I went to a sixtieth birthday party over the weekend, and very enjoyable it was, too. I have now reached the stage where my life is sufficiently settled for me to be going to all the sixtieths of those to whose fiftieths I went.
What is interesting is that the sixtieths are, in essence, almost exact replicas of the fiftieths: buffet, bar and disco. Everyone looks the same because you don’t notice them changing, with the single exception of yourself, the only individual who appears to have aged by ten years since the last one. The same records are playing, more or less: mostly a run of Tamla hits from the 1960s, with a few old stagers like ‘Dancing Queen’, which I would suggest is the most popular piece of music produced in the twentieth century. I once read an exceptionally complex musical analysis of the song, which I didn’t understand in the slightest (something about sophisticated chord changes), but what the song does is to put some slightly ungrammatical or at any rate odd English (‘watch that scene’) to an almost luscious mix of piano strings, and to add in some catchphrases (‘You can dance, having the time of your life’), and a crisis which is lifted from a Mamas and Papas song (‘Dedicated To The One I Love’).
It is a matter of some wonder that people are still dancing to the music of their teenage years, sometimes with something approaching recklessness. Will these records outlive us (we certainly won’t outlive them)? You don’t find anyone dancing to songs from the fifties: Al Martino, who died recently, is not celebrated on the dance floor and neither are Johnny Ray and Alma Cogan and Frankie Laine. It is only about thirty years till recorded popular music has its 1918 moment, and the last people alive who bought an Otis Redding record while he was still with us, perish themselves.
However, I am no longer able to indulge my own dance-floor sensation, which involved dancing (alone – they cleared the floor) to the live version of Santana’s ‘Soul Sacrifice’, the one from Woodstock with the very long drum solo. I have been known to do it in private, but the possible damage to crockery etc at home (where I was indulging) meant I had to pack it in. It’s a pity, really: it is about the one way I might lose all this weight. Other than dieting, of course.