Sunday, January 4, 2009

Billy's Best Worst Wonderful Song Ever

Dancin' - Olivia Newton-John with The Tubes (mp3)

All of us have what gets called a "guilty pleasure," but sometimes our affection for a specific item transcends such a simplistic description. Sometimes we know how inexcusable it is to love something as much as we do, but holding onto that love is what helps remind us what love is about. This is to say, True Love is often indefensible and unreasonable.

I have just such a love for the song "Dancin'" from the Gawd-awful movie Xanadu.

My iTunes counter claims I've listened to "Dancin'" some three dozen times. I'd say I listen to it two or three times every month and have for years. Sure, there might have been a month or two in the last few years that I didn't listen to it. But there are other months -- particularly in the summer -- where I listen to it three times in a single day, my own version of how A Christmas Story runs for 24 consecutive hours on TBS.

"Dancin'" is the 1982 version of the Kitchen Sink song. They try and throw big bands, the sultry multi-tracked voice of Olivia, the pseudo-rugged rawk sound of The Tubes, complete with the hyper-dumbed-down "wanna get laid now now dear sweet Jesus right now" message, and the oh-so-delicious attempt to blend two seemingly disparate songs into a single unified collective. It's not just a duet of two voices; it's a duet of two whole songs.

"Dancin'" is by no means the first song to successfully do this. And I'm sure some listeners would happily argue that "successfully" is debatable. I can't deny a weakness for many of the aspects of the song, either. Olivia? Check! Songs about cheap sex? Check! Hand claps? Check! Harmonic "Ahhhs"? Check! The merging of this sonic melange into an over-produced assault? Abso-fuckin' check-lutely!

Loving the song still doesn't help me explain how it plays any part whatsoever in the movie. Then again, you'd be lucky to find five scenes in the movie that create any sense of cohesion. Xanadu is like Kentucky Fried Movie except with music, roller skates and almost no sense of humor. Which is to say, not good.

This song gets to the heart of the difference in mentality between the sexes when it comes to looking for a one-night stand. Or, well, it's how we think we think when it comes to one-night stands. Circa 1980.

You've got the female view. She's smooth and seductive and looking to ease your worries. Come to my lair because I can make the world disappear for a while... at least until the sun comes up in the morning and my makeup has worn off and I start talking about how much we have in common and yeah I know this started as a drunken sleepover but maybe just maybe we have enough that we should talk relationship and do I talk too much my last boyfriend said I do but he's an asshole not like you.

Then you've got the male. He's the moron who won't ask for directions when he's driving, who couldn't give one shit about whether the woman he sleeps with has an orgasm. He's that guy from the "Unforgivable" video that's on YouTube, just lookin' for a nut and some waffle fries.

Crappy lyrics. Cheesy guitar licks. Sometimes True Love cannot be broken down like some J. Evans Pritchard Scale that measures a song's greatness on certain qualities and then determines your affection. Sometimes it makes little to no sense.

So, until then, Olivia, you keep singin' in three-part harmony; and Tubes, you keep rawkin' in 1980s faux synthness; and I'll keep playing it on a regular basis to remind myself of the deeper meaning of love.

And cheap, meaningless sex.


Bob said...

It was better than I expected.

Billy said...

I think I once said the same thing about chitlins and about a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. Neither time did my comment translate into "I liked it."

Anonymous said...

Great when something long forgotten comes back to the fore... loved the Tubes when vinyl was king, recently sought out their catalog on CD, and somehow, thanks to a Google play-around, fell onto this little gem. Thanks Jeff!