How about a Top Ten Classics List

I’m often asked to come up with a list of Ceroc and Modern Jive classics.  Of course there are hundreds of great tracks we dance to, but I’ve come up with a Top Ten list that I hope will get some approval.

My criteria for choosing a track are that I must have heard it in at least three different venues and it should be at least five years old.  The list is in no particular order, although I have saved what I think is the best to the last.

So that’s what it’s called!

As well as embedding a YouTube video, I couldn’t help but give you a little background.  Every dance music track has a back story, whether it be about it’s origins or the artists and record producers who put it together.  I’ve also added in some personal notes as to why I love dancing to the tracks.

I know a lot of people read the blog to find out the names of the tracks we all dance to.  Hopefully this track listing will put names to some of your favourites dance songs.

1: Let’s go round again – The Average White Band (1980)

Every Modern Jive dancer will know this track.  Hardly a month goes by when I don’t hear The Average White Band’s Let’s go round again at a freestyle or class night.  So what makes it so popular?  As with all great modern jive tracks it has just the right rhythm, but for me its the layers of instrumentation that gives it a vibrancy and energy that makes it a standout track.

Because of its wide appeal, it has long been established as a disco and club anthem.  It is played by DJs across the land at weddings and parties. I’ve heard it at three o’clock in the morning at Weekenders and I’m sure it fills the dance floors in clubs in the early hours too.

There is so much going on musically during the four minutes of this track, but I suspect most of this is lost on the dancers who fill the floor when ever it’s played.  When we dance to a track, we first primarily connect to the beat.  We will soon determine whether we like it or not.  Even if it’s one of our favourites, its doubtful if we really appreciate why.  We are too busy dancing, concentrating on the moves, and more importantly connecting with our partner.

Because I think there’s a lot more to the musical production of this track, than you might realise, I think its worth a more careful listen off the dance floor.

So hit the play button and catch the different layers of sound.  Over the drum and bass are guitars, piano, saxophones, a horn section and soaring strings.  It’s the string arrangements that give the song its uplifting feel.  Let’s have a listen to some of the orchestral magic. When you get to 2 minutes 20 on the time slider hit the pause button.

What happens next is the instrumental break, and it’s a very cleverly crafted piece of music.  The lead is taken first by the saxophones.  Just when you think they’ve taken the song to its climax, a whole horn section kicks in, to take the song even higher.  However the climax is still not reached, because the strings are faded back in to create a wall of sound that knocks me out everytime.

Hit the play button again and hopefully you’ll hear what I hear. Of course I’ll understand if you just like dancing to it. Better to make your moves flow smoothly than get too hung up on the construction of the instrumentation.

2: Sunchyme – Dario G (1997)

Recently I was at a freestyle chatting with a dance friend, when the next track came on.

Sorry Paul, I’ve got to dance to this – I just love it

In a flash she was off to find her dance partner.  A little later I asked her if she knew what the track was called.  Not surprisingly she had no idea.  It seems that this is the track that we all love dancing to, but nobody knows what it is called.  I only got to know it’s title, because I hummed it to my daughter, who tracked it down after some research on Google.

The person behind Dario G is English record producer Paul Spencer.  His group was originally called simply Dario, but was later extended to Dario G after the name of the Crewe Alexandra FC manager Dario Grady – well that’s what it says on Wikipedia, so it must be true.

Sunchyme was a 1997 top two hit for Dario G.  The track we dance to is actually a later remix, where the backing track’s tempo is energised and brought to the fore.  It is this driving beat that gives the track its dance appeal.

It’s main feature is the catchy chant of heyo-mam-mam-ma (hope I got that right), that makes this track so memorable.  This chant was actually borrowed from the 1985 top five hit Life in a northern town by The Dream Academy.

There is so much going on with Sunchyme’s many layers of instrumentation.  I love the way they are faded in and out.  In the intro we hear the distinctive three note piano refrain.  This refrain is soon faded out as a more intensive synthesized layer comes to the fore, but it re-emerges in the middle of the song to create a wonderful mix of sound that makes this the track my friend just couldn’t miss dancing to.

3: Lady Soul – The Temptations (1986)

I love it when DJs slow the pace down a little, but not everybody wants it too slow.  They still want to do their modern jive moves, but in a more relaxed and chilled out manner.  This song fits the bill perfectly, and it is probably one of the most popular tracks of its kind.

Some slow tracks only get played at the very end of the evening, but this track works at any time in the night when the DJ wants to take the pedal off the gas for a while.

The Temptations line up was forever changing.  Lady Soul was recorded in 1986, but features a very changed line-up from the Motown Super Group of the late ’60s.

In fact the only original members featured on the track are Otis Williams (the founder) and Melvin Franklin.  The vocals on Lady Soul were sung by Ali-Ollie Woodson who had joined the group in 1984.

The changing lead singers of The Temptations gives some insight in to the musical chairs at Motown.  In the original Temptation line up most of the lead vocals were sung by Eddie Kendricks.  It was the arrival of David Ruffin (brother of Jimmy Ruffin) as lead singer in 1964, that brought the group its major success.  The first hit with Ruffin on lead vocals was My Girl, and he voiced one of their greatest hits – Ain’t too proud to beg.

David Ruffin got too big for his boots, and was sacked in 1968, to be replaced by Dennis Edwards who had been the lead singer of Motown group The Contours.

During the period up to 1971 Edwards shared the lead vocals with Kendricks on tracks like Cloud 9, and I can’t get next to you.  Kendricks also left for a solo career in 1971 and though he hit the big time with Keep on trucking, had little further success.  Dennis Edwards now took over lead vocals, and it is his distinctive gravelly voice, that is  featured on the Norman Whitfield produced 1972 masterpiece, Papa was a rolling stone.

Edwards himself left in 1977, a year after the group left Motown for Atlantic Records.

There The Temptations had little success and they eventually returned to Motown in 1980.  It was during this period that The Temptations recorded the To be continued… album, from which Lady Soul was taken.

The song itself had limited success in The USA, but did nothing in Britain.  This begs the question – who was it that first dug Lady Soul out of the Motown vaults and gave it a spin at a Modern Jive venue?  I also wonder if the current line up of The Temptations have any idea how much pleasure it has brought to the modern jive dance floor.

4: Sunshine in the rain – BWO (2005)

I doubt there is any modern jiver who has not danced to this track.  In fact so popular is it, that I suspect everyone knows the words of the chorus, but does anyone know who BWO are?  Well they are a Swedish trio formed in 2003 who then disbanded in 2010.

It appears BWO were very big in Sweden and across Scandinavia, but had no real success in The UK other than in 2005 with Sunshine in the rain. Even then the track failed to make any real impact on the charts, though it was a little more successful in club land.

Although the track has been around a long time, it’s difficult to remember just when it first entered my consciousness, and I’m left wondering if this track has only been included in modern jive playlists for as little as four years.

When I look back through the songs on my favourites list they all have something in common – they are easy to dance to. This song is no different, in fact it might be the perfect modern jive track.  Its simple four-four beat is so well defined it’s very easy to connect with its beat.  This probably explains why it’s particularly popular at class nights.

BWO is an abbreviation of the groups original name Body without Organs.  Sadly as a dance and music blogger I skipped the explanation on Wikipedia as to the deep philosophical meaning of this phrase, and anyway BWO sounds so much better.

In many ways BWO was just another project of trio member Alexander Bard.  Like many people in the music industry they pop up in the unlikeliest of places.  Prior to forming BWO, Bard was the producer of the world wide hit Crying at the discotheque by another Swedish group Alcazar in 2001 (Abba aren’t the only music export of Sweden).

Back in 2001 my dancing was sadly restricted to the odd Christmas party outing, but for some reason I actually bought Crying at the discotheque, and I can see myself disco dancing to it in my front room. It’s a track that is occasionally played at modern jive events and I’m surprised it hasn’t become as big as Sunshine in the rain.

5: Bacco Perbacco – Zucchero (2006)

This song opens with Zucchero singing over a catchy acoustic guitar riff, but 40 seconds in it explodes with a thumping drum and bass backing.  So how do you describe this highly energised track?  I’m not really sure.  Interestingly this track is so popular it has featured in quite a few of my music reviews, so I thought I might look back to see how I described it.

The first time I remember hearing it was at a Ceroc Passion class night at Higham Ferrers.  It had me on the stage asking DJ Chad Bloomfield what it was:

I love it when I dance to a track and have to say ‘What was that?’  So here’s my ‘What was that?’ track.  Zucchero’s Bacco Perbacco has got so much going on and its as funky as hell.  Loved it.

DJ Ian Selby played it at a Wythall Park, iDance class night. I again called it funky:

The second track I want to highlight is Zucchero’s Bacco Perbacco.  I think he’s singing in Italian – so I don’t have a clue what it’s about, but I did pick out one English phrase – ‘Baby don’t cry make it funky’. Seems ‘Funky’ is the answer to everything . . .

Then DJ Kerry B played it at her fabulous Tadcaster Freestyle and I described it as Latin Funk:

Here’s a real standout classic.  Zucchero has produced quite a few tracks that have been picked up by modern jive jocks.  There surely is none better than Bacco Perbacco – it’s one great piece of Latin funk (is there such a musical genre?).  What ever you want to call it, I loved dancing to it on Friday night.

At Ceroc Cambs fantastic freestyle at St Neots, with DJ Sue Astle on the decks, I decribed it as an equally energetic piece of Latin funk.  The one common thread in all four reviews is the word ‘Funk’, albeit Latin Funk.  I’ll go with that as a starter.

Wikipedia describes Zucchero as an Italian singer-songwriter and notes that he is often credited as the ‘father of Italian blues’.  This track isn’t Blues, but it is Rock, and pulsating Rock at that.  It’s just so wonderful to dance to and you can see why it features on so many modern jive DJ’s playlists.

Perhaps the fact that it’s hard to describe what musical genre it’s from, explains its appeal.  This is certainly a track that stands out from those around it, and its overload of energy makes it a guaranteed floor filler.

A ‘Did you know’ bit of music trivia:

Bacco perbacco was released in 2006, but did you know that fifteen years earlier in 1991, Zucchero had a No 4 UK hit when he dueted with Paul Young on a rerecording of his own track ‘Senza una donna’.  

Another Zucchero track is also very popular with Ceroc and Modern Jive DJs.  Baila morena is another rockin’ track that is also a guaranteed floor filler.

6: Human – The Killers (2008)

Even before you consider Human as a modern jive dance track, you have to appreciate it as a great piece of popular music on its own.  Not for nothing was it voted the Best Song of 2008 by the readers of Rolling Stone.  I’m tempted to describe it as a rock anthem (The Killers are seen as one of the biggest rock bands of the 21st century), but it’s one of those tracks that defies pigeon holing.

On one level it’s simply a great pop song, that conquered the charts across the globe.  Even before the heavy drum and bass kicks in, it’s as catchy as hell, and has a sing-a-long lyric that has a universal appeal.

It’s catch line ‘Are we human or are we dancer’ is as philosophical as the age old question asking ‘What’s the meaning of life’.

I’ve included it in this list because it’s (excuse the pun) a killer of a dance track, and in many ways it’s a perfect one too.  Immediately the distinctive guitar lick starts up, you realise why dance DJs picked up on this track.

Even without any drum and bass you can easily connect to the rhythm. You soon become aware of a synthesised backing track slowly building, and as its joined by a simply bass drum you sense that this track is going to exploded.

Explode it does, as a thumping bass joins in with layer upon layer of instrumentation, and every so often the funky guitar lick is brought to the fore – you can not fail to connect with every bit of it.  But still the track has more, as it continues to build towards another great explosion of energy when every bit of the instrumentation is soaring high.

I know everyone doesn’t connect to dance music in the same way.  Human is never going to find it’s way on to the playlist in the Chill Out Zone, but for those who like to dance with energy and bring out their inner rock demon this is the perfect track to indulge yourself in.

Let’s not forget here, that talk about rock demons isn’t just a man thing – there are lots of ladies on the dance floor who also love the chance to bring out their inner rock chick.  Tracks like the Killers Human give all of those with Rock Music woven in to their DNA, an opportunity to transgress a little – and why not.

Isn’t one of the joys of dancing to be able to disconnect with the reality of our lives, and escape to a place where only the beat matters.  And if the beat slowly builds with a thumping intensity, shouldn’t we give ourselves up to it.  Isn’t that the mark of a dancer?

Which is a nice way to lead in to the question the song asks us to answer – ‘Are we Human or are we Dancer?’

I thought I’d take a look at the lyrics before offering up an answer, however they don’t seem to have any coherent meaning I can decipher.  In fact I’m happy to agree with a 2014 poll which ranked the lyric as the weirdest of all time.

One clue is to be found on Wikipedia, which quotes from The Killers own official website:

. . . the lyric was inspired by a disparaging comment made by Hunter S Thompson, who stated that America was “raising a generation of dancers”

Wikipedia also quotes Brandon Flowers, one of the band members and co-writer of the song:

It’s supposed to be a dance song, it goes with the chorus.  If you can’t put that together, you’re an idiot.  I just don’t get why there’s a confusion about it.”

Perhaps the song is commenting on the fact that some people have exchanged the society minded human values for a more selfish lifestyle of hedonistic enjoyment.  But let’s not forget it’s a dance song and a great one at that.  So just dance to it, and let the philosophers out there worry about what it really means.

7: Real Love – Drizabone (1991)

I had to have this track in my classics listing, because I can’t imagine that there is anybody that doesn’t adore this track.  It’s so easy to dance to, and it has a soulful vibe that surely connects with everyone’s inner dance mojo.

It’s popularity amongst DJs comes from the fact that it works as a main room track as well as a chill-out room one.  Where DJs are working a main room only venue, tracks like Real love are an opportunity to slow down the rhythm without clearing the floor.

It’s universal appeal comes from the way that so many musical ingredients are woven in to its luscious production.  Produced in 1991, it has all the funk of a ’70s disco track, with a brief horn section interlude reminiscent of Earth, Wind & Fire.  Listen out too for some soaring orchestral strings.

The track also has elements of ’80s House Music – just listen to the sax sample that is infused in to the backing track.  If all that wasn’t enough, it also has an ’80s rap vocal in the middle that adds yet another layer to its wonderful production.

The more you listen, the more you hear – I just picked out a Hammond organ riff, a blues piano fix and funky guitar lick.  Of course when you are dancing, these subtleties can pass you by on a conscious level, but I suspect that your dance brain is subconsciously connecting with all this musical magic.  That’s what makes it so wonderful to dance to.

Who are Drizabone?  Like many modern day dance acts its a recorder producer who is behind the name, in this case Vincent Garcia.  It seems Garcia named his production company after the Driza-Bone clothing brand.

Garcia got together a group of musicians and used various female vocalists on his productions.  Information about the voice on Real love is a little patchy, but it seems it’s Dee Heron, who gave up her job as a secretary to work with Garcia.

Drizabone’s only other significant hit, and one sometimes heard on the Modern Jive dance floor is Pressure from 1994.

8: Played alive (The Bongo Song) – Safri Duo (2000)

This is by a mile my favourite Modern Jive track of all time.  When I hear the opening call to arms of its tribal drum intro, I’m immediately looking for a dance partner that I know will have the right attitude and energy to do the track justice.

Its not for the faint hearted and when I first heard it, in my first class nights all those years ago, I knew I would have to become a lot more experienced before I could truly say that I’d nailed it.

The song was released in December 2000, and became an instant world wide club hit, reaching No 6 in the British Pop Charts. I’ve often wondered what was happening in my life that this amazing track passed me by.

After the bongo laden introduction a synthesised backing track kicks in, and you are invited to dance to its driving beat. But this is just a teaser for what is to come.  Just as you start to gather momentum the song slows and the backing track is faded out.  This is the time to settle yourself and your dance partner, as you will need to save your energy for the moment the song bursts in to life again.

Now the synthesised backing is slowly faded up, but its time for a little control.  Its important you don’t release the spring too soon. As the backing track gets louder so the spring tightens, and then finally the song explodes with a release of energy that you can now express through your dancing.

Make sure your moves are in sync with the frantic pace of the music.  Keep them simple, nothing fancy that will distract you from keeping up with its pulsating rhythm.

The track now changes mood once again and the pace slows and the bongos take centre stage.  Its time to recharge your dance batteries; not for too long though because the song will explode in to another passage of wildness and you can once again smash it.

I can not think of another modern jive track that uses up so much dance energy as The Bongo Song, and one that creates such an intense rave style vibe out on the dance floor.  It is often played at Southport where the volume is turned to the max and it creates an amazing wall of sound that few tracks can generate with such intensity.

9: La Galleguita – Alex Fox (1994)

There is a very good chance you’ll recognise this track when you hit the play button as I suspect there isn’t a Modern Jive DJ in the land, who doesn’t have this tango inspired track on his playlist.  Having said that you might be excused for thinking that I’ve not embedded the correct version as there seems to be something missing.

I’d been trying to find it onYouTube for ages but was hampered by not knowing the precise title.  Kindly DJ Ashley Davis gave me the correct title and thankfully I found it.  But I too questioned if Ash had given me the right details, as it just didn’t seem to be the same track I remembered dancing to.

Then it clicked.  What’s missing is the sound of a hundred feet stamping on the dance floor at the end of each eight bar phrase.  I suspect the tradition of stamping the feet and striking a flamenco dancer’s pose was established long before it became a modern jive classic.  In fact its not hard to imagine flamenco dancers stamping their feet all the way through it.

So now I understand that the sound of  the foot stamping is not on the record, I  have another question: who decided it was worth a spin as a modern jive track?  One of the great things about modern jive is that it is a fusion of so many styles of dancing, and this leads to its richness of dance moves.

Salsa and Rock ‘n’ Roll run in modern jive’s veins but you can also see the influence of Tango and its little sister Argentine Tango.  I can understand how this track might be a firm favourite in Tango Milongas and its easy to see how it would cross over when so many people switch between Tango and Modern Jive.

Let’s get back to the dance floor.  Now gentleman ask a lady to partner you.  Walk tall and slowly on to the dance floor. Remember you are a flamenco dancer.  You have an eight bar intro to get into character. Wait until the song starts for proper and listen to the phrasing of the music.  You’ll soon pick up the eight bar structure and you should easily recognise the moment you do the foot stamping thing.

What’s really cool is to strike a pose, by finishing with a move where your hand is held high above your partners head.  Fling your head back and stamp the floor as if your life depended on it.

If one of the joys of modern jive is the potential to have fun on the dance floor, then we should all become proficient at interpreting the spirit of this song.  Now, that gives me an idea.

At certain times of the year some dance classes will have ‘Fun Nights’.  Perhaps someone could come up with a series of modern jive moves that fits in to the eight bars sequence, as I’ve described above.  Now imagine the lines in the class following the teacher and all stamping at the same time.  I guarantee a room filled with joy.

10: Last night – Chris Anderson featuring DJ Robbie (2000)

I want to know who first found this amazing dance track.  It would not have made the charts, and I can’t see it being played on the radio.  But some one did and you hear it everywhere.  This track has a special place in my heart as it was played regularly at Ceroc classes at Rolls Royce Derby – the place where I dared to grace the Modern Jive dance floor as a beginner. 

I assumed it was just something the regular DJ played, but nine months in to my dancing I found myself at a loose end in Aberdeen.  I fortunately found a Ceroc class to go to and this song was played in the freestyle session.  This was my first realisation that it was a Modern Jive classic.

The songs distinguishing feature is the crazy voice over by DJ Robbie.  I have no idea what he’s saying but you’ll recognise the chant of Bab a Boop, Bab a Boop, Bap a Boop.

Fortunately the song itself has great credentials.  Chris Anderson’s lyrics and DJ Robbie’s mad rant is performed over the instrumental track of ‘Last night’ by The Mar-keys.

This track was pieced together by a group of session men at the Stax recording studios in Memphis and became their break out hit.  The most prominent member of these musicians was a guitar player called Steve Cropper, who went on to form Booker T & The MGs, and then became a legend in his own right.

The defining element to the song is the saxophone solo.  Legend has it that the tape of the sax solo was actually thrown away and had to be recovered from a trash can.

The tempo is slightly increased in the Chris Anderson version and the saxophone solo is refined to the highest level.  The musical structure to this song is a 12 bar blues, with a simple organ riff punctuated by a horn section accent at the end of each bar.  This punchy structure makes it so easy to dance to, and I can see why it was used in my early class nights.

So who first played this very popular track.  I had a conversation about it with Nicola Di Folco of Ceroc Perth, who explained that The Chris Anderson version of ‘Last night’ became a popular track on the line dance circuit.  So did a Modern Jive DJ hear the track while out line dancing?

If anyone can trow a light on who first introduced this track to Modern Jive I’d be really interested to know.

So what does it all mean?  I’ve often tried to work out what DJ Robbie is actually saying, but the only words I can distinguish are tangodigger digger, and neighbourhood.  So I leave you to work out what’s going on.

Of course as dancers we are more concerned to connect with its great beat, but I can’t resist ending with Robbie’s defining anthem – Bab a Boop, Bab a Boop, Bab a Boop for which I’m happy to offer the following translation Get on the dance floor, and dance your socks off.

POSTSCRIPT:  I actually found the lyrics on line – no wonder I couldn’t understand DJ Robbie’s rap! Click here to read the lyrics

Volume 2 coming soon

In putting this track listing together I had to discard plenty of other great classic favourites.  I hope to put together a second volume, and even a third.  I was tempted to call the series NOW, that’s what you call Modern Jive Music, but I suspected I might find myself with copy right problems.

VOLUME 2 is now available: Ten Classic Modern Jive & Ceroc Tracks Vol 2 

MJD Records

In the meantime my good friend Tel Jenkins has designed a Modern Jive Dancer (MJD) record label that we are having some fun with.  Over the two years that I’ve been writing the blog, I’ve actually put together quite a few track compilations and Tel will be redesigning the art work for all of them.

My thanks as always to Tel for his inventive artwork that is used throughout my blog postings.

Other MJD Record Compilations

The Spirit of Southport in Ten Top Tracks  (June 2018)

Ceroc Southport Weekender – My Top Ten Tracks  (March 2018)

My Southport Scorch Top Ten Tracks  (July 2017)

My Southport Blush Top Ten Tracks  (March 2017)

My Top Ten Tracks of 2016-17  (November 2017)