There is infinite number of dance tracks sitting in the music vaults. I know that DJs spend hours seeking out new tracks to play for us and in this blog I want to heap praise on those that resist playing the same old, same old (click here to read my piece ‘The Same Old Song’). Like any dance music enthusiast I have my own favourites and I thought I might dare to suggest a few that might be given the once over in the hope they might get played. My fourth choice is Johnnie Johnson’s Tanqueray.
I owe my knowledge of this track to a DJ who was a big part of the modern jive scene in the East Midlands, but has since sadly turned off the decks. I heard it only once, but was moved to ask what it was as soon as I finished dancing to it. My reason for putting this song on my wish list is not just that another DJ might play it again. What I wish for is that more music like this is played.
Johnnie Johnson is classified as a blues pianist and this track certainly has the feel of the blues. It’s what gives it its guts and makes it great to dance to. Before I go any further let me talk about blues music in a context of modern jive dancing. There is a format of partner dancing that we know as ‘Blues’. Now I’m not sure, but I suspect that this format of dancing evolved out of modern jive as dancers looked for a way to connect with slower tracks. I realise that Blues Purists will put me right if I’ve got this wrong, but I know that a lot of dancers migrate to Blues from Modern Jive.
The music played at Blues venues and in Blues Rooms is much slower than the music we associate with modern jive itself. You can sometimes dance to Blues by slowing down your modern jive moves, but a style of moving has been developed to enable dancers to fully connect with the slow bluesy beat. I’ve tried Blues and its not for me, but I still want to dance to bluesy music. This track is a little faster than much of what is currently played and, as a consequence, many modern jive moves are perfectly suited to its relaxed yet gritty tempo.
Tanqueray was written by Johnnie Johnson and Rolling Stone Keith Richards (you can hear Johnson mention Keith’s name during his guitar break). Johnson is an unsung hero of rock music. He is credited with discovering Chuck Berry and Berry’s song Johnny B. Goode was reportedly a tribute to Johnson himself.
The appeal of the record, other than its lazy lyric about sitting down with a bottle of gin, is Johnnie Johnson’s jazzy piano style. It’s reminiscent of Ramsey Lewis playing on Wade in the water. The long piano and guitar instrumental breaks give you time to really connect with the tempo of the song and offer you opportunities to express yourself with your own individual styling.
Spend some time on iTunes and you soon discover lots of tracks with the same bluesy feel and all suitable to modern jive to. Some DJs do play a few bluesy tracks in their set (credit to Chris Uren for being one of the first to play John Lee Hooker’s This is hip), but these tracks are few and far between. My wish then is for more songs with a blues feel like Tanqueray to be played. But please – nothing too slow – leave the real slow tracks for the Blues Room.
Two weeks after writing this post I found myself on the dance floor at Tylney Hall, with DJ Colin Shaul on the decks. I quickly became aware that the track I was dancing to was something special. It had a rocking bluesy feel and I couldn’t help wonder what it was. I soon connected with its piano intro, and I wondered if this was indeed Johnson. As soon as the vocal started I recognised Johnson’s distinctive growling voice. I had to know what it was. I tried to catch the lyric. I soon got it – Kansas City here I come. This is one hell of a dance track, and to my sheer delight it went on for over four minutes. WOW! So a Gold Blue Peter Badge to Colin and please, someone play it back home.
I was at a ’50s Feel Style at Want2Dance in Melton Mowbray and DJ Steve Carr played the Dr Feelgood version of the song. Instead of a piano solo you get a guitar and mouth organ improvisations. This gives the track real guts. It gave me one of the best dances of the night,