This is really depressing.
After blogging five of the arguably best known one-hit wonders of the 80s, I was set to kick off a slew of fairly obscure songs. These little-known tracks would allow me to let my id run free. Like onions, I’d slice off one layer at a time, delving into the minutiae of each, as I unearthed themes, motifs, and heretofore unknown nuggets of wisdom hidden inside these gems, like so many diamonds inside lumps of coal.
And the first track I start with is an incredible disappointment.
I had a passing familiarity with “The Politics of Dancing,” derived mainly from the chorus. Therefore, I was convinced it was some kind of stealth gay rights anthem. That somehow the song suggested there was, in fact, politics – or rather the advancement of a civil rights agenda – in the relatively benign act of dancing.
If there is a political bent to the lyrics, it’s at the high school level of rhetoric: all fire and no lucidity.
Honestly, with a few tweaks, it really could have weight. In fact, just switch two stanzas, and you’ve got a pretty powerful statement. Instead of:
We got the message
I heard it on the airwaves
Are now DJs
You swap those last two lines so “the DJs/are now politicians” and you’ve really got something. Otherwise, you’ve got this image of Ted Kennedy behind the wheels of steel saying “Ahd lahke to dehdicate this sahng to Brad Dehlp, who rahcked so successfully as a paht ahf Bahston ahl those yea-ahs.”
In all fairness to my point of view, it appears that I’m not the only one to consider it. According to Wikipedia, there’s a film called Edge of Seventeen that includes this song on its soundtrack. The film is about “a gay teenager finds out who he is and what he wants, who his friends are, and who loves him.” Take out the word “gay” and that’s pretty much every John Hughes film ever made. But whatever. Someone else feels this song has resonance as a gay rights anthem. We are an army of two.
Here’s what’s really sad though: this song was the band’s only hit. In fact, they recorded another album, but it was never actually released. I can’t even find a picture of the band to post here. Little surprise since the band didn’t think enough of itself to capitalize its name.
Plus, they got beat out by Shalamar’s “Dancing in the Sheets” for a spot on the Footloose soundtrack. If there was ever a film that begged for a song that spoke of a crossroads between politics and dancing, this was it. But no dice.
There’s probably some notion of sexual politics at play here, but I’m too irritated to even consider it at this point. On the other hand, if I somehow found myself at Roscoe’s and this song came on, I would totally dance to it. It’s got that beat that even white people can groove to. So if nothing else, it’s got that going for it.