Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dance Critters

Bernie Heveron: upright bass
Colorblind James: vibes
G. Elwyn Meixner: tenor banjo
Jimmy Mac: drums
Phil Marshall: electric guitar

This is actually two songs welded together. The first is, obviously, Dance Critters. The second was to be a spoken word piece called Dance Hall Storm. Chuck never came up with music for it instead opting to sandwich it into Dance Critters. The lyrics dovetail nicely and, along with Rodeo Night, a wonderfully intricate and beautiful spoken word piece the band never got around to recording, it showcases Chuck's wit and originality in blending Western mythology with his own brand of beatnik jazz.

Of interest is the dog bark that can be heard right around the 1:20 mark during the chorus. Also, the final verse originally was "When YOU say 'yeah' I'M gonna scream!" which Chuck lifted adoringly from one of the many instances when James Brown uttered that phrase. Trouble was, Chuck never liked to scream. So he inverted the whole thing by say "when I say 'yes', you're gonna shout!" What little voice I have to this day was carved out over the years during that part of the song.

This was also the song Fundamental/Red Rhino chose to release as a 12" dance mix. I kid you not. There is fundamentally little difference between the 'dance mix' and what is heard on the cd. What prompted such an outlandish move on their part is beyond me. The obvious choice for a remix (in my left-of-center brain) would have been Considering A Move To Memphis. And as the witty mash-up of MIA's Bucky Done Gun and Memphis from a few years back demonstrates, it has more dance track potential than Dance Critters.

On its own, Dance Critters is a pretty innocuous ditty. It's the strange imagery Chuck conjurs up in Dance Hall Storm that gives an otherwise fairly lightweight song its magic and depth.

Dance Critters
© Chuck Cuminale

I been watering my horse
Since way before noon
I hope that beast
Gets satisfied soon

I’m a mean old hombre
From a border town
Woke up the sheriff
And gunned him down

Dance critters!
When I say dance
Dance critters!
Dance critters!

I been eating sand
And cactus pie
I’m telling you a feller
Gets mighty dry

My six gun’s loaded
And pointed down
Best keep your feet up
Off the ground

Dance critters!
When I say dance
Dance critters!
Dance critters!

(Dance Hall Storm)
It was a town full of violent men and bad women. Nobody had a heart of gold. Justice was unheard of and mercy, rarer still. In a corner of the barroom some musicians played rowdy dance-hall jive. The piano was shaped like a coffin. The banjo was made from two pie-tins and bailing wire. I said “Hey, I’ve got one like that at home.” Even through all the noise I could hear her spurs jangling down the street. Like alter bells they sounded, and I struck my breast three times. She’d been gone awhile, since I don’t remember when. “I spent a year in Echo Canyon” she said, “just me and my tambourine.” The music stopped…
…and then it started again.
And that is when the dance-hall storm began.

Dance critters!
When I say dance
Dance critters!
Dance critters!

Me and old Andre
The Indian guide
We got three stuffed kittens
And a buffalo hide

Head ‘em up!
Move ‘em out!
When I say dance
You’re gonna shout

Dance critters!
When I say dance
Dance critters!
Dance critters!


mecki said...

I was happy to see that a couple of folks at the back of the CBJE memorial concert had their 'dance critters' along.

Was a great show, I'm looking forward to seeing what they show on TV.

Eric B in Ithaca said...

Dance Critters is my all time favorite CBJ song! I looked and looked for an mp3 of it, and finally found some guy in Sweden who had it! Small world? Thanks to CBJ, yes...

Great blog, Phil, keep it up