Boogie On Down!

May 7, 2008 § Leave a comment

These days the majority of people who say “boogie” are either 45+ or members of a younger generation being obnoxious or ironic. I generally associate boogying with 70s disco or R&B and I think most people do also. Despite it actually pre-dating the era as a guitar technique, I have this really generic image of polyester outrageously large bell-bottoms, afros and floors that light up: think of a Blaxploitation film meets Saturday Night Fever. How is it then that this word has managed to continue usage in a current pop culture where most people shun disco (boogie’s bedmate) with the exception of those who grew up with it and few revivalists? If not somewhat antiquated, I still find the word to be rather charming along with all the cheese and camp it associates with. Embracing bad stereotypes, shag carpeting, excellent basslines, blindingly metallic clothing, a hint of irony, but otherwise genuine and earnest, consider this my tribute to a word that’s way up there with expressions like “the bee’s knees”.

I give you the photographer, Boogie. Yes that’s right, an artist with an absolutely stupid but simultaneously cool name. This man photographs street people, skinheads, druggies, protests and many other transgressive subjects, yet he goes by the name Boogie. The contrast of charged subject matter with the guy’s name stemming from a lighthearted and indulgent era is delightful. Lest us not forget that the disco era was also chockfull of drugs. Anyway, he’s definitely amongst my favourite photographers for giving a sort of honesty without imposing too heavy-handily his own opinions.

Next up is a Japanese animé that’s called Boogiepop Phantom. I find it hilarious how Japanese culture seemingly arbitrarily adopts Western phenomena (Nabokov’s Lolita, anyone? or The Ventures?). Anyway, so Boogiepop Phantom has nothing to do with dancing; it just sounds cool. In fact the phantom pretty much kills people, with the usual dark twists one can expect. It’s pretty addictive, not much else to say except that it’s worth checking out, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t ever watch animé.

If you’re in Canada then you have to know what I mean when I say “Retro Boogie Dance”. Airing every now and then on MuchMoreMusic, they show old music videos from the 70s to early 90s with intermittent footage of a 70s dance show.

I know there are plenty of songs, especially from the 70s featuring the word “boogie”, but I think for me the most memorable is Alicia Bridges’ “I Love the Night Life (Disco ‘Round)” where she tells us that she’s “got to boogie”. I remember seeing it on Retro Boogie Dance, not having been alive in the 70s, that was probably the first time I saw the video. Besides Bridges appearing to be rather scary, (gold clothes and a buzzcut, prostrate on a pleather booth with mirrors) her voice stands out, especially the butchering of the word “action”, which she says like “ack-t-shhhion”. How could anyone forget that? It’ll haunt your nightmares and get stuck in your head for days. What a combo. Further stamping itself into popular culture would be the occasional lampooning of the famous lines from the tune, “I love the night life, I’ve got to boogie”, sometimes delivered deadpan or over-the-top. Austin Powers comes to mind, I can’t remember which of the three films it was, probably the first. Incidentally, Heather Graham who played the love interest in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was in Boogie Nights. I digress!

On the far cooler end of the spectrum of 1978 (Alicia Bridges’ hit was the same year) there’s Taste of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie”. I don’t really have much to say on this except that it’s really a very cool song, with an excellent bassline.

To end off with the master of boogying, Long Duk Dong from the classic 1984 teen-comedy, Sixteen Candles. Watch for his line of “let’s go boogie!”

Yes, I’ve definitely overdosed on YouTube. Anyway, next time anyone tries to be ironic by saying “boogie”, you’ve got some ammo, to defend the heritage, whether you’d care enough to or not is another matter.

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