Inspired by the January 28 birthdays of Rakim, Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon, Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs, Gene McFadden and Steps’ Lee Latchford-Evans; and the January 29 birthdays of Tommy Ramone, Bettye LaVette, Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame and Adam Lambert.
Tag Archives: Eric B. & Rakim
If you’re like me, you woke up at 2:17 AM last night, wondering if any animals besides humans can dance, and then you had trouble falling back asleep. If this sounds like you, I suggest you seek therapy. If you’re in L.A., please pass on to me the name of your doctor.
I Googled “Can animals dance?”. I read about a sea lion who loves to shake it to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland.” That doesn’t prove anything. Only a corpse wouldn’t move to that song.
A neuroscientist at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California discovered that parrots and elephants can dance, but other animals cannot. He defines dance as a natural untrained reaction to music involving moving to the beat. By that definition, most humans can’t dance, either. I know. I’ve been to straight weddings.
The Week reported that scientists found that bees, cockatoos, peacock spiders, dung beetles, manikin birds and freshwater algae can dance. First off, I didn’t know algae was an animal. Secondly, doesn’t algae merely move along with the ebb and flow of the tide? By that definition, everyone’s a good dancer, even attendees at straight weddings.
Looking at dancing animals on YouTube was a depressing experience. I’m sure that sea lion at Sea World doing the “Thriller” moves would rather be in his native habitat than forced to do Michael Jackson impersonations for crowds that pay way too much money, none of which the sea lion sees. The moves probably didn’t come naturally to him. Had he been asked, I’m sure he would’ve said “No, I’m not going to be your monkey.”
Speaking of monkeys, the Daily Mail reported that bonobos like to dance to very fast music. The article was accompanied by several photos of polar bears striking Saturday Night Fever poses. Polar bears are classified as an endangered species, so I can see their concern with stayin’ alive stayin’ alive. Still, I wouldn’t confuse them for bonobos. I know a bear when I see one. I’ve been to gay weddings.
I saw a video of a cockatoo dancing to Backstreet Boys. There’s no accounting for taste, but I must admit, the moves were good. Not Michael Jackson good, but if that is the standard, then no animals can dance. By that measurement, most humans can’t dance. Most Jacksons can’t dance.
Today is the birthday of Michael Jackson’s older sisters, Rebbie and LaToya, not particularly good dancers from any video evidence I’ve seen. Rebbie had a hit song called “Centipede.” I’ve read nothing in my research about whether or not centipedes can dance, but I doubt they can, given they have fifty left feet.
Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. All animals are welcome to participate, whether human or centipede (though please don’t bring up The Human Centipede.)
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Jody Watley is more of a trailblazer than you may realize.
She debuted as a Soul Train dancer at 14, where she amassed many fans due to her fashion sense and her dance style, called waacking, described on her web-site as a “beat-driven cousin of voguing.” She told DiscoMusic.com that she remembers those days fondly. “The Soul Train era was a lot of fun. It’s where I received my diva training in working the camera, giving attitude and ‘working it!’ All of the gay boys on the show taught me well!”
In 1977 she became a member of the music trio Shalamar, with whom she remained until 1983. The group landed hits on the pop, r&b and dance charts with “The Second Time Around,” “Dead Giveaway,” “Make That Move,” “A Night to Remember,” “Full of Fire” and “Right in the Socket.”
In 1984 she participated in the recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” She and Robert “Kool” Bell of Kool & the Gang were the only American performers in Band Aid.
Her self-titled solo debut album was released in 1986. It produced five charted singles – “Don’t You Want Me,” “”Some Kind of Lover,” “Still a Thrill,” “Most of All,” and the classic “Looking For A New Love,” which gave us the catch-phrase “Hasta la vista, baby,” later used by Tone-Loc in “Wild Thing” and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. She co-wrote all but three songs on the album, including its three top ten pop singles.
That album won Jody the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, nearly a decade after her first hit as part of Shalamar.
The music videos for “Most of All” and “Real Love,” the first single from her second solo album, were directed by David Fincher, director of the films Gone Girl, The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Zodiac and Se7en. The “Real Love” video received six MTV Video Award nominations.
The follow-up to the “Real Love” single, which hit #2, was another top ten pop hit. “Friends” was groundbreaking in that it was the first crossover hit to which a rapper, in this case Rakim, added an original verse. This formula became and remains very popular, to the extent that in 2002 the Grammy Awards added a Rap/Sung category.
That song’s music video was radical as well. In it, Jody and Rakim perform for a multicultural crowd that includes people of different races, sexual orientations and gender expressions, but not in a way that appears pandering to her base.
In 1994, Jody had a dance hit with an original song entitled “When a Man Loves a Woman.” In the UK re-edits of the song were released. “When a Man Loves a Man” was a big hit in gay clubs there. (There was also a “When a Woman Loves a Woman” mix.)
Said Jody to DiscoMusic.com, “I appreciate my gay fan base so much… I’m told they admire my individuality, style, and inner strength to persevere. I’ve also been told that my songs have helped people come out to their families or go through break ups. I’m always humbled.”
In 2004, four years before Prop 8 became a Prop, city officials in San Francisco issued about 4000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Jody Watley was there to serenade the newlyweds. (The California Supreme Court ordered the city to cease marrying same-sex partners in March 2004.)
Today Tunes du Jour celebrates the 56th birthday of Jody Watley by peppering our weekly dance playlist with some of her finest moments.
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There was an article on the site Gawker yesterday about a woman named Zoe Fennessy who, when she hears the music of Ne-Yo, “freezes up and begins vomiting uncontrollably.” You may say the same thing happens to you when you listen to Nickelback, but Ms. Fennessy’s reaction to Ne-Yo’s music is due to a rare medical condition called musicogenic epilepsy.
Some of you may be saying “Who’s Ne-Yo? Is he/she/they someone whose music gets played a lot?” The answer is, apparently. Since his first hit in 2006 (“So Sick,” which went to #1 on the US and UK pop charts), Ne-Yo has had 17 top forty hits on the US pop chart and a half-dozen more on the r&b chart. He has had just as many hits in the UK, where Fennessy lives.
Ne-Yo isn’t the only artist to cause seizures in people with this condition. Around ten years ago there was a report of a six-month-old who had seizures when she heard The Beatles. The Beatles! That shit ain’t right, yo. One may get a reaction from all classical music, another from the lower notes played on a brass instrument.
The reactions people with the condition have vary as well. Some have convulsions, others become incontinent, and others become incredibly sleepy.
Ms. Fennessy had part of her brain removed to try and cure the problem, but the operation was not a success. She still needs to steer clear of Ne-Yo’s music.
Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour, and if Ms. Fennessy is reading, she’ll be happy to know there is no Ne-Yo on today’s playlist, which kicks off with the Jason Nevins remix of “It’s Like That” by Run-D.M.C., whose Joseph “Run” Simmons turns 50 today.
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Last week I regaled an audience with the story of the time I accidentally hired a prostitute to show me around Prague. These things happen. To me, anyway.
Half-glass-full guy that I am, once I realized what I did, I looked at the positive – I hired a prostitute to show me around Prague! Complications arose when the police got involved and I had to explain to my bank why they needed to credit that charge.
Though I ended up sightseeing that spectacular city on my own, I got a great story out of the trip. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, but you make the best of the situation and try to turn it into a positive.
Someday I’ll talk about the time I boarded a bus in Mexico to go on what I thought was a nature trip to the hot springs. Let’s just say I don’t think the springs got any hotter than they did that night.
In 1987, two bands, both interested in making a dance record, got together in the studio at the suggestion of the head of their record label, 4AD. Colourbox and A R Kane didn’t hit it off, so each worked on their own track, which they then turned over to the other group to embellish.
Colourbox came up with “Pump up the Volume,” its title line sampled from Eric B & Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul.” A R Kane added some guitar to the track, and DJs CJ Macintosh and Dave Dorrell added a bunch of samples.
The record was released under the name M|A|R|R|S. “Pump up the Volume” became a worldwide smash and was groundbreaking in its use of samples on a British house track.
Though the idea of a true collaboration between the two bands didn’t come to fruition, and the acts didn’t get along and never worked together again, they did produce a dance classic. “Pump up the Volume” kicks off today’s dance playlist. Have a great weekend and before you buy anything, make sure you know exactly what it is you are paying for.
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Ten Facts About Grandmaster & Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” | It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!
Ten Facts about Grandmaster & Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)”
1. Yes, the word “don’t” is repeated in the parenthetical.
2. Melle Mel was the most prominent rapper in Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Grandmaster Flash was the DJ, not a rapper.
3. Though credited to Grandmaster & Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash does not appear on “White Lines,” nor did he appear on the classic “The Message” (“it’s like a jungle sometimes / It makes me wonder how I keep from going under”). Forced out of the group that bore his name, Flash sued Melle Mel and their label, Sugarhill Records, over the use of his name to sell records, the result of which was the odd artist credit on the “White Lines” single.
4. Flash heard “White lines,” about the dangers of cocaine addiction, while on his way to buy crack.
5. Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel reunited in 1987 at a charity concert hosted by Paul Simon.
6. The bassline was lifted from Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern.”
7. The record credits Melle Mel and Sylvia Robinson as the song’s writers. Robinson was the head of Sugarhill Records. Previously, she had a hit in 1973 with “Pillow Talk,” a song she wrote for Al Green, who declined to record it, and as one-half of Mickey & Sylvia, she took the classic ”Love is Strange” to #11 in 1957.
8. The lyrics include a reference to car manufacturer John DeLorean (“A businessman is caught with 24 kilos”). In 1982 the FBI arrested DeLorean for purchasing 24 kilos of coke. The song compares his fate (“He’s out on bail and out of jail”) with that of an inner city youth (“A street kid gets arrested, gonna do some time. He got out three years from now just to commit more crime.”).
9. An unofficial music video for the song was directed by an NYU student named Spike Lee. It starred Laurence Fishburne, the actor who at that time was playing Cowboy Curtis on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
10. The record hit the top ten on the US dance chart in 1983. It kicks off Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party.
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On July 4, 1982, I went with my then-friend Robin to see Diana Ross in concert at Giants Stadium. I hadn’t been to the stadium before, but I figured on a typical day it was about a half hour drive from my home in New Jersey. As this was a holiday, I assumed there would be a lot of traffic, so I allowed for extra travel time. I didn’t want to be late.
We got to Giants Stadium five hours before show time. We parked right by the stadium entrance, went in, and found our seats. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we tanned as we waited for others to join us.
After a few hours other people showed up. The stadium was mostly full when the first opening act took to the stage. The band’s lead singer introduced them. “We’re Frankie Beverly and Maze for all you white people who don’t know who we are because you don’t listen to black music.” He sure knew how to charm an audience and win over new fans! I was momentarily ashamed that I spent my money to see and hear the white music of Diana Ross.
After Maze, Miles Davis performed. Would it have killed him to finish writing the songs before he came out? And hello, the audience is over here, not behind the curtain.
While Davis was playing, the couple sitting next to my then-friend Robin and me snorted cocaine. I’d never seen anyone do that before. They left after Davis finished, skipping the Diana Ross show altogether. That’s all I needed to see to keep me from ever doing coke. I don’t ever want to get to a point where I lose control over my thoughts and whereabouts and miss Miss Ross.
Finally, the main event. Diana Ross. Live. She performed all her big solo hits, except “Love Hangover,” and 30+ years later that still irks me. She did a medley of Supremes hits. She changed her clothes a few times. It was great!
Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour, and while I could open today’s playlist with “Love Hangover” (Why, Miss Ross, why didn’t you preform that song???), I’m going to go with a more traditional 4th of July choice, James Brown’s “Living in America,” one of the very few Brown hits that the man neither wrote nor produced. Happy holiday!
“Today is Grandmaster Flash’s birthday and schools are closed. Thank you, President Obama.”
– Chris Rock
My plan was to write a post about how great “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” is, but the website Songfacts expressed it perfectly, so I’ll reprint what they wrote:
Folks born after the dawn of Hip-Hop will probably read about this song, listen to it, and wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, it’s just a bunch of dance songs mixed together, and it’s kind of a harsh mix. The big deal is that it was the first song ever made by chopping up pieces of other songs and connecting them in a way to create a new track. It introduced sampling, and spotlighted the cutting and scratching techniques that were the hallmarks of early Hip Hop. Today, any kid can easily make something like this with software that probably came preloaded on his computer, but in 1981, it required 2 turntables and some serious beatmixing skills. Grandmaster Flash was a DJ, not a rapper, and he had been performing in New York city since 1976, often as the entertainment at parties. His art was in figuring out how to mix songs together using their breakbeats, so the music would keep going. He was also one of the first to do scratching, which was moving the record back and forth on the turntable, which made the transitions a lot easier.
There was no editing on this track – Grandmaster Flash did it live in the studio after mapping out his cuts. He would put marks on the labels of his records so he would know when to bring the next one in, which is something he learned playing years of parties. It took him a few takes to get all his cues in the right place, but the end result at the time sounded like perfection. In the era of remixing and editing, every beat can be scrutinized and altered, but considering what Flash accomplished with what he had to work with, it was remarkable and extraordinary. It also demonstrated what you would hear at one of his live performances.
Today’s playlist is inspired by this old school hip-hop classic.
Today’s dance playlist ain’t for everybody – just the sexy people. It kicks off with “Jungle Love” by The Time, whose lead singer, Morris Day, turns 56 today.