My thighs ache, my back’s stiff and my balls are killing me. And as I hobble around the office today, I wince – not with pain, but embarrassment, at my pathetic attempts to keep up with all those soulboys (and girls) who put me to shame on the dance floor, and are probably sprinting around like spring chickens as I type.
A sudden turn of events meant that I became the happy recipient of a neon wristband for the Bournemouth Soul Jam – an annual affair that I’d never even heard of, run by some bloke called Bob Masters, whoever he is. I threw some stuff in a bag – jeans, T-shirts, sparkly tasselled frock and glittery stilettos, just in case – and hopped on a train.
The event was being held in a rather unremarkable-looking establishment called The Carrington House. As I scanned the faces of the folks milling about outside, grabbing a bit of fresh air or a hard-earned fag break, it soon became apparent that I might actually be the youngest in attendance. My heart sank at the prospect of being unwittingly duped into attending some boring old-fogeys’ dinner and ballroom dance. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The first thing that struck me was the music – think funk, soul, jazz fusion, the likes of Teddy Pendergrass, Curtis Mayfield, Roy Ayers… it was like all the coolest bits of my dad’s record collection. A place in time where virtually everything that was produced sounded so ridiculously good; when record deals were only granted to singers who could actually sing; when music was actually music, created by musicians who could actually play musical instruments. The sort of music that kind of possesses your body and compels you to move – so subconsciously you’re not even aware you’re doing it.
The second thing that struck me was the dancing. Most of the soulboys and girls in there were 50+ and then some, and they put me to shame. Some were dressed in jazz spats and braces – some even brought sand to chuck on the dance floor to get the right slide and grip. I’m not talking some gentle little two-step business, either – they were spinning and shuffling and jacking all over the place, some of the best dancers I’ve ever seen. The grace, the poise – and the stamina! These guys are hardcore!!!!
By 1.45am I was ready to purchase an inhaler from the nearest 24-hour chemist, pour a cup of cocoa and hit the sack – but these guys just kept on going! How there weren’t cardiac arrests popping off all over the shop I don’t know! I couldn’t believe there was another whole day and a half of this madness – I was absolutely shattered but these guys never even slowed down to catch their breath.
I hated the whole clubbing thing in my youth – I found them to be expensive, pretentious meat markets full of preening posers and predators, with fights kicking off every 15 minutes and not a seat in sight. I’d assumed those dancing days were long gone. Judging by this limber lot of music lovers, the best are yet to come.