Swing! The New Retro Renaissance

Your guide to the very best

Music, Dance, Clothes, Cars, Interiors: West Coast, NYC, UK, Japan
Publishers/Editor: V. Vale, Marian Wallace

Review by Cathleen Myers

In case you hadn’t heard, Swing music and dance of the 1930’s and 40’s are enjoying an unprecedented revival on both the East and West Coasts, with an especially strong movement in the San Francisco Bay Area. Swing has found an entirely new generation, hungry for an alternative to the uninspired monotony of Modern Rock, Modern Fashion and Modern Lifestyle. The book is a series of informal conversational interviews with some of the better known Swing musicians, dancers and dance instructors, recording companies, and re-creationists of the current Swing Revival. Most agree on two things: Swing is here to stay and Swing is back because, apart from it intrinsic merit, it fulfills a cultural emptiness in our lives. For many of the artists interviewed in this book, Swing has become an entire lifestyle - not just the music and the dance but the clothing styles, the cars, the decor, the old-fashioned manners and especially the greater sense of community which going to the same clubs each week is bound to generate.

Certain common threads run through the book, which at first glance appears to be a loose collection of fun interviews: Many of the younger Swing artists began their careers as punk and "new wave" rockers and now see in Swing an artistically superior form of rebellion. The older artists and afficionados express fleeting nostalgia for the good old days when the Swing revival was a small underground movement and there was still room to really dance on the clubs’dance floors. Others - young and old - heave a nostalgic sigh for the good old days - just three years ago! - when you could still buy vintage clothing cheaply. But most of the people interviewed agree that the triumphant return of Swing Music, Dance and Style was inevitable given the sheer joy of the music and the becoming clothes that, at least for the evening, allow men to be men and women to be women again.

PEERS Swing kids will especially enjoy the entire chapter devoted to our own Lee Press-On and Lesley Presley of the popular jump-swing group Lee Press-On and the Nails.

The wonderfully gifted Lee discusses at length his philosophy of Swing as the Punk Rock of its time and his attempt to re-generate some of that excitement into his compositions, arrangements and performances. Leslie’s fashion advice is, as always, impeccable ("I love vintage clothing but lately I’m more interested in finding clothes that look vintage"). Indeed, costumers will adore this book’s frequent specific advice on where to buy affordable clothes with a vintage look.

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