It all started with a chance remark at Ace by production supervisor Carol Fawcett made to Trevor Churchill and Rob Finnis, two studious fellows not much given to displays of extrovert behaviour. "I bet you two have never even shaken a leg," she chided.
In a thrice, Trevor, whippet-thin and just as agile, was up on his feet shimmying smoothly across the inch-thick pile like a man half his age. Not to be outdone, Rob Finnis leapt to his feet and frugged to and fro like a tall birch in the wind. John Broven who happened to walk into the room at that moment, punched the play button on the CD player and joined in, gyrating madly as the throbbing rhythms of the Watusi filled the room.
"Enough! Enough!" cried Carol. "ENOUGH!" She had to say it three times before the three men finally snapped out of their elbow-flailing terpsichorean trance, looking sheepish and deflated. "You've made your point-.-now why don't you go away and do something about it".
LAND OF 1000 DANCES is the result.These are the hits young America danced to in the late 50s and 60s when dances actually had names. TV's Dick Clark, whose show, American Bandstand, helped popularise many of them, summed it up thus: "There was the Duck, Pony, Fly, Dog, Madison, Popeye, Mashed Potato, Watusi, Loco-Motion, Twist, Hitch Hike, Harlem Shuffle, Limbo, Swim, Wiggle Wobble, Bristol Stomp, Cool Jerk, Frug, Boston Monkey and the Hully Gully. Kids brought the new dances to the show. I don't think there was ever a dance created by Philadelphia record men or Madison Avenue ad men. Sometimes, however, a new dance step evolved without a specific record to do the new dance to. When that happened, I immediately called to tell my friends in the record business.
"In the summer of 1957, just before we went network, the Bop was introduced on the show and became our first big dance. In 1958 there were the Shake and the Walk, the latter popularised by Jimmy McCracklin's wonderfully syncopated record of the same name. In 1959 there were the Shag and Sam Cooke's Everybody Likes To Cha Cha Cha. There were also two dances - the Alligator and the Dog - that were banned from the show as too sexy. Those were the only dances we ever nixed.
"Then came the Twist. It was an incredible event for all of us, the biggest dance in the history of popular music. From the Twist until the Beatles, American Bandstand continued to feed the dance craze with one new step after another. There was the Pony, Watusi, Fly, Continental Walk and Madison as contenders to replace the Twist. This continued into 1963 with Major Lance's Monkey Time and even into 1964, when the Larks introduced the Jerk. From then until the 70s the dances ceased to have names..."
This, then, is the most comprehensive compilation of such dances yet. The highlight must be Harlem Shuffle, re-mixed in stereo from the original studio master recently unearthed by Alec Palao in the States. It supersedes all the tenth-generation mono copies that have thus far been the sole source. Other stereos include The Duck, (Baby) Hully Gully, Ride Your Pony, Monster Mash and The Shag. And for those to whom dancing is as much a mental as a physical pursuit, there is a gorgeous booklet loaded with ephemera that takes you right back to where we started from.
By Al Watusi