I loved to tell you that Boots For Dancing played a significant part in my musical upbringing, that they shaped the paths I took, that they changed everything. I could but that would be a monstrous lie. I missed them, by several country miles. Their three-year existence coincided rather inconveniently with my first forays into awkward teen years. Maybe if I hadn’t lived out in the sticks I may have snuck out to gigs in the big city but twas not to be. It would be two years after Boots For Dancing hung up their dancing boots (sorry) that I first ventured to a gig, albeit a band I shan’t confess to seeing at the Edinburgh Playhouse. I won the tickets in a competition and that’s all you’ll get out of me. My first ‘proper’ gig was Aztec Camera at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh in December 1984, supported by Hurrah and Tempa. I was still at school and it felt kind of cool relaying tales of this musical initiation the next day during biology. Having said that the mysterious band (hell, not even a guilty pleasure to be confessed) shared more than a passing musical resemblance to our Edinburgh funksters. They just chose differing paths, one to top-of-the-table chart success and Top of the Pops, the other to cult status and the nonchalant coolness of mid-table obscurity.
If only I had been around the sweat and intensity of the clubs of Scotland’s capital a few years earlier I know I would have fallen head over heels for Boots for Dancing. I was an all-or-nothing fan. If I liked a band or singer I wanted, needed, to have everything by them. (This explains my lust for everything and a bank balance-dwindling sum spent on Postcard Records, Aztec Camera and The Smiths in the mid-80s). Boots For Dancing’s angular funk was a welcome change of direction from punk’s anger and energy which seemed to have faded almost as soon as it began. Unfortunately nobody told the punks of Bonnyrigg who held on to this excuse for anarchy and spitting at authority (as well as us first years) well into the eighties.
The Undisco Kidds brings together a number of tracks from the band’s three John Peel sessions – he was a big fan – as well as recordings from Bruntsfield’s Barclay Towers Studio in October 1981. Reminders of sounds past, present and future permeate the fourteen tracks, with nods and winks to the likes of Captain Beefheart and Funkadelic; complementing contemporaries Gang of Four, Orange Juice and The Pop Group as well as influencing (probably) the ramshackle triumvirate of Stump, Bogshed and The Great Leap Forward.
It’s fair to say that their back catalogue of three singles doesn’t do the band justice – not by a long chalk – and this compilation is the nearest they got to making a full-length long player. Their frantic and rhythmic high-energy stylings survived despite a number of personnel changes. A revolving door of a who’s who of Scottish music, which included alumni who had or would go on to grace the stage with the likes of The Rezillos, Josef K and The Human League. The loss of Jo Callis to the latter saw the band lose the one person who had given the band a greater focus and professionalism and the band called it a day.
If album opener Salt in the Ocean doesn’t get you moving, strutting or sashaying (whatever floats your boat) then I suspect you may actually be dead. I certainly don’t recall the last time a track had my snake hips (poetic licence, let it go) in such a tizzy. The Pleasure Chant continues to stir up the same hedonistic toe-tapping tendencies and everything following is a blur of blistering, funk-fuelled mania, culminating in the Chilean-influenced Bend An Elbow, Lend An Ear. A word on the packaging of the CD. It’s as comprehensive as you could ever hope from a compilation and great credit must go to everyone involved. I know from my own experience helping out putting together One Thousand Violins’ Halcyon Days collection that you want everything to be just so and in the case of The Undisco Kidds it more than meets the brief. Bravo!
Despite the intervening 35 years between release and rediscovery these tracks still retain a freshness long beyond the sell-by date of so many here-today-gone-tomorrow one song indie anthem minstrels. These tunes are worthy of your greatest attention. I just hope your hips can handle it.
The Undisco Kidds is released on the Athens of the North label on 27 November 2015 and is available in the following glorious formats:
- Digital only
- Double Vinyl Gatefold LP (with extensive sleeve notes and pictures)
- CD (with 24 page booklet featuring extensive sleeve notes and pictures)