It’s been some time. The conditions have not been right. There was always somewhere else to be, someone to talk to, the wrong shoes, the wrong floor, the music did not have the requisite level of funk. But now the planets are aligned. A seven-piece brass band called Brass Roots is playing OutKast and I gots me some rubber soles. Someone has thoughtfully spilt a pint on the floor, making it all ‘James-Brown-slidey’. That’s right punk, I’m dancing.
It’s a primeval instinct. Images of humans waggling their bottoms and waving their arms have been depicted in cave paintings that are 11000 years old, but dance goes much further back than that. No one knows exactly when humans first started dancing. Unlike painting or other forms of cultural expression it doesn’t leave any trace. There are no fossilised remains of discarded high heels or clusters of handbags.
Anthropologists surmise that it may have originated as a means to put people into a battle trance, to alter their state of consciousness. In doing so, they lost their individual identity and assumed a collective identity. That theory makes a lot of sense. Thinking back to the days of Coachford teenage disco , I was glad of anything that would allow me to lose my individual identity. That’s where moshing came in handy.
Not every song was moshable-toable. You couldn’t jump around the place to Bryan Adams ‘Everything I Do’ though some proto-anarchists briefly tried. That effing song seemed to be playing for the duration of most of my middle decade. The apparently benign plinky-plinky beginning, Adams entreating you to look into his eyes while in your mind, Kevin Costner shot an arrow at a Norman; the whole thing was a harbinger of teenage terror. It meant the slow-sets were starting and you either needed to get a shift*, or shift out of there.
By contrast, the opening bars of moshable songs triggered a collective wave of relief among the bad-haircutted, combat trousered-and-jumpered masses. Bryan Adams or Whitney Houston had finally f**ked off home for the night and we were free to enjoy ourselves.
Dang-alang de-de-de dinng-alang….. Yeahy! It’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Out of the way disgusting shifting couple! It’s time to lose our individual identity.
Much like the Irish financial system of the last decade, moshing is fun, a bit risky and entirely unregulated. It consists primarily of jumping around bumping into people, jumping on backs, waving your arms around, possible throwing or shipping a flying elbow. And if at all possible, not being the first to fall over. But even if a pile-on did take place, the person at the bottom was often pulled to their feet wearing a joyous grin as they experienced that most basic of human contact; the feeling of having the instep of someone else’s Doctor Marten boot wedged into their face.
It wasn’t always joyous at Coachford Disco. Sometimes there was collateral damage as a girl loitering around the fringes got sucked in. If she was wearing a black T-shirt that was decorated with the skull of some mammal, then she was probably a metaller so was considered robust enough. But if she was a girly-girl the mosh would be temporarily halted with shouts of “Lads Mind The Girl” until the tearful female was escorted to safety. Just in time. Dum-bum be-bum-bum. Dum-bum be-bum-bum THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM “Say your prayers little one …” WAAAAAH! It’s Metallica’s Enter Sandman!
And the mosh-cycle would begin all over again.
When that died down, we waited, panting and adrenalised, for the next bashy song. Would it be Naughty By Nature’s Hip Hop Hooray, maybe some edgy Cypress Hill? Plink… No, it sounds like a piano solo. Plink…The DJ is playing another slow set! Damn you Toni Braxton!
There is unfortunately, another primeval reason for dance. It also evolved as part of courtship rituals or natural selection. Well, they may have faced sabre-toothed tigers and mastodons but I doubt any primitive man would have been able for the dance floor of a teenage disco during a slow-set.
As most discos were held in sports halls, there were no nooks or crannies to retreat to escape the embarrassment. Just four walls of benches meant there was a period of unhappy musical chairs as you slouched around looking for cover. Too late! There are no spaces left. You realised the disadvantage of being a bipedal mammal on a hostile savannah. A savannah full of other mammals who appeared to be biting the head off each other. You could go to the shop, but if you had any more Club Orange, you would literally be in bits. So you did the rounds using the ultimate super-suave line “Do you want to dance?” By the time you’d done a second round, the words were sticking in your drying throat. “Jewanadan?” Until eventually: “Does your friend want to dance?”
Dancing meant a shift about 99% of the time. You would have needed to be Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and put the matter to a referendum in order to mess up this opportunity.
If you did seal the deal, you might even be still swaying away after the slow set had ended abruptly with:”Deeeeeeeeen Deeeee Deeee Deeennnnnnnnn! Get Up, Pack It In/Let me begin/I came to win/Battle me that’s a sin.”
The House of Pain’s Jump Around was another mosh staple. But as a cloud of dark clothing gathered on the dance floor, you stayed where you were. Shifting and plotting your next move.
Your battle was fought.
*For those reading this who don’t know what a shift is – it means a French kiss or a snog. It doesn’t mean moving someone from one place to another or getting eight-hours work in the local Centra.