Story #8: American Bandstand: Fall ’82

by suededenimfiresale

“Welcome back to American Bandstand. And now it’s time to Rate-a-Record, where we pick two dancers in the audience to listen to two brand new songs and rate them on a scale of 35 to 98. Let’s meet the dancers. What’s your name, and how old are you?”

“Julie. I’m fifteen.”

“Nice to meet you Julie. And you are?”

“Greil. I’m thirty-seven.”

“OK, Greil. So here we go, let us know what you think, our first song is by Men at Work, and it’s called “Who Can it Be now?” Let’s listen.

[The first minute of “Who Can It Be Now?” plays. Shots of dancers on the dancefloor. Dancing. Shaking. Grooving. Moving.]

“OK. Julie you gave this an 85. Tell us why?”

“Well, I really liked that saxophone. It was really catchy, and that beat really you could tell was making everybody want to dance.”

“So you see a bright future ahead for Men at Work?”

“Oh yes like definitely.”

“Great. And Greil, you weren’t as hot on it and you gave it a 70. Tell us what you think.”

“Honestly, Dick, I’m conflicted with the dichotomy presented. There is clearly a lot to be said about pop music being an avenue in which to explore themes of paranoia. The Kinks achieved a similar feat two years ago by reconstituting “All Day and All Night” into a Reagan Regime anthem called “Destroyer.” And this theme, this musical question, is quite prevalent in Australian culture in recent years—most notably in Australian New Wave—the cinematic movement, and not necessarily the new wave musical oeuvre—and it really isn’t too far of a stretch to see Colin Hay’s vocal plight as similar to the ever-present dangers faced by Mad Max Rockatansky racing his Main Force Patrol “Last of the V8’s” through the post-apocalyptic wasteland and the psychosexual mysteries of life and death put on trial in Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock.” And yet, there is a smoothness to the saxophone here that is clearly at odds with the fears expressed, thus failing to encapsulate this age of arms races and sniglets, of Grenada and “Truly Tasteless Jokes.” Therefore, in light of more embittered saxophone melodic lines as exemplified in Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never”—to say nothing of James Chance’s Ornette Coleman harmolodic dischord in his work with The Contortions—this fails to attain the civilization-shattering strains of revolution in “Holidays in the Sun,” and shorn of these elements, I fail to see how anyone could give this anything more than a 70.”

“Wow, Greil. Thanks for really putting some thought into this week’s ‘Rate-a-Record.’ OK, let’s flip the side here, and now, it’s “Vacation” by the Go-Go’s. Take a listen, and then we’ll talk. Here we go.”

[The first minute of “Vacation” plays. Shots of dancers on the dancefloor. Shaking. Moving. Grooving.]

“OK, Julie, tell us what you think about this latest track from the Go-Go’s.”

“Oooo, I love it sooo much. It’s so happy and it really makes me want to dance.”

“And that’s why you gave it a 90?”

“Yes. For sure.”

“OK, 90 it is, and over here, Greil, you gave it an 85. Looks like you enjoyed this one more than Men at Work. Tell us why.”

“As a celebration of vaginal liberation, these women—cognoscenti in the Los Angeles identipunk scene of 1977—joyfully express the lustful desperate yearnings of consumerist America, a somnolent nation of workers awaiting that vacation that is all they really wanted. Tribal, id-stimulating floor tom and rack tom poundings redolent of the darkest heart of the Congo, a clarion call to arise, to shake the fetters of this repressive Reaganomic nightmare. Belinda Carlisle as a recontextualized Howard Devoto transcending bleak Mancunian mornings, thus imbuing a technicolored optimism to the New Wave’s post-Sartrean impotence. Reality is not a pleasure cruise; we must escape—to the beach, to a lakehouse, anywhere that’s not here—and the Go-Go’s know better than anyone that the heartland malls do not provide us with the soul-focus of the proverbial road. Elvis, Gregory Corso, Frankie and Annette, Eldridge Cleaver, the camp and gore of Paul Morrissey’s “Flesh for Frankenstein,” Jim Morrison’s Dionysian snack tray….the Go-Go’s abandon the phallocentrism of these artists, thus opening a majestic vista of what’s to come.”

“I’m beginning to suspect you really like this song, Greil. Ha ha.”

“Yes, Dick. I do.”

“OK, well, with your 85, and Julie’s 90, that averages out to 87.5, and the average for “Who Can it Be Now?’ comes to 77.5, so our winner in today’s Rate-a-Record is “Vacation” by the Go-Go’s. Thanks to Julie, and thanks to Greil…”

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