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Marshall Hain: Dancing In The City

Kit Hain playing School For Spies, Ronnie Scott's Club, London, October 1983.

Kit Hain playing School For Spies, Ronnie Scott’s Club, London, October 1983.

Dancing In The City.  Notes by Kit Hain

From those one-hit wonders, Marshall Hain.  The first of the Brit  Duos, if the world did but know it (the Eurythmics were still a band [then the Tourists] with  this blonde singer in it at the time). 

For the benefit of US Web  visitors — this song, written by Julian Marshall and me, was a huge  hit in the summer of 1978 all round Europe, and still gets a lot of  airplay.  It started life as a reggae quasi-instrumental piece by Julian, complete with rather macho-sounding male vocals singing  ‘Dancing in the City – Running down the alley – Pictures at the Pally  – Fun tonight’   This was some time before he and I teamed up.  Then, when we did, it took him months to play me the idea – we’d already  done one demo, had some interest from EMI, and were writing like crazy  to come up with material for another.  I think he felt pretty  sure that I wouldn’t go for it but — I loved it.  Pictures at the  Pally and all.  Only I wasn’t sure if the Great American Public At Large that we were going to conquer would know what the Pally was  (pity – I love that lyric!).  So I reworked the chorus, wrote some  verses over the same chords, et voilà.  Vive la simplicité!

A drummer friend Bob Critchley wanted to produce the demo for us, which he did.  He got rid of the reggae groove and came up with the  basic drum pattern that’s such a part of the vibe.  As for the  explosion at the top of the song — that was one of those serendipitous  events.  One day, rehearsing the song, I was sitting on my Roland  Chorus Reverb amp, tipping it forwards.  Then, just as Bob was finishing the count-off, my bum slipped and the amp fell backwards,  setting off the mechanical spring reverb.  Bob said, ‘We must keep that!’  When it came to the Real Thing, Chris [Neil, who produced the record]  wanted to hire musicians he usually worked with so Bob didn’t get to play on  it.  Pete Van Hook did a great job though.  No drummer we used since  on the road ever really got their sticks round the way he played it.

Reprinted from Disco Fever, July 1978

Marshall Hain isn’t, as it might sound, a military gentleman – or a refugee from a Western. It’s a very talented musical duo whose current (and first) single Dancing In The City looks like being the summer disco hit of 1978.

Julian Marshall and Kit Hain have known each other since their days at Dartington Hall School. But although they were both involved in school bands they didn’t really play together. And when school days were over Kit went to Durham University, while Julian pursued his music at The Royal College of Music, London.

Although Kit was studying psychology at university she also began to write songs and singing folk music. She progressed to a jazz rock outfit, after leaving college still had no thoughts of turning professional. Spells as a worker in the probation scheme and teaching infants followed – until one of the turning points in her career.

‘I split up with a boyfriend and just had to leave town. London seemed the only place to go ·’

KitBaby120.jpgIn London she met Julian again. He’d been more involved in music than she, having developed an interest in jazz and formed a band which made an album called Quincicasm. But he soon became disillusioned with the state of jazz in this country.

‘There’s a lot of apathy about jazz in Britain, both on the part of the musicians and the media. And I think it’s terrible the way it’s become so disc-oriented. The music has been compromised·’

So he turned to songs, and decided it would be good to team up with a lady vocalist. When he met Kit again she seemed the obvious choice.

She’d avoided the obvious choices of employment like being a temp when she came to London, and earned  living singing in pubs and wine bars. In the summer of 1976 she and Julian started performing and writing together. ‘We thought of a lot of names for the duo, but none of them really seemed to work. So we settled for the combination of our two names.’

One day, Julian walked into the sitting room of his home, and played a few chords on the piano. That was the start of Dancing In The City.

‘I’d got the basis, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. I thought it sounded commercial and sensual at the same time. I tried to write some words, but they didn’t really work. Then Kit came along and took it over. She wrote the actual tune and the words.’

That little episode left them with a very unusual number. ‘Although you can take it at face value, as simply a song about dancing in the city, we feel there’s a certain element of mystery about it too.’

‘The basis of the song is the drumming, and we were very luck that drummer Peter Van Hook had the same ideas and feelings about the song that we did. And Christopher Neal, who produced the record, was marvelous too.’

Dancing In The City has become very much a summer record: the minute the sunny weather started the number of times the record was played increased several fold! In fact the duo have been astonished at the amount of airplay their record’s had, as well as its popularity in the discos.

‘ KitPram120.jpgThat’s one element we’d never thought of at all. In fact it wasn’t conceived as a summer record: it was written in February! What’s more, when we originally did it, although the record was about 8 minutes long it never occurred to us that it would be a disco record. Even the unusual sound in the background originally happened by mistake while we were recording, although we can now reproduce it on purpose!’

With the success of their first single, the future looks very bright for Kit and Julian. Julian admits that he’d always wanted to be a professional musician. ‘When I was eleven I used to ring up record companies and try to sell myself to them over the phone!’

Kit’s ambition was always there, but she says she could easily have become simply one of those who listen to the radio, as she used to, and think to themselves, ‘I could do better than that.’ It took an otherwise unhappy event to galvanize her into doing it.

Julian agrees. ‘Too many people get stuck in a comfortable job because it offers security, and probably don’t even enjoy it. Unfortunately people in this country aren’t brought up to be artists of any kind or to express themselves. So it’s simply not done to try when they’re older.’

‘Kit and I were lucky in that respect, because our parents are musicians so they didn’t necessarily think that way. My father is a conductor and mother is a cellist – but although they’re both classical musicians they have nothing against pop music and are delighted with what we’re doing.’

Kit agrees, ‘My father is an opera singer, but it was something the family frowned upon. So he understands. In fact, I think our families are our greatest fans. They’ve certainly given us a lot of support.’

And obviously the duo hope that support will continue. For they have their first album out in July. ‘We like to think people will recognize it as our music, even thought they’ll have only heard one thing before. It’s called Free Ride and contains most of the elements of our music – including the humor which is so much part of our relationship, and the work we’ve done together live.’

KitBear250.jpgThey’re also starting to put a backing group together so that they’ll be able to tour in a couple of months time. The scale of the tour depends very much on their success in the meantime, but they currently intend to do a small headlining tour around colleges and town halls.

It may be your first chance to see them live – but it won’t be your last. They are two talented, intelligent people who are determined to be a success and keep their feet on the ground at the same time. If there’s a formula for success in the music business, surely that’s it.