Friday, July 11, 2014

Let Her Dance

Dancing has long been mined as a trope in popular music: irresistible code for letting loose, fucking, establishing and then trespassing boundaries (gender, race, age), and generally having a great time. But I've always loved these three songs for the way they dramatize the ache of not dancing and of waiting to dance—or worse, of watching someone you want to dance with dance with someone else.

Patti Page's well-known version of "Changing Partners," Larry Coleman and Joe Darion's classic, published in 1953. Page's version came out that same year as a single and on the LP The Voice of Pattie Page.

My favorite version of "Change Partners," the Irving Berlin standard. Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim's arrangement from their self-titled 1967 album seems coolly detached, but the singer's soreness is palpably beneath the surface. The best part is the bridge where, in the melody's head-hanging descent in the last line, the singer recognizes that his hopeful plan to gain the girl's attention might not work in the real world. Here's a beautiful live version performed around the time of the album's release.

One of my favorite rock and roll songs, Bobby Fuller's terrific 1965 single "Let Her Dance" captures everything about adolescence: desire, frustration, bitterness, pain, and eventual acceptance of the strengthening sacrifices of maturity (plus a little mild revenge). And, yeah, you sure can dance to it. Here's a fantastic performance (with "Another Sad And Lonely Night") from the short-lived Shivaree music variety and dance show. Those go-go dancers just make everything better and worse, don't they.


The desires bottled up in each of these songs range in temperature. In its formal arrangement, Page's gentle waltz assures that she'll eventually meet up again with her partner, though the wait is hard. Sinatra's and Jobim's bossa nova dresses up the singer's needs in cool, urbane threads, but that bridge exposes the thinness of his hopes. And Fuller's four-on-the-floor rocker is nothing short of delirious, and finally moving in that the delirium gives way from hormonal frustration and heartache to acceptance and comeuppance, in two minutes.


Anonymous said...

"Let Her Dance" is almost a "La Bamba" re-write, first heard it on Phil Seymour's LP.

How was this not a hit? Part of the mob chicanery that caught up with him? I await the book....

bp in P-town

and that Jobim/Sinatra album is great.

Joe Bonomo said...

Appropriate that I first heard Let Her Dance via Marshall Crenshaw, another shoulda-been-a-hit maker.