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Dislocation Dance \ Biography

Indiepop pioneers Dislocation Dance formed in Manchester in November 1978, when bassist-lyricist Paul Emmerson joined up with singer-guitarist Ian Runacres via the traditional route of a musicians wanted ad in the Virgin record store on Newton Street (then a scruffy indie retailer). Emmerson had been been inspired to form a band by his brother Simon Booth, who was then working with Scritti Politti and later formed Weekend. His card quoted a wide range of influences, ranging from funk to soul, Krautrock to psychedelia - and a lot of jazz. "This was after seeing two groups in a fortnight: The Mekons, who reminded me that music can be fun, and the Pop Group, who made me realise that it's possible to combine a wide range of influences successfully."

Kathryn Way also joined, but after a few months left to attend college in London. The early line-up of Dislocation Dance played their first live show at the legendary Factory Club in March 1979, and was also active in the Manchester Musicians' Collective, co-founded by Dick Witts of The Passage, later contributing a track (You Can't Beat History) to the MMU compilation Unzipping the Abstract, released in August 1980. The band played at the Factory several more times, on one occasion with Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks as guest vocalist, but passed up the opportunity to record for Tony Wilson's label, and plumped for New Hormones instead.

New Hormones was founded by Buzzcocks and their manager Richard Boon as a vehicle for their groundbreaking Spiral Scratch ep in January 1977, but remained largely dormant for the next two years, when the label returned to the fray with a series of fascinating records by Ludus, Biting Tongues and Eric Random. The first Dislocation Dance ep (ORG 7) appeared in October 1980 and showed a band still searching for direction, with the atypical results soon dismissed by Emmerson and Runacres as "bad Pere Ubu", and "Pink Floyd circa 1970" by the press .

Afterwards Runacres, Emmerson and drummer Richard 'Dick' Harrison were joined by Andy Diagram on trumpet, who split his time between Dislocation Dance and The Diagram Brothers, also signed to New Hormones. The first record released by the new quartet was Slip That Disc!, a budget-priced eight track 12" ep (ORG 10) recorded at Cargo and released in August 1981. It featuring originals such as It's All True. Panic" and So Much Fault, as well as a jazzed-out cover of Beatles' evergreen We Can Work It Out. Still slightly abstract, the ep was praised as "the penultimate party record" and "the real mutant disco - a dis-collation of weedy, reedy funk" by the NME. The record earned Dislocation Dance their first John Peel session in August 1981, swiftly followed by a David 'Kid' Jensen session in January 1982.

The debut album proper, Music Music Music (ORG 15), swiftly followed in October 1981, and over 14 tracks set a new benchmark for eclecticism, with styles ranging from funk (Stand Me Up), bubblegum pop (Don't Knock Me Down), be-bop (Take a Chance on Romance) and ersatz movie soundtracks (Vendetta). The sessions were recorded at Pennine Studios and Revolution, and produced by Stuart James. While the functional sound perhaps lacked a certain sparkle ("background music for the foreground"), and belied the bouncy vigour of the band's live performances, it's still a fine record, blessed with a refreshing lightness of touch, and earned a clutch of good reviews from the UK rock weeklies. Notable gigs, incidently, included London club Heaven (with The Higsons) in December, an ICA Rock Week, and a tour with Girls At Our Best.

An interview taped for Blam! fanzine in January 1981 revealed the pop-tastic tastes of Runacres and Emmerson:

Paul: "We're getting more poppy. The last few songs we've done are quite laid back and swingy. Radio 2 in the sense that someone like, say, Vic Godard has been talking about recently. Actually the most recent stuff is completely different to that, it's more Monkees, 60's, poppy."

Ian: "We're influenced by a very wide range of music. I like the last Dollar single, the Heaven 17 album and some old Kool and the Gang. The theme tune to The Prisoner. Gerschwin. Burt Bacharach is what I'm listening to mostly at the moment."

Paul: "I really like the new Haircut 100 single, Love Plus One. One of the things that's interesting just now is the way groups are trying to do some stuff that is poppy but with a swingy, funky feel to it, like Orange Juice and the new Scritti Politti stuff. By my favourites are Frank Sinatra, Abba, John Coltrane, old musicals. And The Fall."

Ian: "We don't want to write songs about weighty political subjects or deep psychological themes, because it's possible to make a much more effective and subtle statement when talking about personal relationships. In the past all great pop songs have done this."

In March 1982 the band supported Orange Juice on a full tour of the UK, and in April played string of dates in North America, booked by the ubiquitous Ruth Polsky. Regrettably Freddie Laker's budget airline went bust mid-tour, with the result that their return tickets were not honoured. Thankfully the group were baled out in New York by fellow Mancunian Anthony H. Wilson, although manager Peter Wright elected to remain in America. Despite this exposure, sales of the first album still struggled to exceed 3000, and for their next single, the samba-flavoured Rosemary, Dislocation Dance re-recruited photogenic singer and sax player Kathryn Way. The single appeared on 7" on New Hormones (ORG 19) in May, the same month in which the compilation album Hours appeared on Dutch label Plurex, featuring the superlative Swingle Singers/Truffaut pastiche The Next I Returned To St Michelle (But Marie Had Gone and With Her My Childhood). The track was later reprised on the compilations Heures Sans Soleil (LTM) and Homage a Duras (Crepuscule/Interior).

A showcase at the Barracuda club in London in May 1982 (with support from The Pale Fountains) drew a rave review from Rose Rouse in Sounds: "As light as spring flowers, they scatter soulful seeds. They serenade the senses and brush the emotions. Their love songs are puppy love playful. They are an antidote to exertion, and tonic to panic and an invitation to the toes. Since I saw them at the ICA they have installed a new girl member on sax and vocals. She gives them a fruitier flavour. They are aiding and abetting the revival of cute and quaint in the pop categories. The grafting of jazz offshoots onto bop pop works wonders. They pull strings in the hardest gut."

Two further singles followed on New Hormones in 1982, You'll Never Never Know (ORG 22) and Remind Me (ORG 27), before the pioneering but impoverished label folded. The band kept busy, however, with a second Peel session in July, and a set for Janice Long in December. Various recording sessions at Revolution between June 1982 and September 1983 eventually resulted in a single (Vendetta) on their own TML label, and a fine second album, Midnight Shift, released by Rough Trade (ROUGH 63) late in 1983. Produced by the band with Stuart Pickering, with a stellar cast of guest musicians, this poised and sophisticated album featured eleven original songs as well as the title track, a reworking of Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's paen to prostitution. In an effort to crack the chart Show Me was released as a 12" single in 1983, featuring a sublime extended version of the song, as well as a dub mix by Dennis Bovell on the flip.

That Dislocation Dance were hovering on the pop periphery is borne out by the fact that they were voted "band most likely to succeed" in the 1983 Smash Hits poll. However, like its predecessor, Midnight Shift failed to sell in large numbers, and the band were dropped by Rough Trade, who judged their eclecticism too tough to market, preferred to put their money behind fellow Mancunian signings The Smiths. Feeling they had already peaked, and that their best days might already be behind them, the band began to lose momentum. Paul Emmerson left for an academic career, Kathryn Way focussed on acting, while Andy Diagram found himself increasingly busy as a session player and with The Pale Fountains. Ian, Andy and Richard carried on with new singer Sonja Clegg and shopped around for a new deal, but although RCA and Polydor expressed interest, nothing came of these overtures, and the band finally dissolved in 1987.

Post-split, Ian Runacres founded several labels, including Bop and Scam, as well as recording three albums as Brightside with bassist Phil Lukes. Paul Emmerson relocated to London and is now a writer and teacher in the field of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Andy Diagram later joined the chartbound James, as well as blowing his horn on a host of other Manchester records, and forming Spaceheads with Richard Harrison. Kathryn Way continues to act, and has raised a family.

Dislocation Dance were a band out of time - too eclectic to cross over into a mainstream populated by ABC, Bananarama, Culture Club and a veritable alphabet of shameless pop tarts, and lacking the hipster credentials of Rip Rig and Panic, A Certain Ratio or Orange Juice. Better cover art might not have hurt either. That said, their music looked forward to bands such as The Cardigans, Belle and Sebastian and any number of acts from the Sarah Records stable.

With their BBC sessions collected on CD in 1999 by Vinyl Japan, original Dislocation Dance members Runacres, Way, Harrison and Diagram (plus Brightside bassist Phil Lukes) reformed for a tour of Japan in June 2000, which would eventually lead to the release of a new album in 2005. Phil Lukes explains: 'We came to make Cromer as Dislocation Dance after finding that there were too many Brightsides, our then-current vehicle. This meant that we were belatedly following up Midnight Shift, which concentrated our minds a bit. We set some parameters, brush drums being the main one, and we wanted it to feel natural with good performances at the core of each song. I think we achieved that. It might not have the youthful zip of that earlier album but it reflected where we were in 2002-5 and was a stepping stone towards what we're doing now.'

'Cromer calls upon personal history,' adds Runacres. 'I have lots of happy memories of summer holidays in Norfolk, camping in a mushroom farmer's field, just behind the old zoo, in Cromer. I could hear the lion roaring in the night, which is about as good as it can get, when you're sleeping under canvas.'

Runacres and Lukes afterwards put together a new band, featuring Chris Gravestock, Andrew Weaver and Jon Board. This line up recorded fourth album The Ruins of Manchester between 2008 and 2011, and released by LTM as a double pack with Cromer. 'It reflects an affection for a pre-renaissance, pre-90s investment Manchester,' says Runacres. 'We wanted Cromer to have a natural, organic feel, which we captured with spontaneous performances. With Ruins. we wanted to feature the new band, both in writing and performance and with it, some new influences. Nevertheless both albums are unquestionably trademark Dislocation Dance: melodic, bubbly and serene.'

James Nice

February 2012

Dislocation Dance