Almanac Music: Songs About Dancing

 

 

[Image: Wikimedia Commons.]

 

Songs About Dancing

 

One of the most important aspects of my many Footy Almanac articles about ‘songs and themes’ of the rock ‘n’ roll era is that the theme in each particular piece is a highly relevant one. Themes I’ve already tackled, as many readers would know, have included seasons of the year, young women, young men, cars, sleep, angels, devils, flawed humanity, instrumentals, and songs which reference songs. It would be amiss of me if I did not include a piece concerning songs about dancing. This seems to me to be one of the most important subjects in relation to popular songs. So here is that piece. As usual, Almanackers, you are warmly invited to contribute your own song choices and discussion in the ‘Comments’ section.

 

‘The Twist’, written by Hank Ballard, performed by Chubby Checker (1960)

 

This pop song was inspired by the dance of the same name, and is still fun to listen to more than sixty years later. It certainly still possesses a ‘get up and dance’ quality. Interestingly, Checker’s version, though the most successful, was not the original. That one was by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters in 1958.

 

 

 

 

‘Dancing Days’, written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, performed by Led Zeppelin (1973)

 

I first heard this heavy rock number around the time of a basketball tournament in which I was playing, in Castlemaine, Victoria in the mid nineteen-seventies. A kid in my Under 15s team was a Led Zep freak, and he gave me a cassette of Zep’s Houses of the Holy album. ‘Dancing Days’ was the first track. Another standout memory of that time was that in the tournament, our team, a Geelong club team called Try Boys, played a match in which we were ahead of the Geelong representative team at half time – though the team of young regional stars ended up beating us. That, however, is a story for another day …

 

 

 

 

‘Dancing in the Moonlight (It’s Caught Me in Its Spotlight) ’, written by Phil Lynott, performed by Thin Lizzy (1977)

 

This bluesy rock song by Irish band Thin Lizzy, appeared on their album Bad Reputation and was issued as a single beforehand. It evokes memories of the band’s bass player and lead singer, Phil Lynott, prowling the stage – charismatic, cool and magnificent.

 

 

 

 

‘(You’re Such a) Fabulous Dancer’, written by Danny Douma, performed by Wha-Koo (1978)

 

This is one of my favourite seventies singles, with wonderfully melodic lead guitar work, and a ripper chorus. I saw Wha-Koo live with Thin Lizzy at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne in 1978. (Both bands were excellent.) ‘(You’re Such a) Fabulous Dancer’ appeared on Wha-Koo’s second album, Berkshire.

 

 

 

 

‘The Safety Dance’, written by Ivan Doroschuk, performed by Men Without Hats (1982)

 

This song is a folk-influenced synth-pop number. However, a bit more research told me that the band who released it, Men Without Hats, was Canadian, not from the British Isles as I first thought. ‘The Safety Dance’ was a big international hit in 1983.

 

 

 

 

‘Come Dancing’, written by Ray Davies, performed by the Kinks (1982)

 

Lovely, vignette-orientated lyrics and pleasant melody are two hallmarks of Ray Davies’ songwriting style. These are certainly present in this joyful, sweet-tempered Kinks song, which was released as a single, then on their album, State of Confusion.

 

 

 

 

‘Ballroom Dancing’, written and performed by Paul McCartney (1982)

 

This is a bright, catchy, Beatlesque McCartney song from his Tug of War album, produced by George Martin.

 

 

 

 

‘Let’s Dance’, written and performed by David Bowie (1983)

 

I’ve liked plenty of David Bowie singles, and this funky dance song from his album ‘Let’s Dance’, is certainly one of them.

 

 

 

 

‘Dancing in the Dark’, written and performed by Bruce Springsteen (1984)

 

One of the best songs of the eighties, in my opinion. It’s an upbeat rock tune, as almost everybody would know, charged with excitement, and contains a fabulous chorus: ‘You can’t start a fire / You can’t start a fire without a spark / This gun’s for hire / Even if we’re just dancin’ in the dark …’

I love the soaring middle eight, too: ‘You sit around getting older / There’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me …’.

Brilliant!

 

 

 

 

‘I Can’t Dance’, written Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford, performed by Genesis (1991)

 

This bluesy rocker is so danceable and fun – and, for me, anyway, very memorable. It’s from the Genesis album We Can’t Dance. (Ha!)

‘I Can’t Dance’ makes we want to jump away from the keyboard and start moving around the room!

 

 

 

…………………………………….

 

So, Almanackers, it’s that time once more! Over to you. Your responses to this topic are most welcome. Please add your own choice of a song (or songs) concerning the ‘songs about dancing’ topic in the comments section, along with anything else you’d like to say.

 

[Note: Wikipedia has been a good general reference for this piece, particularly when it comes to checking dates and other details.]

 

 

For more from Kevin, click HERE.

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, was published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Couple for you KD.
    ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’ – The Drifters. [Great story behind the song] https://www.songfacts.com/facts/the-drifters/save-the-last-dance-for-me

    ‘Do You Want To Dance’ by many, sometimes retitled ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ – Beach Boys do a great version as does Johnny Rivers.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Here’s a few quick ones KD

    No Dancing (Elvis Costello)
    Mystery Dance (Elvis Costello) (although the dancing is horizontal rather than vertical)
    Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones)
    Dancing In The Lesbian Bar (Jonathan Richman)
    Long Tall Glasses (Leo Sayer)

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks Col, for getting the ball rolling so promptly on this theme. Fine songs, too! (For some reason, the link you provided came back as ‘403 Forbidden’.)

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Thank you, Swish, for this interesting list.

    Two things – another early Elvis Costello song, ‘(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes’, contains significant ‘dancing references’. The second concerns Sayer’s ‘Long Tall Glasses’ – this is a song I really liked back when I was a kid, but had forgotten entirely about somewhere along the track. (This kind of forgetfulness is uncommon for me.)

  5. Peter Crossing says

    T Bone Shuffle – T Bone Walker. Impossible not to tap your feet. And a great cover by Boz Scaggs
    When You Dance I Can Really Love – Neil Young. From After The Goldrush, One of THE great albums

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Another 70s throwback – Get Up And Dance – Supercharge

    Dancing With Myself (Generation X)
    John, i’m Only Dancing (Bowie)
    Meccanik Dancing (XTC)
    Dance This Mess Around (B52s)
    Bring On The Dancing Horses (Echo & The Bunnymen)
    Dancing The Night Away (Motors)
    The Modern Dance (Pere Ubu)
    Twist Senorita (Sports)
    Twist And Shout (Isley Brothers et al)
    Twistin’ the Night Away (Sam cook et al)
    Stomp The Tumbarumba (Johnny Devlin et al)

    Mrs Swish and I were rear-ended one night while Safety Dance was playing on the car radio. It’s our jinx song.

  7. Kevin Densley says

    HI Peter. Thanks for these fine songs.

    Gotta love the bluesy T-Bone – yes, so danceable!

    Neil Young’s a bit of a favourite, too.

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Thank you again, Swish.

    Believe it or not, I saw Supercharge live at the Plaza Theatre in Geelong in 1977. They were a hoot, especially frontman/trombonist Albie Donnelly. They formed part of a double bill with Mother Goose. I wrote a Footy Almanac piece about it, called ‘Almanac History: The Plaza Theatre, Geelong’.

    And thanks for the additional ‘songs about dancing’ of course.

  9. Liam Hauser says

    I’m sure I’ll think of others later, but here’s a few that come to mind straight away:

    Dance the night away (Cream)
    You Movin’ (The Jet Set; an early version of The Byrds)
    Attitude dancing (Carly Simon)
    Dancing until midnight (Pseudo Echo)
    See my baby jive (Wizzard)

    As for “Do you wanna/want to dance”, I know the version by the Mamas and the Papas.

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Liam, for this interesting and varied bunch.

    I’ll pick out ‘See My Baby Jive’ for special mention, mainly because I recall it on heavy rotation on the family stereo. I loved it around the time it came out – it came to our record collection via one of those 70s compilations.

  11. “And We Danced” by The Hooters, simply a great rock song.
    “Waltzing Matilda” pretty much self-explanatory.
    “Tennessee Waltz” – I love the Tom Jones & Chieftans version off The Long Black Veil album.
    “Peppermint Twist” – best version is by The Sweet on their great Sweet Fanny Adams album.
    “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce.
    “Dance Little Sister” by the Rolling Stones.
    “Dancing With Mr D” by the Rolling Stones.
    “Twisting by the Pool” by Dire Straits.
    “Dancing Queen” by Abba

  12. Kevin Densley says

    Great, Smokie. Thanks for these – a solid bunch of really good songs.

    I’ll single out ‘Peppermint Twist’ which I particularly like, and mention another excellent Sweet dance-related song from roughly the same early seventies era, ‘Ballroom Blitz’

  13. As a confirmed shuffler I would add “Harlem Shuffle” by the Rolling Stones and “E Street Shuffle” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
    “Waltz Across Texas Tonight” is one of Rodney Crowell’s best songs. There is a great Emmylou Harris version on her extraordinary Wrecking Ball album.

  14. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for these, PB – a fine little selection.

    And I totally agree with you concerning the excellence of the Emmylou version of ‘Waltz Across Texas Tonight’ – I just listened to it.

  15. Luke Reynolds says

    “Hate Dancin’ ” by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. By the end of the song they love dancing.

  16. Luke Reynolds says

    “I Don’t Wanna Dance” by Split Enz

  17. Hello Kevin

    A song about not dancin
    Scissor Sisters – I Don’t Feel like Dancing

  18. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Luke. Thanks for your choices. Yes, it’s a fun evolution that goes on in the King Gizzard song. As for the Split Enz number, it just serves as a reminder how many fine songs came out of the Split Enz / Crowded House collaborations – these two bands are / were Australasian treasures.

  19. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Rodney. It’s a ripper – thanks.

  20. Rick Kane says

    Hi KD, lotta good calls in this theme and one of my faves (The Kinks Come Dancing) already noted. So, here’s a few more and I highly recommend the first song!

    I Hope you Dance, Lee Ann Womack
    Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
    Dance For You, Beyonce
    Dance to the Music, Sly & the Family Stone
    I Just Want to Dance with You, George Strait
    Let’s Dance to Joy Division, The Wombats
    Dance Me to the End of Love, Leonard Cohen
    Slow Dancing with the Moon, Dolly Parton
    You Aint Gotta Dance, The Replacements
    I Can’t Dance, Tom T Hall

  21. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks for this interesting bunch, Rick. Yes, I do like like ‘I Hope You Dance’, to mention your highly recommended number, but all the songs you’ve put forward are quality work.

    For some reason, listening to the songs you selected made me think of a relatively recent ‘song about dancing’ I love – ‘Dancing with a Stranger’ by Sam Smith and Normani (2019); to mention one thing I love about this song, there’s a beautiful bit of melody near the end of the chorus on the ‘dancing with a stranger’ line.

  22. Tony Forbes says

    I’m in a dancing mood by Billy T
    Save the last dance for me — The Drifters?
    Dance on — Kathy Kirby
    I should have danced all night ?

  23. Kevin Densley says

    Thank you, Tony, for these.

    Re the last one, it’s ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’. Julie Andrews, in the role of Eliza Doolittle, sang it in the original Broadway Production of My Fair Lady.

  24. Kevin Densley says

    While they are still in my mind – more fine songs about dancing (and my favourite version):

    ‘Let’s Twist Again’, Chubby Checker (1961);

    ‘Don’t Forget to Dance’ by The Kinks (1983);

    and ‘I Just Wanna Dance with Somebody’, Whitney Houston (1987).

  25. Karl Dubravs says

    Hey KD

    I know it isn’t a song but it does have a dancing theme and it does have a place in the anthology of modern music and (maybe) fittingly, the last contribution to this thread:

    The Last Waltz

  26. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Karl, for mentioning this film concerning The Band.

    At the same time, ‘The Last Waltz’ is also a song performed by Englebert Humperdinck.

  27. Rick Kane says

    Au contraire Karl, (to steal from KDs latest thread on French in songs) but I do have a contribution to this thread I can’t believe I haven’t already noted.

    Kangaroo Hop, Dave Warner’s from the Suburbs

    and other dance craze songs like:

    The Lambeth Walk, many, many versions
    The Stroll, The Diamonds
    The Wah-Watusi, The Orlons
    Pony Time, Chubby Checker
    Da Butt, E.U.

    and

    We Got the Beat, The Go-Go’s

  28. Karl Dubravs says

    “Touche!” Rick.

  29. Kevin Densley says

    Pat Wilson’s ‘Bop Girl’ (1983) is very much a ‘song about dancing’ and was big Oz hit in its day.

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