The Dance Years (ITV, 2001)
At the start of the 2000s decade, there was a big craze on TV for looking back at various times in documentaries. Every cultural event from the past five decades seemed to be chronicled and analysed either year-by-year or in various top ten lists, or sometimes even top 100s. Being interested in the history of dance music, I was rather pleased when a show came along which looked back at the development of this genre.
The Dance Years was first shown on ITV in 2001 in a late-night Saturday night slot. I didn’t see it myself though until a repeat run a year later. ITV showing original programming in a late-night slot? Yes, it really happened. The show was hosted by Dave Pearce, who is a DJ and has presented dance music shows on various radio stations for many years, and at the time of this show he was a presenter on BBC Radio 1 (where I remember Mark Radcliffe used to call him “a dangerous gap-toothed gypsy” for some reason, he’d probably get the sack for that nowadays).
Every week Dave revealed his top ten favourite dance hits from 1988 to 2001, and the videos to each hit were shown in descending order, with comments on them from various people. One thing that was good about the show was that the contributors clearly knew what they were talking about as a lot of them had worked in dance music for many years, and we heard opinions from various DJs, rappers, producers, and so on. There were also comments from non-famous people who remember hearing the songs in the clubs and buying the records in the shops.
As the weeks progressed we saw how the genre of dance music evolved over the years, with the house scene being big in the late-80s, through to rave becoming popular in the early-90s, then drum & bass being successful in the mid-90s, all the way up to garage dominating the scene in the late-90s. To pick a year as an example, the edition reviewing 1994 featured some memorable hits including JX’s floorfiller “Son Of A Gun” and the terrific “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” by Baby D, which after being around for a couple of years eventually became a number one single.
There were so many great songs featured on The Dance Years and it brought back a lot of great memories for me and I learned a lot about the genre in the process, and best of all it was really great seeing this era of music being taken seriously and discussed knowledgeably. A lot of music documentaries still to this day seem to only focus around 1960s and 1970s rock music as if that’s the only genre that’s worth preserving and what people want to know about. I hope that one day there will be more TV series treating the most interesting parts of the last 30 years of pop music with more respect.