The first time we met Danny was one Saturday morning in the summer holidays – Sandra was still at school then– in the record department of the Co-op.
We lounged against the high counter, Sandra in her brown leather jacket and me in my brown suede. By this time we had swopped buttons. Sandra was asking the woman serving if they had Roy Orbison’s latest single, when a boy wearing a navy blue Crombie overcoat and a blue-beat hat came out of one of the booths, shouting at us, ‘No, no, you don’t want to listen to that rubbish, listen to this, listen to this!’ He leaned over the counter and moved the arm of the record player back to the beginning of a 45 on the turntable. The woman stared at him. ‘Turn it up!’ he said. Slowly she turned the volume knob and then stood with folded arms as we listened to ‘Madness’ by Prince Buster. Danny rocked round the counter to the ska beat, his head nodding back and forth like a chicken. When the record finished Sandra asked the assistant to put it on again. After we’d listened to it twice Sandra said, ‘Yeah, thanks,’ and we left the shop. We had to go home for dinner.
Sandra was only just fifteen. She had a term to go before she left school. Danny was twenty and had a few days to go before he was back in prison.
I was allowed to go to dances at the YMCA in Victoria Road. Perhaps because it was the YMCA and because my mum knew there was a church nearby. In fact, it was more like a church Social than anything else, although we heard stories about fights and even a stabbing on nights when we weren’t there. You climbed up the stairs to the first floor and people bunched round the walls, smoking, drinking orange squash. Some boys wore suits, there were a few bad jumpers, and girls in dresses with gathered skirts. At this point I only had a suedette jacket, so it didn’t really count as part of any mod heritage. I wore my stone coloured ski pants and my bottle green Fred Perry, and red socks with my moccasins.
The format was simple, records and local groups – Mark Shelley and the Deans mainly. This was where I first saw someone actually do the Turkey Trot, giving it all he’d got.
Sandra and I jived. We had been practising our jive for months. It was a very intricate, almost courtly dance, with precise movements. I couldn’t do it with anyone else, because they wouldn’t know the moves. Although I think that’s true of all good jiving. But there was none of the flinging of limbs that you see in old movies, no-one showed their petticoats, no-one got thrown across their partner’s back.
And we had to catch the half past ten bus home.