Monica Makes Sense - Do you remember doing the rock and roll?

When did you last go dancing? I suspect that depends on your age. It would most likely have been at a wedding or firm’s ‘do’ and I’m not sure how many of those anyone gets invited to these days.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 11:19 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 12:21 pm
Rock and roll certainly changed our lives in the 1950s
Rock and roll certainly changed our lives in the 1950s

If the question had been asked in the 1950s or ’60s, the answer would most likely have been ‘a few nights ago’, as dancing was something very much part of our lives then.

It was a favourite place to meet the opposite sex and in Sheffield, it usually meant the Locarno or City Hall Ballroom.

Particularly popular was the ‘City Hall Shuffle’ or ‘The Creep’, which had originated through the music of the same name by bandleader Ken Mackintosh around 1954. Both dances were a hypnotic kind of shuffle around the dance floor.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

I suspect dancing is a foreign concept to most young people today, unless they decide to join a salsa or a swing class.

I wonder when it ceased to be part of people’s lives?

Excuses I have heard are that music just doesn’t seem to be written any more for dancing, or that young people feel embarrassed or humiliated if they can’t dance.

They equate dance with watching Strictly or The Greatest Dancer.

However, children have been dipping a toe into dance recently with the popularity of the Floss which appeared in the video game Fortnite.

My youngest grandson tried hard without success to teach me to do it. And me a child of the rock ’n’ roll generation!

Other recent dance-like moves have been the ‘Dab’ which was a move popular in Japanese culture and often seen at football matches here after a goal was scored, the ‘Twerk’, popularised by pop star Miley Cyrus which involves shaking your booty, and one which has just appeared called the ‘Tic Toc’ which seems to be pretty good exercise although some versions have had safety warnings levelled at it!

Remembering dance can be a nostalgic journey.

Our parents could have told us about Swing, Jitterbug and the Lindy hop, but it wasn’t until the 1950s were well under way before dance became a big part of our lives.

Many of us learnt ballroom dancing at school and could waltz and quickstep with the best of them. Skills which never left us.

There were occasional quirky kinds of dances like the Conga which had originated with Cuban slaves, and unfailingly popular was the Cha Cha Cha, which followed the Mambo. But we really came into our own when teenagers were invented, together with our kind of music.

It was said by historians that rock ’n’ roll is one of the things that define the 20th Century.

I’m quite sure that is right. Rock ’n’ roll certainly changed our lives.

Its origins seem to be hotly debated but for me, it would have to be when my father took me to see Rock Around the Clock in 1956.

My sister wasn’t allowed to come with us on the grounds of age, and my mother was vehemently opposed to me being exposed to what was considered a dangerous new precedent after Bill Hayley and the Comets had first been seen in the film Blackboard Jungle.

She didn’t speak to my father for ages!

After that, there was no stopping us.

At our church youth club, we demanded the latest in music and practised rock ’n’ roll relentlessly.

Young men practising their Americanisms would ask you ‘wanna bop’ and we straightened up our frou-frou petticoats before hitting the dance floor.

After that, the dance crazes just kept on coming.

Chubby Checker had us twisting with Let’s Twist Again.

There was the Jerk, Pony, Watusi, Mashed Potato, courtesy of James Brown, Monkey and Funky Chicken.

Johnny Otis had us doing The Hand Jive in 1958 and there were numerous line dance type routines throughout the late 1950s and into the ’60s like the Hully Gully which also appeared in many films like The Blues Brothers in the 1980s.

It was first recorded by the band The Olympics in 1959, but became particularly popular in the UK through Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band.

Even up to the 1990s, we enjoyed dances like the Macarena, by Bayside Boys, which was the English version of the original by Los Del Rio. It became a great hit in 1996 and was even danced at the Democratic Convention in America the same year. It was known as one of the greatest ever one-hit wonders.

There was the steamy Lambada which was very much dirty dancing and which gave many men the chance to pretend they were Latin lotharios!

But for me, one of the strangest dance crazes must be the one called Oops, Upside Your Head, which was really popular throughout the 1980s, especially at Christmas parties and weddings.

It involved rows of people performing a rhythmic rowing action. It was accredited to Isle of Wight DJ Alex Dyke who, when playing the record by the Gap Band, encouraged the crowd to have a rest, sit on the deck floor and ‘row the boat home’.

The lyrics were possibly some of the most repetitive ever and consisted mostly of ‘Say Oops upside your head’’ over and over again!

It was actually great fun to do, but made a mess of your clothes if the floor was dirty.

However, I don’t think I’d be able to get down on the floor to do it these days and if I could, I wouldn’t be able to get up again.