Feet

Chic: My feet keep dancing (1979)

ChicIf you love to dance, your feet are obviously your greatest asset. So they are the subject of many tunes, and even Bob Marley evokes your dancing feet (on Sun is shining☊). Here’s an interesting variation: My feet keep dancing is the third single from Chic’s third album Risque, legendary because it includes Good Times, a very important track in the history of Dance music, and Hip hop. My feet keep dancing tells a little story of pedestrian redemption:

I need some help, I get beside myself, and I got so many things in life to do,
Like, reach for a star, or maybe shoot ten under par
I’d like to do it all before I’m through, fly into space or maybe save the human race.
All these things seem so appealing, but I’ll never get the chance, cause all I do is dance. My mama said my brains are in my feet. My feet keep dancing…

Papa told, every night when he would scold me, he knew I’d never make him very proud.
So I ran away from home to live all alone, and make myself a standout in the crowd.
Then it hit, my ideas began to fit, I had to be what I was meant to be.
Now my name is up in lights and I hoof here every night, they were right my brains are in my feet.
Dancing, dancing, my feet keep dancing…

I love the notion of intelligent feet – but I’ve always been a Dancing fool☊. Oh, while you’re dancing, don’t forget to pay attention to the fantastic bass lines, especially during the tap dancing (performed by Fayard Nicholas) and bass duet (at 3:28): it’s Chic’s own Bernard Edwards, one of the true giants of bass, and dance music.

Chic: My feet keep dancing
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War: Corns and Callouses (Hey Dr. Shoals) (1979)

warWhen it comes to very slow funk, very few bands can top War. Their grooves creep up on you, and the bluesy, back porch feel (also thanks to Lee Oskar‘s harmonica in the horn section) makes them extra-sticky (another excellent example is Baby Face☊ from their 1977 album Galaxy). They wrote many amazing hits (and have been sampled by endless rap artists), and always stayed true to their sound – even later in their career, when people usually try to spice things up.

This song was included in their 1979 album The Music band, and it wasn’t the hit single (the crown goes to the very danceable Good, good feelin’☊). But it belongs to a family of songs I personally adore: humorous tunes. Corns and callouses is the sad story of an otherwise brilliant guy, victim of problematic feet:

Corns and callouses are sneaking up on you
Corns and callouses that you really can’t use
Corns and callouses are gonna hurt your feet
Corns and callouses that you really don’t need.

And if you have feet problems, who’re you gonna pray to? The God of healthy feet, of course – the legendary Dr Scholl:

They’re dancing over here, they’re dancing over there
they’re dancing all over the world
Hey dr Shoals (sic), won’t you help me fix my soul
so I can get in the groove, I gotta get in the groove.

The whole song is sung from the point of view of some guy mocking the poor fellow:

You gotta use use your brains or your ship will sink for real,
all the time those aching corns sneaking up on ya! Hey Dr Shoals…

But don’t let the humor distract you: the songs begins just with the bass (which sounds like a funk bass should, loud and deep). Then the (very, very slow) beat builds up, culminating in double tempo cum rattling tambourine in the hook, with interlocking horn/harp riffs. Yes, this is how it’s actually done, and no – it’s not easy at all.

War: Corns and Callouses (Hey Dr. Shoals)
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Frank Zappa: Stink foot (1974)

Frank ZappaThe very first song about feet I’ve ever heard – from Zappa’s most popular album, 1974’s Apostrophe (‘). Most popular (along with the previous Over-nite sensations), but also one of the best access point for someone who knows little about Frank Zappa‘s monumental discography. I could write forever about FZ, from his 1973 gig in Rome (my first rock concert ever. You can find out everything about that gig, and download a recording as well, on the immense Zappa fan forum Zappateers.com), to the fact that I taught myself english mostly to understand what FZ was talking about (more about this below), to his kindness about something I did eons ago. But let’s stick to the song.

Stink foot is a typical Zappa number, set to a very catchy groove, something Zappa often did, especially on songs he would solo on, like this one. It begins like a teenage horror movie

In the dark, where all the fevers grow, under the water where the sharks bubbles blow, in the morning by your radio, do the walls close in, they soffocate you, you ain’t got no friends and all the others they hate ya, ’cause the life you’ve been living’s gotta go. Well, let me straighten you out about a place I know. Get your shoes and socks on people, it’s right around the corner.

But the story takes an odd turn:

Out through the night and the whispering breezes to the place where they keep the imaginary diseases.

What?

(Narrator voice) This has to be the disease for you. Now, scientists call this disease Bromhidrosis. But us regular folks, who might wear tennis shoes or an occasional python boot, know this exquisite little inconvenience by the name of Stink foot.

The song then switches to first person:

My python boot is too tight, I couldn’t get it off last night. A week went by, and now it’s July, I finally got it off and my girlfriend cried: you got stink foot! Your stink foot puts a hurt on my nose!

Just before the guitar solo (unlike any other guitar solo you’ve heard before) a new, important character appears: Fido the dog – the star of the song finale:

Well, then Fido got up off the floor, and he rolled over, and he looked me straight in the eye. And you know what he said? Once upon a time, somebody say to me (This is the dog talkin’ now): What is your conceptual continuity? Well I told ’em right then, Fido said, It should be easy to see, the crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe.

The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe. Imagine me at 15, with my immense english/italian dictionary, trying to understand the crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe (If you google the phrase, you can find endless debates on its meaning, including a long, rambling bit by Zappa’s son Dweezil). Yet this tiny and profound piece of poetry (plus the perfect answer to a question artists often get asked) stayed with me ever since (click here for the full lyrics).

Frank Zappa: Stink foot
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