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Book: Dancehalls, Glitterballs and DJs

Chapter: It Don’t Mean a Thing

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.44949


The end of the Great War saw the beginning of a great musical era – the Jazz Age. Jazz began to infiltrate the British social scene as the war drew to its end, but the arrival of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in April 1919 was the catalyst for the explosion of interest in this new, exciting, musical genre. Jazz was a music for dancing like no other and new dances such as the Charleston soon arrived in its wake. Elsewhere, visual and conceptual artists took inspiration from the twentieth-century’s new artforms and technologies. Surrealist and Dadaist artists began experimenting with gramophones (in some cases with multiple turntables) and William Patrick Roberts’ painting, The Dance Club (The Jazz Party) featured a room packed with people dancing to music on disc. Gramophone and disc technology was improving year on year and the arrival of electrical recording in 1926 brought immediate improvements to sound quality, but for much of the 1920s live bands still ruled as jazz and swing came to dominate popular music for dancing. City nightclubs could be both glamorous and dangerous, with clienteles drawn from the nobility, big business, the arts and the criminal underworld, but they offered regular and well-paid work for the top bands of the day. Small town venues couldn’t compete for the big names, so they made the best of things with second-class combos and amateur ensembles, as long as they played music for dancing.

Chapter Contributors

  • Bruce Lindsay ( - blindsay) 'Music Journalist and Social Historian'