I’m releasing a song with the word ‘Dance’ in the title. I knew I would eventually. Song titles containing the words ‘Dance’, ‘Radio’ and ‘Telephone’ all have to be under your belt before the fifteenth album. It’s common knowledge.

The most obvious way to use ‘Dance’ in a song title is to use it in place of the word you really want to use, as in ‘Private Dancer’. This is perhaps what I’m doing in ‘I Taught You How To Dance’. I’m using ‘dance’ as a metaphor for ‘love’ but the boasts of this particular narrator should be seen as paper-thin. These are awkward but proud lovers in my song. In truth, they neither care whether they are dancing well or badly, they only care about how dancing makes them feel.

I have for some time wanted to write a song that I could play at Ruby Weddings, children's parties and open mic folk nights; a piece that is tight, melodic and intelligent but has no edge or angle, a song that requires no inside knowledge and is offensive only in its inoffensiveness. This is almost that song, but there’s a line about sweat that might cause blushes at the Ruby Wedding.

My point is that dancing is something we can all connect to whether it is a source of joy, fear or intimacy.

For the b-sides of this single I chose to cover three more ‘dance’ songs; ‘Come Dancing’ by the Kinks, ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance’ by Eddy Grant and ‘Dance Away’ by Roxy Music. The world has no need for any more ironic indie covers and I have honest connections with all of these songs. ‘Come Dancing’ may have been the first Kinks song I heard. I was aware that they were elder statesmen making a return to the charts. When I was twelve I was attracted to the incessant, moronic riff but the lyrics are as tender and as thoughtful as ‘Days’ or ‘Waterloo Sunset'. In the song Ray Davies’ older sister leads countless men up the garden path but this time ‘dancing’ means dancing. The heroine feels alive when she dances and I can’t think of many songs where the female uses and controls the men for something outside of love or sex. In the last verse, a car park stands in the place of the dance hall and the song becomes a hymn for youth and the next generation of dancers.

Many songs speak of ‘Dance’ as a release and the most hardened soul must recognise the transcendental moments we have when moving to music. In ‘Dance Away’ Brian Ferry talks of solitary bliss under the strobe lights and he’s right - you can dance away the heartache, at least for a little while. The original version of ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance’ has that super-compressed heaviness that reminds me of how fast my heart used to beat in 1980s discos. I never enjoyed a club or disco until I was into my thirties. The relentless, blundering sexuality made want to die, or go home. Eddy Grant wanted to go home too. He wanted to shield his sweetheart from the predatory eyes of the dancefloor. In 3rd year of my senior school the 6th formers had a social club in a pre-fab by our playground. The muffled thud of these songs would drift past us as we played bulldog. It’s hard to imagine this music sounding exotic or forbidden but it did to me then. It was the sound of kissing with tongues.

I don’t make lists of favourite songs but there is one song that always makes me dance and often makes me cry. ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba might be the best song even written, but then again I might have misunderstood. The dancing queen is lost and tragic, searching for the perfect release. She is never alone and but always alone. The line that really trips me up is ‘Anybody could be that guy’. Like Ray Davies’ sister, the men are unimportant, the dance is all that matters.

The truth is that songs that are good to dance to, don't have the word 'dance' in the title. Songs that use the word 'dance' just rip your heart out.


The Ship's Piano by Darren Hayman is out now. You can see him perform at the following dates:

  • Thur 3 November - Scala, London (Fortuna POP! 15th Anniversary)
  • Sun 13 November - Unitarian Church, Brighton (grand piano set)