Friday, September 26, 2008

Wild Cherry -- "Play That Funky Music" (1976)

The absolutely greatest one hit wonder party song of all time.

This one is absolutely tough to beat. "Play That Funky Music" was the song that when put on the stereo system at any party virtually guaranteed the place would go nuts. I don't know how many times I strategically placed this song on party tapes in the early to mid 80's for maximum impact. From Kew Gardens and Forest Hills to Fire Island, have song, will travel.

In the second half of my freshman college year, this song was unstoppable. It was the ultimate in-joke: the band being order to "play that funky music, white boy," that it was OK for white people to listen and dance to funk and disco (which for more subtler reasons implied that funk and disco were normally not associated with white people -- aha!).

Despite its noteriety as one hit wonder, at this critical cultural junction when disco was barging its way in, this was the most overt invitation for white rock and roll fans to drop the pretenses and dig the funky groove.

Of course, if you were repulsed by disco (and that included me), hearing a bunch of white guys sing about the glories of disco music in such a tongue in cheek way, accompanied by nothing less than a searingly wild electric guitar solo, your first thought may have been: "Heresy!"

But in what you might call "a self-fulfilling prophesy," the song was just too powerful for anybody, no matter what race, to resist its rascally charm, insanely funky distorted guitar lick, thumping drum beat, and the maniacal singing of Rob Parissi. In the pre-chorus, when he shouts "somebody turned around and shouted," the dance floor crowd literally turned around in a 360 degree circle in place. And believe me, everybody was screaming "Play that funky music, white boy!"

There was a funky singer
Playin' in a rock and roll band.
And never had no problems yeah
Burnin' down one night stands.
And everything around me,
Got to stop to feelin' so low.
And I decided quickly (yes I did),
To disco down and check out the show.

Yeah they was
Dancin' and singin'
and movin' to the groovin'
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted
Play that funky music white boy.
Play that funky music right.
Play that funky music white boy.
Lay down that boogie and play that funky music till you die.
Till you die, oh till you die

Hey wait a minute
Now first it wasn't easy
Changin' rock and roll and minds.
And things were getting shaky
I thought I'd have to leave it behind.
But now it's so much better (it's so much better)
I'm funking out in every way.
But I'll never lose that feelin' (no I won't)
Of how I learned my lesson that day.

When they were
Dancin' and singin'
and movin' to the groovin'
And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted
Play that funky music white boy.
Play that funky music right.
Play that funky music white boy.
Lay down that boogie and play that funky music till you die. (Till you die!)


Playing "Play That Funky Music" is unacceptable at any party unless it is the full four and a half minute version, where you not only get the extra verse, but the song climaxes with a few repeats of the "play that funky music" line with big rousing choruses and that classic cowbell and then it just lifts up one key higher, and nirvana is reached. Talk about perfect timing!

The first time I saw Wild Cherry was in this video below from the TV show "Midnight Special," and I'm sure you'll love it as much as I do. Smack out of the 70's fashion handbook, there are the barechested musicians, nice 'fros, and the only two black guys in the band -- the horn players! I was surprised to see them playing Gibson guitars (or maybe I should not have been), as Gibsons have a heavier thicker tone more closely associated with rock than funk and disco. But after all, these were reformed rock and rollers "funkin' out in every way."


1 comment:

Văn Sát said...

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