The ‘BIG DAY’ has gone…
the band played, people danced, everyone seemed happy.
There was a lot of nostalgia in the room – predominantly 40’s meets 50’s. That was inevitable given the Bigband theme and subsequent emphasis on ballroom dancing.
What is interesting though is that there is actually a larger contingent of people and musicians around the area (and also scattered globally) that see the space in less nostalgic terms.
I had been in touch with a musician called Paul Flush a couple of months ago, and it so happened that he was due to come over to England from Belgium where he now lives, just in time to make the dance. I had arranged to interview him the following day in Newcastle but he stopped me to say ‘hello’ on the day and we had a quick chat. Once again the bow tie came in handy for recognition purposes. For him it was a means of touching base with some of the musicians he knew from the 60’s, and he made a point that I was increasingly becoming aware of.
“Sometimes with these things ” he said “you get the feeling that the idea of ‘revival’ can go just a little too far back. The majority of people alive today don’t remember the war years, but were more in tune with the 60’s and the new era of music being invented”.
For Paul the Rink was less a place to be thought of in nostalgic terms and more a stepping stone to an exciting future. At 13 he was quite possibly the youngest musician to ever play regularly at the Rink. His father was a professional musician who ran a Bigband at another Rink ballroom down the road in Sunderland. Inevitably the musicians tended to know each other and when the call went out for an ’emergency keyboard player’ with ‘Russ and the Nickels’ in Hartlepool, Paul got his first break.
Baptised by fire at such an early age gave Paul a different perspective. He become a local hero at his school as he was regularly supporting name acts on tour, and earning somewhat more than your average paper boy. He has a story about almost meeting Lulu (who was also very young)… but not quite… and subsequently meeting her 30 years later in an airport and being invited into the private lounge for drinks and celebrity chat.
Paul is in fact still a pro musician and a well known jazz player on the continent (the Hammond organ is his specialism). He also plays in techno DJ type combinations, so he definitely didn’t get sealed into sixties nostalgia culture.
Similarly, I saw the Hartbeat boys on the BIG DAY too. They also felt their time wasn’t really portrayed.
I can see why that is. There is a certain romantic aura around the whole dance hall thing which is more evocative when set against the backdrop of war or the ensuing aftermath. Somehow that was truly ‘another time’ whereas perhaps the start of pop culture is something we are more familiar with and so don’t romanticise quite as readily.
Personally my ‘go to’ moment is that scene from the Shining;
“Your money’s no good here sir” says the barman. The band plays on, swimming in a sea of reverb.
I did write that song – the one about the Rink, to be played by and in the style of the Bigband era, and I have high hopes of it being arranged and recorded too, to become both a download and a one off vinyl pressing as a piece of ‘art’.
For me, I enjoy the irony of making what I consider to be an artwork from something that other people may see in a very different way. I am allowing myself to run with ideas that reflect methods and attitudes that come from those I am meeting, rather than being too precious about the conceptual validity of them in purely art world terms. It seems somehow right to make things that those involved in the project might enjoy, whilst also endeavouring to give it a form that makes sense outside the environment of its inception.