Lest we forget

The run up to Remembrance Sunday was a little more poignant this year, as there was so much more media attention because of the hundred year anniversary of the end of The First World War.  Like many people I found myself giving a little more of my thoughts to the brave young men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I couldn’t help think that any thoughts of attending the village dance back home, would have been blocked out by the horror of what they had unwittingly volunteered for.

Because of their sacrifice and the sacrifice of so many others over the years I am free to go to a village hall dance every single weekend if I want.  These thoughts were very much in my mind as I drove down the M5 to a Vintage Remembrance Freestyle being run by Ceroc Groove in Worcester.

DJ Tony’s Retro Vinyl Playlist catches my eye

Looking for somewhere to dance on Saturday night I came across a Vintage Remembrance freestyle being run by Ceroc Groove.  The evening was to have a war-time theme with people being invited to come dressed in ’40s clothes and decorate their tables in an appropriate retro style.  But what made this freestyle of particular interest was a posting on Facebook by DJ Tony Riccardi about the music he would be playing.

And most importantly, between 7.15 and 8.15 I am going to ditch the digital, dust off the twin decks and play a whole hour of VINYL (this is a vintage freestyle after all).

I will switch back to digital and play your regular freestyle tracks, but will still ditch the odd track for its vinyl counterpart to keep that vintage feel going.

Tony went on to add a rider that made me smile:

You may even hear the odd crackle, scratch or jump, but then this is how we loved music back in the day.

I liked the sound of Tony’s retro theme, but Worcester was a long way from my Nottingham home.  Fortunately the journey’s all motorway so it was an easy decision to make.  Thank goodness I did, because this was a wonderful joyous night.

DJ Tony Riccardi behind the twin decks ready for his retro vinyl set.  Note the lighting tube that lit up every time a vinyl disc was played

How best should we remember them?

As I drove to The Archdales Club in Worcester, I found myself thinking how best to represent the night of dancing in the review I would go on to write.  I’m a great fan of Tony’s DJing, from his exhilarating Thunderball Room sets at the Ceroc Southport Weekenders.  I’ve written about his ‘Setting the floor on fire’ time after time with his carefully crafted sets.

Writing about ‘Setting the floor on fire’ didn’t somehow seem appropriate for such a night of remembrance, so I put aside any thoughts about the review.

I’d just enjoy my dancing and hopefully something would come to mind.

At about eleven o’clock Tony played a track that bought an instant smile to my face as I quickly realised what it was.  I suspect that it brought a smile to a lot of other people’s faces too.  There are some songs that everybody loves.  They are not necessarily going to set the floor on fire but they create their own special vibe out on the dance floor, that is best described as joyous.

A Joyous way to remember

Joyous.  Joy – that was the way to respect the fallen.  Because of the sacrifice of service personnel over the years we are able to experience joy more than we ever experience fear.  As I looked back through the words I’d scribbled in my note book, there were two words I’d written time and time again to describe the dances I’d enjoyed – Joyous and Joy.

I’ll let you know more about the track that gave me the Joy theme for my review later, because first I want to set the scene on a wonderful freestyle that was a fitting way to pay our respects.  First let me introduce the Ceroc Groove Team who worked so hard in the run up to the event.

Meet the Team and the Poppy Cake baker

Half way through the night I was in need of a break so I went to chat with Crew Member Edwina Cooper who had previously greeted me on the door.  Edwina kindly gave me some time to tell me a little about the preparations and the team behind it.  It’s amazing just how much effort goes in to creating a standout night.

For starters there were all the money raising activities to sort – prizes for the raffle and not forgetting the need to buy a cuddly toy for the ‘Name the Bear’ competition.  And then there’s the baking!

Edwina tells me that the poppy cup cakes were baked by Beth Johnson.  The cakes were topped by an edible poppy, and I loved that Beth actually posted on Facebook when the poppies arrived and she was ready to start baking.  This was a great way to encourage others to bake cakes and the resulting cake stall was a fabulous array of sugary delights.

Name the Bear and The Cake Stall, including Beth’s scrummy Poppy Cup Cakes

Facebook postings help build the anticipation

What’s often forgotten is the important work to publicise the event.  Beth’s update on her baking was a great example of how the team used Facebook to build the anticipation before the events.  Ben also got in on the act, by sharing an image in the style of the iconic WW1 recruiting poster -featuring his face – imploring everyone to join Beth and bake a cake.

DJ Tony was doing his bit by posting about his retro vinyl playlist and Lou Riccardi was busy making the Poppy Buttons that would also be sold to raise more funds.  As well as Lou, Ben and Beth, Edwina told me that Carol Passey was also part of the team working behind the scenes to get everything organised.

I know other people helped on the night, particularly with selling raffle tickets so a big thank you to all of you.  I now that Ceroc Groove franchise holder Debbie Attwood couldn’t be present due to commitments at a weekender in Cornwall, but just to say Debbie that your team did you very proud.

Let’s kick of with a vinyl classic

I have to say that I was so intrigued by DJ Tony’s idea of playing a retro vinyl set, that I’ve written a separate article about his love of vinyl discs (see link below). 

What Tony’s vinyl policy meant was that we were going to hear a lot of older pre-’90s tracks, from the days before CDs killed off the 7″ disc.  This I found fascinating and it wasn’t long before I got to dance to a track I’d long forgotten about.  When I arrived Tony was playing some vinyl discs from The ’60s, but he soon played a full-on rockin’ track I remembered with great affection from the late ’80s.

Now I don’t make a habit of mentioning the people I dance with but hopefully June won’t mind.  I’d first danced with June at a visit to Ceroc Groove’s chilled y held at Lickey End, but it was a few weeks later at a main room freestyle in Wolverhampton, that I realised just what a top dancer she was.

C’ C’ Come on everybody and Book ’em Danno

So when Tony played this must-dance track I knew that June would do it justice, and I duly invited her on to the dance floor.  The vinyl track that Tony had lined up on his decks was a Jive Bunny and The Mastermixers mash up of ’50s and ’60s dance tracks called That’s what I like.

The track starts and ends with the theme music to Hawaii 5-O, the detective TV show that ran from 1968 until 1980.  Each episode would end with Steve McGarrett instructing his subordinate to Book ’em Danno!

The Hawaii 5-O theme sets a cracking pace, and Chubby Checkers Let’s twist again keeps the pace going.  In fact the pace never lets up as a series of classic rock ‘n’ roll tracks follow one after another, but myself and June were up for it and we criss-crossed across the floor at great speed.

We had only one intention.  We were going to smash it!  That was until after a certain amount of catching my breathe a thought occurred to me.

Was this the 12″ extended version!!!

Many of the best dance tracks were released as 12″ discs.  I couldn’t help wonder if Tony had put on the larger disc.  If so we had to survive 5 mins and 23 seconds of heart pumping dancing.  As Dion’s hi-octane Run around Sue kicked in I was starting to get worried.  I glanced across at June,  who was so in the zone that she obviously wasn’t too concerned.

I knew the track also ended with The Hawaii 5-O theme and I willed it to start up again, but damn me Chubby Checker started asking us all to do the Twist again!  Could I carry on?

Thankfully twenty seconds later the TV theme started up.  Keep going Paul.  From somewhere I found the energy to keep up with June to the very end.  We certainly smashed it June, but you’ll understand why I had to sit down pretty quick!

Table decorating adds to the vintage feel

As I staggered back to my table I saw that a lady was decorating it.  You’ll remember the doors opened before the normal eight o’clock opening time, to enable people to decorate their tables with a war-time theme.  Pleasingly quite a few tables took up the challenge and it all added to the vintage feel of the night.

While the lady’s efforts with my table didn’t win the first prize I couldn’t help think that her simple Spitfire and war plane theme set a wonderful tone.  As I said earlier it takes a lot of effort from a lot of people to make a night so rememberable, and I know the lady spent a lot of time cutting out her airplane silhouettes.  Here’s her simple but effective decoration.

Time for some joyous Vintage Dancing

At eight thirty it was the turn of Ceroc Groove teacher Ben Davies to bring some more fun to the evening by teaching a simple Charleston Stroll/Line Dance.  Strolls became very popular at Rock ‘n’ Roll dances in the ’50s and they are a popular feature of Swingers Hour at the Ceroc Southport Weekenders.

The version of The Charleston Stroll that Ben taught was easy to pick up and great fun to participate in.

It involved a simple Charleston step followed by two grapevines.  Ben broke the routine in to small bites and you could sense the joy building up on the floor as one by one we grasped his instructions.

Right foot – tap, tap and then Grapevine to the left.  Left foot – tap, tap and then Grapevine to the right

Boy was this track fast!

Perhaps because it was easy to pick up, Ben asked DJ Tony to keep upping the pace of the accompanying tracks.  The final performance was done to a track that DJ Hayley Epps has made her own at The Southport Weekenders, as she takes to the teaching stage during her set in the Thunderball Room, and leads the dancers through this Charleston stroll.

The track is Bad Boy, Good Man by Tape Five.  Boy this is fast, but Ben had done a good job of teaching the sequence of moves, and everybody managed to keep up.  I loved it every time we turned to a new wall and I found myself pointing in the same direction as everyone else.   Great fun and no wonder I wrote the word joyous in my notebook to describe the whole experience.

What makes a joyous track ?

After the break for the lesson DJ Tony was back in digital mode, with a set of regular main room tracks we all know and love.   Occasionally Tony would slip in another classic from his vinyl collection.  What ever he played Tony kept he dance floor busy, but I’m going to feature the tracks that I felt generated a wonderful sense of joy that was so importance on this night of remembrance.

It’s hard not to experience some level of joy when you are dancing, but there is no doubt that some tracks are more joyous than others.

Of course it’s an individual thing.  It may be simply that it’s a favourite song of ours, but there are other reasons.

Many months ago now I was at a freestyle and the DJ was slowly pumping up the vibe out on the floor.  He then played Candi Staton’s Young hearts run free.  Even though this is a track that harks back to the ’70s, it’s one that everyone knows and it wasn’t a surprise that it set the floor on fire.   What’s more we all know the words, and everyone it seemed was singing along with Candi Staton’s vocals.

Tony spins a vinyl classic from the ’70s

The track has other attributes.  It’s got a very gentle and very dance-able beat.  There’s nothing challenging about this track – it is so easy to dance to.  So with your dancing sorted, you can enjoy its wonderfully soaring instrumentation and sing along to your hearts content.  While the lyric is actually about the difficulties of relationships we all seemingly connect with its uplifting anthem of being young and free, and that night the roof was nearly lifted off when everyone sang the chorus.

Young hearts run free was released in 1976.  One year earlier Van McCoy released a semi- instrumental track that has all the same ingredients.

The track is The hustle and I remember it being played at Southport and everyone shouting out the hook line – Do the hustle, and actually applauding as the track faded out.

This was the track that Tony pulled from his vinyl collection and created a feeling of well being out on the dance floor that I mentioned in my introduction.  It was while dancing to this track, that I got the idea to feature those tracks that generated a sense of joy, as the best way to remember those whose sacrifice made such nights possible.

Tony mixes the joy with vinyl and digital tracks

Tony would play lots of tracks that had me, and everyone else, experiencing the joy of dancing.  Many were from his vinyl collection – George Benson’s Never give up on a good thing, Liquid Gold’s Dance yourself dizzy, Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the ceiling and the  Ceroc classic Edwin Starr’s H.A.P.P.Y. Radio.

There were modern digital tracks too that created the same sense of well being out on the floor.  The modern Milk & Sugar reworking of Love is in the air, Chris Anderson and DJ Robbie’s Ceroc anthem Last night (see link below for more details about this amazing track), and Bakermat’s Living.

My favourite contemporary track of the night was Shed a light a collaboration between Robin Schulz, David Guetta and Cheat Codes.  This track has all the ingredients of modern production techniques and I just love the way the instrumentation builds to a climax that puts a smile on my face every time.

MC Ben gives out the prizes

At half past eleven it was time for the raffle and the giving out of prizes for the various competitions.   Ben MC-ed this part of the night with great humour.  Seeing all the different competition you realised just how much effort The Ceroc Groove team had put in to the preparations, and on the night itself Lou and her helpers had got round to everybody selling raffles tickets.

There was another nice touch that deserves a mention.  The team had organised a cake with a fitting decoration.  MC Ben would then go on to auction it for another significant contribution to the night’s fund raising total.  I’ve photographed the cake with one of the Poppy Buttons that Lou lovingly made to sell on the night.

Tracks from my Top 10 List

Regular readers of my blog will know that I travel the country reviewing the classes, freestyles and weekenders that make up this wonderful dance scene.  I hear a lot of great music and once a year I produce a list of my Top Ten Tracks (see link below).  It’s not a popularity chart, instead I use it to highlight some of the best dances I’ve enjoyed over the year, and highlight the DJs who played the track, often at a point where they set the dance floor on fire.

This year I picked one of DJ Tony Riccardi’s tracks as my number 1, and I’m happy to say that Tony played the vinyl version of it in his set.

Before I reveal that track, I want to feature another cracking track from my Top 10 List that Tony played for us all.  Johnny Lang’s Matchbox is a thumping rock infused track that has brought so much joy to the dance floor this year.  It’s not a track to play at the beginning of the night as it would fall flat.  It needs to be reserved for the part of the night where everyone has loosened up.  Tony picked his moment perfectly.  All I had to do was find June!

We rock our socks off again

When you dance regularly at a venue you know the dancers and their different styles and preferences.  Not everybody is up for a full-on dance like I had in mind, so its best to choose a partner carefully.  As I go on my travels I know few of the ladies, and I will take it easy so that the lady gets the dance she wants rather than the dance I want.

Sometimes I get lucky and my lady partner shows the same level of energy and commitment with a track like Matchbox.  This particular night I knew only two ladies – Lou and June.  After my dance to Jive Bunny’s hi-energy rockin’ and twistin’ That’s what I like, I knew that June would once again do this rockin’ track justice.  June didn’t disappoint and we rocked our socks off again.

Can anyone resist dancing to this joyous track

Time and again I would write Joy or Joyous against a song title in my notebook.  With this next track I drew stars all around the title.  No surprise really because this was the track that I’d given the accolade of creating the greatest buzz of the past year.  This was the track that Tony created a wave of joy when he played it as a finale to his Thunderball Room set on a very warm night at June’s Southport Weekender (see link below).

On this night of remembrance Tony created more joyous feelings with a song that has such a meaningful lyric for anyone who has the Ceroc Dance Bug – Gonzalez’s Haven’t stopped dancing yet.  This is another track that was given life during the disco boom of the ’70s, and surely no one can resist dancing to it.

A joyous chill-out track

Creating joy on the dance floor is easy when you have uptempo tracks like Haven’t stopped dancing yet and Dance yourself dizzy, but some gentler tracks can create the same feeling of well being.  One such track is Breathe In by Daddy was a Milkman.  Since it was released in 2015 this gentle paced track has become a firm favourite in both chill-out rooms and in main room freestyles.

It’s a great track to dance in the smooth slotted style, but its popularity has grown on the back of the fact that you can simply slow your regular Ceroc moves down and you can still enjoy a lovely dance to it.

I was lucky that I asked a lady to dance who could follow me as I adopted a more slotted style of dancing and once again I had one of the best dances of the night.  So wonderful were the dances I had to this track over the past year, that I included it as a bonus track in my Top 10 List.

Frank brings the night to a fun filled ending

This freestyle went on until one in the morning, and such was the enthusiasm for DJ Tony’s music that the floor was still busy for the last track.  As we all waited for the final track to start up, Tony explained that we would be doing things a little bit old school.  He now placed another of his vinyl tracks on the turntable and instructed us all to get in to a circle and hold hands.

As the opening strains of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York drifted in to the air we all instinctively started to sway and kick left and then right.  We had Ben in the circle to keep order, and I have to say that I had the the best fun I’ve ever had with this end of night anthem.  A fitting way to end what had been a wonderful fun night of dancing and fund raising.

Two minutes of quiet reflection

Driving home up the M5, on the Sunday itself, I happened to switch on the radio just before eleven o’clock.  The announcer duly introduced the traditional two minutes of silence.  As my radio went quiet I realised that most years I forget to respect this moment of reflection, but with the memories of the wonderful night of dancing still fresh in my mind I said a little thank you.

Across the land many dance organisations put on Remembrance themed freestyles.  I often write about how lucky I feel to be part of this wonderful dance scene.  I took a moment to feel a sense of pride that this community had done its little bit to remember the sacrifice that so many in our Armed Forces made to preserve the freedoms that we sometimes might take for granted.

Well done to all the fund raising activities

Well done to the Ceroc Groove team and all those other organisations that took time to remember the men and women of our armed forces.  I just hope that the joy we experienced as we danced the night away was a fitting tribute to them all.

All these freestyles aimed to raise money for the various armed forces charities.  I was pleased to see just how much Ceroc Groove had raised on the night with all their fund raising activities.  This is a great result for all the effort put in by Lou and the team.  Well done you guys.

I’m pleased to say that the feed back has been so positive to the way the evening was run and its authenticity, that Debbie has announced that it will be held again next year.  Good on you Debbie.

Related articles

Read my article about DJ Tony Riccardi’s love of vinyl records

Visit the Ceroc Groove Remembrance Freestyle Page to see more details about this fabulous night and its fund raising activities

My Top 10 Tracks from 2017/18 inc Tony’s No 1 choice

10 Ceroc Classic Tracks inc Chris Anderson and DJ Robbie’s Last night