Book: Dancehalls, Glitterballs and DJs
Chapter: It’s All Over Town
The arrival of the 1960s heralded a promise of a better life for people in Britain, thanks to the white heat of technology. Rock and roll lost much of its impetus but there was plenty of new music for dancing. The nightclubs of London’s West End seemed impossibly glamorous, but teenaged workers and schoolkids began to look elsewhere for inspiration about what to wear, what to listen to and how to dance. Much of this inspiration came from the USA. Rock and Roll may have faded, but American pop, soul and rhythm and blues records began to hit the British charts. Chubby Checker, an American singer, extolled the virtues of ‘twisting’ and suggested that teenagers twist again, but most British teens would be twisting for the first time. No partner was necessary before stepping on the dance floor, no complicated moves need be mastered. The idea of dancing alone, or in a group of friends, without the need for a partner took off.
In late 1962, four guineas a year bought membership of The Clubman’s Club, which gave entry to a host of London nightspots including one called The Discotheque. The Discotheque was just the beginning. Two or three years later, London boasted discotheques such as Dolly’s, Scotch of St James’s and the Cromwellian Club and provincial cities and towns soon followed suit with clubs like Samson and Delilah’s, Club America – established to attract US service personnel on their days off – and the Crazy Daisy. Discos, at first promoted as exclusive new places for the nation’s hippest and most glamorous crowd, soon lost that sheen of faux-glamour and opened up to teens and twenty-somethings of all classes as they spread across Britain.