Today I picked up the complete RCA Victor Benny Goodman small group recordings (3 cds, $45, see ya later DJing money) and it ROCKS. I love early Benny Goodman so much. And this trio and quartet stuff makes me want to weep with joy. I also really really like the Sextet stuff, but, well, they’re not on this awesome collection. It really rocks: Lionel Hampton on vibraphone (!! I LOVE Hamp a crazylot), Gene Krupa on drums, Teddy Wilson on piano and Goodman on clarinet (of course). This stuff was so radical and amazing at the time – musically it was unique and exciting, socially the group was way radical, with 2 black doods and 2 white in the one band, on stage together, at a time when segregation was legally enforced in much of the USA. We’re talking about the 30s here, and the group were edited out of the films they starred in for films screened in the south of the US.
Musically, it’s fascinating stuff. The way those doods work together is awesome.
Yeah, so I’m loving this set. I was describing its wonderfulness to The Squeeze here, while he lay under the chenille bedspread reading a book about computers and I counted bpms: it’s a nicely packaged set, with nice black and white photos of the band. Krupa and Hamp are grinning like crazy people and Goodman and Wilson are more reserved. There are even photos of the band on the cds. Which prompted The Squeeze’s statement “like Buffy. Benny Goodman the vampire slayer.”
Well, I guess so. Into each generation a chosen one is born.
Name – Artist – Album – BPM – Year
Fine Brown Frame – Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra – Walk ‘Em – 113 – 1945
Undecided Blues – Count Basie and His Orchestra with Jimmy Rushing Cutting Butter – The Complete Columbia Recordings 1939 – 1942 (disc 03) – 120 – 1941
Spinnin’ The Webb – Chick Webb and his Orchestra – Stompin’ at the Savoy – 134 – 2002
Don’t Falter At The Altar – Cab Calloway Are You Hep to the Jive? – 138 – 1994
Jersey Bounce – Benny Goodman and His Band – Benny Goodman the Collection – 137 – 2004
Shoutin’ Blues Count Basie and His Orchestra Kansas City Powerhouse 148 1949
I Love Being Here With You – Ernestine Anderson – 135
Bli-Blip – Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis – Live in Swing City: Swingin’ with Duke – 134 – 1999
Nice Work If You Can Get It – Sarah Vaughan – Ladies Sing the Blues (volume 1) – 145 – 2000
Love Me or Leave Me – Jennie LÃ¶bel and Swing Kings – He Ain’t Got Rhythm – 128 – 2001
Every Day I Have The Blues – Count Basie – Breakfast Dance and Barbecue – 116 – 1959
C-Jam Blues – Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Live in Swing City: Swingin’ with Duke – 143 – 1999
Shufflin’ And Rollin’ – Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra – Walk ‘Em – 153 – 1952
Four Or Five Times – Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra – Tempo and Swing – 189 – 1939
Apollo Jump – Lucky Millinder – Apollo Jump – 143
Lavender Coffin – Lionel Hampton, etc – Lionel Hampton Story 4: Midnight Sun – 138 – 1949
Be Careful (If You Can’t Be Good) – Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra – Walk ‘Em – 121 – 1951
Til My Baby Comes Back – Ella Johnson with Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra – Walk ‘Em – 118 – 1952
Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby? – Dinah Washington – The Swingin’ Miss “D” – 140 – 1956
Blues In Hoss’ Flat – Count Basie – Big Band Renaissance Disc 1 – 142 – 1995
Till Tom Special – Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra – Tempo and Swing – 158 – 1940
Flying Home – Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra – Lionel Hampton Story 2: Flying Home – 197 – 1942
Tippin’ In – Erskine Hawkins and His Orchestra – Tuxedo Junction – 144 – 1942
For Dancers Only – Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra – Swingsation – Jimmie Lunceford – 154 – 1937
That’s my set from last week (Thurs 11th May, first set, 8.30-10pm). It went down a treat. After analysing it in painful detail here, I notice how frequently I repeat myself. So I played a total of 24 songs. Four were by Basie, 4 by Buddy Johnson (of the one album, no less), 4 were by Lionel Hampton. That’s scary. 12 songs by only 3 artists. I mean, I did wander all over their careers with these jobbies – they’re not all from the one year or anything. But still. I need more variety.
That issue of variety has been cropping up on Swing Talk a lot lately, mostly from a couple (literally 2) of dickheads demanding we play ‘more variety’. By variety they mean Royal Crown Revue
I’m addressing some interesting points Brian raise in the comments to the unexpectedly entry from a couple entries ago.
Brian writes in that comment:
That of course leads on to the big question is: â€œIs playing a small amount of non-swing music at a swing event a major problem.â€ The smarty pants answer would be, just play some Neo. My real answer is I donâ€™t know. What I to know is that to put a non-swing song in your set and for it to go down will with all the dancers takes a lot of skill. I find you must first make sure all the classic hard core dancers are happy and maybe even some of them left (gone outside) the room. Play some hardcore classic songs in a row of upper tempo and you should achieve this. Then itâ€™s a matter is checking if those â€œnon-swing mood group are in the room and ready to dance. You then need to make the transition and then comes the non-swing song. And hey the songs selection is like bringing a cat for a walk.
This section really interested me. That’s a really clever approach. I’d been thinking “there’s no way I’m every playing neo because I hate it”. But this scheme offers me a new approach. It reminds me of Trev’s comment here on Swing Talk where he says:
Yes, the ‘wave’!
I was using it last night (will post set soon) – although lately i’ve been more brutal with my tempo changes – it’s great for shaking things up, and avoids things “sounding all the same”.
Don’t be afraid to drop in a fast, high energy one when you have the floor full at medium. I’m not talking crazy fast, but something around 190-210bpm. The folks that are into it will be hanging out for it, and if you keep the tempos too low (to keep the floor full) they will get bored/lazy. Even if you only get 2 couples dancing to a fast song, you get the benefits of:
a) lifting the energy/enthusiasm of the room even if they don’t dance; b) inspiring others to get better go they can do it too. It’s not the same for everyone, but when I was new watching a high-energy dance motivated me to keep at;
c) sending people to the bar to spend their $ on the venue!
If you do it right, the room will be buzzing, and you can follow up with something at around 150 and everyone will be right back into it.
I generally wouldn’t play more that 2 fast tempo songs in a row. People start getting pissed if they don’t want to/can’t dance fast, and tired if they’ve been dancing to it.
(NB the setlist he’s referring to is here, though I’m not sure which setlist he means)). For a description of ‘the wave’ check out this thread on swingdjs.
… ok, so now to address the point.
Basically, both Trev and Brian are suggesting that the DJ use the ‘wave’ – which is a way of describing the general ‘flow’ of mood in the room, to provoke a particular response from dancers. It’s hard to explain how it works with dancers, but
I’ve just been reading some fascinating articles referring to David Seamon’s book A Geography of the Lifeworld where he describes exactly this phenomeon – people making a space ‘place’ by repeated actions and social interaction. So, everyday a man makes a coffee shop ‘place’ by rising at 8, walking to the coffee shop, buying a paper, ordering a poached egg and coffee, eating and reading til 9 when he walks on to work. The man comments that he is only made aware of how ‘comforting’ and ‘warm’ this cafe space is when the series of actions is interrupted by something like the paper being sold out.
Seamon talks about this as people becoming aware of their ‘precognitive’ behaviour only when it’s interrupted. In other words, he’s interested in what happens when people are made conscious of the stuff they do habitually in particular spaces to make those spaces a ‘place’.
This phenomenological stuff really makes me laugh, because they write like no one has ever thought to investigate what happens when you make people aware of their unconscous habits. When of course, any physiotherapist, yoga instructor or dance teacher spends all their working hours helping people develop a ‘body awareness’, where they become conscious of the things they do habitually with their bodies and muscles.
That theory seems particularly relevent to this discussion of DJing, because DJs are basically people who develop the skills to manipulate the mood of a room full of dancers so as to get them all dancing. I’ve been absolutely fascinated, as a noob DJ, by the way the choices I make in playing songs and combining songs can affect the mood of a crowded room. While, as a dancer, I respond unconsciously to the music, either getting really ‘high’ with uptempo, upenergy music, or getting really ‘low’, and moderating my dancing (my unconscious movements and social behaviour), as a DJ, I’ve had to become conscious of this process and figure out how it works.
It’s important to note that ‘precognitive’ behaviour is essential to skilled partner dancing. I’m frequently reminding myself ‘stop thinking!’ and ‘just follow!’. It’s like driving a manual car – you suddenly reach a point when you’re learning where the combination of accelerator, clutch, gear stick, etc becomes unconscious. And when you’re suddenly made conscious of this process, it often stuffs up.
Leading, however, can be more comfortably ‘cognitive’ than following as you are planning and determining the course of the dance. I have found, though, that the best dances, the most effective ones, where I really use my centre to move their centre, are the ones where I relax and ‘just move my body’ naturally, rather than ‘trying to lead’ in order to effect weight changes which in turn move the follow’s weight – effecting their weigh changes.
So when Trev talks about manipulating the wave (ie developing a ‘mood’ or ‘vibe’ in the room, or, to use Seamon’s approach, making a space ‘place’ through playing music which will provoke particular social responses through dance), Brian talks about exploiting the wave/dancers’ response to the wave to sneak in songs which are potentially going to ‘break’ the wave. So he plays ‘risky’ songs (like neo) after a couple of faster, old school swinging jazz traacks, so that he can exploit the old school fans’ taking time out for a break to slip in some neo. So the potential ‘risk’ of playing the neo stuff is ameliorated.
Trev also talks about ‘breaking’ the wave constructively by making quicker transitions between tempos – dropping in a fast one, even if the floor was full at slower tempos, then dropping the tempo down again to ‘recover’ and pick up the dancers who’ve stepped off the floor for that fast song. And, incidentally, giving those who danced the faster song a break.
This is fascinating shit, because it all reveals how important it is as a DJ to be a dancer, but perhaps more importantly, to consciously recognise how dancers respond to combinations of songs and musical moods to manipulate the mood of the room, but also to ‘please everyone’. I adore this approach because of the way it contrasts with the comment “you can’t please everyone” a DJ (whose work doesn’t impress me at all) said to me recently. This comment ‘you can’t please everyone’ seems (in the case of this DJ) to serve as justification for not attempting to work the room and ‘wave’. Or rather, to me it seems like this DJ made this comment because they are simply unaware of these issues. Which holds true with their dancing, where they are similarly ‘unaware’ of other dancers in the immediate vicinity, unable to ‘feel’ their partners’ weight changes, and have a propensity for rough leads.
In my own DJing, however, I’ve recently discovered that I can actually keep the floor full for the entire set, at a 100% strike rate. This usually means playing mid-tempo songs, and not taking any ‘risks’. Yet one of the results of this approach is that some of the dancers (mostly that hardcore, experienced group), while they’re dancing every song and enjoying themselves, really want me to play some faster songs as well.
I’ve been a bit tentative about doing this, as the numbers on the floor immediately drop when faster songs are played (though I have noticed that they pick up or don’t drop if the song is very swingy and good quality). One thing I have learnt, as Trev has pointed out, is that it’s ok to drop the numbers for a song or two. I’ve also found that if the floor does empty (for any reason, whether the song was fast, or you’ve played a dud) there are ways to fill it again – I have a few ‘safety songs’ which will always fill the floor. So it’s ok to play fast songs, empty the floor, and then fill it again. As Trev has pointed out, playing the odd faster song will, while people stand out for a song or too, actually pump up the energy in the room. And, as Brian points out, it also gives you an opportunity to play something that group of experienced, old school faster dancers wouldn’t dance to anyway, even if they weren’t standing on the sidelines strugging to breathe.
Another trick that Brian has noted before, is that if you do take the tempos up really high, you can actually raise the overall tempos when you play the next song. So if you find the room is stuck at about 140bpm, playing something at 200, while it may clear the room for those 3 minutes, will actually make it possible for you to follow up with something at 160 or 180, because it feels so much slower, comparatively, people get out there and dance. So allowing you to up the general tempo of the room, and change the overall wave.
I have noticed, however, that while you can raise the tempos generally, you will have to bring them down again eventually, as people’s energy and stamina wears out. I had previously been obsessed with getting tempos up and keeping there, as if 200bpm was my ultimate goal. Now I realise that it’s about varying tempos over the course of the night – the wave is a wave, and not just an incline. The trick is, of course, managing these crests and troughs without dropping the energy and tempos prematurely.
So DJing is a really interesting way of putting into practice that phenomenological approach to media use in everyday spaces.
NB when we say ‘bpm’, we mean ‘beats per minute’. The average speed of house or ‘dance’ music is 120bpm. The average tempo for dancing lindy in the 1930s was 180bpm. I can follow comfortably up to 180bpm, then I have to work harder. I can lead comfortably up to about 160. 20s Charleston, however, requires faster tempos – over 200 is average. Over 300 is ‘fast’. We can dance to such high tempos in lindy because the music ‘swings’ – it doesn’t feel like you’re rushing, and in fact really swinging songs feel slower than they are. Which helps to keep you relaxed, as you can’t dance fast if you’re freaking. 20s charleston, however, is usually danced to ‘dixie’ or jazz from the 20s, which predates swing, and has a different timing – 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 rather than 1-2-3-4, 5-6-7-8.
FYI: 180bpm is more than 3 steps per second, as we actually make 10 weight changes (or steps) in the basic lindy rhythm and Swing Out (fundamental step of lindy).
I should probably explain some of the more exclusive language at work in this entry, but I had planned on posting it on Swing Talk, so I reckon we should all just be grateful I posted it here instead of starting a shitfight over there. Let it be known, though, that these comments are partially in response to repeated comments by some ignorami that all DJs are in fact carp, except perhaps for Gary. I beg to differ with this somewhat limited observation and perhaps add that there is really only one truly carp DJ in Melbourne. And that’s enough about that…
So, read on. Or go do something else.
Expectations of DJs
Iâ€™ve been thinking about our expectations of DJs â€“ mostly because Iâ€™m now having a bash at this gig Iâ€™m having to rethink many of my old ideas.
Perhaps the biggest deal for most dancers is what a DJ plays â€“ they want to hear â€˜more of Xâ€™ or â€˜less of Yâ€™, for whatever reasons (itâ€™s more authentic, itâ€™s less authentic, itâ€™s more interesting, itâ€™s faster, itâ€™s slower, itâ€™s whateverâ€™). Now thatâ€™s all well and cool â€“ we like to hear songs we like when we go out dancing. And perhaps, more importantly, we like to hear songs that make us dance like a crazy person. But there are some issues, here.
1. How do we let the DJ know what we want to hear?
There are a few options. The simplest and most effective is ask. But how? Frankly, asking for a song at a dance and then expecting it immediately is ridiculous. To even expect it that night is asking a lot â€“ I mean, we have DJs rather than a juke box because we think that DJing itself involves some special skills, more than just wacking a CD in the player. We trust their judgement. So why not do that â€“ trust the DJ to make the choices while you get on with the business of dancing?
But that fairly obvious point aside, hHow else might we request songs? Swing Talk? Sure, not a bad option. But Iâ€™ve noticed that some people tend to forget their manners, forget that theyâ€™re actually dealing with real people when they make requests on Swing Talk. I think itâ€™s best to remind yourself that the â€˜DJâ€™ is not some nameless, faceless, iron-constitutioned person we donâ€™t know. Theyâ€™re usually music nerds, who really worry about pleasing the crowd and doing a good job. And usually without any advice or training or constructive feedback. And at the end of the day, if you want something, itâ€™s best to play nice, to say please and to not feel that youâ€™re owed that song. Because the DJ owes you nothing if you donâ€™t give them some love.
2. Should the DJ feel obliged to play songs specifically because they were requested/they know a particular person (note the singular there) likes it, etc?
On the one hand, they could do their best to put together a set that â€˜pleases everyoneâ€™, specifically including songs they know people like. Or they could go with the flow on the night, mixing up new stuff, old stuff, favourites, wacky new stuff, etc etc. I prefer the latter approach, as a DJ and punter, particularly if the song(s) requested suck. And perhaps, even more importantly (and speaking as someone with a limited budget), I think about what it means to request songs from a DJ, or to expect them to have â€˜everythingâ€™ in their collection. As someone who has very little money to spend on CDs, I make very careful choices in the music I buy. I mean, letâ€™s remember â€“ a DJ is usually forking out at least $30 a pop on music. If youâ€™re me, living on my budget, $30 is a once-a-month deal at best. And when I go to buy that CD, should I choose a) to buy something that I really really like, b) to choose something Iâ€™ve carefully researched and found is excellent for DJing, c) choose something I hate because I know that 5 people love it? I’m looking at options a and b, here as most-likely.
3. To what extent should we expect DJs to pander to our tastes when theyâ€™re buying their music?
Personally, Iâ€™d feel like a poop if a DJ on a tight budget went out and bought some Vince Giordano which they loathed, just because Iâ€™d said I love it and want to dance to it. Iâ€™d much rather they went out and found an artist they adored and spent their money there. I like the idea of having a number of DJs, each with special interests, so that when I go to hear them play, I know what to expect, and I know Iâ€™ll be hearing X type of music, probably played by someone who’s devoted time to becoming a specialist in that type of music. I donâ€™t expect one DJ to play everything â€“ if they do, Iâ€™m damn impressed, because I know how hard it is to do â€˜everythingâ€™ in one set.
4. How should the DJ play requested songs?
Do they just slap the CD in then and there â€“ immediately, or do they work it in gradually? The first method is kind of problematic â€“ sure, that one person who requested Sidney Bechetâ€™s â€˜Slippinâ€™ and Slidinâ€™â€™ will be happy, but the rest of the room will no doubt look up at the DJ with a puzzled look that seems to say â€œdood, we were digging that mellow 110bpm groove vibe you had goingâ€. I like to assume that the DJ will have (or will soon develop) the skills to make the decision about when to play the songs, without my help. And if I want to choose the songs and in what order theyâ€™re played, then, hell, Iâ€™ll get up there and do it. You canâ€™t DJ and dance on the same night.
5. Because a DJ is being paid, how much should we expect of them?
Firstly, letâ€™s have a little look at how much DJs are paid, exactly. Now, if youâ€™re lucky enough to live in a city where DJs are paid (and not everyone is), whatâ€™s the deal?
In Melbourne, Iâ€™ve been paid $25 for 2.5 hours at CBD. Iâ€™ve also been paid $25 for 1.5 hours at CBD. Iâ€™ve been paid $30 for 1.25 hours at the Funpit. Iâ€™ve DJed for free at Camberwell, and DJing at the Blues Pit is $25 (or $30 â€“ I forget) for a 45 minute set.
Now, if I chose to work a shift at Safeway, Iâ€™d be better paid. And the working conditions would no doubt be far better â€“ I could handball difficult customers to a manager, I wouldnâ€™t have to spend hours, days, weeks researching my work, and thereâ€™s very little take-home work.
If youâ€™ve read the discussion on DJsâ€™ pay, on Swing Talk, youâ€™ll see that any â€˜profitâ€™ from DJing is actually eaten up by things like buying music and equipment, dealing with APRA, travel and so on. Add to that the fact that DJs donâ€™t get to dance, andâ€¦.
Just how fair is it to demand that they then also spend their money buying music you like so that they can play them for you at a dance? And how cool is it, then, to heckle and harangue DJs for not playing the music that you want to hear (and letâ€™s remember â€“ youâ€™re just one kid in a crowd of dancers, all with different tastes, which donâ€™t necessarily coincide with yours)?
Sure, there are other benefits and advantages to DJing. DJs may get into a venue for free (so, you may actually be paid $36 at the Funpit, for example). They get the respect and accolades of their peersâ€¦ no, wait, what was that about being hassled by dancers for songsâ€¦? Frankly, once the initial thrill (and fear) of DJing wears off, the fringe benefits of DJing are remarkably slim. The satisfaction of filling the dance floor and making people happy? Sure, yeah. Getting to hear music you love for hours on end? Hm. And not dancing to it? Assuming you get to play it at all, if youâ€™re not busy dealing with requestsâ€¦
And letâ€™s not forget the other side of DJing â€“ having to be at dancing exactly on time for your shift (add 15minutes for set up), and then if you want to do any kind of decent job, actually being there to hear the first DJâ€™s set to be sure thereâ€™re no repeats. Dealing with arseholes giving you a hard time (heckling online, in person at the doo, via email, etc etc etc). etc etc etc.
So, at the end of the day, next time you consider slanging off a DJ, or demanding they play your music, why not stop and think a minute. Cut them some slack. And if you really hate the music, why not DJ yourself?
I DJ because Iâ€™m enjoying the challenge of learning the skills of playing to a crowd. Iâ€™m interested in the music â€“ I like the challenge of researching and hunting down affordable and excellent music. I like the thought of giving back to the scene a little â€“ Iâ€™m volunteering my time and energy for other peopleâ€™s fun. And I think of it as pay back for all the times Iâ€™ve had a fantastic night dancing to a fantastic DJ. And I DJ because the more DJs there are in a scene, the more variety of music there is, and the more chances the DJs get to dance!
BTW: please feel free to add comments to this article. Spamming and sledging will of course be triumphantly, gloriously and satisfyingly deleted arbtrarily, with the righteous and highly likely possibility of rubbing it in.
So today I scored a new haircut (scored as in paid for).
It’s slightly different to my usual very-short. Uli said “what will it be this time? short?” and I said ‘Yes, but I think I want something different”.
So now I have ‘girly bits’ at the front.
Which is nice. And anyway, I tried to colour it myself. Two problems:
1. dud colour (some crap Loreal product – I need their oldschool hyper-red but can’t find it)
2. missed some bits at the front through conservative application of colour
3. I got no idea what’s going on at the back there.
I guess it’ll look ok. It’s kind of tame, though – it looks like a ‘natural’ red (well, as natural as a chick with black eyebrows and eyes can look with red hair) and I like toxicly unnatural reds.
Will see what I can find out at the shops tonight.
On other fronts, a trip to the hairdresser is always a great opportunity to secure local community gossip. Uli is a member of the Sydney Rd Assoc (I think it’s called) and has lots to do with the council. Apparently the giant Sortino across the road (Sortino = wonderful Italian furniture. Say yes to white, to gold, to marble) will soon become a Priceline. So I might be able to get my hair colour there soon. The big old reception place/furniture store place is to be an Aldi, which we’re not pleased about in Little Sweden’s home of Fine Hair: the local small businesses will suffer. And I agree. I’m not sure why they think a German supermarket will do well in Brunswick (land of Middle Eastern, Mediterannean and Subcontinental -ness), but heck.
I passed on the wonder that is Nino and Joe’s and we tutted over the urban renewal generally.
Speaking of Nino and Joe’s…
went in for a bunch of sausages, came out with $50 worth of fucking amazing meat.
– 8 fat sausages (2 pork spicey, 2 pork normal, 2 beef spicey, 2 beef normal) because I wanted to test them all. These aren’t the pale and insipid bangers filled with beige paste you find tagged ‘BBQ’ in the supermarket. They’re fat, they’re textured a little like my thighs (helloooo cellulite), they’re kind of blotchy-coloured, owing to the combination of stuff inside them. They taste FANTASTIC.
– 1 rolled beef shoulder roast (1.2kg at $12.99 a kg) – pancetta, swiss mushrooms, garlic, etc. It looks fantastic. It had better be.
– 1 pork chop (because)
– some beef ‘stir fry’. Ordinarily I buy steak and we cut it up ourselves, but I trust Joe. Well, I’ll trust him just this once
– 2 chicken breasts
– 1 pork loin (hellloooo stir-fry)
… and something else I’ve forgotten. At any rate, it took two bags and I had to squish it into my bike bag. This is enough meat to feed us forever. I should perhaps buy fresh rather than freezing, but I wanted to be sure we were stocked up.
I’m a bit excited about the rolled beef. The Squeeze barely tolerates roasted meats, but he likes beef. And I was excited by the pancetta. Though I’ll probably die from botulism, leaving cured and raw meat cohabiting in the fridge for 24 hours.
And from whence does the funds for all this bounty come?
Well, we can thank the Melbourne lindy hop community for the most part – I’ve DJed 9 times since the 23rd February. That’s 9 times in an 8 week period. Going from 0. DJ drought? Naaaah.
I’m certainly learning quickly. Well, I guess I’m learning quickly, because it seems to be going well. Last night was my second time doing the second set at CBD and the room was PACKED and FRENZIED til 12. I DJed for 2.4 hours for $25.
I was abused and been-mean-to by some loser arseholes, but everyone else seemd to really dug my action. I know that the floor was always full, and the reports from dancers were overwhelmingly positive – “Man, it’s really pumping out there. There’s a really great vibe in the room.” That’s really nice to hear, but it’s a bit hard watching your mates flail about in a sweaty, endorphine-charged euphoria while you have to stand up there playing the best music in the world. Thankfully, people seem to have grasped the idea that I like to be visited when I’m DJing, so I spent a large part of the set laughing so much with the Rubinator I thought I’d broken my face laughing.
The few dances I did have were quite awful: I have forgotten how to dance. But I think perhaps it’s recorded music. I only dance to live bands now. heh.
I’d like to end this post with a witty reference to sausages or perhaps rolled shoulders… no, I won’t go near that awful punnage about my own rolled right shoulder impeding my following. Even I won’t stoop that low. Though I could, now that I have super-dooper yoga-strength.
Instructions: Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING.
How does the world see you?
Sepia Panorama – Duke Ellington
(an instrumental, kind of mellow, almost moody track – indicative of ellington’s later penchant for orchestrated swing in his later years. good slower dancing)
…ok….so I’m complex, moody, yet positive?
Will I have a happy life?
Hurricane – Vince Giordano
(crazy fast charleston music – fun)
So, fun, exciting, interesting yet tiring?
What do my friends really think of me?
Kickin’ the Gong Around – Cab Calloway
The lyrics are worth repeating. Bracketed sections are the chorus replying to Cab
It was down in Chinatown,
All the cokey’s laid around,
Some were high, and some were mighty low,
There were millions on the floor,
When a knock came on the door,
And there stood old Smokey Joe.
He was wet and cold and pale,
He was looking for his frail,
He was broke and all his junk ran out.
Nobody made a sound,
As he stood and looked around,
And then you’d hear old Smokey shout:
“Tell me where is Minnie?” (where is Minnie?)
“My poor Minnie?” (your poor Minnie)
“Has she been here, kicking the gong around?
If you don’t know Minnie” (don’t know Minnie)
“She’s tall and she’s skinny” (tall and skinny)
“She gets her pleasure kicking the gong around.”
“Just tell her Smokey Joe was here and had to go.”
And as he departed, (and as he departed)
The curtains parted, (the curtains parted)
And there stood Minnie,
Kicking the gong around.
Hmmm. Interesting, considering I’m all straight edge and all… Maybe it’s a song about me making funny songs about junky ‘hos and their pimps?
Do people secretly lust after me?
Boy Wanted – Ella Fitzgerald
(kind of dumb song where Ella sings about the boy she wants, and she starts: “he must be able to dance, and must make light of romance”).
How can I make myself happy?
You Didn’t Want Me Then – Dinah Washington
(Dinah sings: hey, you didn’t want me then, that’s cool – I’ll carry on. I’ve found someone else that I like a lot more and they’re really nice)
What should I do with my life?
Night and Day – Sinatra with the Dorseys
(“Night and day,
You are the one.
Beneath the moon and the sun.
Whether near to me or far,
There’s no matter darling where you are,
I think of you,
Day and night”)
Oh, so I’m back with the looking-for-love thing?
Will I ever have children?
Night and Day – Ella Fitzgerald (50s ella)
(same as last one, but cheesier and more orchestrated)
That’s weird. Does this mean there’ll be perpetual love making, or that I’ll never sleep a whole night through again (because of my many babies?)?
What is some good advice for me?
Put It There (shag nasty) – McKinney’s Cotton Pickers
(sassy, uptempo ‘charleston’ stuff – shag=the dance step, not… well, actually.
No, it’s mostly about crazy uptempo dancing)
Neat. Dance like a fool, shag like a fool.
How will I be remembered?
Jumpin’ at the Woodside – Count Basie
(crazy fast dancing, iconic in lindy for excellent fast dancing and the sequence in Hellzapoppin’)
…crazy fast dancing fool?
What is my signature song?
Gloomy Sunday – Billie Holiday
(sad, slow – she dreams that her lover has gone/died, then wakes up and discovers she was wrong, and now she really appreciates and loves her partner even more for having thought she’d lost them)
What do I think my current theme song is?
I’ Shouting High – Louis Armstrong
(medium tempo, but energetic, a love-song)
What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
I’m Gonna Live Til I Die – Barbara Lewis with Reg James
(about partying hard, living every day as it comes)
What song will play at my funeral?
I Can’t Dance (I got ants in my pants) – Chick Webb
(lyrics (chorus in brackets):
Love to have a party,
(let’s have a party)
Let’s all begin,
(let’s all begin)
You bring the women,
(you bring the women)
I’ll bring the gin.
(i’ll bring the gin)
Let’s go for a drive,
(let’s go for a drive)
Ain’t goin’ far,
(ain’t goin’ far)
You fix the blow-out,
(you fix the blow-out)
Boy, and I’ll drive the car.
(I’ll drive the car).
I can’t dance,
(I can’t dance)
Got ants in my pants,
(Got ants in my pants),
I can’t dance,
(I can’t dance).
Boy, I can’t dance,
Got ants in my pants,
Oh, Chick can’t dance,
Got ants in his pants!
A fun, energetic song about not being able to dance because i’m all wriggly in my pants, though it’s more about dancing and being excited-energetic and dancing kind of crazy)
Kewl. But I won’t be able to dance to it….
What type of men/women do I like?
Roll the Boogie – Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers
(uptempo fun, ‘boogie woogie’ rhythm:
“My man likes to boogie, boogie with a steady roll,
When he boogies my woogie, satisfies my soul,
He boogies in the morning, boogies all night and day.
And when he gets home he blows my blues away”)
Nuff said, really…
What is my day going to be like?
What Shall I say – Billie Holiday
(“What shall i say,
When our neighbours want us to come to tea?
They don’t know you’re not with me,
What shall i say?
What shall i say when the phone rings and someone asks for you?”
– a song about having been left by someone, but in an uptempo, positive tempo and rhythm)
kind of ordinary, but positive?
Hm. well that was all kind of disappointing. It made me giggle, though. Esp at Shag Nasty and Kicking the Gong Around. Guess this would have more variety if I listened to less swinging jazz – there’d be fewer songs about party, sex and drugs or misery. Thank god I’m not a country and western fiend.
In the ongoing world of extreme online music nerddom…here‘s the content of a bunch of old edison cylinders.
It’s worth having a listen to.
Some dood has put together a complete online list of releases by a number of labels (including bluebird) here.
Holy mamma, that’s some nerdy shit.
I’m sorry Brian, I’m sorry. Chick Webb does rule… well, after Fats and the Duke and Billie and… well, he does rule.
New Proper chick webb collection purchased at caiman.com via amazon for a reasonable price (check it here). Could have found it cheaper, but didn’t bother.
Quality: superior to anything else I had.
Range: covers Webb’s career on 4 CDs. As with other Proper collections, I guess it’ll do a good job covering the key moments in his career. I’m not so familiar with Webb, so I’ll have to get back to you…
If you’re not a Webb person already… we’re talking Old Scratchy action here.
Sweet-as swinging jazz recorded between 1931 and 1939. I previously knew Webb through Ella Fitzgerald – she got her first serious gig with his band as a teenager (and later led the band after his death) – knew he was important (in part for his association with the Savoy Ballroom, Home of Happy Feet), read varying discussions about the quality of his band and of course danced de lindy hop to him many times.
I had a few albums already (mostly rubbishy ‘greatest hits’ or not-so-greatly-remastered albums) and wanted something comprehensive so I could get a handle on his action, and then seek out specific albums or greater collections (let’s not talk about how my Billie Holiday obsession began).
I’ll let you know how it goes – so far I like it a lot. The tempos are pretty high (as you’d expect from an old skool Scratchy from the Savoy), which makes it less flexible for DJing (esp when the DJ in question seems destined never to play for anyone other than newbs – but I don’t fret. I’m getting valuable skills… and one day those newbs will be advanced dancers. And then, with my army of newbs, I will conquer the world!), but it’s neat for listening. Though I probably shouldn’t listen to it before bed. Like watching clips – it makes me jiggly. And it could only fuel my recent series of weirdo dance/DJing/suppressed thesis anxiety dreams).
Listening to a new CD by the Charleston Chasers, I was struck by the short musical step between British brass bands and the earliest jazz and ragtime. The story goes: Afro-American slaves took up the instruments abandoned by fleeing southern American soldiers at the end of the 19th century and invented ragtime. Ragtime moved to New Orleans and was made over in that multicultural city to become hot jazz. You can hear the sames sorts of instruments in early jazz and ragtime as in marching bands – tubas, trumpets, clarinets, big drums. The difference being the African influence. Or, more specifically, the difference being the blues.
The specific similarities in the history of jazz and the history of British brass bands are worth noting. The more obvious online sources refer to the relationship between brass bands and miners in the UK. Brass bands, as with jazz, were the creative work of marginalised or working class people in both countries. The clearest difference, however, lies in British brass band’s role as competitive performance bands, and jazz’s more comprehensive position in Afro-American vernacular culture. The parallels could continue, if we referred to American – specifically New Orleans – marching bands, but that’s not my concern here.
The Charleston Chasers are a British band, and I was struck by the similarity between their music and the brass bands of British tradition. The Charleston Chasers, despite my high hopes, aren’t such a great band for swing dancing – for charleston or other 20s dances. I suspect that it is because they lack the blues. To me, that translates to their music feeling like it lacks soul. It doesn’t make me want to shake my arse.
I have some reservations about some of the larger ‘society jazz’ type bands recreating 20s jazz, mostly because I find they reproduce the more mannered jazz you might associate with a ‘high society’ band of the 20s, rather than the grittier jazz from the 20s which I prefer.
That hasn’t stopped me liking Vince Giordano‘s work (including my new CD, and I tend to sort of audio-ly skim over the shinier aspect of this music.
I’m also struck by the vast superiority of the original music and bands from the 20s – is it a race thing? An ethnicity thing? Part of me – somewhat suspiciously – simply feels that these new, predominantly white recreationist bands are simply too ‘white’ to make for good charleston. I like a little grunt, a little grit in my charleston music.