Remember club nights before the dawn of the Spotify era? They just don’t make them like that anymore do they? Or do they…
Believe it or not – and this may shock some of our younger readers – there was a time when you couldn’t just have whatever song you wanted on tap. If you wanted to hear that new smash pop hit from say The Departure or The Young Knives, you had three options. Wait until it popped up on the radio, go and spend your hard-earned (or if it was a student loan not hard earned) cash on the single, or save the cash and spend it on beer at your local indie-themed club night, where you knew the DJ would have bought it for you. Back in our day (at our best guess 2004), a DJ was only as good as the records he owned, and some of them were very good indeed.
Nowadays it’s an all together more even playing field, and the role of the DJ, and the night club is shifting into just being a person with good music taste. We’re told club culture is dying almost as often as rock’n’roll, but that of course doesn’t mean there aren’t great club night or great DJ’s, you just have to sometimes look a little harder to find them.
One night that is capable of making us believe in night clubs all over again is the indie-pop mecca that is Scared To Dance. The brain-child of Paul Richards, Scared To Dance launched back in 2009 with the noble aim of playing the best in indiepop, post-punk and new wave. Over the years Paul has been joined by a multitude of guests DJ’s, not just bands and record label bosses, but poets, comedians and even a footballer; Pat Nevin is something of a regular behind the wheels of steel.
At times, Scared To Dance has branched out into live shows, podcasts and film nights, but at its heart it remains a club night. Today Paul has been kind enough to put together a mixtape charting the clubs beginnings, memorable guests and favourite songs. If you like what you hear, then Scared To Dance will be joined by Fortuna Pop head-honcho Sean Price tomorrow night at the Victoria in Dalston, which you can find more out about HERE.
1. Skids – Charles
I started the club in 2009 and I always thought Scared To Dance would be good name to use. You should have seen the list of names I didn’t go for. This is taken from the Skids first album which as I discovered through the Manic Street Preachers. The scratchy guitar outro of “Charles” was used on the outro of “Motown Junk”. A fantastic band whose first two albums are well worth your time.
2. Camera Obscura – Come Back Margaret
Possibly the best Camera Obscura track from arguably their finest album. I discovered the band when I was at university and I co-ran the weekly indie night. I love the production by Jari Haapalainen on Let’s Get Out of This Country. Big sweeping choruses and Phil Spector drums coupled with Tracyanne Campbell’s sublime voice. I’ve been listening to her collaboration with Public Service Broadcasting on their new LP a lot over the past week.
3. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Young Adult Friction
After I left university I started going out to clubs in London more frequently and fell into the indiepop scene (I hate the word “scene”) and started DJing at gigs. I became aware of Fortuna Pop! around the same time as a lot of the bands that were knocking around were either signed to the label or were about to be. Seeing The Pains of Being Pure at Heart live was always exciting. It felt like there was a real buzz around that type of music and something was about to happen. You very rarely get that feeling and it felt like someone might break through. I must have been at the Buffalo Bar twice a week at that point seeing different bands. Along with Allo Darlin’ they made me want to start a night and this track is something of a club classic. Pat Nevin is also a fan of the band and he’s been very important to us. He came to the club a month before he was due to guest DJ at King’s Cross Social Club to check the place out. The club had only been going for around ten months so it was a real leap of faith from him.
4. Allo Darlin’ – Dreaming
I came across Allo Darlin’ when they were called The Darlings and had released The Photo EP. I think it was at Brixton Jamm. Just a superb band who became good friends and we later went to Norway together doing a double bill. This track, a duet with Monster Bobby, was the standout on their debut and has a cool lo-fi video directed by Nik Vestberg who also shot the artwork for the album. Elizabeth Morris is a brilliant songwriter.
5. The Kingsmen – Louie Louie
One of my earliest musical memories was dancing around to this in my parents’ house as a kid with my older sister. My dad had a compilation with stuff like Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens and we would go nuts. This track is quite possibly the most played at the club. Wonderfully simplistic.
6. Belle and Sebastian – Another Sunny Day
Whilst I was a student I borrowed some Belle and Sebastian albums from a friend and I got into Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister in particular. This track is another favourite from the club taken from The Life Pursuit. It never fails. I later worked with Stuart Murdoch when we had our film nights at Genesis Cinema. He picked a Leonard Cohen documentary and he compiled a visual mixtape of songs and jingles that had influenced him. I think it’s still on YouTube somewhere.
7. The Pastels – Check My Heart
I met Gideon Coe at The Hangover Lounge when it was still a regular fixture at The Lexington and asked if he fancied DJing at the club as I’m a fan of his BBC 6 Music show. Six years later he’s become a real regular and he always plays this track by The Pastels. His show, along with Marc Riley, has a similar spirit to John Peel’s in promoting upcoming bands to a relatively mainstream audience. Stephen McRobbie from the band is such a sweet guy and helped out when I took the club to Glasgow for the first time last month.
8. Manic Street Preachers – Faster
Like Gideon, Josie Long has become a staple DJ at the club. We both love The Holy Bible and she often plays this from the Manics third album. I got into the band in my early teens when they released Everything Must Go and they got into the national conscience. At such an impressionable age I completely fell for them. I loved their music, their politics, their sloganeering, the way they looked and the fact they would slag off other bands at will. They were perfect. I got into so many other bands, books and films through them. ‘80s indie with McCarthy, The Shop Assistants, The Vaselines and The Jesus and Mary Chain, post-punk with Wire, Joy Division, Gang of Four, Magazine, Simple Minds, Josef K and Public Image Ltd. They just came along at exactly the right age when you can fall in love with a band.
9. Alvvays – Next of Kin
I saw Alvvays play at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club when their eponymous album came out and I was blown away. Everyone likes a doom-laden song with a catchy hook and this joins the great pantheon of songs in that category. I also have fond memories of playing when I took the club to Berlin on a few occasions last year. Salad days.
10. The Clash – Train in Vain
This track is unbeatable when it comes to which song to play last at the club. It’s about Mick Jones and Viv Albertine from The Slits breaking up as Mick would catch the train over to her flat and she wouldn’t let him in as their relationship was fizzling out. A lot of music I like is political but sometimes the personal wins out.
Scared To Dance takes place tomorrow at The Victoria in Dalston. Click HERE for more information on all things Scared To Dance.