According to television commercials, the #1 movie in America is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Kill Me Now.
According to television commercials, the #1 movie in America is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Kill Me Now.
For the 7th month in a row the #1 search term used to reach my website is "baby boomer music playlist" and the most viewed page (by a big margin) is "The Music" page. This is encouraging. Looks to me like there are lots o' folks out there planning dance parties.
I did a Google search of my own and saw "10 Essential Boomer Albums" come up in the results, linked to the AARP website. Intrigued, I checked it out. Unlike the usual "top Nth Boomer songs/albums/yaddayaddayadda" lists which are invariably compiled by a young hipster who in the recent past would have worked at a gritty used vinyl store, but who now blogs semi-professionally since the record store went out of business, the list on the AARP website was actually pretty decent. Of course, it's impossible to create THE list of essential albums because there are just too many great albums, but this list included Beatles/Sgt. Pepper, Stones/Exile on Main St., Marvin Gaye/What's Goin' On, Carole King/Tapestry, Stevie Wonder/Innervisions, Eagles Greatest Hits...even a Zep album! All excellent albums. Every last one!
On each one of them is one very "dancible" tune. This is not criticism. These were giants of music, not dance bands. Even the Beatles, who started out as a club/dance band eventually reached a higher astral plane creating highly imaginative, groundbreaking, brilliant concepts like Magical Mystery Tour or Sgt. Pepper that were absent of any dance tunes whatsoever. They are still my favorite band of all time, so there.
So keep searching my friends. The boomer dance tunes are out there.
Coming off my stint at teaching Samba at a dance party I have had time to reflect on a lifetime of popular dance. Being a DJ specializing in boomer-era music I have seen a range from my earliest memories of the twist and the nameless slow dances of the late fifties through the last decade.
I know that the music today still inspires dance steps, but as I have stated throughout this website, not my tempo, not my era. I would look silly and feel silly. It's like the elderly actress who performs Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" in the pivotal moment in Adam Sandler's "The Wedding Singer." Sure she can do it, but it was entertaining in the same way a bear on a unicycle is entertaining. I'm glad the dance floor didn't fill with elderly people doin' the Shizz, the Cat Daddy, the John Wall, the Wobble, or the Dougie.
Yes, those are all real dances and if Google can be believed, they are all hot in 2014. You don't know about them if you are a boomer because you probably don't listen to rap or dubstep. That's okay. Your parents probably hated Elvis and thought rock and roll was Satan's secret plan for world domination. Time passes. Out with the old, in with the new. Someday something with eclipse rap and who knows, maybe partner dancing will return.
...and I am the King of Hungary.
Ha! Crackin' myself up today. My point, and I do have one around here somewhere, is that there are a large number of dance steps that are endangered species. They are at risk of falling off the "Youtube Collective Visual Memory" meaning that you can't enter a dance step into Youtube search and get results that include the actual dance step. There will be results, but they are not correct, but instead reflect the most recent interpretation.
I searched for Shingaling. Popular dance in the late sixties. Similar in context to the Boogaloo. The names alone suggest that dance was changing and incorporating more urban elements. Plenty of results are returned by the search, but video of the steps...the actual steps...not someone doing something that they have decided to call Shingaling? No. There are music clips that capture the tunes. There is a great tune called "Hong Kong Shingaling by Ray Lugo & the Boogaloo Destroyers (sounds promising, right?) Alas...no. In fact, there is not a single authentic performance of the Shingaling to be found in the results. Same for Boogaloo. You would think there would be archival Soul Train footage. Something. But no. Entertaining? Yes, but not the authentic dances from the sixties.
Imagine you are fourteen years old and doing a research project for school on "The Shingaling." Because the link below is attached to such a funny, clever video it comes up high in the search results. Lots and lots of other kids have "liked it" on facebook, so it MUST be the real thing. (but it isn't)
This is education in the era of "searching...it's the new learn!"
I noticed the same thing when I was searching for episodes of "The Avengers" TV show from the sixties. Type in "The Avengers and you get 20 pages of the Marvel comic book-turned-cinema-franchise. In time, even searches on John Steed or Emma Peele may only return results from the really awful film in the 90's. An entire post-millennial generation will believe that Uma Thurman is the definitive Emma Peele.
So, better start archiving video of the Frug, Boney Maroney, and Watusi now before they are replaced by something called Frug, Watusi, etc., but share nothing in common except the name.
Last Friday I taught Samba at a Friday Night TGIF and dance party.
I am not an expert, but the alternative was to cancel the dance party after the scheduled dance instructor became unavailable.
Samba music is very sexy. Very intimate. No, not the frenetic version performed by women in outfits consisting of feathers and a thong in Rio during Carnival. The version I taught was partner Samba that is considered "low Samba" in Brazil. It isn't the over-the-top "ballroom-dance-as-personality-disorder" you see on "Dancing With the C-List Stars." Tamer, but more real. More romantic.
My inspiration for teaching goes back to last New Year's Eve. It was about 11pm and after a series of uptempo tunes the dance floor was empty as the boomer audience had to catch it's breath and a cocktail. An older man came up and requested "Girl From Ipanema," the classic 1964 Samba by Stan Getz with Astrud Giberto. Perfect! Classy! Excellent tempo to start a rebuilding set.
He walked over to the young wife of one of the attendees who was seated at a table next to the dance floor and although I couldn't hear, I could see him beckon to the dance floor and take her hand as though this was a smokey little tango bar in Buenos Aires. She was dressed in a very slinky, stylish dress that was perfectly suited for the time, place, and tune. Sadly, while she looked fabulous, she was clearly not comfortable with the 2/4 time signature of the Samba, and for the duration it was all she could do to keep her large dance partner from crushing her feet. Alas...
Since that night I have wanted to do something with Samba music and an instructor to fill in the missing piece in boomer dance repertoires. There is just too much good boomer samba out there to ignore it. Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66+, Quincy Jones! Stan Getz. Jobim! Even Sinatra recorded a number of very hot, very cool Samba tunes, all of which hold up magically over the years.
And what happens if you tweak Samba by speeding it up a little and changing the emphasis? You get....wait for it...Bossa Nova, which is not a dance, it's a style, so don't try to find it on YouTube because there is no standard set of steps, unlike Samba.
So while Elvis tore up the screen to "Bossa Nova Baby" in 1963's "Fun in Acapulco" and Eydie Gorme blamed it "on the Bossa Nova" the fact is, you are free to shake it any way you can/want, because there isn't any dance called "Bossa Nova."
If the next time you hear Mas Que Nada, or "Girl From Ipanema" or "One Note Samba" (you know the tune, you just have never known the title) and you find yourself exiting the dance floor because the tempo is decidely Samba-esque and well, you don't know how to dance to Samba rhythm, think of me. My wife thinks I am the coolest thing since canned spinach now that I can Samba. The couples that learned Samba the other night, they will RULE the dance floor as they sway as one while lesser mortals watch enviously from their tables. I love my life!
Cinco de Mayo parties are fairly predictable. Most clients request some appropriately latin- inspired music for attendees to enjoy while snacking on nachos and mini-tacos and slurping down margaritas and Pacificos. After dinner, it's dance time, so break out the dance music, and be sure to include the classics. La Bamba (of course,) Tequila (naturally,) Come a Little Bit Closer (okay) and El Paso (No. request all you want, but you can't dance to it.)
This last Cince de Mayo I made an interesting observation: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass are awesome! You MUST include their music at your next Cinco de Mayo party. Holy crap...they had a dozen huge hits, and even if you play the B-side songs, it is all pure gold. Trust me, Boomers in attendance will look up, smile and say "God, I love that song (I haven't heard it in years!") Seriously, you never hear Herb Alpert on radio...even those "oldies" stations (because "oldies these days means "80's and 90's.")
The bouncy upbeat stuff is immediately recognizable to everyone over 50. You remember "The Lonely Bull" and "Tijuana Taxi."
But do you remember "Green Peppers?" ...or "Bittersweet Samba?" ...and what about "Peanuts?" You will find yourself doing a goofy dance and snapping your fingers...like your parents probably did. Mine did. Jesus, it was embarrassing!
But the slow songs...madre de dios! These were MADE to dance to, so grab that someone and fall in love all over to "Ladyfingers." An achingly, hauntingly beautiful, solitary trumpet song, so sweet, so romantic... it is making my eyes well up even as I type this. This is the trumpet sibling of Santana's "Samba pa Ti." Even on a crowded dance floor, it is an intimate, soulful song that sets it apart from other "slow songs." I have added Ladyfingers to all of my playlists.
By the way, someone will probably protest that Santana is the voice (well, guitar) of Baby Boomer music. Don't get me wrong, I worship Carlos Santana and his groundbreaking music from the 60's. The later stuff, with the Mahavishnu Orchestra...less so. Santana Abraxas...oh god yes! Santana at Montreux 2004? Um...no, a different Santana...a "Jazz" Santana. I don't really synch up with Santana again until "Supernatural." He is a boomer era legend, like Clapton, McCartney, and the Stones. But the stuff they record now doesn't have that young, lean & hungry, ass-kicking quality that their early stuff showcased. And yes, I will admit that even Herb Alpert's recent work is too jazzy for me to warm too. Such is life...or to quote a George Harrison album title, "All Things Must Pass."
Yes. I will take requests. I won't play most of them, but I am forever amazed by the songs that people will come up and request.
I was going to put up a list, but I realized that I would probably just piss people off more tha amuse them. But seriously....some of these requests are SO ridiculous that I can't believe it.
Imagine that we are somewhere in the second hour of a smokin' dance party and everyone is pretty well liquored up. The dance floor has been packed for the last 3 songs and someone walks up and asks if I can play:
In the Year 2525 (Zager and Evans)
Guantanamera (The Sandpipers)
Alley Cat (Bent Fabric)
Big John (Jimmy Dean)
Anything by Ray Stevens, but especially Ahab the Arab
Tears in Heaven (Eric Clapton)
A Walk in the Black Forest (Horst Jankoski)
Mr. Bojangles (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band or Sammy Davis Jr.)
Anyone of these songs has the capability to clear the dance floor. So...no, I am not going to play them. No.
No no no. Go away. Seek help. No.
The final list contains tracks from the seventies, many of which are classified as "disco." Disco gets a lot of knocks, mainly because of the excesses it spawned. I mean..."Disco Duck" and the "Theme from Star Wars?" Who can forget the"Andrea True Connection?" And frankly, I still have problems appreciating the Bee Gees. (It's the nasal falsetto.)
The fact is, Disco got Americans up and dancing again. You didn't have to wear a white leisure suit or ridiculously high platform shoes. And the line dancing and overly complicated partner dancing? You could ignore it and still have a great time.
There were some great dance tunes between 1970 and 1977. The list below contains the sure-thing dance tunes.
Okay, obviously this list could be MUCH larger. No Bee Gees? None of the ballad tunes like "I Will Survive" or Rick James. Yeah, I know. Disco is dangerous because it can wander over into the "camp / parody" side of the street so easily, like anything from the Village People or Andy Gibb. And ABBA? What was that? Anyway, not a problem if you are presenting a "disco-themed" party, but disco was an era of truly wretched musical excess, so unless your group are all liquored up, too much disco, or disco up front...might as well put on Barbara Streisand or Boxcar Willie.
In Part 1 you probably learned nothing that you didn't already know. This part contains the objective of your search...some of the best dancing tunes of our generation. The fifties weren't really our generation's music. The Boomer generation only officially started in 1946, so in the late fifties even the earliest boomers were only 14, maybe 16 years old. The music you danced to at the high school and college...it was sixties music, and later boomers were dancing in the late sixties and seventies. Yes...disco!
This is the top 25. The golden 25. Please, don't play them in the order in which they appear. I do entire 3 hour dance parties around Motown, British Invasion, Beach/Car Music, and Funk/Soul. The tracks below are plucked from those categories.
I swear, if you play these in the order they are listed...the floor will only be populated by drunks. It's like cooking...it isn't the ingredients...it's the way you combine them. And when. And that's why you hire me! ha!
In the last section I'll show you the later boomer era hits from my playlists.
The #1 most frequently used "Search" term that people are using to find my website...by a HUGE margin is "baby boomer playlist." There are a dozen variations on that, including "boomer dance music" and "baby boom song list." They all seem to be looking for one thing: the essential dance tunes. I don't mean listening tunes. I mean the tunes that get people on the dance floor.
Keep in mind that even the best tunes need a little "context." There is a start, a middle, and an end to every dance party. There are slow tunes that tend to exclude singles because, well, you don't want to be dancing to a smoldering slow tune with a married colleague or neighbor. If the room is too brightly lit, some dancers are inhibited and may sit out even the best tunes. Save the funky stuff until you have a few bodies up and dancing...stick with the "gateway" tunes to start...tunes that are familiar and...well...beloved.
That said, here are my recommendations. They are guaranteed to get a reaction and if the crowd is primarily boomer-aged, they will hit the floor without an elevated blood-alcohol level.
One other thing...there are distinct sub-groups in Baby Boomer dance music. The holy trinity are 1) late 50s, 2) 60's, and 70's up to classic disco. Those groups make more sense than "Motown, Funk/Soul, and what I like to call (snob alert) "Happy Days" which is late 50's sock-hop music that has been famous in movies, most notably "American Graffiti." (A GREAT movie!) Real 50's music is a different animal. All partner dancing, vocalist-heavy tunes that are great over dinner, good used sparringly, but otherwise will drive people right off the dance floor. Pronto, Tonto. Early and mid-50's is good enough for pledge night on KQED, but no...not in your playlist!
Late 50's (The Golden Age of dance-worthy Elvis)
In Part 2 I will cover the "heavy lifter" tunes that are the core of a Boomer Dance party...the incredible explosion that was the Sixties.
As always, if you don't agree with my list...go out and make your own.
Just read this morning that there is a slew of proposed legislation in Congress dealing with privacy privacy disclosure requirements for commercial websites. I guess that would include me.
One proposal limits how many characters can be used to explain the policy. I know that they mean well, but damn, what's next...which fonts can be used?
[Disclaimer:] I find the recent overturning of an important part of the Civil Rights Act just as scary as the recent disclosure that the government that I voted for is eavesdropping on just about anything they feel like. All day. Every day.
As a child of the 60's, a decade of protest and civil rights activism, I am concerned. Not concerned enough to join the GOP and try to restore the United States of the 1950s, but concerned nonetheless.
I don't collect anything. I therefore have nothing of value to share with financial, marketing, social networking, or any other agency or organization. I log in once a month to see which key words are used to find my website, and I can also see which search engines have pointed the curious in my direction. Oddly enough, aside from Google (naturally) the overwhelming number of search engines are all in Russia. I am guessing they are searching for weaknesses in my website that they can exploit for names, email addresses, or credit cards. Sorry comrades. Don't have any of that in my website. Just good music and fun ideas.
It also occurred to me that now that I have added juicy terms like "Russia" and "GOP" to a blog page I will see the number of hits increase dramatically as the NSA and Russian intelligence try to figure out the obviously encrypted meaning behind words like "Boogaloo" or "Watusi."
Here is my salute to world series fever. Okay, it's true...I am not a huge baseball fan, but John Fogarty's "Centerfield" from 1985 ("Put me in coach...") reminds me why baseball is an enduring piece of American culture that will never fade.
Some people think that "Bull Durham" is the greatest baseball movie ever. I respectfully disagree. The clip below combines Fogarty's anthem with the climax from Robert Redford's "The Natural." Ignore the lame first 1 minute and seconds or so of visuals. You will love the ending.
Now, crank up the volume. Click the video. Enjoy. (Go Giants!)
Caught the Contra Costa-based Damn Dirty Apes band at Handles Brew Pub in Pleasanton on a recent saturday night. Handles is located in what used to be the bar of the Pleasanton Hotel & Restaurant on Main St. The new owners spent a chunk of money renovating the building, and nowhere was the renovation more badly needed than the bar, which was a dark musty cave with too many tufted vinyl chairs. Trapped in the sixties...and not in a good way.
The DDA play straight-ahead rock and roll classics and have a great deal of fun doing it. This is the real deal, so if you are waiting for the usual wedding reception band blah blah blah, you're out of luck. This is good time party-rock. Jeans, tee-shirts and sneakers, and enough big heaping sets of AC/DC, Tom Petty, Grand Funk Railroad, to get your feet moving on the dance floor.
DDA is blessed with three strong guitars, an obvious asset for a band that plays this genre of music. No over-indulgent extended solos to slow things down. Steve Chapman's lead guitar work and strong vocals will resonate with baby boomers. Craig Lyons' (guitarist and lead vocals) is at his best on the Tom Petty tunes. His powerful, versatile voice on "American Girl" was a high-point of the night.
Setting the DDA apart from other classic rock bands is keyboard player and vocalist Charlotte Stephens. Charlotte channels Pat Benetar and Joan Jett like she was born to it, and her background, or should I say "co-vocals" with lead guitarist Steve Chapman add a richness that takes the music up several notches. Did I mention she also plays a mean harmonica?
Enthroned behind the "wall of guitarists" is Charlotte's hub and my boss, Mike Stephens. His drumming style is punchy, precise, and energetic. You can tell he is having fun, and his energy and personality reach all the way to the far side of the dance floor. Mike and bass guitarist Dave Mercurio team up to pound out an infectious rythym from the first tune to the last.
From the opening bars of "We're an American Band" you will feel like you are back at that dive bar on First Street. Without the cigarette smoke. They will be playing Handles in Pleasanton again on December 15th.
For great musicianship, a solid playlist of classic rock, and an overall good time, check out the Damn Dirty Apes.
Here is a link to their webpage: http://www.damndirtyapesband.com/index.htm
When I was in my teens and twenties, oldies were tunes from the fiftes. Bill Haley & the Comets. Elvis. Jerry Lee Lewis. Even back then,oldies were associated with poodle skirts, bobby-socks, and bouffant hairdos. "Oldies" was NOT the term used to describe the vocalists on Ed Sullivan at the end of the 50's until the venerable show was eventually was canceled. Bobby Darin, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme, Tony Bennett, Patsy Cline, Goulet, Connie Francis, Sammy Davis Jr., ...in fact, the entire rat pack.
So oldies were pop artists and songs from roughly 10 to 20 years earlier, geared toward car radio that was decidedly youth oriented. My point, and somewhere in here I do have a point...is that people in their thirties and forties probably consider "oldies" to be roughly the early to late 80s. Fifties and poodle skirts for them is like "big band" music to boomers. It's great music. I could listen to it all day, but "it ain't my generation." (Which are the words used by a young guy in my office when I asked him if he was a Rolling Stones fan.)
What was the 70's? Seriously...imagine a "seventies night" event...which would be the "fifties night" for generation X (which followed the Baby Boomer generation.) I'm guessing Disco. The biggest thing to happen musically in that decade. otherwise, the 70s is a lot of music for listening to, but not much for dancing. The amazing thing is that the big "acts" from the 70s are STILL touring and filling arenas. Aerosmith! The Eagles! Clapton!
So if the 70's was disco, what would "eighties night" sound and look like? Madonna. New Wave. Glam rock (big hair!) Eighties are the new "oldies" for generation Y. Whoa...Janet Jackson, Madonna, and Paula Abdul....oldies acts!
Man, does time fly.
Confession: I have never danced the Watusi. But watching Wednesday Adams giving
Lurch a lesson gives me hope. (For a big guy, he has some serious moves!)
How do you begin to compare the 1988 Rikki Lake version of "Hairspray" to the 2007 version with Nikki Blonsky? Aside from having essentially the same plot they are as different as...well, John Travolta and Divine.
Admit it...John Travolta in a fat suit and a dress was just a little creepy. And that regional accent! What was that? Texas? Oklahoma? (Hairspray takes place in Baltimore.) The 2007 version is a nice showcase for Christopher Walken, who is actually a talented dancer. But sheesh...the number he performs with Travolta was 2 clicks East of weirdville. And anytime a director out-weirds John Waters you are talking weeeeeeeeeeird.
The best scenes of both films are, of course, the dance scenes. Personally, I think I would have had more fun at Motormouth Mabelle's record shop, but watching the kids dancing a "Madison" is like stumbling across something amazing in a museum basement. Keep your eyes peeled for cameos by Rick Ocasek (from the Cars) and Pia Zadora (from...Mars?) Advantage: 1988 version)
I'm just glad that Disney didn't get their hands on the rights to this story and try to animate it. But I do have to say that both flicks get 2 thumbs up for great dance numbers, crazy characters, and evocative music.
Boomer DJ is a 60-something recently retired from the healthcare world...and not a minute too soon.