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  • Writer's pictureMark Howitt

Songs in the Key of My Life: 1

Groove Is in the Heart, Deee-Lite (1990)

7th November 1990. Heart of Midlothian F.C. are playing Bologna in the second round of the UEFA Cup Winners Cup at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara. 3-1 up from the first leg two weeks earlier, the Jam Tarts crumble in Italy and I Rossoblù run out easy 3-0 winners, dumping the Edinburgh club out of the competition 4-3 on aggregate.

It was then - and to this day remains - Hearts’ gutless day of shame.

That evening, in a local taverna, as the four of us drown our sorrows with draft Peroni (then - for us at least - a novelty) the only thing to put a smile on our faces is the repeated playing on the juke box of Groove Is in the Heart by New York dance outfit Deee-Lite. I can’t remember now if the juke was broken or if we (and it was probably just me) kept on feeding it with lire to hear it again. The song is a complete one-off, a mixture of funk and bedroom techno, sounding as if it was recorded on a cheap synthesiser (it was: a Casio FZ-1) with the drum track laid down on some old tin cans and the microphone from time-to-time inconveniently removed to a corridor outside the recording studio. But what’s not to like about a song that kicks off with the call to action, “We’re going to dance. And have some fun.” Slightly surprised to learn now that the great Fred Wesley played trombone on the track, less so that Bootsy Colins knocked out the bass line. A final euphoric curtain call to the second summer of love.

When at last, in the early hours of the next morning, we stumbled back to our hotel, we found it locked and our luggage unceremoniously deposited on the doorstep. While in summer the Piazza Maggiore becomes an open-air cinema, Bologna in early November is uncompromisingly cold, no place for sleeping al fresco, and - without even the satisfaction of being able to leave a one star review on the yet-to-be-invented Tripadvisor - we turned to the railway station to bed down for the night.

Shortly after we got there, an overnight train was scheduled to depart, ultimately for Brussels, but which would take me to Luxembourg. Not a totally random choice of destination since, at the time, that was where I lived.

24 years would pass before I felt able to return to the Bel Paese.

Stomp on the street when I hear a funk beat

Playing Pied Piper, follow what's true

Baby, just sing about the groove!

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