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Smallville: Performing The Blues

The weekend of music and dancing at a holiday centre was to be highlighted by a final fancy dress gala evening. Recalling the John Belushi film, Peter B Farrell's bright idea was to go as the Blues Brothers. So on with the sunglasses, dark suits, black hats...and let's get ready to rock.

"_anyway, the two brothers - who are orphans - meet outside the prison and decide to revive their rock band. It's got great music, an amazing police car chase and it's very funny."

"Sort of gangsters, cops and robbers?" Fred perked up.

"Well, not quite." I was endeavouring to give a brief description of the plot of The Blues Brothers, the cult film starring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd.

The occasion was a discussion about a forthcoming weekend at a holiday centre specialising in music and dancing. A group of us had booked, and on the insistence of our partners, were exploring the possibilities of suitable fancy dress for the final Gala evening.

The ladies had already decided to goa long way down memory lane and recreate their version of the 1950s, easy for them with the aid of sewing machines, while I had suggested that we men could emulate Jake and Elwood Blue, also known as the Blues brothers.

"All we need are sunglasses, white shirt and black tie, and if we haven't a dark suit somewhere in the wardrobe, we could try the charity shops." I perceived that family funerals were becoming a common occurrence now at our age. Further discussion raised the possibility of obtaining the replica black hats, possibly at a shop on the coast that specialised in joke and party costumes. With a couple of months to go I was confident we would be well prepared.

"We must have a preview." Harry and Rita, the couple who ran the local weekly tea dance, were keen to see the `girls' in their 1950s outfits.

The dance was a popular and sociable occasion, affording an afternoon of ballroom dancing and an opportunity to meet up with friends over light refreshments, the clientele being mainly pensioners. A frequent and regular feature was applause for the latest couple to reach their golden wedding, followed by a celebratory cake.

A few weeks later the preview had somehow developed into a form of a surprise entertainment, to be performed during the interval at the next dance.

"We'll keep it short and sweet. Before the tea interval starts we disappear and get changed. Harry plays Sweet Home Chicago. I have a copy from the soundtrack. I lead you all onto the floor, you wave to the audience, the music fades, Harry puts on a quickstep and we dance a couple of circuits. Should be over in five minutes."

I made it sound simple. "Just a matter of timing."

In a short time the `girls' completed their `50s wardrobe, including a job lot of white ankle socks from Tesco’s. After a search in Oxfam and the Animal Sanctuary shops I acquired a black suit and the matching black tie quite cheaply. Everything seemed ready.

This particular week, having given Harry and Rita some idea what to expect, we joined in the dancing for the first half. Shortly before the tea interval we casually made our way unnoticed to the cloakrooms, where we had stored our clothes, the `girls' first as they needed more time with make up, etc.

After frantically changing from our more casual attire, I realised I had not quite got the Blues Brothers image across. Fred sported the Al Capone look - black shirt, dazzling white tie and wide brimmed fedora. Bert had stick-on Elvis sideburns and Ron also wore a black shirt.

All looked the part though - bizarrely menacing - and after making sure the `girls' were ready, I ventured into the corridor and gave Harry the prearranged signal.

Making sure everyone was sitting quietly, having tea and biscuits, Harry came to the microphone to perform his introduction and put on the recording.

"As a treat this afternoon we have the Blues boys and their sisters…"

Not quite what I expected. Something had got lost in translation.

The booming rock guitar introduction startled the audience who were used to the more sedate interval waltz.

"C'mon_baby don't `cha wanna go…" John Belushi belted out.

Stunned amazement.

I shot onto the dance floor doing a creditable Chuck Berry duck-walk while flailing at my air guitar.

"C'mon_baby don't 'cha wanna go…"

Open mouths.

I span round and pointed to the rear of the floor. "Back to that same old place…"

Baffled looks.

My wife and the rest of the `girls' flounced onto the floor accompanied by the `Blues boys’.

"Sweet home Chicago." John Belushi finished his solo and picked up the harmonica.

"It's that crowd from the corner table." Slow recognition.

We waved to the stunned, open mouthed and baffled until the recording ended and changed to a recognisable quickstep. Gathering up our partners, we whisked around the floor for a couple of circuits, at the end of which we were roundly applauded, Rita leading the way and giving the whole performance a seal of approval.

Afterwards, joining everyone for the rest of the dancing, we attracted a lot of interest especially the `50s outfits of the ladies; but I became aware that until now practically no one had either seen or heard of the Blues Brothers.

Later, at the holiday centre, we enjoyed the dance weekend and on the gala night we blended in effortlessly with Elvis Presley, jivers, American G.I.s, rock ‘n rollers and Tina Turner, among many others.

"Sort of undertakers?" Someone at the next table was amused, and I endeavoured to explain.

"No, these two brothers - who are orphans - meet outside the prison and…" My enthusiasm began to wane.


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