Apr 052009

My significant other will tell you that I am a man of endless pet peeves. People who drive slow in the left lane. People who have tiny apartments always inviting you to a party there. DJs (not the Alan Freed kind).

At the risk of coming off as excessively curmudgeonly, I want to share one pet peeve has been bothering me more than the others lately.

So here it is: There are endless songs, almost an infinite number it would seem, that proclaim the dance floor as the ultimate spiritual salve. Don’t you know that getting on the dance floor will solve all your problems, Mr. Uptight?

Did you recently lose your job at GM? Well,then: “kick it out on the dance floor like you just don’t care” (REM). House foreclosed?: “Just dance, gonna be ok, just dance, spin that record babe” (Lady Gaga). Going through a painful divorce? Well: “I hope you dance” (Lee Ann Womack)

Enough already. This hippy sentimentality does nothing for me. A moratorium on songs suggesting dancing will solve your problems. It’s time for the truth. Lost your job at GM? “One Bourbon, one Scotch and one Beer…” House foreclosed? Don’t worry, we’ve got “Two More Bottles of Wine.” Going through a painful divorce? “Have a Drink on Me.”

Please help me compile a list of these songs with misguided dancing sentiments and suggest rock and roll drinking alternatives to them.


  27 Responses to “I don’t feel like dancin…”

  1. saturnismine

    so is it the songs urging us to dance that bugs you? or is it the notion that dancing is such a great thing that’s your beef? both? are you worried about whether or not you’re good at dancing?

    i can’t think of any suggestions yet. not fully awake.

  2. “everyone you meet, they’re jamming in the streets, all night long”
    -Lionel Ritchie

    I have no rocknroll drinking solution to this problem.

    I do have a problem with the idea that I should be able to dance/make love for 8 or more hours without drugs.

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    Brief thread hijack: I saw Lady Gaga “perform” on American Idol the other day, and had a “my GOD — does contemporary pop music suck *that* bad these days?” moment. I thought she was godawful — really, just downright, uh, stupid, at so many levels.

    Mod, I’m assuming you have no problem with songs that exhort people to dance when they’re feeling good. The Beach Boys’ “Dance, Dance, Dance” is one such.

    In the “dance to forget your troubles” category, there are a few Great ones. Probably my fave — and it’s absolutely brilliant — is Barry White’s “Let the Music Play.” What on Earth is wrong with wanting to escape the memory of a love that left you on the dance floor?

    Let the music play I just want to dance the night away
    Here –right here, right here’s where I’m gonna stay all night long.
    Let the music play, just until I feel this misery is gone
    Movin’, kickin’, groovin’
    Keep the music strong
    On and on.

    I’m out here dancin’ and still I can’t erase the things I feel
    The tender love we used to share seems like it’s no longer there
    I’ve got to hide what’s killin’ me inside

    Let the music play I just.want to dance the night away

    I think I’m gonna be alright
    If I can make it through the night

    I’ll just pretend she’s here with me
    I’ll close my eyes, her face I’ll see
    I know it’s make believe
    But it’s the only hope for me.

    Let the music play, I just want to dance the night away

  4. I’ve got no problem at all getting on the dance floor and getting down to a great song like “September” by Earth Wind and Fire or even “Dance Dance Dance”.

    I am trying to put my finger on exactly what bothers me here and I guess it’s this: The songs I mentioned try to invoke a spirituality that seems trite or unearned. They exhort you to dance to solve your spiritual problems, but it just sounds cliched. So I guess I am talking about those songs.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    Well, yeah, I agree that exhortations to “dance your troubles away” seem stupid and facile. But, as Barry teaches us, there are ways to describe the escapism of a good dance session that don’t sound idiotic. Perhaps the key is to be specific; to describe what the problem is and then how the dancing is necessary to make it better.

    Is that pipe tobacco I smell?

  6. BigSteve

    Dancing is a metaphor. In Dancing in the Street is signifies unity and racial harmony. In the Kinks’ Don’t Forget To Dance it represents the opposite of aging and melancholy.

    Of course, it’s a cliche to sing about dancing, but rock started out as dance music. In fact, all music started out as dance music. The dissociation of live music and dance is a very recent phenomenon. Now the association is between recorded music and dance, and it’s mediated by the DJ.

    There is a religious dimension to it, in the sense that dancing can put you in a trance state, but often the singer is just trying to get the dancers to temporarily forget their troubles. It took me a while to locate the relevant Bob Marley lyric:

    “You’re gonna dance to jah music, dance,
    We’re gonna dance to jah music, dance,

    Forget your troubles and dance,
    Forget your sorrows and dance,
    Forget your sickness and dance,
    Forget your weakness and dance.”

    This turns out to be from Them Belly Full. So dance is a response to hunger and also a call to revolution, because he’s calling into question the distribution of wealth.

    I was also reminded of this quote from Ezra Pound: “Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance… poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.”

  7. I have no problem with these theories. Still, that Lee Ann Womack song make my skin crawl.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    I totally get what Northvancoveman is getting at here, and I TOTALLY get the unlikelihood that getting on the dancefloor will ever solve my troubles. I’m such a bad dancer that getting on the dancefloor will likely add to my troubles.

    I do, however, dig the concept and metaphor of getting on the dancefloor and cutting loose. I’ve gone as far as write my own song in this vein. For me, even though I know I’m not literally going to do much dancing in this lifetime, the metaphor works in the context of song much better than if I wrote a song exhorting folks to, for instance, log onto Rock Town Hall and let their freak flag fly through these means. I don’t know, maybe I’ll try it someday.

    Finally, as a musician who truly desires to play music that makes people want to dance in whatever form works for them, there’s a selfish motivation to writing a song that encourages fans to dance and, in turn, inspire you, THE ARTIST, from his high perch on stage. We played Saturday night in a really nice club that, to our surprise, had tables in the main part of the floor! Playing to people seated at tables can be a challenge if you consider yourself a “dance band.” We managed and, luckily, our song that exhorts people to dance and set aside the in-depth analysis is from more of a stoner’s perspective and is directed at our own shortcomings as dancers/doers. It would have been a lot harder to play a real dance song, like “Dance to the Music,” in that setting.

    Because your topic is so good, though, Northvancoveman, and because I can empathize with your pet peeve, I’ll play along. Rather than “Dance Away” the heartache, as Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music encourage me, “I’m gonna stop wasting my time,” as Lou Reed more realistically summed things up.

  9. Ever have a conversation with a young white person with dreadlocks in which they try to “teach” you about their spirituality? That’s the way the songs I am describing make me feel.

  10. BigSteve

    I think the idea is that joining in the communal abandon of the dance-floor is a good way to overcome your inhibitions and self-consciousness. I don’t find it easy either, but the times I’ve been able to it was good for me. And I’ve got to say that back when I played in a band, I thought it was awesome that people danced when we played.

    Maybe part of the problem is that the exhortation to dance feels like a commercial. If you’re selling dance music, it’s in your interest to get people to buy into it.

  11. Good thoughts Big Steve,

    A guy once told me that the reason he didn’t like hippies is that they seem like salesmen.

    I guess I posted partly because I didn’t know why this was pissing me off. I am beginning to….

  12. Dancing looks kind of fun when other people are doing it but I just feel like an idiot when I get dragged out there.

    But enough about me…

    My well-intentioned fellow Townsfolk are not really answering the question and are turning this into some sort of self help symposium. You asked a simple question, here’s an answer:

    Dance the Night Away by Van Halen:
    “She’s on fire, ’cause dancin’ gets her higher than anything else she knows”

    Diving Duck Blues by Taj Mahal, Johnny Winter, etc:
    “If the river was whiskey, I would be a diving duck
    I would swim to the bottom and never come up…
    …If you were a good woman, I would never have to roam
    I’d give up drinking whiskey and I would always stay at home”

    But the bottom line is that you should really start listening to more old school country (especially George Jones).

    Just One More by George Jones:
    “Put the bottle on the table
    Let it stay there till I’m not able
    To see your face in every place that I go
    I’ve been sitting here so long
    Just remembering that you are gone
    Well, one more drink of wine
    Then if you’re still on my mind
    One drink, Just one more, and then another”

    Two Doors Down by Dwight Yokum:
    “…Two doors down there’s a barmaid
    That serves them real strong
    Hell, lately that’s how I make it through…
    …Two doors down there’s a bar stool that knows me by name
    And we sit here together and wait for you…”

  13. Prince, “Dance On”
    Grenade launcher roars in a television sky
    Tell me how many young brothers must die
    Dance on, dance on
    Dance on, dance on

    Hank Williams, “Tear in My Beer”
    Im gonna keep on sittin here
    Until I’m petrified.
    And then maybe these tears
    Will leave my eyes.

  14. hrrundivbakshi

    Now, see, that Prince example is interesting, in that I get the feeling he’s referring to “dance on” as, you know, what the world continues to do *despite* the urgent need to fix things.

  15. alexmagic

    The dance therapy song that I think carries the most weight is “Get Up Offa That Thing”, which exhorts one to “get up offa that thing/dance til you feel better/get up offa that thing/try to relieve the pressure.”

    JB’s take on the whole thing seems to have a much more physical therapy element to it than the spiritual healing songs that bother northvancoveman. The pressure that he wants to help the listener relieve could well be as down and dirty as a gastrointestinal problem that he thinks dancing could alleviate. Or maybe a stiff back.

    I also think it compares favorably to the Bee Gees’ stance in this area, as heard in “You Should Be Dancin'”. That ‘thing’ to which James Brown orders you to get up offa is probably your ass, which means he’s merely asking you to go from a seated position to dancing. The Gibbs, though, want you to go from being supine to dancing, which seems like a good way to injure yourself, if you ask me.

  16. In the way that people stand beside fat people in photos to make themselves look thin; I will invoke Rock’s biggest curmudgeon, Dave Thomas of Pere Ubu.

    After seeing something here I went back and found an interview I did with him. He had a great line: “I’m not into bands that have some dippy broad who’s into astrology and plants talking. I don’t want to know what she thinks, because it’s not much.”

    I hope you dance, Dave, I hope you dance..think about it man.

  17. saturnismine

    northvancoveman, one of those invocations to dance you might be thinking of is “boogie oogie oogie” by A Taste of Honey:

    “If you’re thinkin’ you’re too cool to boogie
    Boy oh boy have I got news for you
    Everybody here tonight must boogie
    Let me tell ya’ you are no exception to the rule

    Get on up on the floor….etc. etc….”

  18. saturnismine

    hey..what about Ian Curtis???

    “dance dance dance dance dance to the radio!!!!”

  19. BigSteve

    Yeah, being ordered to dance is not fun, especially if it’s Madonna doing the bossing:

    “And you can dance
    For inspiration
    Come on
    I’m waiting

    Get into the groove
    Boy you’ve got to prove
    Your love to me, yeah
    Get up on your feet, yeah
    Step to the beat
    Boy what will it be?”

  20. general slocum

    Last year I recorded a little song for fun, featuring a poem I wrote, which contained the couplet, “Let your body move to the music, feel your body groove to the music,” – of which I was understandably proud. I was then sued by 467 artists in 3 and a half days. I was so hurt, all I could do with the pain was dance. Dance the night away.

  21. Another question is, are lyrics about dancing (whether to have fun–fine) or to get rid of your troubles (I agree, really annoying) the single most common/overused image in pop music, or does it run a distant second or third to loving you forever or my woman who done me wrong? Answering that one would be a time-consuming project of data gathering, no doubt.

  22. How about the Leif Garrett masterpiece “I Was Made For Dancin'”??

    He may have been, but I on the other hand was not.

  23. dbuskirk

    The Gentrys Gents:

    I keep on dancin’ (keep on)
    Keep on doin’ the jerk right now
    Shake it, shake it, baby
    Come on & show me how you work

    Yellin’ in motion
    Keep on doin’ the locomotion, yeah
    Don’t worry, little babe
    Shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, yes!

    Keep on dancin’ & a-prancin’ (ah)
    Keep on dancin’ & a-prancin’ (ah)
    Keep on dancin’ & a-prancin’ (ah)

    (organ solo)

    (repeat whole song, but delete “right now” from line 2 of verse 1)

  24. Love that Gentry’s song. One of the all time great false endings in that one.

  25. 2000 Man

    While I certainly don’t excel on the dance floor, I still like to get sweaty and have convulsions at shows. I’m not so sure it’s dancing, it may be a fit of some kind, but enough cheap beer in me and I’ll at least twitch and spasm in my own way.

    The first dance song I thought of was that Phil Collins song – I Can’t Dance. Man, that’s pure ickiness.

    It makes me think of one of Lucero’s drinking songs, which is pure goodness:

    I’ll Just Fall

    I think I’ll stay right down here on this floor
    Cause if I get back up I’ll only fall down more
    It ain’t the liquor and it ain’t the beer that keeps me down
    It ain’t the sad songs or heartache it ain’t even this town

    Now I must’ve had a pretty good time to end up here
    Made a pretty good run it caught up with me my dear
    There’s no need to make a fuss cause I’ll be all right
    Just let me lay here a while ’til I can stand upright

    Now I’m just a little bit tired that’s all
    Don’t make me get back up cause I’ll just fall

    Please stop talking so loud and just let me sleep
    I ain’t in nobody’s way they can step over me
    Well I think I’ll just stay right down here on this floor
    Cause if I get back up I’ll only fall down some more

  26. Ah, 2000. Wish I could go with you on that Lucero lyric. I can’t really hear the words in their actual songs, but that sure sounds like what I thought they might be saying.

    Take a third Springsteen, a third Thorogood, and a third Americana mix. Add a dash of Miller Light and a bit of Goodyear Blimp and suit to taste.

  27. 2000 Man

    I think I mostly like the line, “I ain’t in nobody’s way, they can step over me.” It’s been awhile, but I’ve been there. My wife drags me out these days before I get too comfortable between the kitchen and the living room.

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