Making Dancing With B

Dancing with B image: collage by an unknown artist found in a junk shop on the Portobello Road, London

Collage: unknown artist

Found in a junk shop on the Portobello Road, London, above the flyover (the lower-rent district)

As befits an enigma, this song went through more changes than most.  My original lyrical idea was (in retrospect) a variant on the masked ball: you’re enjoying the company, the dancing’s great and vibrant, but you don’t know anything about the person you’re with and to whom you’re madly attracted.  We’ve all been there at the start of a relationship where the chemistry is working.  Sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes badly wrong.  And creeps are everywhere.

I didn’t know the name of the person, either.  But the trumpet lick in the chorus was derived from one by a great composer whose name begins with B.  That can be a mystery, too, for now.  The two ideas fell together, and I wrote a tune and a set of lyrics before Sarah Jane Morris arrived in New York to sing.  Between us, we fleshed out and refined them.  As usual, the collaboration took the idea far beyond where I think I would have reached flying solo. Her singing is especially effective in her unusually low register.

As I was developing the idea, I stumbled on the collage graphic in a junk shop above the flyover on London’s Portobello Road (the down-market part).  I don’t know the artist’s name.  Another mystery.  This was building up nicely.  All you have to do is wander round with your mouth open and see what flies in.

Baritone saxophone solo seemed like a raunchy idea.  I called Crispin Cioe, who has played baritone on many of my efforts and who contributed an utterly memorable solo on it to Genya Ravan’s version of the Beatles’ I’m Down.  This time, though, it was 32 bars and more to cover.  What sounds like an interplay between Cris and my piano was developed at leisure after I had collected his good bits and strung them in line.  The piano follows and reacts to the sax.  The sax was played in less than an hour.  The piano was composed lazily over a couple of months.

– MT March 2006