty something, or were twenty something in The ’70s, if you love dance music you must take a listen.

Now it’s not important whether you like this next track or not.  It’s a matter of paying homage to it, and understanding it’s place in dance music history.

A ’70s remix with a great back story

An hour in to his playlist DJ Pete Ashton played New York City’s wonderful lost-love anthem I’m doing fine now.  I remember dancing to this song in The ’70s, and thought I might want to feature it in my review of Pete’s music.  While searching for it on YouTube, to my great delight, I came across an amazing remix.

As I played the remix at full blast, I soon realised that I had stumbled across something quite special.  Firstly this remix gives the original track a lot more energy and excitement, but secondly and more importantly this track is a great example of remixing – the technological breakthrough that has influenced producers of dance music right up to the present day.

Tom Moulton – the man who created the 12″ disc

You’ve probably never heard of Tom Moulton – I certainly hadn’t.  Even with my passion for digging around the dance music vaults I’d completely missed him, until one day I started reading a book about the history of DJing.

Tom Moulton was a DJ in New York who realised that the songs on 7 inch discs were just too short for the dances who wanted to fully lose themselves in to the music.  Moulton set about extending the tracks by cutting in more of the instrumental sections, and then played around with the mix to bring the drum and bass to the fore – the bit we dancers connect with.

The 7 inch disc was proving too narrow for these new arrangements.  The grooves needed to be wider apart to fully exploit the heavier instrumentation.  One day the studio ran out of 7 inch blank discs and only had 12 inch LP ones.

And so the 12 inch single was created and, along with it, the idea of remixing tracks to be more suited to dancers rather than radio listeners

The coming of a dance music god

I know that eight minute tracks are just too long for Ceroc, but this remix shows just how a rather pretty dance track can be given a make-over that transforms it into something ideal for creating a Thunderball Room style full on vibe.  Please go on YouTube and search for ‘Tom Moulton remixes’.  You’ll be amazed what he did with many of the tracks we know and love from The ’70s.

The New York City track is important for another reason, as it marks the coming of age of one of the greatest dance music gods ever to create a guitar lick.  You dance to this amazing man’s music every week without realising it.  Who is he? I’ll reveal him later – I first need to set up his one of his greatest creations.

DJ Bandana Pete sets the floor on fire

I still say that Disco music can hold its own for a full four hour freestyle, and this next double from Bandana Pete’s playlist proves just how rich this vein of music is.  Pete’s music was creating a nice vibe out on the floor, and it just needed the right two tracks to set the floor on fire.

The first was Chic’s Le Freak with its catchy chant of ‘Freak out’.  This song was one of the biggest selling songs of 1979 and is revered as one of the greatest dance tracks of all time.  On Saturday night the dancers really connected with it.

Now Pete, follow that!

Pete played the Chic track towards the end of his set, when everybody already had a smile on their faces.  I remember having the most uplifting dance to Le Freak.  I wondered what Pete would follow it with.  His next track did not disappoint. It was one of my all time favourites – Let’s go round again by The Average White Band.

This is one hell of a track, and perfect to build on the uplifting vibe created by Le Freak.  From where I was dancing I had the sense that Let’s go round again set the floor on fire.

I’ve already written at length about the Average White band track, in my series about my favourite songs (see link below) so I’ll feature the Chic track instead.  As you listen take note of the guitar playing that made this and Chic’s other hits so danceable.

Nile Rodgers the equal of Berry Gordy

The musicians and artists that created the Motown sound, so beloved by people of all ages, were put together by the founder of Motown, Berry Gordy.  He is a giant in the annals of the dance music industry.  He has few equals – Niles Rodgers is one of them.

Rogers plays the distinctive rhythm guitar licks that characterise Chic’s great dance anthems.  I might add that DJ Pete also played their breakthrough hit Dance Dance Dance.  Again just listen to Rodger’s guitar licks.

I don’t know whether Rodgers actually played on the recording of the above mentioned New York City’s I’m doing fine now, but he was part of their backing band until they disbanded after the hits dried up.  Rodgers would go on to produce all the Sister Sledge disco hits.  Just listen to Lost in music – again Nile Rodgers creates his guitar magic.

Rodgers influence is everywhere

Rodgers would later produce Madonna’s Like a Virgin Album and help David Bowie create Let’s dance, but it’s Rodgers involvement in modern dance music that brings me to give him god like status.  It’s Rodgers who drives Daft Punk’s Get lucky along and listen to Sigala’s Give Me Your Love and you can’t fail to hear Rodgers distinctive guitar work.

One of my favourite tracks of the moment is Kill the lights by DJ Cassidy featuring the voice of Jess Glynne.  I think you can guess who’s guitar work is all over it.

Now back to the Soul Night

I was lovin’ so many of DJ Pete’s tracks, but you can’t beat asking other dances what they think.  Everyone myself and Tel spoke too were keen to put on record their love of Pete’s Saturday night playlist.  Here’s Mandy, who learnt her Ceroc at Twyford:

Motown is brilliant.  It’s been a brilliant full filling night.  I feel lifted.

I asked Mandy for one of her favourite tracks.

I just loved all the Motown tracks.  One of my favourites was It takes two by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston.

Janette, who started out in Sutton, also picked out the Motown tracks and wanted to give DJ Pete a thumbs up as well.

I love Motown, and Bandana Pete Ashton’s music was just fabulous

Lydia was another who was full of enthusiasm for the Soul Night:

I had an absolutely fab evening, dancing to my favourite classic tracks.

Reading these positive comments, I do wonder why this is the first such Soul Night I’ve been to since I started my blog.  Surely their must be pent up demand for this kind of dance night in other parts of the country.  Perhaps if organisers are a little cautious they could perhaps just put a Soul Hour into the middle of a regular freestyle.

Just four of the dancers lovin’ DJ Pete’s music on Saturday night

Let’s pay a tribute to the great Soul vocalists

I know it’s just dance music, but I can’t help but pay tribute to the people who created it.  There would have been no Motown Sound without the band of musicians known as the Funk Brothers, who played the backing track on hundreds of hits including just about every one by The Supremes, Temptations and Four Tops.

I also find myself wanting to recognise the wonderful soulful voices who fronted these monster hits.  Pete played The Four Tops Reach out (I’ll be there) and their first ever hit Baby I need your loving (Loved my dance to that).  The voice that brought these songs to life was the sadly departed Levi Stubbs, who I consider to be Motown’s greatest vocalist.

Pete gets this months Soul brother Award

Not far behind Levi Stubbs is Edwin Starr.  Edwin is actually laid to rest in my home town of Nottingham.  Edwin Starr had one of Motown’s greatest voices, but he recorded two of his greatest dance hits after he left Motown, and both have become Ceroc favourites.  To my delight Pete played them both.

I have to dance to Edwin when ever possible, so I unashamedly asked Pete to play H.A.P.P.Y. Radio.  Pete was only too happy to oblige, and not surprisingly I had a fabulous dance to it.  Pete then played Edwin Starr’s Contact.  Another fabulous dance.  Pete subsequently gets my ‘Soul Brother of the Month’ award.

Now play me something I don’t know

When ever I go dancing I like to think that the DJ will play something fabulous that I’ve not danced to before.  It was never going to be easy for DJ Pete because these were the songs that have accompanied me on my dance journey.  That said, Pete did manage to thrill me with a track that I’d never heard before.

We all remember Chaka Khan from her ’70s hit I’m every woman, but in the late ’90s she recorded Never miss the water, a track that hardly saw the light of day.  I’ve chosen to feature it, not only because I’ve not danced to it before, but because it has a very ’70s funk feel that I’m loving as I play it through my headphones.

DJ Pete tops a great night off with a contemporary Motown remake

It had been a wonderful night of dancing.  Once again I, and everyone else, had been reminded what a great legacy the soul artists of the ’60s, 70s and ’80s have left us.  Of course these songs are so strong, that many are now being reworked for a younger audience.

One track that has been getting a lot of plays on the Ceroc dance floor is a contemporary reworking of the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell classic Ain’t no mountain high enough by Freischwimmer featuring the voice of Dionne Bromfield.  I loved this from the first time I heard it, and it’s proof, if needed, that the Motown legacy will last for a long time yet.

Of course it’s all about the dancing

I hope the tracks I’ve chosen to highlight give a decent representation of DJ Pete’s playlist.  I also hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of the background to this back catalogue of fabulous dance music.  Of course, it’s not really about the back story, no matter how interesting it might be.  The success of any freestyle is about the dancing and the joy it brings to our hearts.

I’ll finish by including one more photo from Tel Jenkins album.  It shows the sheer joy of dancing to music that you know and love.

Last word

I’ll actually give the last word to DJ Bandana Pete himself.  Here’s his post on his own Facebook Page.

5 nights DJing completed.  All week has been a blast and great fun, culminating in going back to my youth and bringing back all that music I grew up with as kid.  Big love to all those who came, blown way by how busy it was at Potters considering all the other events that were on this weekend.

In one of my chats with Pete I admitted that I showed my age by knowing all the words to the songs.  Seems he grew up with them too.  It was a great time to be on the dance floor, and it’s great to think we can both keep reliving the memories of that time over and over again.

Tel’s Full Photo Album of The Aldershot Soul Night

Tel is currently editing his video of the Soul Night.  He hopes to post it to the Modern Jive Dancer Facebook Page in the next couple of days and he will also put a link on the Ceroc Surrey Facebook Page.  My thanks to Tel as always and for Claude and Christine giving their permission for the photographs.

Related articles

My detailed review of The Average White Band’s Lets go round again 

Other Ceroc Surrey Reviews

Byfleet Class Night with Jacqui Barrett

Surbiton Class night with Steve Thomas

Fairlands Freestyle at Guildford