Saturday, May 31, 2014

10 Songs About Dancing

[Times when dancing has happened.]

There are plenty of songs that get us dancing. The very best are the ones with opening chords that pull you back onto the floor after you've already put your coat on and said your goodbyes. To be honest, I have rather a lot of those. Earlier this month two of my best dancing companions (I mentioned them here) were in town and we spent the weekend as we always do when they're back in Manchester; swaying hips, fancy footwork and plenty of sweating. On the first night we threw a party at our house and hung tinsel fringe curtains on the walls, a metallic declaration of intent that said THERE WILL BE DANCING. The next night we took to the sprung dancefloor of Manchester's old Victorian swimming baths and moved for hours; so many hours, in fact, that my feet were obliterated with blisters by the end of the night. The skin has only just grown back but it was worth it.

I'm fascinated by club culture and the relationship between weekend dancing and the working week. It's why I love the sight of women in Liverpool or Manchester with rollers in their hair on a Saturday afternoon, getting themselves ready for a blow-out night before Monday rears its head again. If being moved by music is such a universally wonderful experience then what about the songs that are about dancing? Rather than compile a playlist of classic floorfillers (where to start!) these are the songs about losing yourself on the dancefloor whether alone or with friends, about going to a Block Party, and judging a conquest on their ability to move.

1. Lost In Music by Sister Sledge

The ultimate anthem for dancing away the work week, this Nile Rodgers classic follows the ever-seductive idea of being 'lost in music'. I think the notion of being lost on a dancefloor was what I was going for when I named this blog back in 2006; of being surrounded by hazy, arresting dancing figures and consumed by music. That was before I'd even been to a club and had this idea of a discotheque as a hazy and confusing place, which is probably pretty accurate if we're talking about a bunch of people off their heads in Studio 54.

We're lost in music/ Feel So Alive/ I quit my 9-5/ We're lost in music

2. Cosmic Dancer by T Rex

I danced myself right out the womb/ Is it strange to dance so soon/ I danced myself right out of the womb

One of the most gorgeously melancholy songs about dancing, Mark Bolan's Cosmic Dancer is a track that spans the solitary/social dancing scale. On the one hand it sounds like it can only be meant for a slow and romantic solitary sway. On the other, it's the perfect soundtrack for two lovers to lock eyes from opposite sides of a dancefloor and meet in the middle for a slow dance.

A special mention to the video on YouTube of Billy Elliott clips set to Cosmic Dancer. 

3. In The Evening by Sheryl Lee Ralph

I first heard this song around a year ago, dancing at a Horse Meat Disco night. I'm pretty sure there was a man beside me going for it in leather dungarees and I heard the chorus of this song and needed to know who it was. That night was one of my favourite nights of dancing ever. It was so hot that most of my friends left. My face was streaming with sweat but I barely left the club because every song was too urgent to leave, and the crowd was fantastic, everyone doing their own thing but united in it.

In the evening the real me comes alive/ I can feel it/ In the evening something happens that I can't describe/ But it helps me to survive

4. I Was Dancing In A Lesbian Bar by Jonathan Richman

This song begins with the perpetually cool Richman dancing in a rather uncool bar. "I was dancing at a nightclub one Friday night and that nightclub was a little untight. Yeah, I was dancing all alone a little self conscious when some kids came up and said, 'for dancing come with us.'" Saviours! Before Jonathan knows it, he's dancing in a good-time bar with hip shaking, positive vibes and women who like women. And like all heterosexuals that invade the gay bars, Richman has a pretty good time.

Well I was dancing in the lesbian bar in the industrial zone/ I was dancing with my friends and dancing alone/ Well the first bar things were alright but in this bar, things were Friday night.

5. You Should Be Dancing by The Bee Gees

This is one of the many songs in which dancing is really the codeword for a bit of bump and grind. Ah, how a little hindsight illuminates. (My baby moves at midnight/goes right on till the dawn/ my woman takes me higher/my woman keeps me warm.) Metaphors aside, You Should Be Dancing commands a cool walk up to the dancefloor to be followed by intuitive hip thrusts. As with the rest of Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, this is a song that pushes any activity that isn't about dancing in the moment to the periphery and makes those watching from the bar look like a bunch of good-time buzzkills.

PS. John Travolta.

6. If You Can't Dance by The Spice Girls

Into brass, panpipes and Geri Halliwell doing Spanish rapping? If You Can't Dance has all of these things whilst imparting some important wisdom onto Spice fans when it comes to potential conquests: If you can't dance to this/you can't do nothing for me, baby. It's true, the ability have a great dance and not give a fuck is probably one of the most attractive characteristics in a potential partner, and The Spice Girls know what's up.

7. Block Party by Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes

It's only 12 o'clock midday and the sun is hot and there's a party on the next block and free soda pops and you're dancing with Lisa Left Eye Lopes and copying her footwork. And you're bumping into more friends and shimmying along to the music and you'll keep dancing until it's dark and beyond.

I'm a big city girl from all over the world/ and I do what I wanna do/ right foot, left shoe/ then you shake it around/ bring it up, clap your hands/ then you turn it all around

8. Sway by Dean Martin

This couldn't be a complete list without a suave recording from a Rat Pack-er. Dean Martin's 'Sway' was the English-speaking version of mambo instrumental 'Quien Sera' and maintains almost all of the sexiness of the original, with some strings and sweet nothings thrown in for good measure. This is the sort of song that catches me off guard and makes me wish I was on the French Riviera in the 1950s in the arms of a man who probably drinks too much whiskey and will leave me for an adolescent (So... Frank Sinatra, I guess?) The rose-tinted sexism usually wears off with the end of the song but Sway remains a classic ode to dancing with the wrong (right?) man.

9. John, I'm Only Dancing by David Bowie

The dancefloor will forever be a sexy space, whether that's about feeling sexy in yourself, feeling consciously unsexy, or trying to figure out how to dance with that nice looking person over there. As long as the dancefloor remains a sexy place (i.e., FOREVER) there'll always be that funny ambiguity about sexy dancing vs friendly dancing and toeing the line, which Bowie sums up perfectly in John, I'm Only Dancing.

John, I'm only dancing/ She turns me on/ But I'm only dancing/

10. Take This Waltz by Leonard Cohen

How's Leonard Cohen proposing to dance the waltz for brooding romance? This song manages to sound equal parts hope and regret, so that it's suited both for an emotional break-up dance (that's a thing..) or a loving waltz after years of marriage. This isn't about rushing to a dancefloor, this is about resting a chin on a shoulder.

Oh my love, oh my love/ Take this waltz, take this waltz/ It's yours now, it's all that there is

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thought For The Day

"From a very early time, I understood that I only learn from things I don't like. If you do things you like, you just do the same shit. You always fall in love with the wrong guy. Because there's no change. It's so easy to do things you like. But then, the thing is, when you're afraid of something, face it, go for it. You become a better human being."
Not Marina Abramovic: Me in Sept 2012 after cycling to Paris.

Marina Abramovic, interviewed by Emma Brockes for The Guardian ahead of her upcoming London show at The Serpentine. At the moment I'm trying to be more accepting of discomfort and failure, both at work and in my personal life. I find that there's a big difference between reading about difficulty- of the importance of making mistakes and embracing crappy output as an inevitable stage of creativity- and actually accepting it in reality. I'm predisposed (like a lot of people, I'm sure) to feel bad about making mistakes- particularly at work as I get to grips with new systems and environments, and I subsequently waste time mulling over the mistakes instead of viewing it as a beneficial learning curve. Similarly I want to be better at accepting those niggly difficulties like reading tricky books and giving them time and patience rather than becoming frustrated and worrying about every little detail so that I assume that I'm not smart enough to understand. Or to make the things I want to make and accept that I might not like what I produce the first, or the second, or the third or fourth time but that having some content to work with is ultimately so much more rewarding that planning and never beginning the first attempt. In short, I'll be thinking about Marina Abramovic's words this week. Here's to not doing the same old shit! 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 3

Hello weekend! Here in Manchester the sun is out, and it's properly hot which is softening to blow after my flatmate Nanon booked a last-minute trip to the Greek Islands this week and I understood the unattractive notion of being 'green with envy'. I'm thinking about buying a large paddling pool and spending the weekend in the garden, which is really at its early summer peak and is verdant and busy, with a large jug of White Russian..

Other things that happened this week: Me and Rose went to see Hossein Amini and Viggo Morternsen in conversation as part of a preview screening of The Two Faces of January, which I thoroughly recommend for a stylish, classic 60s thriller set in the Greek Islands. (Hence my jealousy of Nanon's similar escapades..) Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, it's also rather Ripley-esque and has given me some ideas about the sort of novels I'd like to read this summer.

I also attended some of the Museums at Night goings-on in Manchester on Thursday night which included a very special performance in the glorious reading room of the Manchester Central Library from the Montgolfier Brothers who played some beautiful and pragmatically romantic songs that reverberated around the domed room.

And so for some weekend reading which is rather 'watching' orientated this week, with a must-watch online comedy series, a disco-flavoured news report and a guy who uploads hilarious dance videos onto Instagram every single day...

Clockwise from top left: Yumi Zouma, George Best, Mary Frey, Adamscarpenters, Erin D. Garcia.


Despite being somebody who really likes the internet when it comes to podcasts and webseries I have a rather large gap in my knowledge. Last night I read Good Good Girl's very informative guide to Funny Girls  and guffawed and guffawed and at Be Here Nowish, a comedy mini-series about "two sexually progressive New York gals who ditch their down-and-out lives for LA in search of a spiritual awakening." Don't let the spiritual awakening bit put you off; this is Girls and Frances Ha  and Karley Sciortino's Slutever all rolled into one. Any piece of film or TV that features the unspeakable bond of squatting to pee next to one of your girlfriends (ah, the rising steam! the laughs!) gets a thumbs up in my books; my kind of version of the Bechdel Test.

Last week Kirsty Wark's documentary Blurred Lines: The New Battle of the Sexes was aired on BBC Two, exploring the rise of the rape joke, manning up and portrayals of women in the media. (Also available on YouTube under the title "More BBC Feminist Propaganda!!!" by its silly uploader.

Disco Music: 60 Minute Special Report, a 15 minute excerpt from a 1978 news report; the sort that involves a suspicious presenter explaining a new craze to the masses just after the moment has passed. "This is the place thats IN with the Disco crowd!!"


A song to revisit; spine-tingling violin stringed, vocal wonderfulness from Butler and McAlmont:

The sort of song that might play in an American Apparel store and require a Shazam, Yumi Zouma's track Salka Gets Her Hopes Up is a good old-fashioned hazy pop song for the summer.

An album to get to know this weekend: Fanfare by Jonathan Wilson. Man, it's a goodie- Neil Young-y, Beach Boys-ish, a bit of Pink Floyd and- of course, because not every artist should be justified through a comparison to their predecessors- a lot of himself, too.


Photographer Mary Frey, included here for her Gloria Steinem-esque glasses, sharp-as-hell suit and 1970s jeans and braces.

Annu Kilpelainen's is a fabulous illustrator, and this t-shirt is one to add that I'll be adding to my suitcase whenever I get around to going on that beach holiday that I'm craving so badly.

Badges. I know, the glow-in-the-dark variety got some loving in the last edition of The Weekend List
but I'm not done with the badge appreciation yet. This week Joanna Long of Parish Council sent me one of her wonderful homemade 'GOOD EGG' badges in homage to my love of those ovals of protein goodness.

Brutalist! The team behind the Modernist Magazine have created a badge for lovers of severe, concrete architecture. Sound like you? Go forth!

Thumb scrolling (aka who to follow on Instagram)

I'm dedicating this to my friend Rose who was complaining this week that she doesn't follow anybody interesting on Instagram. Rose, are you ready for this?? Adamscarpenter is one of those rare people who has a ridiculously inspired and hilarious approach to Instagram. No food shots (one of my own vices), no feet on beaches and no identikit shots of the Barbican (we've all been there) Instead he uploads a dance a day. It's hard to knew where to begin with describing his level of commitment to this activity. But it's fair to play that regardless of your sexuality, you will probably fall in love, hard.

Erin D. Garcia, an LA-based visual artist who paints amazing murals with simple, highlighter-hued swiggle lines.


If, like me, a large portion of your online surfing comes under the 'fantasy' category (see: adding incredible and unaffordable Airbnb listings to your watch list or browsing house-sitting jobs in Los Angeles..) then you'll probably like WowHaus too. It's a blog-cum-property website listing beautiful Modernist properties available around the world, delving into the history of their architects, and often famous residents. See: Elvis Presley's Palm Springs honeymoon retreat, or this cooler and 10x more subtle property in Wilmslow, which was designed by Frazer Crane (also the architect to George Best's supercool pad in Cheshire)

A lovely short film made up of archival clips showing Montreal in the 1960s.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 2

It's Saturday! Here's another edition of The Weekend List, an alternative to the weekend papers which I always enjoy buying but have more recently felt disappointed by. Instead here are some thoughts on sober dancing and body confidence, Sebastien Tellier's wonderful new Bossa-inspired single, the impact of Girl Power on a generation of twenty-somethings, Miranda July's suit and how to spent your last day on earth.

You can read the last Weekend List here. 


Yesterday I had the day off and pottered around the kitchen drinking coffee, washing up and listening to Lauren Laverne's Woman's Hour takeover. "Yeah, yeah, usual suspects" I thought, when I heard Caitlin Moran's name mentioned as one of the guests, but the 20 minute interview with the two drinking tea in Moran's kitchen and discussing mistakes, asking for money and bringing up daughters was fantastic. A very special mention to the moment later on when Laverne asked Mel C if there was a correlation between the 'fourth wave' of feminism with the coming of age of women who were brought up with The Spice Girls and their blend of Girl Power. I really recommend listening to this if you were one of those children who did Spice Girls routines at break time at school, or if you raised girls during this time (Hi Mum!) I actually found myself tearing up in a moment of heightened nostalgia for those peddle pushin', girl power days. Don't tell anyone, though.


This week I bought a suit from Topshop. Online it was perfect and striped like a humbug and I knew that if I bought it it would transport me into a 1970s shagpiled lounge, and I would have taken up smoking and I was probably putting on a record and about to dance like Julianne Moore in A Single Man. Alas, when will I learn to accept that Topshop does not design clothes for my body? I tried on the new suit, standing on the toilet at my work- the only way of seeing my full body in the mirror- and felt immensely disappointed but unsurprised.

So the quest for a killer suit continues. Which leads to me to Miranda July's Hepburn-esque suit, which popped up on Lena Dunham's instagram account this week. Serious respect to that suit!

Glow in the dark badges! With the word 'pizza' and smiling faces. It's a damned shame that these badges from the Ccooll lot are sold out but I'm holding out in case they come online again.


Image: Gavin Parry for Quarantine

Bad Sex: A vow to never excuse a sub-par fuck again via Adult Magazine.

The Key to a Good Relationship is Not Talking. "As Philip Roth puts it in American Pastoral, "the fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful consideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong.""

Dancing soberly and expanding comfort zones. I've recently signed up to be involved in 'Summer' which is a 'glorious cocktail of public choreography' arranged by the wonderful theatre company Quarantine. This is very new, unknown territory for me as 'acting' and 'performing' is always something I've shied away from. Rehearsals are strange and wonderful. We arrive at the empty office building, vacated not so long ago by The Co-Operative Group and sit around the table eat and talk together. In our last rehearsal we talked about the realtionship between specific music and memories and our own 'must-get-to-dancefloor-now' songs, and I asked the others which songs I should play at our party. Afterwards we went into the main office, a huge open space, to go through a series of tasks. Richard asked us to find a personal space to be by ourselves and he would start to play music. We should just imagine we were alone, and when and if we felt ready to begin to dance. I was terrified and really had no idea where I would summon the confidence required to dance in front of a people I had just met, in the broad daylight after a day at work. The first song played and I had no desire to dance to it. It was fairly unmemorable but it wasn't a song that would pull me to a dancefloor. This didn't help me feel any better about the prospect of dancing so I closed my eyes and imagined I was in my own room at home where recently I've danced completely freely and alone. Or sometimes in the sitting room at the weekends where I've moved back the carpet and really gone for it. Eventually the others started emerging from their little corners and then Richard played ABC by The Jackson 5 and I was surprised at how quickly I wad able to shrug off the shyness and move a little closer into the middle space which was open and revealing and away from the pillar I've been hiding behind. Richard cleverly incorporated some of the songs we'd discussed before- I let myself go completely to Let's Dance by David Bowie and built up a little sweat. My comfort zone extended more and more and throughout the evening as the tasks that might have seemed like hurdles became small steps that I was incredibly proud of. I cycled home feeling wonderful, thinking about the power of dance and movement and how important they are as tools to personal confidence and happiness.

Online Reading

How would you spend your last day on earth? Maybe not enough in the way of dancing for me, but Guy Garvey's take still pretty much hits the mark.

Beautiful documentation of cherry blossom season at Shinjuku Gyoen via Hello Sandwich. 

Animal collective nouns. One of my absolute favourite things about the English language. A bellowing of bullfinches! A quiver of cobras! A tower of giraffes! This comprehensive list is one to print out and learn.


Last night we had a big party. I spent much of the week leading up to it thinking about the right music to dance to, in order to create a failsafe and wonderful playlist for hip swaying and collective grooving.

Sebastien Tellier's new single L'adulte went onto the list. The music video is all warm Brazilian nights and patterned lounge suits (yes!) and dancing in the heat. I absolutely cannot wait for the release of his Brazilian concept album in July.

This week at work I asked Manchester band Bernard + Edith to curate a playlist for us, and I'm so glad they did because they introduced me to the wonders of Bennington by John Maus. What a sexy, synthy song. "I love those fucking eyes. And I still love the girl." You must watch the music video for a Twin Peaks x Saved By The Bell mix of gelled hair, motorbike romance and brooding brows.

Gruff Rhys's latest album American Interior which you can stream here on YouTube, and Sufjan Stevens' wonderful new project Sisyphus.