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[Comments] (11) Song & Dance: In the early days of rock 'n' roll[0], songs and dances were package deals. Every band had one or more songs that was just an excuse to do the corresponding dance. The song talked about nothing but how great the dance was, and sometimes told you how to do it. I don't know if the dances were invented to go along with the songs, or if dances spread through a different medium, and bands wrote songs to cash in on a dance craze.

You don't see this much anymore. I'm actually kind of glad, because I think those songs are generally pretty lousy. From a memetics standpoint, I do like the idea of a song just being an advertisement for some accessory to the song.

[0] Maybe earlier, too? I can't think of any jazz era dances that correspond to specific songs.

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Posted by Brendan at Sat Mar 05 2005 11:59

Well, you had the Macarena and the Electric Slide in the 90s, but dances done by bands or artists who actually dance are too complicated to easily reproduce now. I think the advertising aspect has transmuted to straight product placement--eg advertising a tourist city[0] or style of athletic shoes[1].

[0] Will Smith, "Miami."
[1] Nelly, "Air Force Ones."

Posted by jcoab brenendes at Sat Mar 05 2005 14:03

there were dance crazes before the rock and roll era, but they didn't have specific songs- if you were a society person of a certain standing, it was expected that you would know the latest dances-- fox trot, rhumba, cha cha, etc.. often the corresponding dance was listed on the record. the modern dance craze began with the twist, which was a dance so simple that i feel people needed to be convinced that they could just do this one movement, and it would be ok. the twist was a sensation for more than a year (evinced by "let's twist again"), and when other dance songs tried to take it's place they were met with marginal success-- too convoluted, and also too silly. in the past few years there have been some great reggae songs about dances that are largely pantomime for real-world activities. the biggest hit was "signal the plane". i think this is a really good tack for dance craze songs in the future. reggae = the future. ok, i just woke up. sorry for the infoblast.

Posted by Brian Danger Hicks at Sat Mar 05 2005 14:23

You forgot the Humpty Hump.

Also, I notice that the remember this information thing for posting comments claims my name is Brian Danger+Hicks instead of Brian Danger Hicks. I presume it would also render Seth David+Schoen, which makes this a high-priority bug.

Posted by Nick Moffitt at Sat Mar 05 2005 14:29

The dance-instruction-song thing probably comes from the fact that early rock'n'roll was an attempt to transmute R&B into something for middle class white teenagers who probably only knew ballroom dancing if that. If you use the early medium to teach them *how to dance* then eventually it becomes self-perpetuating.

What I don't particularly like are the arena rock songs *about rock and roll in general* or the disco songs *about dancing in general*. Of course, I don't like those genres even when they sing about something meaningful.

Posted by Leonard at Sat Mar 05 2005 15:02

The Humpty Hump was interesting because it was the first song I know of that tried to *enforce* the song/dance bundling, using a primitive form of memetic DRM. "Do not do the Humpty Hump in conjunction with other songs! 'The Humpty Dance' is your chance to do the hump!"

Posted by Brian Danger Hicks at Sat Mar 05 2005 15:38

I never did the Humpty Hump with any other songs. That would've voided the warranty.

(Well, I never actually did the Humpty Hump, but it's a better comment if I don't bring that up. Oh, whoops.)

Posted by unclepedro at Sat Mar 05 2005 16:01

There is a cd out there of mostly forgotten indie funk from the 70s called "The Funky 16 Corners" which is highly recommended (by me). Anyway, on that disc, there is a song called "The Kick" which combines the dance craze song with the "kids, don't do drugs" song. It's actually a pretty rad song.

Posted by Riana at Sat Mar 05 2005 16:56

I'm going to mention "The Time Warp" only because I hope that it will dislodge "The Macarena" from my head.

Posted by Pthag at Sun Mar 06 2005 17:58

Hello, it's the person who none of you people who are all related and meet in meatspace frequently know again. I do remember downloading an old Jazz Age song called "The Wobbly Walk", although it had... a nonstandard spelling. I forget what website I downloaded it from, and damned if I can find it anymore. It was from the forties, I think. The fragments of lyrics I can remember follow:
"...wiggle your shoulders, ... knees/Scatter your fingers [up] in the breeze ... Stand up and holler... Woah-oh! That's the Wobbly Walk!/ Like a wavy ocean, [get] that motion ... to the left, to the right ..."

The meanings of this heavily caesura'd text are lost to Posterity. It is believed to be a dance appeasing Poseidon, though this is a mere conjecture.

Posted by adam p. at Sun Mar 06 2005 20:14

Don't forget the Dismemberment Plan's "Doing the Standing Still."

Posted by nutella at Wed Mar 09 2005 16:55

How about "Doin' the Pigeon"?


The Monster Mash

The Funky Gibbon

It looks as if Swing might be another entrant in the pre R'n'R theme dancing styles, e.g. the Arthur Murray Shag



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