- Friday, Jun. 17, 2016
Sunny, warm, dry in NYC as I write this. Summer solstice a few days away—you feel what I’m hearing? You hear what I’m feeling? A certain kind of music that attaches itself to your hips, makes everybody a bobble-head. Feet off the ground. Eyes closed. Arms floating. That’s right. Nice.
For me it always starts with Bob Marley (so obvious, right?). “Jamming”. I hope you like jamming, too. Hey, you listen and I’ll go get us a beverage —what do you like?
Here you go. Clink! We don’t have to analyze it, but what the hell. If you look for a definition of rhythm, you’ll find something like Wikipedia’s: “Rhythm is marked by the regulated succession of opposite elements, the dynamics of the strong and weak beat, the played beat and the inaudible but implied rest beat…”
In reggae, the guitar “often plays on the off beat of the rhythm.” Do we need to know that? Probably not. But, as Shakira memorably said, “Hips don’t lie!”
Now we all love a triplet subdivision of the beat within an 8th note rhythmic feel, right? Hey, I don’t know what that means either, but it’s what’s called a "shuffle." I got my favorites, like Tears For Fears’ 1985 hit “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”. Let’s turn this way up, top down, okay? But no drinking on the road!
And two years later we had Michael Jackson’s super-infectious shuffle, “The Way You Make Me Feel”. I would hear that song on the radio and immediately conjure the image of his female interest in the video, Tatiana Thumbtzen, and imagine we were dancing on a dark street, me snapping my fingers, showing off my early male pattern baldness. And she’s loving it. Awesome.
Excuse me, but I’m starting to feel some heat in my solstice. Things get a little, uh, less scientific when folks start trying to define "groove." Which makes it even more fun. “From a broader ethnomusicological perspective, groove has been described as ‘an unspecifiable but ordered sense of something that is sustained in a distinctive, regular and attractive way’…”
And further on in the wonderful world of Wiki: “The term is often applied to musical performances that make one want to move or dance, and enjoyably 'groove' (a word that also has sexual connotations).” Absofreakintotally! And with that in mind, I need to throw in another throwback, the magnificent Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina.” Groove on…I’ll run out for a pipe.
My dear friend and business partner, Brian Jones, is from Wyoming. When I posed the “summer groove” question to him, he came up with a school daze barroom favorite by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Ima tell you honestly, I resisted this thing big time. But then I listened, and I got it. “Fishing In The Dark”. Sweet and sticky, like bbq ribs. (Plus, the video’s got mullets and a singer who looks like Ted Koppel’s little brother!) I’d say bring that honey to a grassy knoll & start fishin’...
Okay, maybe you won’t hear that at SoulCycle. Probably won’t hear this there either, but I guarantee you’ll hear War’s “Low Rider” before the summer’s half way done. Enjoy the groove, my people, long after the smoke clears!
There’s an endless list of “summer songs” we could be discussing, of course. Beach Boys, Bangles, Bananarama, Katy Perry, Psy (yes, Park Jae-sang’s “Gangnam Style” from summer 2012 now has over 2.5 billion views on YouTube!)… but we’re trying to focus on R&G here, dammit! (Rhythm & Groove, for the tone deaf among us.)
Every sentence brings us closer to the summer solstice, and vying for the “summer hit of 2016” is Justin Timberlake’s single “Can’t Stop The Feeling” from the new Trolls movie soundtrack.
Yes, it’s cute and catchy and certainly danceable…but essentially, to me, reworks the same territory as Pharrell Williams’ far more engaging “Happy.” While I do not deduct points for cuteness, I can hardly end this bit about summer R&G with a featherweight.
Instead, gonna throw back to my own summer of 1978, when The Rolling Stones reached right into disco’s pants and pulled out “Miss You.” And we danced, soaking wet with our communal sweat, till dawn was breaking outside Stephen Talkhouse. Remember? Here’s a live performance from 1997 that should return movement to your feet, possibly change your life, quit your job, reconcile with your girlfriend. Remember, groove responsibly.