“Just like you I’m wonderin’ what I’m doing here, just like you I’m wonderin’ what’s going on, wallflower, wallflower won’t you dance with me…”
I saw an article on-line the other day about common phobias. I was always under the impression that public speaking was the most commonly cited fear. I know the Rock Chick and my daughter would rather be scalded with boiling oil than stand in front of a crowd of people and say something. I do that all the time at work, well, I used to before becoming Boo Radley and hiding in my attic for a year. I’ve given speeches at work, wedding toasts and to date one eulogy in front of 100s of people. Public speaking wasn’t even on the list. Actually, the number one thing people fear is heights. I can understand that. I get a twinge of vertigo when I’m up high. They say that vertigo is really a fear you’ll jump rather than a fear you’ll fall which I find wonderfully dark. The only thing I would describe myself as “phobic” about wasn’t even on the list… it’s dancing.
Webster’s defines “wallflower” as “a person who from shyness or unpopularity remains on the sidelines of a social activity (such as a dance).” That pretty much describes me. I’ll even admit the “unpopularity” part of it hits closer to home than I’d care to admit. Dancing, in public anyway, was never much of an issue for me until I reached the seventh grade. When I was growing up, 7th grade through 9th grade was split off as junior high school. When we all reached junior high at the ripe old age of thirteen, they paraded us all into the cafeteria, which had been cleared of all the dining tables, and announced it was “the 7th Grade Dance.” They’d brought in a few girls from the 9th grade to “get the party started” as they say. These Amazonian women – and make no mistake there was a huge difference between 13 and 15, these weren’t girls in our eyes, they were young women – started knifing into the crowd like dobermans chasing a shoplifter searching for 7th grade boys to drag onto the dance floor. Sure, they were enticing but we ran like we’d just escaped a chain gang. I’d never seen boys scatter like that. I hid in the game room most of the day playing foosball. The last time I peeked into he dance hall, the majority of my class was just walking in a circle clapping rhythmically. It was traumatizing.
It was during those Junior High years that I discovered rock and roll. Sadly those years were the disco era. The Bee Gees and Donna Summer ruled the world. As a rock and roller and an unsure pubescent boy I wanted to avoid anything that was uncool or worse feminine. Disco was decidedly uncool. There were guys walking around with “Death Before Disco” t-shirts on and back then, they meant it. I remember seeing on the news some DJ up in Chicago did a “Disco Destruction” night at Comiskey Park in 1979. Seventy-thousand people showed up to blow up disco records. It turned into a riot and the White Sox had to forfeit the game. I was firmly with the rioters on that whole disco issue. I don’t know if that experience along with the horror of the 7th grade dance sealed my fate as a non-dancer or not. You can never be sure about these things. If you were as anti-disco as I was, it stands to reason that I’d be anti-dancing. I didn’t dance because I knew I couldn’t look cool doing it, not because I was a Baptist or anything weird.
Somewhere during those early junior high years – and I’m not proud of this – my friends and I discovered the joys of drinking beer. After one rather raucous night of beer drinking, which my parents caught me doing, I awoke hungover to discover my grandparents had arrived. No one had mentioned it but we had a family wedding to go to. I wanted to go out with my friends and run around the Ranchmart area and well, drink more beer and try to impress girls. I didn’t wanna hang out with my family. Once we got to the reception, my grandfather slipped me a glass of champagne. “One glass won’t hurt, you deserve this after your beer drinking adventure.” A short time later my grandmother dropped by and gave me another glass. “One glass won’t hurt.” To my surprise my mother came by and gave me a glass as well…”One glass won’t get you drunk,” At that point, I was smashed. I went up to the bar to get a coke and the cowboy dickweed bartender asked, “don’t you want some rum in that?” He later told the hostess that I’d been ordering drinks from him all night and he didn’t know they were for me. I had indeed ordered a number of rum and cokes, but hey, he started it.
The next thing I knew, I was on the dance floor, “cutting a rug.” I remember a lot of the extended family laughing. At one point I was up on stage with the band. They were playing some sunny pop tune and I was shouting the words to “Roll Out the Barrel.” The band did not dig me. I could see my father at the other end of the dance floor, red-faced glaring at me. I jumped back into the dance crowd and grabbed some guy’s stogie. I promptly burned a woman on the ass. I awoke the next day in my own vomit with my mother crashing into my room to announce I’d “disgraced my father and her in front of the entire family.” I had to go live at my grandparents for a week to avoid being flayed. I took shit about that for years, especially my “dancing.” Ironically, two years later, at the first family wedding I was allowed to attend again, I watched this young girl who was maybe 13 sucking down champagne. She hit the dance floor just like I had. She was spinning around in circles. I knew it was a matter of time… When she vomited, oh yes, it was explosive. She cleared the dance floor which was something I hadn’t been able to do and I’d literally scarred a woman’s ass with a cigar. The next day her parents were laughing about it. There’s a reason I call my dad “the Hard Guy.”
Being viscerally opposed to all forms of dancing really hurt me socially. I was single until I was 36 and not being able to dance was not an asset when trying to meet women. Every time I tried to dance it looked like I was running in place trying to gnaw my lower lip off. Either that or I’d only move my upper body, with my legs rooted to the ground like trunks of sequoia trees. I always moved with the grace of someone who had blown a hamstring. I half expected medical staff from the club I was dancing in to rush out, secure my neck and spine area, tie me to a board and drive me out of the bar on the back of a lawns keeping cart. I’d wave heroically to the crowd… The Rock Chick refuses to dance with me and I sense there was a time when she really did enjoy dancing.
All of that said, there are a lot of great rock tunes about dancing or dancers. Most of those tunes were not written with dancing in mind. Sure, there are a few you could probably dance to if you were, well, not me. I do think everything Motley Crue wrote and performed was likely intended to be played in strip clubs for exotic dancers. And yes, I get that many of these are merely thinly veiled euphemisms for sex. For the most part these tracks about dancing are upbeat, harder rocking tunes. I discovered a playlist I used to run to of about fifteen like-minded tracks about dancing. I blew that up here and extended it to sixty tracks that I believe actually hang together pretty well. As always with my playlists, it’s best to hit shuffle when you’re playing them. I have some recognizable tracks but as always I’m trying to expose folks to the deeper, album cuts that I’ve always liked in the hopes that I expose you to something new. As always you can find this playlist on Spotify under the title: BourbonAndVinyl.net Rock Songs About Dancing. If you have any suggested additions, please add them in the comments section.
- Aerosmith, “Same Old Song And Dance” – This may not exactly be about dancing but it was always the first track on my running dance playlist.
- Dire Straits, “Twisting By The Pool” – I’m reminded of a girl I met in junior high whose parents had a pool.
- John Lennon, “Do You Wanna Dance?” – From the covers LP Rock N Roll (B&V’s Favorite Cover Albums: Singing Other People’s Songs).
- Don Henley, “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” – Great little rock tune.
- The Rolling Stones, “Harlem Shuffle” – I love this track although I know many people do not. “Let your momma show you how,” indeed.
- Lenny Kravitz, “Dancin’ Til Dawn” – Somehow I don’t think Sexy Lenny is singing about dancing.
- Joan Jett, “I Love Rock And Roll” – Every girl in my high school would go nuts when this song came on. “Put another dime in the jukebox baby and dance with me.”
- The Traveling Wilbury’s, “Wilbury Twist” – Well now I’m just getting silly here.
- Van Halen, “Dance The Night Away” – I’m still not over the loss of Eddie Van Halen (Guitar Legend Eddie Van Halen Gone Too Soon at 65, RIP Eddie, #EVH).
- Motley Crue, “Dancing On Glass” – For the strippers out there.
- Sam Cooke, “Twistin’ The Night Away” – Rod does a really great version of this song, but you can’t beat the original.
- Mick Jagger, “Dancing In the Starlight” – From the great Goddess In the Doorway.
- Tom Petty, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” – “She had a good lookin’ mama who never was around.”
- The Donnas, “Better Off Dancing” – I love this girl band.
- Bob Seger, “Mainstreet” – Bob goes out and stalks a stripper in a melancholy manner.
- The Cult, “Dance The Night” – From the amazing Hidden City (Review: The Cult, ‘Hidden City’, A Late Career Gem). Looking forward to new music from these guys in 2021.
- The Rolling Stones, “Dancing With Mr. D” – Who doesn’t like a little dance with the Devil every now and again (Review: The Rolling Stones, ‘Goats Head Soup Deluxe’ Box Set).
- Neil Young, “When You Dance You Can Really Love” – Great, great Neil Young track.
- The Eagles, “Hollywood Waltz” – “So give her this dance, she can’t be forsaken…” Beautiful stuff.
- T. Rex, “Cosmic Dancer” – I’ve only recently started getting into Marc Bolan and T. Rex and I like what I’ve heard.
- Van Halen, “Dancing In The Street” – Nobody does this song better than VH.
- Bob Dylan, “Wallflower” – One for me…
- David Bowie, “John, I’m Only Dancing” – “It turns me on…”
- The Cars, “Shake It Up” – I actually am worried that I have “two left feet.”
- John Mellencamp, “Dance Naked” – Ok, now I’m interested.
- Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “Shake Your Money Maker” – Good ol’ blues to shake your ass to.
- Fleetwood Mac, “Tango In The Night” – Again, probably not talking about dancing here… Epic guitar solo from Lindsey Buckingham.
- David Byrne, “I Dance Like This” – I loved American Utopia (LP Review: David Byrne, ‘American Utopia,’ A Surprise Gem).
- Patti Smith, “Dancing Barefoot” – Also done quite nicely by U2.
- Paul McCartney, “Dance Tonight” – One of my all time favorites by one of my all time favorite acts.
- Warren Zevon, “Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School” – From his great, first comeback album.
- The Faces, “You Can Make Me Dance, Sing, or…” – Rod, Ronnie Wood and the rest of the gang. They had more great singles that should have been on albums than anybody else out there.
- Robert Plant, “Angel Dance” – A roots-y cover of a Los Lobos tune.
- Paul McCartney, “Ballroom Dancing” – From the great Tug Of War.
- Motley Crue, “Come On And Dance” – More stripper soundtrack stuff from the LA bad boys.
- The Rolling Stones, “Shake Your Hips” – If I shook my hips I’d need a hip replacement.
- Thin Lizzy, “Dancing In the Moonlight” – Borderline disco but catchy as hell.
- Led Zeppelin, “Dancing Days” – Funky Zeppelin?
- The Rolling Stones, “Dance Little Sister” – Great, great riffage from Keith.
- Van Morrison, “Moondance” – Again, probably not the type of dancing I’m thinking of…
- Robert Plant, “Dancing In Heaven” – Great late period Plant.
- Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing In The Dark” – The song that made him a superstar.
- The Beatles, “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” – I never was…
- Pearl Jam, “Dance Of the Clairvoyants” – From their latest album, Review: Pearl Jam’s First LP In 7 Years, ‘Gigaton’ – My Conflicted Thoughts.
- Steve Miller Band, “Dance, Dance, Dance” – The title says it all in this down home, front porch-y tune.
- David Bowie, “Let’s Dance” – Probably the most danceable of all the songs here. I love the line, “put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” Great Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar work.
- Billy Idol, “Dancing With Myself” – Early big hit. Originally done with Generation X.
- Otis Redding, “Shake” – Fabulous soul music.
- Pete Townshend, “Face Dances Pt. 2” – I’m too much of a fanatic for Pete’s solo work… I had to include this weird song.
- Bob Dylan, “Shake Mama Shake” – I love his raspy voice. I know it’s a lot like olives, an acquired taste.
- The J. Geils Band, “Southside Shuffle” – Funky, dirty, kinda bluesy.
- John Mellencamp, “A Little Night Dancin'” – From when he was still John Cougar. A great deep track.
- Joe Walsh, “Spanish Dancer” – I love Joe’s guitar work on this late period deep track.
- INXS, “Dancing On the Jetty” – Great early track from these guys.
- Lou Reed, “I Love You Suzanne” – “You broke my heart and you made me cry, when you said I couldn’t dance.” But, I can’t.
- The Ramones, “Let’s Dance” – Short, fast and hard.
- Rod Stewart, “She Won’t Dance With Me” – Containing the poetic line, “I’ve got a hard-on honey and it hurts like hell.” Ahem. Good Chuck Berry riff.
- The Beatles, “Twist And Shout” – Iconic.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Fat Dance” – A bonus track from Californication that I read Anthony Kiedis describes as “fuuuunky.”
- Elton John, “Your Sister Can’t Twist, But She Can Rock N Roll” – Elton plays so fast we must suspect amphetamine usage.
There you have it folks A little something to wile away the hours over your upcoming Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. In the words of Neil Diamond, “some of you may have the guts to stand, but how many of you have the guts to dance?”