Saturday, December 29, 2012

36 Songs, 36 Days (2012 Edition), Day Thirty Six: Go West by The Village People

A snapshot of a time long gone, and a band that doesn't
get the credit for its subversiveness...

Oh, boy...this is a strange little choice to close out 2012.

Doesn't matter.  I'm gonna write the stuffings outta this song, because it's actually pretty cool.

I don't think I have to explain The Village People--the bifurcated alter ego of expert disco songwriter (and poor disco singer) Jacques Morali, do I?  What I do think I have to explain to those of you who did not live through disco is how enormous the Village People were.  There was a time when these five cosplaying session musicians were everywhere.  Hell, I remember a time when I was attending Benjamin Cardoza High School in Bayside, Queens where my classmates and I were summarily hustled out of our class and into a giant tractor trailer truck kitted out by the U.S. Navy as a recruiting station.  Once inside, we were treated to a rather...aggressive recruitment film that predominantly utilized the Village People hit 'In The Navy' as part of its pitch.  I imagine that once the U.S. Military Complex figured out what the Village People were really thinking about, they dismantled that rolling recruitment station something quick.

What amazes me, and fills me with admiration for Morali, is how he was able to get all these songs about gay rights and the gay lifestyle into the American mainstream for several years.  Listening to 'Go West' and the other Village People songs now, it's hard not to see what they were about right from the start.  Even though he outfitted his singers as several idealized gay fantasies, he unwittingly created a sense of friendly fun to his group, allowing kids and families to groove to songs about meeting potential boyfriends at the Y and, in the case of this song, moving out to the more tolerant at the time west coast to live your lifestyle openly.  Hell, this was a band that a major motion picture studio felt could support an entire movie, the stunning-in-its-awful-strangeness Can't Stop The Music.

Of course, it's hard to deny that Morrell would not have been able to pull this off if he didn't know how to write a dance song, and 'Go West' is a textbook of how to make a disco tune that would get you out on the floor and moving your hips.  The bongo beats that serve as the melody line practically demand your butt-wiggling, and the vocals of Victor Willis are a perfect compliment (Ray Simpson, who is generally credited as the lead singer of the group, didn't join until the year after this single was released).  If anyone ever wondered why disco music worked during its brief ascendancy, you just have to give a listen to any of the band's late 70's output.

A version of the Village People containing only three original members (Felipe 'the indian' Rose, Alex 'the G.I.' Briley, and David 'the construction worker' Hodo) still roams the Earth, presumably playing state fairs and street festivals around the country.  And I'm willing to bet that wherever they are right now, there are young people who weren't even born when they were kings of creation dancing their asses off to their music.  God bless 'em.

Here's a video.

Thus ends the 30Ss, 30Ds cycle for 2012.  When I meet you on the other side of this year, what I'm going to do is remove the numerical requirement and just call it 'Song Of The Day.'  You know, so I don't get stressed out if I let it go fallow for a few weeks.  See you then.

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