The Nearly Men; A Potted History of Hang the Dance

In issue sixteen of ELM there was an interesting feature on talented local musician Alan “Dosher” Dawson who found early fame if not much fortune in East Leeds based post punk band Hang The Dance.
Christmas 1983 I was sitting having a pint in The Travellers when I was approached by Dosher’s then girlfriend Jill who asked if I fancied teaming up with her boyfriend to kick off something new. Jill had been a backing vocalist in a synth pop band I’d sang for at the beginning of the ‘80’s and I trusted her judgement so agreed to meet up with Dosh and have a chat. I vaguely remembered him from school days at Temple Moor but this re-creation as an Uber-Goth with combed up jet black hair and plenty of leather was a striking sight to behold. And when he started to demonstrate his bass playing skills I knew this guy was something special.
Dosher pulled in guitarist (and now writer of all things Leeds) Mick McCann and I asked veteran of the early Leeds punk scene (and later to become Director of The Ritz Casino in London) Tim Cullimore to apply his drumming skills. And what for a name? Mick suggested Hang The Dance; roughly translated, in the punk ethos of the day, as “never dance to anyone else’s tune” We were off and playing.
We tried to do things a bit differently, maybe a little more professionally, than other local bands and looked, as much as possible, for gigs out of Leeds wherever we could often hiring a coach to take a bunch of mates along to the gigs to create a ready-made audience. At first this was to cities such as Nottingham and Leicester but this later progressed to London and showcase gigs in front of record company A&R reps.  We also, much to the annoyance of my neighbours, practiced relentlessly in my flat on Hollyshaw Lane honing the sound into a tight, melodic, punkified, funkified glorious noise.
A few months in and the first single was cut; “Laughing Jack Said”. Naturally this was duly mailed off to the “cooler” Radio One DJ’s of the day such as John Peel, Annie Nightingale, Janice Long, Richard Skinner etc. One evening I called up the BBC and asked to be put through to John Peel’s secretary. Within a micro second I was talking to John himself and this lovely, ego-less, interesting, interested chap agreed to play it on his show that evening. The other, aforementioned, DJ’s also followed suit and our reputation began to grow.
Alas and alack, as was described in ELM’s previous issue, Dosher decided to leave and, at the same time, our drummer Tim also called it a day. Mick and I decided to keep going and thus Hang The Dance Mark II was born with Roman Remeynes (later of Wedding Present spin off The Ukrainians) on keyboards, John Lake (now renowned writer of the Leeds 6 trilogy of books) on bass and “Swedish” Pete Westbrook on drums. Most critically we brought in Mick’s brother Steve to manage the band and his visionary optimistic approach meant that he and I were soon blagging our way into every record company office in London looking for “the deal”.
Closer to home “Leeds Independent Records” distributed by “Red Rhino” in York were signing up the better local bands and we were fortunate enough to get a publishing and recording deal which allowed the release of second single “Horseflesh” This climbed steadily up the indie charts and decent reviews from Sounds and The NME followed.
Sometime in 1987 after the release of the album “Ghost Bloody Country” and third single, a cover of The Doors “Break On Through” things changed again with John and Pete moving off to do other things (interestingly both doing a fair amount of travelling teaching English as a foreign language) At this point we took a deep breath, stripped things back, Roman took over the bass playing responsibilities and a chap called Paul came in on drums (there may have been another drummer before Paul but I have Alzheimer’s and a drink habit) We took off to Germany for a few weeks of a meat only diet, much beer and ending up headlining a large outdoor festival.
1988 the famous Leeds University refectory we’re warming up for The Wedding Present. My girlfriend is pregnant and I’m skint. We play a good, tight as ever, set. I come off stage sweat soddened and decide to call it a day. Need a “proper” job.  Four glorious years of fun.
Today, 25 years on, there are still remnants of Hang The Dance on the internet. Our records have turned up all over the globe and the retrospective reviews are good. East Leeds has turned out a few good bands. From my era I’d namecheck Function 3, Ikon AD and, of course, Abrasive Wheels to name some of em. But we were good, mighty good, and never danced to anyone else’s tune for those four great years.

by John MacHeath

Hang the Dance - Some Sacred Ground
Category : Video
Back to about 1987 with this...old East Leeds band Hang the Dance with Some Sacred Ground.


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  1. Reginald Smyth (Colonel) says:

    Bah! Bring back national service for these dirty unwashed scruffians. They are the scourge of the earth with their promiscuity and general layabout ways. Get their bally hair cut and knuckle down to a life of hard labour. Baaahhha

  2. Rob Aitken says:

    Tired Eyes, tired eyes, a thousand tired faces…cheers for this article, brought back some happy memories watching this lot at the Duchess.

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