Not as if I'm a fan of 'Strictly...' Not like I'm one to get up  and bop at any family occasions.
   After all, I was the one crashed out on the floor at the disco clutching my bottle of the cheapest plonk. A right plonker, you might say!
   Yet, a secret : I like to dance in private to music I love and have even devised a stealthy long stride to John Cale's moody 'Midnight Feast'.
   And three songs about dancing feature among my favourites of the last couple of years. All very different, but extraordinary in their own ways.
   Before these, not many dancing songs made an impact.
   The first was definitely 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' by Procol Harum, with it's 'skip a light fandango' : a strangely surreal scene.
   The only other I can recall is one of the best ever out of Wales, 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They?' from Racing Cars, a Valleys' band. This was based an an equally excellent film about a dance competition which becomes a struggle for survival; a microcosm of social Darwinism.
   Three  mostly contrasting songs which share a theme, by three of the songwriters I most admire.
   The first is 'Sweet Dancer' from last year's Waterboys' album 'An Appointment With Mr Yeats'. How this album failed to make the Mercury Prize shortlist is beyond me : it's one of the finest of the century.
   As a poem 'Sweet Dancer' works because of certain lines, but as a song Mike Scott has raised it to another plane because of the engaging melody, his vocals together with those of Irish indie singer Katie Kim and the swirling fiddle-playing of Stevie Wickham.
   It focuses on one moment perfectly, as a solitary, rather crazy girl dances on a manicured lawn, outside a house where we presume her feelings have been repressed.
   The emotional weight of the song is also in its address. The singer makes a direct plea to the listener to 'let her dance' and 'lead' those men ' astray' who would stop her.
   The chorus simply repeats the phrase 'Oh, sweet dancer!' so we identify totally with her, especially as her dance seems so individual and, above all, precarious.
   Things have happened in her life to mean that only through this Isadora Duncan-style free expression can she show her true feelings. Yet those men are clearly threatened by her movements on the immaculate lawn.
   The exchange of vocals between Scott and Kim mean that the voices of both poet and girl are evident and give the song more subtlety than the poem itself.
   The second song is outwardly similar, though musically continents apart. Neil Young's 'She's Always Dancing' is from his latest album 'Psychedelic Pill'.
   Like Yeats' poem, Young's song is also about one girl who finds liberty and inspiration through dance.
   Instead of a single moment however, it's as though her whole life is encapsulated in her desire to dance.
   Musically, the song could've come from almost any of his Crazy Horse offerings down the years. He has obstinately refused to move on and, because much of this album is looking back on his hippy past ( with no sense of shame, I'm glad to say), it's fitting there are so many echoes of classics like 'Hurricane'.
   The girl dances to release herself from the rules of society and to become innocent again. It epitomises the best of the 'hippy spirit', that idealism which Young regrets we have lost and which he expressed with such righteous indignation in songs like 'Ohio'.
   Her dance makes her into a kind of shaman, giving her contact with the forces of Nature. The fire imagery which becomes more important as the song progresses only stresses this elemental , pagan atmosphere.
   Like the girl in 'Sweet Dancer', she 'lives in her own world', yet appears in control and full of power, unlike the vulnerability of Yeats' dancer.
   Young is very much the observer, the admirer : paying homage with his gliding, floating, soaring, seering guitar.
   John Cale's 'Face To The Sky' is from his latest 'Shifty Adventures From Nookie Wood', his best album since 'Fragments Of A Rainy Season'. This song is far more ambitious, both musically and lyrically.
   On the face of it, it's not about dancing at all, though the video shows dancer Freya Jeffs gyrating gently on a large chessboard.
   Yet Cale has managed to convey the gradual development from stasis to movements, stirred both by the present situation of 'homecoming laughter' and a  journey into the girl's mind , with her memories of  'wild men standing still'.
   In keeping with Cale's religious tendencies, this is very zen. She becomes empowered and can 'hold back the fears in the wind'. It's as if she throw off her burdens and achieves a meditative state.
   The music is multi-layered and mysterious as words themselves : quick-stepping drum beats, Eastern patterns of keyboards, synth chords crashing and bass-lines like the amplified sounds of her feet slapping a surface. Cale's voice like the echo of a cello.
   This is the most intriguing of the songs, though I like them all for various reasons.

   Sometimes dance can be communal rather than individual and my poem below describes how vital it is to the culture of Brittany.


                                    DANCE  FESTIVAL, BREIZH

Festival on a platform
at the edge of the cliffs
in Breizh : sea sounds
and salt smells joining hands.

Each village, each town
a costume and a band :
bombardes, pipes and drums
like waves over sand.

Till performers and audience are one
like Stivell once in Cardiff
raised on shoulders down Queen Street :
folk of the paving-stones.

Families and dancers in lace,
men in shorts and women in bonnets
all linked by small fingers :
with tide's rhythm and sun's pace.
 


Comments

12/10/2012 21:02

Diolch for the heads up Mike. I've missed out on both 'Psychedilic Pill' and 'Shifty Adventures From Nookie Wood'....at least until now. Seems we have similar musical taste :) Going to share this post on the new AC G+ Community. Much better click through rates than FB :) Please feel free to join any time you wish...

https://plus.google.com/communities/107635984107923832068

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02/27/2013 16:59

thank you that cool i will search for high back link thanks again

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05/06/2013 01:12

Thanks for this beautiful write up on Dancing Song. I can say that you are a good writer with deep thoughts on your subject matter and this can be one of the best sources of knowledge for many. I appreciate your good work and I will visit again for more.

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08/25/2013 01:23

People deals with bad news everyday and some of them just eat and getting fat. Most of the, are now starting to believe on the news.

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10/05/2013 04:17

It epitomises the best of the 'hippy spirit', that idealism which Young regrets we have lost and which he expressed with such righteous indignation in songs.

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