Monday, October 28, 2013

Get Up and Do the Wobble

Earlier, we discussed "Dancin' Wild," which was about dancing in general, only mentioning the 'Applejack' step in passing. Here, we have Simon trying to come up with a new dance like the Twist, the Mashed Potato, the Pony, and so on. We think.

People haven't stopped trying to create new dance crazes, either. Before the Twist, there were the Foxtrot, the Lindy Hop, and the dance that gave New York the nickname The Big Apple. In pop alone, we've had everything from the Locomotion to the Macarena to the Harlem Shake since the 1950s. Once we can safely generate anti-gravity fields, all bets are off...

So, what is the Wobble, and how is it done? We never find out!

The problem is, the speaker can't find anyone on the dance floor to teach the dance to. He starts earnestly enough, calling: "Hey, get up! Get up and do the Wobble/ Oh, won't you you please/ Do the Wobble with me/ It's so easy to do/ Let me teach it to you."

But then-- no takers! The dance floor is already jammed with other acts performing their dance songs. "Dee Dee Sharp's doing that mashed potato," for one. Her song was called "Mashed Potato Time"; the dancer doing the Mashed Potato puts the ball of his foot down on an imaginary potato and mimes mashing it by twisting his foot. The step is not unlike someone grinding out a cigarette on the pavement with his shoe.

Next, the song refers to the long-running TV show American Bandstand. Hosted (from 1956 to 1989!) by perennial teenager Dick Clark, it featured several bands performing live, in turn, to a roomful of teenage dancers. Tom and Jerry themselves were on this show, performing "Hey Schoolgirl."

"Tune into Bandstand, tell me what you see?/ All the kids are dancing to 'Wha-Watusi'." That song went to #2 and stayed on the charts for three or four months. The Orlons performed it originally, but it was covered by everyone from Chubby Checker and Smokey Robinson to The Isley Brothers and even Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. Its dance was called the Watusi, and it's a poor approximation of a Hawaiian hula dance. (The actual Watusi are now called the Tutsi; they are an African tribe who we can safely assume dances nothing like this.)

Our speaker, meanwhile, remains partner-less: "Everybody's dancing they're as happy as can be/ There's nobody left to do the wobble with me." How sad!

He continues to list who else is doing what step: "Little Eva's is doing that Locomotion." Little Eva was Carole King's babysitter, and of course Carole King was one of the major songwriters of the era, ensconced in the Brill Building circle to which Simon aspired. Never has a babysitter had such great tip as when Eva's boss offered her her own massive hit!

Next is Chubby Checker (whose stage name was coined in homage to Fats Domino!). His dance hit, The Twist, is so popular is doesn't even need to be mentioned in this song. Last is someone named Little Joey, probably meaning Little Joey Farr, a doo-wop singer.

Since the speaker has no one to teach the Wobble to, he ends up simply lamenting his fate and teaching it to no one. Not even the listener! And so The Wobble is the dance craze that no one remembers... because it never even existed.

Turns out, it was only a way to name-check other dances, much like the songs "Land of a Thousand Dances" (the Pony, Boney Maroni, Alligator, Watusi, and Jerk) and "Shake a Tail Feather," (The Twist, Fly, Swim, Bird, Duck, Monkey, Watusi, Mashed Potato, Boogaloo, and Boney Maroni)...

...with a dash of the lonely-boy abandonment we have seen in several other early Simon songs thus far. Everyone else has a dance hit already, so what's the point of his trying for one? Just like the kid in the song with no one to teach the Wobble.

Some credit this song to "Tico," which is odd since Simon wasn't necessarily Tico in Tico and the Triumphs; it does not seem to be Simon on lead vocals, at that. Others credit it to Jerry Landis, and it appears on several Tom & Jerry and Jerry Landis compilations.

Next Song: Cry, Little Boy, Cry


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