The B-52’s 1980 single “Private Idaho” made Pitchfork’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs from Punk to Present,” present being 2006. In his capsule review, Nitsuh Abebe wrote “Those who dismiss the B-52’s as silly or kitschy should live in fear of the frenzied last half-minute, which sounds like it’s out to track those people down, lock them up in cages, and make them go-go dance until they cry for mercy.”
Every Friday, Tunes du Jour tries to make you dance to welcome in the weekend. This week’s dance playlist kicks off with The B-52’s’ “Private Idaho,” featuring the vocals of Fred Schneider, who turns 65 today. (By the way, the B-52’s first performed in Idaho in 2011.)
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On the night of December 31, 1977, Grace Jones rang in the new year with a performance at New York City’s Studio 54. She invited Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the band Chic, whose hits such as “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” were often played at the club, to catch her show. The guys went to the stage door, where the doorman told them to “Fuck off!” They went to the front entrance and told the doorman there they were personal guests of Jones. The doorman told them they weren’t on the list and refused them admission. Though all dressed up, they went back to the apartment where Nile was then staying. Several bottles of champagne and a little cocaine later, the two musicians started jamming on a song they improvised, inspired by the first doorman. “Awww, fuck off – fuck Studio 54 – fuck off.”
Bernard was impressed with the riff they created, though both knew they wouldn’t get radio airplay for a song that went “fuck off.” (How times have changed!) They changed “fuck” to “freak,” though “freak off” sounded lame. Then Bernard suggested changing “off” to “out.” Nile responded “Like…when you’re out on the dance floor losing it, you know you’re freaking out,” to which Bernard replied “Yeah, plus they have that new dance called ‘the Freak.’”
“Le Freak” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1978. In December it hit #1, though it got knocked from the top a week later by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” One week later “Le Freak” went back to #1, but one week after that it got knocked out by Bee Gees’ “Too Much Heaven.” Two weeks later “Le Freak” returned to #1, staying on top for four more weeks. It went on to sell approximately twelve million units worldwide, becoming the best-selling record ever for Atlantic Records.
In 1979 “Le Freak” was included on a compilation album entitled A Night at Studio 54.
All sorts of freaks and monsters will be out today/tonight for Halloween. This week’s dance party is inspired by the holiday.
Today’s dance playlist kicks off with Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” It was on this day in 1984 that Jackson swept the Grammy Awards, winning Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance for Thriller, Record of the Year and Best Rock Vocal Performance for “Beat It,” Best R&B Song and Best R&B Vocal performance for “Billie Jean” and Best Recording for Children for E.T., the Extraterrestrial. By the time the awards were presented Thriller had already been certified as the largest-selling album of all-time and received a record-setting twelve Grammy nominations. It would also smash the record for most top ten singles generated from one album by producing seven such smashes, three more than the previous record, held by Off the Wall, the previous album by Jackson. Prior to his Grammy victories that night thirty years ago, Jackson had won only one Grammy – Best R&B Performance for Off the Wall’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” With Thriller, Jackson also broke the perceived racial barrier on MTV, whose programming predominately featured white acts until “Billie Jean” proved to be an across-the-board smash.
Do you have a Thriller inside of you? It might be an album or an app or a blog post that brings joy to many. It might be an idea or a message that millions of people could get behind. It might be a business plan that changes the landscape. Carve out some time to work on your Thriller.
In the meantime, dance!