||[25 Mar 2004|08:39pm]
AMERICAN DANCE CRAZES
BY RYAN BOUDINOT
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"The Sandwich," 1957
To do "The Sandwich," press your palms together, then tilt your hands to a horizontal position. Then bite, hard. Or pretend to bite hard. Either way. Now gyrate the hips. Move the feet rapidly side to side. Smile. Chew twenty times, then swallow. Now start over, and continue until sated. Why didn't this catch on? Ask the band responsible, The Lutheran Experience. Or ask yourself.
"The Baby," 1958
Barely remembered in Chicago, the city of its origin, "The Baby" was performed to the song of the same name by a combo called the Marmettes. While an archival photograph from the Tribune appears to indicate that the dance involved thumb-sucking, no one can confirm this, or any of the moves, for that matter. The song appears occasionally on "lost treasures"-type compilations, where its refrain of fake sobbing and baby-talk lyrics appeal to young children, and Lutherans.
"The Clam Hunter," 1968
The accompanying song recorded by the Marshmen, this dance involved an elaborate pantomime of the use of clam-digging paraphernalia. In some coastal regions where this dance flirted briefly with popularity, clam-digging was a pastime in which large aluminum tubes were jammed into the sand like straws, the exposed end then sealed to create suction that allowed the swift extraction of these fast-moving bivalves. Imagine this without the paraphernalia, on a dance floor.
"The Sexual Intercourse," 1972
The underground hit single of the same name by soul band The Freakie Deakies can occasionally be found at garage sales. Arguably a novelty song, many claimed to have followed its explicit instructions on the dance floor, though no evidence remains that anyone ever actually did. It was the kind of thing club-goers of the time would brag about having done, as in, "Last weekend we went to the Shangri-La Room and did 'The Sexual Intercourse.'" Part of the drum track later appeared as a sample on Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison." They were great, those guys.
"The Fondue," 1974
One would be forgiven for thinking this one had something to do with cheese or chocolate sauce. There was no reference to either in this soul B-side by Boogie Junction. Detroit concert-goers often expressed confusion about what "The Fondue" actually looked like, as the directions were somewhat baffling: "Move your hip to the left / Jump three times / Now sliiiiiiide to the back / With one foot right / No, actually left / Yeeeeaaaah / And your hands in the a-yuh."
"The Human Swastika," 1985
This regrettable song was among the more notable of the "shock rock" anthems singled out by Tipper Gore's Parents' Music Resource Center. Recorded by the Shamed, a virulently anti-Semitic Idaho-based hardcore band, the song and its shouted refrain predictably found no mainstream attention beyond those whose curiosity was piqued by the PMRC hearings of September 1985. Regrettably, many of the same moves in "The Human Swastika" were echoed in the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian." Susanna Hoffs was in a few movies in the eighties.
"The Sweat Sock," 1986
An attempt by New York studio-group Pretty Bizness to cash in on aerobics fever, "The Sweat Sock" was described by dancercise enthusiasts as being particularly rigorous, and great for isolating the glutes. The line "Come on, hon / Squeeze that bun" got the song banned from more conservative-leaning radio stations, leading to a couple of days of free publicity and a brief spike in sales. We can't blame the Lutherans for everything, but this one was their fault.
"The Lambada," 1989
One in a tradition of suggestive Latin dances, this one featured the provocative use of . . . no, sorry, this one actually did catch on.
"The Recycling Shuffle," 1997
Commissioned by the Greater Boston Natural Resources Committee, this song was performed by anonymous studio musicians and distributed as a CD single to local grade schools. The song, meant to foster awareness about which kinds of plastics are okay to recycle and which kinds are not, was described by various listeners as "worse than the Barney song," "wicked shitty," and "completely gay."