Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

It’s a welcome return for my youthful Good Times

Frances Burscough

Yowza, yowza, yowza! The greatest band of the disco era has reformed and is heading our way imminently.

Chic, complete with the awesome guitarist and original band leader Nile Rogers, are coming to Belfast on Wednesday and I couldn't be more excited. And it's not just me who ‘freaked out’ when the gig was announced. Facebook went into overdrive when the word spread. In fact, I've never seen so many OMGs and “I'm SO there”s posted in such quick succession from such a diverse bunch as my Friends list.

Although their heyday was most certainly the late Seventies, fans of the Chic sound aren't just fortysomethings (like me) with a hankering to relive their disco-tastic teenage years all over again. The distinctive heavy bass intro, the catchy, clappy/happy chorus and the twanging guitar rhythms have not just withstood but triumphed the test of time so that kids today can recognise and sing along with songs that they've heard so often in movie soundtracks, on radio shows and at weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvahs.

My own personal memories of the glittery disco years spark into action the very moment I hear the first few hypnotic chords of Le Freak, Everybody Dance and Good Times.

In those days I was still a prim and proper convent girl, attending one of Lancashire's poshest and most exclusive Catholic girls grammar schools under the beady eyes of an order of very strict nuns. And so from Monday to Friday, I recited the Rosary and learnt Latin in the shadow of an imposing crucifix, but at the weekends I went on a mission to shake what God gave me under a spinning glitterball.

Okay, I was barely a teenager in the late Seventies, and my parents were still strict about what I did, where I did it and with whom. But thanks to the resourcefulness of our parish priest — who realised that the only way to get kids to go voluntarily to the church youth clubs was via the pulsating sounds of pop — a mobile disco and DJ was enlisted every Saturday night to get the glitterball rolling and to convert the church hall into a temporary nightclub for the younger generation.

It was alcohol-free, of course, but who cared? Apart from the organisers, with their holier-than-thou ulterior motive to get bums on seats for the aftershow party prayer session, everybody there went for one reason only: to boogie the night away.

In the words of a Chic classic: “Just dancin' to the beat, movin' our feet and feeling the heat” was what it was all about.

Mum and dad of course agreed happily — and with some relief — when I started to show a lot of interest and to invest more and more of my free time in extra-curricular church activities. I'm quite sure they imagined lively chat taking place amongst earnest youths about the relevance of the gospels or the lives of the saints. They didn't even seem to bother, or even notice, that I left the house dressed in sparkly gold lurex and shiny satin, caked in luminescent make-up, dripping with lip-gloss, reeking of Charlie Girl perfume and with hair tonged-up to high heavens and held aloft and rigid with Insette hairspray. As long as I was keeping good company in the bosom of the parish, that was all that mattered.

Aye right. The Saint Anthony of Padua Parish Hall disco circa 1976-82 attracted every Tom, Dick and Harry who simply loved to freak out on a dance floor. Gang members, petty thieves, convent school girls ... you name ‘em, they were all there representing their corner of town and competing on the dance floor to throw the best moves and pull the best lookers. The floor was packed from one tune to the next. Some never once sat down for three solid hours as the tunes pumped out and the glitterball span its magic.

The only thing guaranteed to clear the dance floor within seconds was the appearance of Father Peter, who grabbed the mic at half past ten on the dot and began to preach scripture at the captive audience ... most of whom were by that time frantically looking for their coats, snogging in dark corners or queuing up to phone for a taxi.

Good Times? You betcha!

Chic & Nile Rodgers play the Mandela Hall, Queen’s University, Wednesday, August 1. Tickets from ticketmaster.ie

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