It’s about two and a half years since I saw posters in Abergavenny advertising Easy Jive lessons. Sarah had said on many occasions that she’d love to have someone to dance with. It’s not something that I’d ever considered. We did learn a few foxtrot steps for the First Dance at our wedding six years ago, but that was a means to an end and something that was not revisited. It was a real struggle for me – I was just two years post brain haemorrhage, although the problems were more to do with confidence rather than any disabilities. We managed it on the day, and the thought of doing any further dancing was never even a consideration. It was best left to others, frustratingly for Sarah after being discouraged from continuing her ballet classes in a previous life.
It was only two years after that First Dance that Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer. After beating the illness, we did Route 66 to celebrate our double survival. But it didn’t stop there. At a time when many people are winding down in their lives (we’re both in our fifties now), our illnesses have spurred us on to do better things. We seem to be speeding up. It was this driving force that motivated me to suggest taking dance lessons. After about eight months we moved on to another class which focuses more on lindy hop and swing dance. That was nearly two years ago and it’s all coming along nicely. We’re not brilliant (well, she is better than me), but the social dancing scene is great fun, and it gives me chance to be in charge for once! I lead (the man usually does) while she follows.
Last year, I downloaded GarageBand, a recording studio app, for my iPad. I used to be a semi-professional vocal guitarist back in the late 70s and early 80s, but I never gave up the day job. I’ve always dabbled in a bit of song writing, and I suppose one or two of my compositions are pretty good (I think). Sarah suggested that I composed a song for us to dance to. Many of my songs are composed in my head during the morning and evening commute – I sometimes spend over an hour travelling, depending on where I’m working. I could go a couple of days and not find anything worth writing down, but every once in a while something pops into my head and I build on it. I created some lyrics in my head to a blues tune I’d been working on at home on my guitar. I incorporated lindy hop moves into the lyrics such as Boogie Back, Shorty George, Frankie Dip, Texas Tommy and, of course, Sugar Push. To the lindy hopper, many of the lines contain a familiar dance move or two. I recorded it on my iPad – I’m not a brilliant musician, but the beauty of studio recording is that you don’t have to get everything right on the first take as if you were performing live.
Sugar Push Blues
After posting it on YouTube and Facebook, two of our dance organisers have requested to use it at some of our social dances. It’s now become a bit of a regular at our dances. It’s very odd dancing to your own recording, and I still feel a little uncomfortable doing so. I occasionally sit it out and watch. It’s been suggested that I should compose some more, but at the moment I’ve not been able to get the lyrics as I’d like them. I’ve got some music going around my head, but I need to get it all just right. Maybe something will come, maybe it won’t. I’m in no rush. We’ll just have to wait and see.
I think people generally accept that my book, I’m Never Ill (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…) is much better than my music. It tells the story of how we dealt with our illnesses in a light-hearted way. If you like Sugar Push Blues (or not, for that matter), why not at least take a chance on the book. It gets mostly five star reviews. You’ll find purchase details on my website: http://www.markdpritchard.com The e-book is a mere £1.99 UK (that’s less than $4.00 US) and is available worldwide in all major currencies from http://www.amazon.com.