Monday, April 02, 2007

80s music is creepy

We all knew this, of course. Sting’s lyrics could occupy us for several weeks, if we wished:

“Peeking through your windows
Hiding in your bushes
Intercepting your mail
I’ll be watching you…”

Today’s focus is on the lesser known Wang Chung. If you’ve seen the Blender/VH-1 “50 Crappy-Assest Songs” (or whatever they called it), then you’re familiar with their hit record “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” which was so horrible that it sank all the way to #3 on the countdown, and the hosts spent about 25 minutes crushing it.

They covered the strange video, where they filmed each of the singers doing the chorus and then spliced them together, frame by frame, in Nausea-Vision; they mentioned that, for a party song, the singers were awfully somber. Of course, they mentioned the weird lyric – “Everybody wang chung tonight.” But they never mentioned the oddest thing about it: we are repeatedly urged to wang chung during the song; we are never told how. One of the backup singers, fed up about two-thirds through the song, even asks, “Does anyone know what a wang chung is?” He’s so confused he doesn’t even know if it’s a verb or a noun.

In other words, the band is insisting we perform an act that they themselves cannot define – but they’ve named themselves after the term anyway.

All this is more felt than heard upon a casual listen, but it’s there, wearying the mind and nagging the soul; part of the reason, I suppose, that I always preferred “Dance Hall Days.” Not that it was ever a great song. “Come Dancing” blows it right out of the water, and then floats the pieces just to have the fun of sinking them, one by one. But it wasn’t played into the ground like many other 80s hits, and it had that pretty synth bit at the beginning of the chorus, so I always had a little smile for the tune.

Picked it up on an 80s compilation the other day, and popped it into the best sound system I own – my car – and paid more attention this time. First verse was odd, but oh well… and then came the second verse:

“Take your baby by the hair
Pull her closer, there there there.”


“Then take your baby by the ears
And play upon her darkest fears…”

…the hell?!??!

Yup, that’s what they say. Apparently “wang chung” means “psychological torment.” THEY NAMED THE BAND THIS. (The name “Sadist Minstrels” must have been taken.) And at the end we’re told, “You need her and she needs you.”

What the blazes kind of a relationship is this? Did they hear “Wrapped Around My Finger” and decide that it didn’t go far enough? I mean, the rest of the song is more bizarre than anything else – in her mouth, an amethyst?? – but this is off-the-charts. It’s like the guys sat around and said to themselves, “We need a good, romantic wife-beating ballad. Let’s take this Russian novel and set it to that leftover Spandau Ballet riff you’ve been fooling with.” The album must have been called “You Make Me Hit You.”

I’m deleting from the shuffle… and backing… slowly… away.

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