Everyone can sing? Yes! But can everyone dance? Yes, yes, yes! We proved that on Saturday afternoon at the ECS Motown Special and evidence is available on the website.
Around 50 of us, with Simon and the Band, celebrated the music of Motown with songs from The Foundations, The Supremes and Sam Cooke. Impossible not to dance really. The band were brilliant as usual with some extra instruments this time – Tim on the saxophone and Simon on the trumpet (Loxley Silver Band would have been proud!). I was immensely privileged to be given a John Clifford School tambourine to play and so I was immediately transformed into a cross between Joni Mitchell and Davy Jones, drifting off into 60s heaven.
Now what do you wear to a Motown singing workshop? Most of you would have no problems with answering this as normal people just turn up and sing. But choosing my dancing costume presented questions and philosophical discussion with my (totally indifferent) daughter about which bit of the 60s is truly Motown. Well, all of it, of course, in chronological terms, but do we see Motown as swinging 60s or as pre-70s hippy? After a vast amount of You Tube watching, I was no clearer. I’m not a discographer, but it would appear that Motown was founded within the Tamla record company at the beginning of the 60s – and Tamla Motown was a very common description in the UK – and its music spanned the 60s and early 70s. Of course, us up north, had our own version with Northern Soul (brilliant film, by the way) but aficionados would say these were two very different strands.
Anyway, I digress from my wardrobe problem. Mini skirt or flares? Beehive or long blond wig? The mini skirt won mainly because I don’t get much chance to get my legs out these days; and also because I had a matching dress and headband. So as you will see from the videos, the people attending the workshop were faced with a strange woman in a blonde wig doing manic twist moves! Driving to Beeston was fun; no actual crashes but a few heads swivelling and cars swerving at traffic lights!
But the music is the thing and we really gave it our all. Simon seemed apologetic that there wasn’t so much harmony – mostly echoing – but since most people knew the words and had been singing these songs to their radios for years, it was not a problem. We started with ‘Build me up Buttercup’, featuring ‘2 note’ Roscoe with a mighty rendering of ‘Ooo-oo-ooo’ and lots of boogying. ‘Ooh ooh’ also featured in our chilled version of ‘Baby Love’ – in fact it features in the majority of Motwon songs, so we were on firm ground there. But just when you think you know the words, you realise that you only know the chorus and the songwriter has actually written words in the verses which you don’t know. I mean, who knew the line ‘Not happy like I used to be, loneliness has got the best of me’? I was gaily warbling ‘Don’t throw my love away’ at this point! Our version of the song ended beautifully, with a lovely chorus drifting more and more quietly into silence. Goosebumps!
After a break and amazing cakes, we were back with a bang to the twist. Again, lots of words in the verses which I didn’t know, and the rhythm is tricky, but Simon broke it down first, which was immensely helpful. Maybe we mainly wanted to sing the chorus and dance, but we were very disciplined and actually paid attention to the words and the rhythm so it was certainly not ECS karaoke! There then arose a question about the nature of the watusi – which features in the song – and, of course, the fly. Both dances were performed by Chubby Checker and other singers in the early 60s and both involved lots of arm waving. So what did we do? We waved our arms! And great fun it was too! ‘Baby, now that I’ve found you’ rounded up a joyful singing afternoon.
So another great workshop and unique so far in having several young participants who probably went away traumatised by the antics of their elders but with plenty to regale their friends about in the playground on Monday. We also had an unexpected addition to our own jigging with a wonderful display of ‘proper’ partner dancing from Colin and Chris – and quite cheeky it was too! I suspect we all went away uplifted and still singing with the music of the band echoing in our heads. What a privilege!
See you at the next one!