In my early twenties I was totally scared of dance music. I thought I looked stupid whenever I tried to dance, so the idea of music that was dance music that you were supposed to dance to sent me scurrying off to hide under a rock. To me dance music meant glamour, drugs, or a shady underground scene run by semi-criminals and hippies. So I was a little hung up about it.
Then came a long summer holiday during which I broke up with the girlfriend I had been with since my late teens. A phase of liberation had begun. When I got back to university, even though I was entering my third year, I notched up an impressive list of firsts: My first corduroy jacket, first time I dyed my hair, I even bought my first set of wind chimes.
At the time I was listening to indie music and not much else. On Saturday nights I would go to the student union to check out the bands, usually standing at the back where I wouldn’t have to dance. It was 1995 and the tide of Britpop was high, but the only bands I can definitely remember seeing are Ocean Colour Scene and (a particular low point) The Lighthouse Family. I saw Lush play too but they had dumped the shoe-gazing style I liked and had gone all perky pop with “Single Girl”. As the weeks rolled by I began to feel more and more unsatisfied – a vacuum was forming.
A friend of mine was a live-in counsellor in one of the halls of residence on campus – and I’d occasionally drop in to say hi. He was a devout Christian, full-on into creationism. He had a book explaining why the dinosaurs were only 4000 years old and what to say if anyone tried to argue otherwise. I don’t think there was anything in his book about converting indie kids to techno, but still he was the one who showed me the way.
I’ve never had any inclinations towards religion, and never felt the compulsion to argue about it either, so the two of us just talked about music. He had a large collection of dance/techno CDs and one night he set about playing me a whole load of tunes. I can’t remember how we got started – I think I said one track sounded good and his evangelical instincts took hold, eager to fill the musical void that was obviously present in my soul.
I borrowed a dozen CDs and took them home. I had the downstairs room in a shared house with a door that led to an overgrown garden. I spent the night exploring a new continent of music, soaring above it, transfixed by visions of technological cities, silver forests, highways teeming with birdlike hovercrafts. Clearly I realised what the essence of dance music was. Synths and samplers beam in to the imagination, illuminating the walls of the mind, while a drum machine loops time around the listener, sustaining the visions forever.
By the time the morning light appeared at the window the pathways for appreciating dance music had been laid down in my brain and I had been born again! Alleluia!
Some of the CDs I borrowed that night: