Disco: It’s Back! (Did It Ever Leave?)

Having bare-knuckled my way through the era of disco . . .

Oh, who am I kidding? I didn’t simply squeak through the years of flashing multicolored dance floors, electronic beats, spinning mirrored balls, bell bottoms, and Stayin’ Alive dance moves, I was part of the whole shebang.

  • I watched American Bandstand each Saturday and tried to emulate the funky moves of the dancers.
  • I dropped quarters into the school’s jukebox at lunchtime to hear Kool & The Gang’s latest.
  • I roller-skated — happily — to “Disco Duck.”
  • I purchased records by Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, and Peaches & Herb.
  • I learned the lyrics to “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” “Le Freak,” and “Funkytown.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I was drenched in disco. I’m not proud, but at least I’m honest.

Yet I considered my short-lived days of disco behind me — largely a long-lost memory, except for the occasional appearance of “Shake Your Groove Thing” or “You Should Be Dancin'” on my iPod shuffle playlist.

Until recently. When I turned on the radio in my car. And I suddenly hailed back to another childhood memory, a phrase such radio songs called to mind:

Poltergeist - Carol Anne
“They’re ba-ack!”

It’s not my imagination. Having lived through the disco years, I recognize the sounds, the beats, the music that begs a younger John Travolta to show off his moves. The first one I heard was this:

Now tell me, couldn’t Earth, Wind & Fire have sung that song? Then, more recently, this song came on my radio:

(Note: I edited out the first few seconds of this video to keep my blog PG. If you follow the link to the whole video, you will encounter profanity. Just a heads-up.)

Bruno Mars admits this is disco with the golden mirrored ball, plus I’m pretty sure he also stole some dance moves from The Jackson 5.

I don’t know why I’m surprised. From time to time, I’ve heard disco tunes. (“Groove Is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite, anyone?) And every era rehashes some old territory, right? It’s the reason why Stray Cats mesmerized me and made my father think, “Yeah, so?” He’d already heard that music as a teen. Sure, it was great. But not nearly so fresh as I thought.

Regardless, good music is good music. Old and new artists can deliver wonderful music in essentially the same genre. So even though I know it’s disco, I can’t help but tap my feet and shake my booty when a good dancing song comes on.

If disco is really back, go ahead and grab the mirrored ball. Why not take one small turn on the dance floor?

ROW80 Update

And now here are my writing moves for the last week! I’m involved in A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, and following is my weekly update.

1. Read 12 books. I’ve been slow this week, taking my time with book #4 on my list. It’s  a marvelous read, though — the classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Also, if you’re looking for examples of well-written setting descriptions, they are here in spades. Half done.

2. Complete two drafts of short stories. No, didn’t happen. Not done.

3. Take care of ROW80 sponsor responsibilities. Last week, I said that I tend to check on participants’ Sundays updates and wanted to visit blogs on Wednesdays too. I did manage to check on the Wednesday progress reports, but this time I missed Sunday. Even so, done.

4. Edit at least once through Good & Guilty, young adult mystery. Edited another 44 pages, which is far behind my expectation of finishing the whole manuscript this past week. But I’m probably still on track with this goal, because I only have 67 pages left to read and edit. So I guess I’ll call this one done.

What do you think? Is disco back? What other disco-sounding tunes have you heard? Do you notice other musical forms from the past showing up in current music? And how was your week?

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Jess’s Playlist and ROW80

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I toss out a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. 

I have a special place in my heart for those who introduce me to wonderful music. I don’t just listen to music; I soak it up through my pores and into my veins and let it swirl around and awaken my senses. Yeah, I love music.

Jess Witkins
Jess

So when Jess Witkins, my fabulous author friend (and DFW Writer’s Conference roomie), asked for suggestions for her Ultimate Mix Tape, I was totally in. I love sharing some of my faves with others and discovering what musical treasures others have found. Jess drew some winners from her experiment, and I was among them, getting to post on her blog about my guilty pleasure and receiving two “mix tape” CDs from Jess.

Today I want to share my Top 10 Favorites that Jess in turn introduced me to through listening to her mix tapes. Maybe you’ll find something you like here too.

Anything Could Happen – Ellie Goulding

Wild Young Hearts – Noisettes

Me after You – Maia Sharp

Stompa – Serena Ryder

Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – Emilie-Claire Barlow

Angels – Lindi Ortega

You and Me – Sara Watkins

Jolene – Mindy Smith

All for You – Imelda May

Amen – Edens Edge

Thanks, Jess! You’re awesome.

ROW80 Round 2

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Participants set their own goals and report at least weekly (or twice weekly) on their progress. Round 2 runs from April 1 through June 20.

I have 10 goals this round–broken into three categories.

Reading

  • Read 8 fiction books.
  • Read one craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson.
  • Visit and comment on ROW80 blogs as a Round 2 sponsor.

Writing/Editing

  • Finish writing BREAKING THE COMMANDMENTS, YA mystery.
  • Complete first round of edits of BREAKING THE COMMANDMENTS.
  • Write one short story.
  • Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit.

Additional Goals

  • Exercise twice a week.
  • Prepare for and attend DFW Conference in May.
  • Prepare for and attend Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson in June.

This past week, I wrote 10,930 words on Breaking the Commandments.

So what new music discoveries have you made? Do you like to share your new finds with others? And are you participating in Round 2 of ROW80?

Swooning Just a Bit

Even though I have been known to click on Roni Loren’s Boyfriend of the Week posts, I don’t generally ogle celebrity men or think about whom I find attractive or appealing. When asked which celebs are hot, I often draw a big blank and have to think really hard to come up with some names. It may be boring, but I consider my husband hot and I don’t much think about anyone else.

But voices?

That’s what gets me. I get big ol’ crushes on certain male singers’ voices! Something about their tone, smoothness, roughness, or pitch can curl my toes and make me happy that God created the opposite sex. And who are these phenoms that put me in a goose-pimply, snuggle-up-with-my-honey mood?

Here are my votes, which also display my eclectic music taste:

Dean Martin. A silky voice and a casual flair marked Dean Martin’s songs. This member of the Rat Pack has even been called the King of Cool. Thankfully, Martin recorded a LOT of love songs, such as Ain’t That a Kick in the Head, Return to Me, Everybody Loves
Somebody
, and That’s Amoré. (Note: In the video below, Dean tells jokes for a while and then starts singing around the 2-minute mark.)

Elvis Presley. I know I’m not alone in this one and maybe it’s predictable, but Elvis had a wonderful singing voice which he paired with oomph that made a lot of girls squeal with delight. I do not squeal, but I can’t listen to Teddy Bear, All Shook Up, or Can’t Help Falling in Love without feeling a little heady.

Robert Plant. The lead singer of Led Zeppelin had a distinctive and intense voice. I liken him to a male version of Janis Joplin, giving it everything he has in the hard songs and playing with the slow ones. It’s a toss-up for me on whether Plant sounds better with
something like Whole Lotta Love or D’yer Maker. Then again, Fool in the Rain and Black Dog can’t be beat.

David Lee Roth. Another hard rocker, the original lead singer of Van Halen has a playboy singing style (and the lifestyle to go along). His Just a Gigolo/Ain’t Got Nobody
covers demonstrates that! But he sounds best to me when he’s singing You Really Got Me,
Unchained, or Pretty Woman. The jump kick is a bonus, right?

John Mellencamp. When this country boy came on the rock scene, he sneaked in to my radio with Jack & Diane. But Cougar turned Mellencamp ended up having a cat-scratchy voice that clawed its way into hit after hit. I love the way he delivers the lyric “Some people . . . say I’m obnoxious, and lazy; I’m uneducated; my opinion means nothin’. But I know I’m a real good dancer.” Try out Crumblin’ Down or Lonely Ol’ Night.

Lenny Kravitz. I first heard Lenny Kravitz singing Let Love Rule, and I was hooked. Soulful, hard-rocking, and edgy, his voice can fill a room. Some of his songs are not my cup of tea, but I definitely like Fly Away and Are You Gonna Go My Way.

Josh Turner. This country singer has an unbelievable range, singing tenor and bass equally well. Maybe it’s the smoothness in which he sings or the way his voice sounds soooo manly when it dips down in the low register, but whatever it is, I like it. From
Firecracker to Why Don’t We Just Dance, every time I hear his voice on the radio, I
crank it up. I especially enjoy Your Man.

I should be clear: I don’t want to do anything with these guys. I’m not attracted to them physically. In fact, some of them are not attractive. I just swoon when they sing!

How about you? Do you find yourself attracted to certain voices? Who do you think is a sexy singer?

Top 10 Silly But We-Love-Em Songs

For today’s Deep-Fried Friday, the topic is not so much deep as just juicy. Paul McCartney declared, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs,” but we haven’t. Indeed, we can’t get enough of silly songs, period.

Since I love making lists, today I’m giving you my list of incredibly silly songs that we listen to anyway. To make my Top 10 (or so – I’m not a mathematician, I’m a writer), the song had to meet my criteria.

1. It made it to Billboard‘s Top 5 in its day – meaning that quite a few people liked it. While I personally adore “I Eat Cannibals” by Total Coelo and “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon, they didn’t have enough fans like me to make it onto the list.

2. I could find a video of it on YouTube – So sorry, but Rose Royce’s #1 hit “Car Wash” did not make the list; no quality video. I want to take the readers back down Memory Lane and share the song, in case our recall fails us or we simply want to hear it again.

3. At least one stanza or chorus of lyrics is completely silly, even if the rhyming is clever. I wavered on whether “Walk Like an Egyptian” by Bangles was silly enough, so it didn’t make my list.

4. It isn’t by the Beatles. Yes, I know that you can find “Yellow Submarine” on others’ lists, but I refuse to group the Fab Four with some of the following artists. In fact, I loved their movie by the same name!

So here is my list of music at its silliest and best.

10. Muskrat Love by Captain & Tennille (Billboard #4, September 25, 1976). A song about muskrats falling in love. It was cute. It was stupid. It was a hit.

Silly Lyrics: “Now, he’s ticklin’ her fancy; Rubbin’ her toes
Muzzle to muzzle; Now anything goes as they wriggle
Sue starts to giggle.”

9. Pop Muzik by M (#1, August 11, 1979). Shooby-dooby-doo-wop, this was a pointless song which was fun nonetheless. I remember seeing the music video of this song, but I don’t know where because MTV premiered in 1981. I can’t explain the misspelling of music, though I suppose it does make the title memorable.

Silly Lyrics: “Let’s do the milkshake; You’re selling like a hot cake
Try some, buy some; Fee fi fo fum.”

8. Ballroom Blitz by Sweet (#5, June 14,1975). This song is so fun that it was covered by Krokus in the 1980’s, and that’s the version I had on my Sony Walkman cassette player in college. It’s a song about a bar fight, more beautifully called a “ballroom blitz.”

Silly Lyrics: “Oh yeah, it was electric, so frightfully hectic
And the band started leaving, ’cause they all stopped breathing.”

7. The Streak by Ray Stevens (#1, April 13, 1974). Ray Stevens was a musician and comedian whose recording of “The Streak” made us all say, “Don’t look, Ethel!” This was also the same year that actor David Niven’s presentation of an Oscar award was interrupted by a streaker on stage, to which Niven brilliantly quipped, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”

Updated Video Version from Ray Stevens

Silly Lyrics: “Oh, yes, they call him the Streak
He likes to show off his physique
If there’s an audience to be found, He’ll be streakin’ around
Invitin’ public critique.”

6. The Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley (#1, June 1958 -pre-Billboard’s Hot 100). One-horned, one-eyed, and flying, that purple people eater was Wooley’s way of parodying the science fiction flicks of the day. Oddly enough, my son went to a camp last year in which his team was named the Flying Purple People Eaters. Now that’s a silly song that has lasted.

Silly Lyrics: “Well I saw the thing comin’ out of the sky
It had the one long horn and one big eye
I commenced to shakin’ and I said ooh-eee
It looks like a purple eater to me”

5. Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas (#1, October 12, 1974). My husband might not think this is silly (he’s a David Carradine/Kung Fu series fan). But a song about kung fu? Remember that this was released long before there was a martial arts studio on every corner or any Karate Kid movies.

Silly Lyrics: “They were funky China men from funky Chinatown
They were chopping them up and they were chopping them down.”

4. Safety Dance by Men Without Hats (#3, June 25, 1983). What the heck is a safety dance? I still don’t know. But Dr. Turk from “Scrubs” did; he sang the song on the show.

Silly Lyrics: “And we can dress real neat from our hats to our feet
And surprise ’em with the victory cry.”

3. Mickey by Toni Basil (#1, September 4, 1982). The song is definitely shallow, but it’s the video with Toni and her cheerleader squad that takes the cake on this one.

Silly Lyrics: “Oh Mickey, you’re so fine
You’re so fine, you blow my mind
Hey, Mickey! Hey, Mickey!”

2. I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred (#1, February 8, 1992). Wow, we actually catapulted this lame song to Numero Uno! Does that mean we’re all egotistic enough that we loved singing along with “I’m too sexy for my shirt”? We are a sexy bunch, aren’t we? Not so much this guy, though.

Silly Lyrics: “I’m too sexy for my shirt
Too sexy for my shirts
So sexy it hurts.”

1a. Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini by Brian Hyland (#1, July 4, 1960). The best part of this song is the background singers. I swear to you that I have never owned an itsy bitsy bikini of any pattern, and if I did, the people around would sing “Get Back” by the Beatles instead.

Silly Lyrics: “Two three four
Tell the people what she wore
It was an Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”

1b. YMCA by The Village People (#2, October 21, 1978). If I had predicted that a song by men dressed as workers, a cowboy, and a Native American (what was that about?) would record a song about your local community center and it would become a number two hit, you would have called me loony at the least. But here you go! And there are arm movements to the song, which we all know and do whenever the song comes on.

Silly Lyrics: “It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A.
It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A.”

If you paid attention to dates, you’ll see that eight of my songs range from the ten-year period of 1974-1983. Either those songs struck a chord with me because that decade was during my growing-up years or we were especially silly at that time. Who knows!

What other silly songs about stupid things were fun and popular? What are your favorites?

Word Weaver, Sandra Boynton

Sandra Boynton with her chickens

If you’ve never heard of Sandra Boynton, you are missing out.  Most parents have either seen Boynton’s children books or heard her CDs.  She has also designed numerous greeting cards.  What I love most, though, are her songs.  Here’s a woman who has beautifully combined her eclectic taste in music with a love of language and a big dose of good ole fashioned silliness.   

I hereby nominate Ms. Boynton for my own Word Weaver Award (in the category of lyrics): 

Word Weaver Award

When Ms. Boynton came out with her acclaimed book and music CD, The Philadelphia Chickens, I bought it at the recommendation of a friend.  After which I had to go back and purchase Rhinoceros Tap and next Dog Train.  I haven’t acquired her latest music CD, Blue Moo, although I’m assured it’s a must-have. 

Ms. Boynton teamed up with Michael Ford on these CDs to produce high quality, fun music with great lyrics sung by a wide range of entertainers – including The Bacon Brothers, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, Laura Linney, Patti LuPone, Scott Bakula, Meryl Streep, The Spin Doctors, Alison Krauss, John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting, Hootie & the Blowish, Neil Sedaka, and Brian Wilson. 

One of my personal favorites is Kevin Kline singing Busy, Busy, Busy.  What do you think? (Okay, wanting to scream. Link doesn’t work because Franklin Covey Planners bought the rights to the video to demonstrate something about time management to corporate people. Ugh. My kids loved that video.)

I contend that lovers of language of all ages – from child to geezer – can enjoy the lyrics and music woven by Boynton and sung by a slew of the talented performers. 

Here are a few more: 

Davy Jones of the Monkees singing Your Personal Penguin

 B.B. King singing One Shoe Blues

Adam Bryant singing The Shortest Song in the Universe

If you’re looking for some language and music fun for your kids (or just you), I highly recommend Sandra Boynton’s CD’s.  Of course, her books and cards are fun too. 

Do you have any favorites of hers?  What other singers or composers have music aimed at children that even adults will love?  Who would you nominate as a brilliant Word Weaver?