Monday, July 29, 2013

Dancin' Wild

There are some dance songs which introduce a new dance, from "The Twist" to... um, "The Harlem Shake," if you can call such convulsions a "dance."

Then there are some dance tracks that simply encourage dancing in general, like the Drifter's "Dance With Me" or David Bowie's "Let's Dance." This is one of the latter kind.

"Dancin' Wild" may have fewer ideas in one 2-minute-20-second span than any other song Simon wrote. This is not a judgement-- many of the best songs are mindless. It is simply a fact. Simon would sometimes revisit this free-wheeling, bop-'til-you-drop style of songwriting, mostly notably in "We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin'."

The first verse, I kid you not, goes:
"Oo-la-la, you my baby
Well, oo-la-la, don't mean maybe
Oo-la-la, drive me crazy
When you're dancin' wild with me-ee."

This is repeated several times, and then the verse's melody is la-la-la'd at least twice to boot, plus there's a guitar solo. Yet, there is still room for some lyrics in the verses: "Dancin' wild, we'll do the apple jack/ Drop your shoes on the floor till we get back."

Before it was a kid's cereal, and after it was a form of hard cider, the term "apple jack" referred to a dance. It is a line dance, not unlike the electric slide. It involves a series of shuffling, cross-over, and hopping steps done facing one direction, then a 90-degree turn, then the same steps again, until the song ends (there is an instructional video on YouTube).

The next verse is: "At night, we crash the party down the block/ We learned this crazy step the kids all rock." The verb tenses make it hard to know if the apple jack is the "step" in question, since they seem to have known it since the previous verse. Probably, it's a different dance. The apple jack isn't much "crazier" than the average country two-step.

The last verse is perhaps the most 1950's element of the song, starting: "The clock says now it's time that you gotta go." When was the last time a dance song obeyed a curfew? Even Bill Haley could "rock" all the way "around the clock" a few years prior, in 1955, or at least "'Til broad daylight."

The song ends: "There's only one thing more that you must know/ I love you so." This confession of love is sung solo, without the music, in a very low register, and almost seems... shy. This is very endearing, since until now, the speaker was interested in "wild" dancing, party crashing, and being with a girl who drove him "crazy."

She's a lot of fun, but still a good girl who goes home when it's time to. After many a "wild" night, he realizes what a gem he has on his hands... and works up the guts to tell her she has won his heart. Good for him.

Musical Note: This was the B-side, when "Hey Schoolgirl" was released as a single.

Next Song: Don't Say Goodbye


  1. Hi!

    I'd like to take the opportunity to thank you for this blog. Thank you!

    I discovered this blog about year ago, when I moved to another city (in this case Gothenburg). In the beginning I did not have so many friends there, and no job, so practically all I did was wander through town with my headphones on listening to S&G, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. They were my friends there for a while, made me more and more sure that I had done the right thing even though it was hard at the moment.

    And this blog was certainly a key. It shone a light on the questions about the S&G-songs and helped clear up things I had thought about in Graceland and Rhythm Of The Saints.

    I must admit I skipped most of the reviews of the songs featured in Capeman, except The Vampires and Adios Hermanos. But I admire the dedication to get every last one of those rascals on print.

    Then I didn't look at it for a while, until this March, as I was travelling in Nepal. I had just bought Surprise and You're The One, and they stood out there and then as two of his best albums in latter years.

    So yeah, thanks for the thoughts and ideas on how he might or might not have thought when he wrote what he wrote.

    Do you know if Paul have seen this? He should.

    I cheered when he got the Polar Prize Award last year, by the way.

    Greetings from Sweden,

    Arvid Svenske

  2. Well, you are almost as well-traveled as Simon himself! I'm so glad my blog helped you understand Simon's songs-- that's why I do this. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts. You never know when you throw something at the Internet where it will land. My wife has been to Stockholm and loved it-- maybe I will go too, someday. I understand not reading through all of the Capeman songs; maybe someday there will be a DVD of the performance and we can all appreciate it.
    As for Paul having seen this, I have no idea. The only clue I have is that I praised the song "Spirit Voices" from Rhythm of the Saints, and got the comment: "Thank you." So who knows?

  3. Oh, and your comment came at a very good time. I had a disagreement with my boss today about how I handled a rude author who insisted I review her book (I work for a community newspaper), and tomorrow I am going to a funeral. Reading your comment made me feel much better!