Serious fearin’

It was Steve Wright’s, “Serious Jockin'” (that’s jocking without a “g”) on Radi0 2 this afternoon. At 4.15 each Friday, calling himself “DJ Silly Boi,” he plays forty-five minutes of disco and dance music from the past four decades. It is sometimes unsettling.

Forty years ago, there weren’t many things that inspired fear. Going to football matches, where full scale fights between rival groups of fans might involve dozens or hundreds of young men,  was never a worry. All you had to do was to stand to one side, watch the game and no-one took any notice of you: it was easy to be invisible. Attending rock concerts never prompted a moment’s hesitation, people went for music, not hassle. The only hostility would be towards police officers charged with the thankless task of searching likely suspects for cannabis.

The sort of music played by Steve Wright was far more threatening than a fight between rival groups of football fans, or a gang of bikers gathered for a gig, it was the sort of music favoured by people who dressed in a particular way, who went to particular discos (as they were known then) and who were into particular ways of dancing. I’m never quite sure, but they always seemed much more cosmopolitan, much more sophisticated. I always avoided such company and I would never have had the confidence to set foot in the clubs. I always had the wrong clothes, anyway. Far better to encounter a greaser looking like an extra from the cast of Easy Rider, with big boots and studded leathers, than to encounter one of the in-crowd.

Steve Wright knows that his listeners are an ageing generation and speaks a plain English. But there are other radio stations, where programme presenters arouse that sense of being intimidated; the ones who speak with their own patter, their own language, their own vocabulary, a language which would have excluded people like me in those far off years, those who play music that would have filled 1970s dance floors lit by glittering lights.

Such fear is entirely illogical, the people who went to the discos weren’t particularly cosmopolitan or sophisticated; they were just people who would have spent their money on clothes and looked forward to the weekends, dressing up and enjoying nights out.  They were not aggressive, they were not violent, they were hardly dressed for a fight, anyway, the slick venues the attended were policed by bouncers at the door.  So why should the disco music cause discomfort? Perhaps it is that most primeval of all fears, the fear of the unknown.


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