Friday, March 25, 2011

Free For All: Chris Montez: "Let's Dance"

It is usual that in crisis, there are two responses; flight or fight. But what to do after? Or, rather, what to do if there is no actual sane response? What if the problem is so big as to be out of your control? What if you're a kid, it's 1962 and the adults are all huffing and puffing about something that may well be a problem, but even you, as a kid, can see there is nothing concrete to be done? The only sane thing to do, then, is dance.

Dancing may seem absurd, at first*, but it's not too far-fetched to say that periodically there are songs that assert that the only thing to do is dance - or as Lady Gaga (one of the many direct descendants from this song) sings, "Just dance, gonna be okay." Dance is an assertion of the continuation of life in the face of chaos there - but Chris Montez, however, isn't even that worried; he wants to dance with a girl - he doesn't really care what it is they dance to, how they dance - it's just pure instinct. Other songs that take their cue include this one, which doesn't even mention dancing, as such, but it's the beat, it's the "Round and round and round - Whoooooooooo!" defiance that can be traced right back to the "Oh wail!" of Montez and his delightfully chirpy organ bopping along top the steady (dare I say...primal?) beat. (This garage classic is also a direct descendant, obviously; I could go on...)

The feeling that the world could very well end doesn't really apply to this song; but the general sense that it's the end of something...and the beginning of something else can be seen in the chart itself, where a certain quartet of young men sit unobtrusively, for now; and in a short while I will be visiting the NME chart to talk about a song so stunning that it opened the ears of anyone who heard it.

(I should also add that after this huge hit Montez - unlike Little Eva - was encouraged by his label to go and get a college education; having done so, he returned to music and has been making music ever since, in both English and his native Spanish; clearly some are more lucky than others in the music business, and in the early 60s the artistic side of music - of regarding pop as art - was not necessarily a view shared by all.)

*I have nothing to back this up, but I think dance and music grew up together and were the first arts, beyond cooking, of course.

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