How about Volume 2 Paul

A recent post, where I compiled a list of ten Ceroc and Modern Jive Classics, has proved to be one of the most read articles this year.  The list received a lot of positive comments on Facebook and a lot of agreement about the classic ranking of the tracks I’d chosen  (see link below).

It seems that some people have been playing the tracks prior to going out dancing, and others have just loved dancing to them at home.  People tell me that they’ve been downloading the tracks to their Modern Jive playlists.  It wasn’t long before someone suggested I produce a Volume 2.

To be included on the list, tracks must be at least five years old, and I must have heard them in at least three different venues.  They also had to be very dance able and have a universal appeal.

I’d actually had a struggle to cut my original list down to ten for Volume 1, so I already had a few tracks that were just as well known to be included in any Volume 2.  I still needed four or five more, so over the next two weeks I paid particular attention to the popular older tracks the DJs were playing.

I’m sure you’ll know the tracks

I was soon reminded of some more great classic tracks, and I was able to finally put together this second listing.  Once again I’m confident you’ll know the songs, and I hope you’ll agree with my giving them all a Classic rating.

As well as embedding a YouTube video, I couldn’t help, as with Volume 1, giving you a little background to each track.  Every dance music track has a back story, whether it be about it’s origins or the artists and record producers who put it together.  I’ve also added in some personal notes as to why I love dancing to them.

I know a lot of people read my blog to find out the names of the tracks we all dance to.  Hopefully this second track listing will put names to some more of your favourites dance songs.

1: September – Earth Wind & Fire (1978)

This track should really have been on Volume 1, because I’ve probably danced to it more times than any of the ones on that first listing.  You hear this track at Class Night’s, Freestyles, and of course Weekenders.  It is a track worthy of Southport’s Thunderball Room, and like thousands of others I’ve felt its joyous vibe spread throughout the dance floor.

The song has its roots in the disco explosion of The 1970s, when so many of us caught the dancing bug, and whose musical legacy influences so many of today’s dance music makers.  Released in 1978 Earth Wind & Fire’s September shares the year of it’s birth with The Village People’s YMCA, The Jackson’s Blame it on the boogie, Sylvester’s You make me feel (Might real) and Dan Hartman’s Instant Replay – Glory dance hall days indeed.

Like all great dance anthems it has an instantly recognisable intro, that hits every cell in your dance brain.  That explosive intro comes from Earth Wind & Fire’s iconic horn section of trumpet, sax and trombone.  From that distinctive intro its hard to disengage yourself from the horn section, as it keeps injecting more and more energy in to the track.

The genius behind Earth Wind and Fire was Maurice White, a session drummer who got his first big break with The Ramsey Lewis Trio (White played drums on their monster dance hit Wade in the water).

It was a sign of the respect for Maurice White, and what he achieved with Earth, Wind & Fire, that when he died last year, September, and their other great dance floor favourite Boogie Wonderland, filled the air at just about every freestyle in the land in tribute to his contribution to dance music.

Another tribute to this song was made when it was remixed, with vocals by Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, for the soundtrack of the 2016 film Trolls.  I think this recording uses the original backing track, as you can still feel the power of the horn section.  For a good six months, I seemed to hear this track every time I went dancing, but it’s nice that DJs have now reverted to playing the original with Maurice White’s own vocals.

2: Always have, always will – Ace of Base (1998)

On the day of judgement, when the Great Modern Jive DJ in the sky asks for a public vote on the Top Twenty Modern Jive tracks, I hope you will vote for this innocent pop song.  I doubt if any person over 16 would admit to buying, or even downloading this track.  It is after all a portrayal of romantic love through innocent eyes, but we never know when we are going to fall in love and one day the lyrics might have a whole different meaning to you.

What makes this song so easy to dance to is without doubt its gentle bouncy rhythm and a very catchy chorus.  For this reason its particularly popular on dance class nights; indeed it accompanied me through my own struggle to string together a sequence of beginners moves.

I did wondered if Always have, always will was just a particular favourite of the DJ at my class night and my love of it was because of its association with my modern jive initiation.  I then heard it at other class nights, but it was propelled in to The Modern Jive Hall of Fame when I watched four hundred people dancing to it in the Main Hall at a Southport Weekender.

It catchy introduction is very Billy Ocean-esque giving it instant dance appeal. The opening piano and string orchestration also has a Motown feel and its not hard to imagine the Four Tops launching into ‘Sugar pie honey bunch’ on cue.

However the song quickly creates its own identity and you can’t help connecting with the catchy melody and simplistic beat.  Tracks with a well defined beat and easy going melodies are perfectly suited to class nights, but they are also invaluable in freestyles as they offer a break from more frenetic tracks.

I can’t help wonder how this track became established as a modern jive favourite. It was released back in 1998 and I suspect after it fell out of the charts it lay in the vaults until someone thought about giving it a spin – but who?

In researching the background to this track I came across another of Ace of Base’s hits Life is a flower.  This was more successful than Always have, always will and even though it came from the same 1998 album it lies buried in the music vaults, while its less successful little sister gives us so much pleasure on the dance floor.

3: She bangs – Ricky Martin (2000)

When a main room DJ needs a sure fire floor filler, with a stack load of energy, then this track never fails.  You feel the energy from the word go, as a Spanish guitar and strong drum beat get the song going, but that’s no warning for what happens at twenty seconds on the clock.

Now the song explodes in to life, and all hell breaks loose with a combination of Salsa rhythms, thumping bass, rock guitar and a banging horn section.  This is an energised fusion of Latin, Rock and Pop and if you’re not careful it will blow your socks off.

Even the song’s lyrics add to the excitement of the track and when Ricky Martin sings the line:  ‘Well if lady luck gets on my side, we’re gonna rock this town alive’, you half expect the next line to be ‘We’re gonna set this floor on fire!’

Because that is what it does.  It is the perfect track to set the dance floor on fire, and I’ve been dancing to this track when the DJs have done just that many times.

Ricky Martin is a Puerto Rican singer who started out in a boy band, and also had a career as an actor on the US TV Soap, General Hospital.  He released several Spanish-language solo albums throughout the 1990s, but achieved international fame when he sang the official anthem for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.

He had further international success in 1999 with another track that sometimes features on Modern Jive DJ playlists, Livin’ la vida loca, and a year later hit it big again with She bangs, which reached No 3 in the British Pop Charts.

4: Havana (Tony Moran Rhythm Mix) – Kenny G (1997)

This instrumental track was played at my first ever class night some eight years ago, and every so often I get another chance to dance to its strong club style beat.  Of course I should say at this stage that the song we are all dancing to is a remix.

The original song was released on Kenny G’s The Moment Album in 1996.  The track was originally mixed at a much slower tempo – in fact the thirty four second intro is exactly as the song was first released.  The next year it was remixed by Tony Moran with a much stronger tempo making it perfect for modern jive dancing.

Tony Moran was one of the first record producers to realise that it was possible to create a great dance anthem out of a much slower track, simply by adding a strong drum and bass backing and carefully remixing the different levels of instrumentation to suit the dance floor.

Kenny G’s Havana, as its name suggests, takes its influence from Cuba the spiritual home of Salsa dancing.  One of the first moves you learn in Salsa is the Mambo.  Doing the Mambo Salsa style is not easy, for like all Salsa dancing there is a strict tempo that must be adhered to, and you have to do that figure of eight thing with your hips that is quite honestly a step too far for me.

So the creators of Modern Jive redesigned the mambo to make it easier.  For the man – left foot forward then left foot back.  Forward, then back.  The woman simply mirrors the man – right foot back then right foot forward.  Swing your hips as you go back and forwards and you’ve got it.

The rhythm of Havana is perfect for Mambo-ing, and every time I danced to it, I would try every Mambo move I knew.  So much of this move did I do, that some of the ladies at my class night ladies would call me Mambo Man.  Well I suppose there are worse things you can be called.

The track has the same slow opening refrain as the original.  Time to walk lazily on to the dance floor and slowly connect with its Latin feel.  Guys, start with a couple of gentle moves so that you and your partner can soak up the atmosphere of a warm night in Havana, but stay alert for the song soon bursts into life.

As Tony Moran’s club style beat kicks in, don’t forget the Mambos and swing you hips.  Don’t worry about the figure of eight thing – the judges on Strictly won’t be watching, but I guarantee the ladies will love it, and they will follow suit.

5: 40 Years – Tone Damli (2010)

As soon as you hear the first few acoustic guitar cords you know this delicious track.  And delicious it is, and it’s little wonder that main room DJs across the land give it a play when they need to slow the pace a little.

Just like The Temptations Lady Soul, that I listed in Volume 1, 40 Years is not too slow that inexperienced dancers will struggle with it.  The track still has a strong beat, and all it needs is to slow your normal moves down a little and you can still have an equally delicious dance to it.

Of course the beat is perfect for some smooth chill-out dancing, but I’ve rarely heard it in a second room setting.  It’s as if main room DJs have been given exclusive rights to it.  Perhaps it’s omission from second chill-out rooms is because it doesn’t have the contemporary instrumentation associated with the modern songs that dominate in these settings.

But if that means it gets more plays in main room settings then so be it, because I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Tone Damli’s romantic lyric.  And that’s one of the appeals of this track – you can easily pick up the words and sing along if you wish.

Steady as a clock, tick tock, this hearts not stopping .. . . for the next 40 years,

If the world keep turning we’ll keep burning . . . for another 40 years

Surprisingly this beautiful song was never released as a single, so DJs pulled it from Damli’s album Cocool.  Tone got her big break when she appeared on the Norwegian version of Pop Idol, and has one other track that is a favourite of Modern Jive DJ’s – the slightly more uptempo Butterflies.

6: Now I can dance – Tina Arena (1998)

Now I can dance is one of those songs that I suspect every dancer loves, if only because it is so easy to dance to.  The song has a relaxed beat, with a Bossa Nova feel, and is an ideal accompaniment to every smooth move you know.  No high energy moves with this one.  Keep it nice and easy and allow both yourself and your partner to connect with its gentle free-flowing rhythm.

This track released in 1997 appears, from my research, to have made no impression on the British charts.  Even the In Deep album it came from had little success outside of Tina’s home country of Australia and for some reason France.  It begs the question once again, as to who first played Now I can dance at a Modern Jive venue, though I suspect that its popularity was assured once a few DJs picked it up.

One of the lovely features about this song is the wonderful lyric.  Tina’s beautiful singing projects the words above the musical accompaniment so that you can’t help but connect with them.  The lyric is described as a love letter from Tina to her family.

I suspect that Tina left her home in Australia to pursue a music career in America, and this was her way of telling her family that she was alright – ‘Give my mother a kiss, tell I’m OK.’ Tina goes on ‘Though I can only image the sadness in your eyes, please understand, now I can dance.’

Everybody will relate to song lyrics in a different way.  I have always thought that the phrase Now I can dance is a metaphor for achieving those goals that other people thought might be out of your reach.  Those that love us the most are often the one’s that hold us back the most too – they don’t want us to experience the pain of failure. This wonderful song is a reminder that we should be free to follow our dreams.

The song’s title has another strong meaning for me.  I can remember being a beginner and wondering if I would ever get to a level where I would stop stressing and start enjoying myself.  I did a lot of lessons and workshops, and got a lot of help and encouragement.  I remember getting to a stage where, in my own mind at least, I had cracked it – now I could dance.

I wish for everyone that they can dance to Now I can dance as a celebration of their own determination to master Modern Jive, and truly dance to the music.

7: Contact – Edwin Starr (1979)

There is a great love of Motown dance tracks, and Edwin Starr is considered one of their greatest artists, but interestingly his best loved tracks were not actually recorded at the Hitsville Studios in Detroit.

SOS (Stop her on sight) is considered by many to be Edwin Starr’s greatest hit.  Starr recorded this track at the Ric-Tic studios also in Detroit.  Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, was allegedly so jealous of the success of Ric-Tic, that he bought the label and so took on it’s roster of artists including Starr.

Contact along with H.A.P.P.Y. Radio, another Modern Jive favourite, were both recorded several years after Starr left Motown once his hits had dried up.  Starr co-wrote and produced Contact and it became an international hit riding on the back of the ’70s disco boom.

There are many tracks from the ’70s disco era that have made it on to Modern Jive DJs playlists, but this in my opinion is the best.  So good is this track that I think it has appeared in more of my Southport Thunderball Room reviews than any other.

One Sunday night in the Thunderball Room still remains the greatest dancing of my modern jive journey.  From the moment that DJ Roy Blewitt took to the decks, he and a succession of DJs kept building the vibe out on the floor.  Here’s a passage I live blogged from the floor that night:

2:00 am – Back in the main room and Tiggerbabe is on fire.

Can this night really keep getting better?  The answer is yes.  Tiggerbabe (real name Sheena) is next up, and I’m lovin’ every one of her picks.  Top track is the second of Soul Brother Edwin Starr’s monster ’70s hits Contact. This track lights up the floor…

It was fitting that this track, with its iconic chant of ‘We made eye to eye contact’ and driving beat that never gives up for a moment, will always be part of my memory of that great night of dancing in The Thunderball Room.

8: Stuck on you – 3T

Great nights of dancing will always have full on tracks like Edwin Starr’s Contact, Ricky Martin’s She Bangs and Earth, Wind & Fire’s September.  But, for these type of tracks to stand out, they need to be surrounded by less energised ones.  Finding these more relaxed tracks still takes a lot of care.

This less frenetic tracks still need a personality.  They need to be floor fillers in their own right, but give the dancers a little respite.  That’s why Tone Damli’s 40 years works so well.  It allows the dancers to catch their breathe after chanting We made eye to eye contact to each other.

Stuck on you is another such track.  It will never set the floor on fire like She bangs, but it will never empty it either, and you can bet that everyone wants to find a partner and dance to it.

In November of last year I enjoyed a wonderful night of dancing at the Engine Shed with DJ Kerry Bayley on the decks.  Kerry found time for Stuck on you and I wrote this in my review as an appreciation of this track:

Towards the end of the night Kerry played what I consider to be a perfect Modern Jive track – 3T’s version of Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Stuck on you’.  This track has a straight forward beat that’s easy to connect with.  It has a catchy melody, and its instrumentation and production makes this track a joy to dance to.

Occasionally that’s all that’s required.  No need to do anything complicated guys.  Just concentrate on making your moves flow smoothly, and giving your partner an easy time by making your lead as clear as possible.

3T’s version of ‘Stuck on you’ has long been a favourite of mine and on Friday night I was reminded just what a lovely dance track this is.

It is a lovely track, and it’s easy to see why it’s become so popular, and so it deserves it’s place in this second list of classic tracks.

9: Latin lover – Lemon (2001)

A great source of Modern Jive music is to be found on Facebook – Favourite Modern Jive Music.  People are constantly posting great tracks on this page, and it’s particularly good for contemporary ones (I’ve put a link to it at the bottom of the page).  Now I mention this Facebook Page for a reason.

When I published Volume 1 of Classic Modern Jive Tracks I put a link on this Facebook Page.  Justin Hollingworth who runs the page suggested Latin Lover as one of his favourite classic tracks.  Justin’s comment reminded me of just how many times I’d danced to this fabulous instrumental track, with its great trumpet riff, and I quickly added it to my Volume 2 list.

As I knew nothing about the track, or the people behind it, I went on to my favourite research tool – Wikipedia.  There was nothing!  Now it’s rare that Wikipedia doesn’t know anything about these classic tracks, so I posted a question on Justin’s Music Facebook Page asking for more information.

Almost immediately David Taylor of Club Jive in Addlestone, Surrey got in touch to tell me that the creative genius behind Lemon is a guy known as Nick Hollywood, whose based in Brighton.  I then couldn’t help wonder who found this track and introduced it to the modern jive world.  David kindly put me in touch with Peter Philips who now runs Mid Wales Jive.

Peter’s not sure exactly who played it first, but he was certainly one of the first to get hold of a copy of Latin Lover.  He told me this story from the days when he was DJing at Camber Sands when it was run by Jive Times’s Franco Gareddu.

I was a regular DJ at Franco’s weekenders – Main Hall and Swing Room.  The first time I played ‘Latin lover’ I had a queue from the DJ booth down the steps to the dance floor.  They were all asking ‘What was that track?’

That what makes this track a classic.  That people heard this Latin infused track just once and wanted to know what it was called tells you something about its instant appeal.  The story also rings a real bell with me, because I’m often running on to the stage to ask the DJ ‘What’s that track?’

My good friend DJ Colin Shaul from LeRoc Surrey also remembers Peter playing the track at Camber, and soon had it in his own playlists.  It’s also fascinating to hear how music spread in those days before we all had Shazam on our phones, and could easily download and stream music.  Perhaps without characters like Peter, who were willing to share their finds, our local DJs would never have known about great tracks like Latin lover.

10: Uprising: Muse (2009)

After a couple of weeks of dancing I soon added to the tracks that didn’t make it on to Volume 1, but once again I had more than ten.  It wasn’t easy to get the number down, but I did it.  Then I went to Ceroc Addiction’s Perton freestyle and had the most amazing dance to a track that somehow I’d forgotten about.

I had to have Uprising by Muse in Volume 2.  Not only is it a monster Modern Jive dance track, but it adds a necessary balance to this second listing.  The track that was bumped off was Sam Sparro’s Black and Gold – so now I have to do Volume 3 because I love that track!

On volume 1 I’d included The Killers’ Human, and described it as a rock anthem.  Uprising goes one better as it’s a protest anthem.  To think we all get dressed up nicely to go dancing at the weekend and we pack the floor to dance to a protest song!

But the thing is, I’ve danced to this track for years, and only ever really connected with its thumping beat.  Sure, on a subconscious level I must have known it was about revolution, but my dance brain seemed to filter this out to focus only on the somewhat primeval beat.

And what a beat it is.  It has the same kind of fuzz guitar backing I remember from Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the sky.  Add in some synthesised effects that remind you of the Doctor Who theme and a piercing guitar lick, and you have a track that drives along with a spirited energy that I find very difficult to sit down to.

At Perton both myself and my dance partner seemed to connect to its driving energy with equal measure, and the result was an uplifting dance of the highest order.  Isn’t such a level of escapism a mark of a great dance track?  That’s perhaps why we get to dance to this classic track so often.

   

Related Links

Favourite Modern Jive Music Facebook Page

Ceroc & Modern Jive Classics Volume 1