Commentary


Swing Through the Decades Dance

Swing Through the Decades Dance

“I’m young, I’m wild and I’m free I got the magic power of the music in me”

                        -Triumph.

The last place you’d expect to have a musical epiphany is a elementary school dance, yet it happens.

Get back to the future

It’s Friday night. All you want to do is come home, kick off your shoes, bury the long work week in an unmarked grave and disappear beneath a blanket of peaceful inactivity. You’ve earned the right to chill on the couch and allow the television to lull you stupid as Friday lets Saturday have its way. Except that little voice that keeps you honest and in line speaks up and disrupts your best laid back plans. “Dad, tonight’s the school dance. You said we could go.”

This little voice isn’t your conscience, per say, but it might as well be. It’s your outer child, a product of your own DNA, shattering the tranquility and laziness of the moment with a left jab of reality and a right cross of parental responsibility.

You hear that infamous record scratch sound effect in your head. The one you thought only happened in corny teen movies. Suddenly, you’re floating above the room watching your body cowering helplessly on the couch.

Time warps and loses all meaning.

Do the time warp again

Fast forward and you find yourself at the Swing through the Decades elementary school dance. This is one in a long line of school events you’ve reluctantly attended over the years in an attempt to raise your parent report rating. However, when you get to the dance, dragging your feet all the way, it occurs to you it’s much more than just another parental obligation for you to fulfill. In the words of the Canadian rock trio Triumph,

 “Then you hear the music, and it all comes crystal clear. Music does the talking, says the things you want to hear.”

You find yourself having an epiphany – Time travel exists, and It’s called music.

You gaze across the comically tiny gymnasium (for adults anyway, who’ve been conditioned to the big bad world and its big scary spaces). Kindergarten through fifth grade kids are dressed as adults, sporting fashion anachronisms. Grown-ups are dressed as children dressed as adults in similar fashion relics. They’re all celebrating and reflecting on their decade of choice (1950s – 2000s) and dancing, or at least their best representation of dance as they understand it, to the music that defined their favorite decade and made it real.

Tragically, the kids have already stumbled into whichever social clique will have them, but at this age, the cliques are still mostly gender specific so the girls dance and fraternize with the girls. The boys don’t really dance, but the music sneaks inside their bodies and courses through them, a precursor to the hormones that will be in full attack mode not too far down the road. The music works them into a frenzy and they channel it the way boys channel everything, by horsing around. You might catch the boys subconsciously skipping to the beat as they dart across the dance floor chasing after friends. You see the boys spinning around in circles or knee sliding across the gym floor as the music takes hold. You know the music has really taken over when you hear the chorus of children’s voices, boys and girls, rising above the music and the din of the crowd, singing along to songs born decades before them. It’s both eerie and captivating to hear children of varying ages singing along to adult songs whether it’s a simple, frivolous tune like “Mickey” or a dark psychological dirge like “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” It’s a reminder of how music has the power to bring people together from differing eras, backgrounds, and circumstances and level the playing field, or the dance floor called life.

Tiny dancers

As the night waltzes on, you absorb the iconic reference points of time gone by – broken in and over sized letter jackets and leather jackets swallowing tiny frames but still imparting a mention of swagger, temporarily slicked back hair losing its hold as the night goes on and the music intensifies its dominance. Childhood inhibitions weaken, and the horsing around gets more rambunctious and even crosses genders. You see short, shimmering Tina Turner dresses and exaggerated Afro wigs, peace sign medallions and psychedelic patterns throbbing underneath the pulsating lights. There are flashes of leg warmers and fingerless gloves, skinny new wave ties and spiked hair with a suggestion of wannabe attitude.  However, more important than all of these cultural footprints in time is what you see in the faces and body language of the children dancing, oblivious to the doubts and responsibilities that come with age. You see a hint of the grown-ups they will become. You see children casually introduced to their adult selves by the common thread of music. In an effort to wrap your mind around this live action time travel epiphany you’ve stumbled upon, you wonder when the past and the present meet again in the not too distant future, will there be instant recognition or only a nagging impulse of a familiar face they can’t quite place. Most likely, music will reunite them and help them remember when that time comes.

In the expressions and the posture of the adults, even those blindsided by the parental obligation of yet another school event, you see a glimpse of the child they once were. You watch empathetically as they’re reacquainted with their past and you wonder if they are content with who they’ve become. However, you stop short of posing this same question to yourself. These are questions for another time. On a night like tonight, it’s the music that matters. Music speaks simultaneously to the child and the adult in everyone who listens. This is what give music its strength. It’s what gives it teeth to accommodate your hunger for more. Music transports you to where and when you’d rather be. Time travel is on your side and everything is good in the moment as long as the music plays.  

Click on the links below to travel through time and listen to a few songs that say the things you want to hear.

50s

60s

70s

80s

90s

2000s

Click here to read more music related articles by Bob.

Well guys, just when you thought it was safe as long as you avoided the chick movies and films about dying athletes, rabid dogs, and departing aliens, for crying out loud, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Read more and hear the songs that can make a grown man cry.

“Twenty years now. Where’d they go? Twenty years. I don’t know. I sit and I wonder sometimes where they’ve gone…”

-Bob Seger, Like a Rock

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that time travel exists. The bad news is, contrary to science fiction, you can only travel in one direction and it’s mandatory… Read more 

– Bob Langham

by Bob Langham

There are those awesome “you’ve got to hear this” songs for which you crank up the radio at the traffic lights to fulfill your civic duty of playing them loud enough for everyone to hear so they know that you have your pulse on the hottest musical trends, if not a crystal ball into the musical future for what will be the next biggest hit. Sure you’ll get dirty looks from the people that don’t appreciate you sharing your high decibel knowledge. However, it’s your Constitutional right to share great music with the public at large, one traffic intersection at a time until everyone has been enlightened and the world is a better happier place through song. 

Then there are those other songs that you have latched onto like a bad habit over the years for no logical or scientific reason. These are the songs you are forced to enjoy privately out of fear of ridicule from your friends. If they caught you listening, or worse singing and dancing to them, they would never let you live it down, so you hide them away and enjoy them in the privacy of your own home or earphones. I’ve been pretty good about hiding my closet songs over the years as I am sure many of you have. But I’m tired of living a musical lie. I’m through listening in the shadows. It’s time for full disclosure.

I fully acknowledge that I own all of these songs in one format or another – vinyl album, 45 RPM, compact disk, or MP3 on my iPod, so consider this a warning; The next time you are sitting at a traffic light minding your own business, listening to your socially acceptable tunes, you may hear one of these gems at full volume coming from the car beside you.*

If you aren’t careful, you may find yourself tapping your foot or bobbing your head and enjoying tunes you may have previously mocked. Don’t worry though; your secret is safe with me.

Lonely Days – The Bee Gees

Like many others who had a preference for rock and roll, I rebelled against disco when it first reared its glittery head and by extension, I rebuked the Bee Gees. I never thought I would say this about a Bee Gees song, but this one rocks in places that you don’t expect. Had anyone known I liked this song when I was younger, I would have been spending many more lonely days and nights than I already did.

Rock Me Gently – Andy Kim

Let me get this straight – One can rock gently, and one can rock slowly? Oh the duality of love as seen through the prism of the 1970s. Try that today, and Dr. Phil will be all over your butt for not being honest with your emotions.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light – Meat Loaf

This makes the closet song list for two reasons:  First, it has the most blatant baseball/making out metaphor in music history (I think if Harry Caray had performed this at Wrigley field instead of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, the Cubs may have won a World Series or two in the ‘70s. Secondly, the lead singer is named after an entree. For these two reasons, I have always secretly enjoyed this song.

Loving You – Minnie Riperton

I plead the ‘70s on this one.  I didn’t know any better and it latched on to me at a young age and no matter how hard I try, I can’t shake it. This song takes me back to my childhood happy place – and come on, it’s got birds… can you really turn a deaf ear to God’s creatures?

Sweet Transvestite – Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show)

I’m secure enough in my masculinity to say I like Tim Curry’s energetic over the top vocal performance of this song.  Just to clarify, I may have bad fashion sense, but I have never had any desire to wear women’s clothes, not even to any of the midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show like many other fans.  If my friends heard me singing along to this song, they might have thought I had a secret life to go along with my secret list of songs so it has always been on the closet list.

Bad Blood – Neil Sedaka

“Doo ron, doo ron, di di, dit, dit, ron ron.” Need I say more? Okay, maybe one more thing, only the ‘70s could birth a song about the bitchiness of a woman and still make it sound so festive, thanks to Neil’s flamboyant performance.

Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus  

At first listen, you’d think this shouldn’t be a closet song. It appeals to the simpleton in us all – It’s a bumper sticker set to music about two core values – partying and patriotism – everything should be cool right? Except someone my age and gender rocking to Hannah Montana’s alter ego is just wrong.

Mr. Roboto  – Styx

This is a contagious tune that rocks, but it could be perceived as a vehicle for trying to reintroduce the Robot dance to the youth of the world. I didn’t want to be associated with that so it was a closet song. Besides, didn’t we learn a year later from Terminator that machines are bad?

Borderline  – Madonna

This song was a little too pop for the rock and roll persona I wanted to portray. But there is something about the way Madonna seductively moans the lines “Keep pushing me, Keep Pushing me, Keep Pushing My Love” (I wonder what she was talking about there) that made me a secret fan of this song.

Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler

I was sucked in by this ‘80s power ballad and Tyler’s husky voice like everyone else. What was I supposed to do? I caved to the influence of MTV in its early watchable days. I always kept this one on the closet because I thought it was the musical equivalent of a “chick movie.”

Hocus Pocus  – Focus

Even in the ‘70s you didn’t want to be caught dead listening to a song that included yodeling, whistling, and other goofy sounds in place of actual words, even if they were set to a rock guitar backdrop. In addition to secretly liking this song over the years, I’ve always had the desire to see this song substituted for the National Anthem at a major sporting event. Can you imagine how hilarious that would be if the crowd stood up in in succession, similar to the wave but instead of waving their arms they echoed the yodeling and whistling chorus of this song? I think it would take away some of the overinflated importance of professional sports and the world would be a much better place.

Convoy  – C.W. McCall

I’m still reluctant to go public about this song, but I will expose it because it’s a point of cultural reference for the younger generations. Before cell phones and personal computers became standard communication tools, the main means of verbal communication between two separate locations was via land line or citizen band (CB) radio. You could even talk from your vehicle. It was the ‘70s version of social networking – But back then you had to talk in jargon to fit in – 10-4 good buddy, you got your ears on?  Unlike today, where we’ve matured and don’t have to resort to such silly short-hand jargon – OMG, LOL, BRB.

Coconut – Harry Nilsson

It seems so wrong to like a song about produce, but it sounds and tastes so good so I just kept it secret all of these years.

Hollaback Girl – Gwen Stefani

The only thing I know is this song is catchy and once it’s in your head it won’t leave on its own, but that’s okay because this song celebrates attitude and produce  –  “My s*** is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.”

 Centerfold – J. Geils Band

Not since the theme song to the Andy Griffith show, has a whistling solo taken us back to a simpler time,  if by simpler time you mean discovering that a girl you had a crush on in school had become a centerfold model in a girlie magazine years after you graduated. It also, must be mentioned that this is one of the two songs on this list with the gratuitous use of “Na Na Na Na” instead of actual words.

Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ – Journey

This song always had a special place in my closet music collection, because Journey was really popular at my school and apparently so were actual loving, touching, and squeezing, or so I was told. I was never able to independently verify this on my own until many years later, but I had this song to get me through those lonely years. Additionally, this song is the second song on my list to use the “Na Na Na Na” card.

Long Tall Glasses (I can Dance) – Leo Sayer

I knew I couldn’t dance and if I’d been caught singing and trying to dance to this song, my secret of having no rhythm would have been out.

Lady – Little River Band

Okay I admit it. I cried while watching Brian Song and when Old Yeller died. This song was on my closet list because I didn’t want to risk getting all weepy in public when listening to this maudlin tune.

The Kid is Hot Tonight – Loverboy

One moment, Loverboy was being played every 15 minutes on MTV, and then the next moment they were gone. I guess they over used their 15 minutes of fame.  Maybe they were obscured by Pearl Jam, and Nirvana and the whole grunge scene, or maybe people just realized they were listening to a band that wore red leather pants and headbands. I guess I’m not as judgmental as most people.

Dirty Diana – Michael Jackson

This was on my closet list because Michael was known more for pop music and my musical taste leaned more toward rock, but he showed he could merge his pop and dance talents with blazing rock guitar accompaniment and make a pop song that rocks. That is good enough for me.

Mighty Man – Mungo Jerry

Can we all just agree that there is just not enough kazoo and banjo in rock music today? Can we also agree that the banjo and kazoo are a big factor in making this a closet song? No further questions.

I Am I Said – Neil Diamond

This song is like a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies – soft, warm, and sweet, but in the long run, not good for you. And this song isn’t good for your reputation, if you are a dude.

Sister Christian – Night Ranger

Another ‘80s rock ballad on my list, only because it over saturated the radio airwaves to such an extent when it was popular that I think it became a crime to be caught listening to it in public. And if I’m going to go to prison, it is not going to be for something that’s going to get beat up by the inmates and the guards.

Take it on the Run – REO Speedwagon

I was always afraid someone would hear it from a friend that heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend that I was listening to this song – but I’m over that now – there’s nothing to be ashamed of this is a good song.

Gypsies Tramps and Thieves – Cher

I don’t think Poppa would have shot me if he heard me listening to this song, but my peers may have called me something worse than a gypsy, tramp or thief for liking this Cher musical cautionary tale.

Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang

A collision of two styles – disco and rap – I couldn’t pull off either style separately, so you there was absolutely no chance of me embracing the two publicly and maintaining any level of coolness.  I enjoyed this song privately until the Rapping Granny came along and made it okay for people of all walks of life to listen and sing to this song.

*These songs are for educational and reference purposes only are performed and written by the credited artists.

Read more articles by Bob

 

It’s time for another semester of History class. Hopefully, you have taken the prerequisite – Songs from Your Parents’ or Grandparents’ Generation That Still Rock – ‘50s Version so you will fully benefit from this course.  Just like last time, this is not the boring school textbook History consisting of dry, lifeless dates and distant places you learn about in a classroom and will probably never use again outside of answering trivia questions to impress your friends. This is the more useful and entertaining musical history that will have a more lasting impression on your life.

This is our opportunity to do what Bruce Springsteen said two decades after the ‘60s – “We learned more from a three minute record Baby, than we ever learned in school.”  So sit back, turn up the volume, and let’s start learning.

Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin
Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones
Gloria – Them
Oh Darling – The Beatles
96 Tears – ? & the Mysterians
Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
All Along the Watch Tower – Jimi Hendrix
Light My Fire – The Doors
Runaway  – Del Shannon
Twist and Shout – Beatles version
Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Louie Louie -The Kingsmen
Sympathy for the Devil – Rolling Stones
House of the Rising Sun – Bob Dylan version
Twenty Five Miles – Edwin Starr
I Want You – The Beatles
Summertime Blues – Blue Cheer
Kozmic Blues – Janis Joplin
Time Has Come Today – Chambers Brothers
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You – Led Zeppelin
Hold On, I’m Comin’ – Sam and Dave
Try a Little Tenderness – Otis Redding
Baby Please Don’t Go – Them
You Really Got Me – The Kinks
Gimme  Some Lovin’ – Spencer Davis Group

*These songs are for educational and reference purposes only are performed and written by the credited artists.

Read more articles by Bobman

   

Take some time every now and then to learn a little history. Not the boring school type of history where you have to memorize dates and significant events that impacted your life in some way, but a more lively and entertaining musical history that may have impacted, inspired or influenced the music you listen to and enjoy today.

Don’t limit yourself only to what is currently offered on your radio station of choice. There are many great songs being released for the youth generation today and having teenage kids myself, I try to stay up to date with what is being marketed toward them via the top 40 radio stations they are listening to whenever we are in the car together. Although most of it is unimaginative and lacks creativity and energy (to my ears anyway), I still make it a point to listen. Occasionally, one of these songs raises its voice above the rest of the Xerox audio clutter spilling out of my car speakers and even ends up on my iPod for future enjoyment.

If I can look ahead and continue to find a common musical ground in the popular music of today, even at this stage of life far beyond my teenage years, then the younger generation should be able look back and sift through the music of yesterday and find some audio treasures sprinkled in with the carbon copy clutter of that era.

You may think that the music your parents grew up with is uncool or outdated and can be dismissed as something from a time long ago and far away that has no part in your life. Give it a listen every now and then. You may be surprised to find something you can tolerate or might even enjoy. So put your History textbook away and turn up the volume for a real History lesson. Here is a small sampling of some songs from your parents’ generation that still rock after all of these years.*

Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley and the Comets
Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis Presley version
Roll Over Beethoven – Chuck Berry
Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran
Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On – Jerry Lee Lewis
Rumble – Link Wray
At the Hop – Danny and the Juniors
Honky Tonk Part I – Bill Doggett
Shout – Isley Brothers
Rebel Rouser – Duane Eddy
What’d I Say – Ray Charles
Good Golly Miss Molly – Little Richard
Train Kept a Rollin’ – Johnny Burnette
Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley

*These songs are for educational and reference purposes only are performed and written by the credited artists.

Read more articles from Bobman

by Bob Langham

Being the introverted, passive spectator on the sidelines has given me the opportunity over the years to sit back and observe the behavior or misbehavior of multitudes of other parents and spectators from the recreational soccer level to the club soccer level. My observations have prompted me to make the following list of don’ts for all youth soccer parents and spectators. Read More

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