TEXTISM

In lieu of one of those despised Weblogs, Camille Paglia’s publisher uses crapola HTML to inform us of the authoress’s, nay, the World’s Top Ten Disco Classics.

I’ll be the judge of that.

1. Irene Cara, “Flashdance

What a difference 20 years makes. I didn’t even remember that it starts off as a sappy ballad. It could desperately use a 20% speed increase. (Play the 45 at 78, rather after the manner of John Peel?)

I saw this number interpreted onstage at the introduction party for the Macintosh in 1984 (!). It was held by the cheapest bastard in the country, who was somehow talked into spending more than a penny on promoting his computer store. (Anyone else have vestigial memories of Atlantis Microcomputer in Halifax? Well, I worked there.) Anyway, this New Agey chick, accompanied by what we would later come to know as her posse, did a whole dance number to “Flashdance,” complete with leggings, shoulder-length hair, and Bill the Cat–style legwarmers. You know, now that I think about it, that was pretty radical for Nova Scotia in the 1980s.

2. Donna Summer, “Rumour Has It
Spectral, angelic vocals that you just cannot understand. A lot of songs like that are lovely to listen to, but impossible to remember (Cocteau Twins, Delerium). A near-miss.
3. Jackie Moore, “This Time, Baby

Really, it’s a soul single, not disco.

4. Sylvester, “Stars

This one took a while to find. At a “Bohemian Rhapsody”–emasculating ten full minutes, it’s sort of its own remix, isn’t it? (Apparently there was a remix album of Stars.) Since half the lyrics seem to be a purring of the phrase “YOU… ARE A STAR,” the song seems to be an unheralded voguing precursor. (Or a precursor of that capoiera-like martial [“marital”] art practiced by the really butch numbers, kickvoguing.)

5. Lime, “Angel Eyes

An embarrassment. Any groove or momentum the song hoped to build up gets shot in the foot every time Denis Page opens his mouth. And you need groove in a disco single.

He sounds gay. Can he ever not sing. And can he ever not project. The croaking of a toad would project better than Page’s voice, which is overly deep in a grating and unpalatable way.

And those utterly insipid synthesizer lines. Yuck.

6. Machine, “There But For the Grace of God

I like the chorus of voices that work together in this one. The BPM is the sort that lends itself to dancing in place, or perhaps just cycling an arm around while standing still and looking fabulous. The utterly ridiculous synthesized organs are not quite the gay organs I know and love so much, but they’ve got a good buildup to a crescendo halfway through the song.

However, is the song’s purpose – quick biographical sketches of gritty ’70s life – really working here, though? (“Now they gotta split ’cause the Bronx ain’t fit for a kid to grow up in. ‘Let’s find a place,’ they say, ‘somewhere far away, with no blacks, no Jews and no gays.’ ”) It’s a fine tradition in pop music (“The Message,” half of the Blondie œuvre, “Ends”), but the song needs to be twice as long, with twice as much detail. In other words, “More! more! more!”

7. Evelyn “Champagne” King, “Shame

The kind of hearty song you’d hear at the roller disco. Is that not in fact where it was played on Tales of the City?

If saxophonism is the sort of characteristic that drives the haters to burn disco LPs in a pyre, well, toss another “Shame” on the Barbie.

8. Pamela Stanley, “Coming Out of Hiding

The pleasure in this one is Stanley’s chorus in near-falsetto. She was really pushing her vocal limits, and sincerity is making her do it. Nice to reacquaint oneself with… once or twice.

9. Gloria Estefan’s cover of Vickie Sue Robinson’s “Turn the Beat Around

I’ve loved the original from the moment I heard it, which was quite possibly when it first came out. The flow is unbeatable, and the violins kill you. You can listen to it all day: While putting these together, iTunes ran and reran various remixes and I barely noticed the repetition.

It’s almost a children’s song, with the onomatopœic mimicking of musical instruments, tempting Robinson to jam too many syllables into too few beats. (This is surely the only dance single in human history to include the phrase “syncopated rhythm.”) Is this song a contradiction in terms, a disco single it is impossible to dance to?

Paglia’s preferred estefanism adds nothing of note.

10. Madonna, “Deeper and Deeper

A beautifully-carved cube of quartz that re-accuses her father of molesting her. Just reading the title makes me think of übercreepy Udo Kier in the excellent music video.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.05.11 18:42. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
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