By the spring of ’83 I’d turned 17, and following a six-month stint in WH Smith in the stockroom and toy department I landed a plum job… a three-month secondment on the ‘Youth Opportunity Programme’ in Discus Menswear. Wey, bloody hey. At school, once I was out of shorts, I had a two-track mind: music and sport. Academic learning took a very distant back seat and suffice to say my post-school career ambitions didn’t amount to much. At 17, music was my life, and whilst a £25 per week YOP job at Discus was lacking in aspiration, socially it was perfect for me.
Soul was already a passion, and the likes of Booker T & The MGs, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Curtis Mayfield were heavy turntable players. The latter’s Move On Up was well known to me, and one night in the summer of ’83 the setting moved from my bedroom to the dancefloor. I’d already seen Quadrophenia enough times to become very familiar with not just the music, but also the dress code and the northern soul shuffle. I’d squeezed into a few clubs as a 16-year old, but this one night, in the Neptune Bar at Boscombe Pier was a biggie.
I was watching Mods, or kids like me who had aspirations to be an Ace Face, or at least not a third class ticket. I watched, observed, studied and knew the time had come to do my thing. Now, New Edition’s Candy Girl was No.1 in the charts, and a cool take on ABC by The Jackson 5, but a soul stomper it was not. But as clear as day I remember this tune, and talc, and shuffling loafers. I also remember Move On Up, a soul classic, and giving it my best effort, hugging the dance floor perimeter. I was still battling shyness, I was far from cool, but I don’t think I let myself down.
Over the coming years, as my confidence improved, so did my dancing. Move On Up became a very firm favourite, not least when watching The Agency, Bournemouth’s soul tour-de-force in the late ‘80s. From the opening double drum hit and iconic brass intro this song evokes so many happy memories. The extended version was simply prolonged, bongo-heavy joy, but as much as the music it was Curtis’ positive message that was the inspiration.
“Move on up and keep on wishing / Remember your dream is your only scheme / So keep on pushing.”