Tuesday, 10 January 2012
I like to use time while out running to go over work, letting my mind wander around whatever subject I have to write about, giving books shape and form, sorting out order in which things should go into a chapter or a blog. This morning, while struggling with a sore medial meniscus over 5 miles I found myself (once again) wishing that I'd started running when I was much younger. Like at High school, where I'd hated the 'cross country' runs we were forced to endure along snow-capped sand dunes in mid-winter so much, that I didn't even consider running for 'fun' until I was into my late 30s.
Thinking back so far though brought me to a time in my life when I seemed to gain consciousness for the first time, or rather realisation that I was a separate entity to my family, that I was developing an 'identity'. That time I now think, was 1972 (or at least it's become 1972, if only for the purposes of this blog). As a pre-teen I'd inherited from an uncle some 78 rpm records, a lot of 1960s-released 7" 45rpm singles and a few albums, and I'd found in music (and football) a sense of elation and freedom that the rest of my life seemed intent on restricting.
In 1972 I found a host of new—to me—music that raised my spirits, and made me want to dance, sing and do anything. Especially if it meant doing something that did not involve my restrictive family. Most of my school pals, being male, white and working class like me, were into awful, pretentious, boring prog rock. I really couldn't get into it. The glam rock bands of the time, such as Sweet, Slade and the Glitterband (see above) were funny and loud, but even then I found their macho male overweight builders' physiques squashed into satin and silk hilarious and impossible to believe.
T. Rex, David Bowie and the great Alice Cooper, however, were different. They all displayed acres of androgynous flesh, had attitude, hooks, great clothes and were unspeakably cool. The impact of Alice Cooper was particularly profound, especially because he so outraged parents and schoolteachers at the time. In 1976 Johnny Rotten and Glen Matlock would 'bond' over Alice Cooper, and Rotten got the job as singer with the Sex Pistols after miming to Cooper's "Eighteen" as it played on the jukebox in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's boutique. In 1972 Jean Genie, Children Of The Revolution and School's Out embedded themselves in my brain and heart.
I had my haircut like Bowie, bought some silver stack-heeled, zip-up boots and a cheesecloth shirt and made my first trip to a discotheque. Looking back, I can only wonder at my luck. In my unreliable memory of the first night at Tiffany's I tripped down the staircase onto the dance floor as the Temptations' "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" hit its groove—and stayed there for the full 11+ minutes of the album version. Next up was the O'Jays' "Backstabbers" which merged easily into Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and then became The Meters' "Do The Dirt" before Curtis Mayfield told us all the tragic story of "Freddie's Dead".
The end of that first night at the disco (or perhaps not) saw me slow-dance with someone whose name I can't recall, but whose presence remains pressed against my psyche. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now" featuring the inimitable Teddy Pendergrass, "I'm Still In Love With You" by Al Green and the perennial floor-filling, last-dance hit, "Me & Mrs Jones" by Billy Paul made up an unholy trinity of sensual smooch songs to which countless teenagers in 1972 discovered their sexual orientation.
Other unreliable memories of that year include learning how to really dance to the sound of James Brown's "Get On The Good Foot"(this is a great version, by the way), War's "City, Country, City" and, surprisingly perhaps, Boz Scaggs' "Dinah Flo". 'Surprising' because at the time Scaggs was barely known in the UK except as the former guitarist with the Steve Miller Band, and therefor thought to be a hippie, rock-oriented, AOR artist. Yet "Dinah Flo", like his later "Lowdown" (1976) was a disco hit, at least where I learned to dance, it was.
That first night at Tiffany's (wishing I looked as cool as this guy above) led to regular Friday and Saturday night visits and the beginning of a long-lasting romance with disco. It's probably where I first damaged my medial meniscus.