Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Dance To The Music"
And I don't even like to dance.
So it's late Sunday night and we're cruising down the 101 listening to Sixties on 6 and...
All these years later Sylvester Stewart has become a joke. Living in his van, bleaching his hair, still not showing up for gigs or if he does appearing ever so briefly we focus on the antics and not the music. Kind of like Brian Wilson. But even though Brian can no longer hit the notes, he can still write, as evidenced by some of the tracks on last year's Beach Boys album "That's Why God Made the Radio."
But once upon a time, both Brian and Sly dominated the airwaves.
And it all started for Sly & The Family Stone with "Dance To The Music."
An economical three minutes, so different from today's era where dance tracks go on for a quarter hour, sometimes indefinitely, "Dance To The Music" is the antidote to all those overblown productions wherein the artist considers himself an auteur and nothing can be excised, all of his brain farts must be included.
Talk about an intro... Today everybody says to wait, hang in there, give it time. But those horns immediately get your attention, and then there's a thin Steve Cropper guitar line and the whole thing breaks down and it seems they're singing in tongues and it's still just a matter of seconds when they begin singing the chorus, yes, this is a famous inverted, reverse song.
And then the track breaks down again, as the instruments are introduced.
First comes the drummer, for people who only need a beat. And like Ringo on "Abbey Road," the solo is neither overbaked nor overdone, it's simple and straightforward, so right. Because it's about the beat, not the flourish.
And then the guitar, which makes it easy to move your feet.
And then comes a peak. The bottom. Sly reaches down into his vocal range to announce an instrument which is so fat and oozy it sounds like industrial equipment come along to mow you down.
And then the organ!
If you can sit still while the notes are emanating from the instrument you're comatose. This is the baby boomer moment, when even those of us who categorically refuse to dance lift our hands in the air and play along, touching those keys as we shimmy and shake in our seats.
They're friends! A band! Not hired hands! They're drumming and blowing and this is the message, how great it is to play, how great it is to be alive. There's more energy pumping through the dashboard than there is under the hood.
And then the whole thing breaks down completely, goes from intense to subtle, from instrumental to vocal, and then with a final flourish it's done.
It's like the circus came to town for three minutes and then was gone.
I wanna go back!
That's what makes someone buy a record, the need to have that hit of adrenaline, that pure life experience once again.
And one element in "Dance To The Music" absent from so much of the hit parade today is joy.
You know joy. Fun with abandon, with no self-conscious feelings, it's what we strive for. It's not about pleasing the judge, it's not about getting it right, rather it's about pure expression!
It was all bastardized in the Mariah Carey era. Wherein it became more about control, about demonstration than letting go for the sake of it. The judges on those TV shows should stop giving their advice and just play the contestants "Dance To The Music."
Sly lost it to drugs.
But it's hard to maintain your purchase on reality when you get it so right, when you're so adored.
One day you were unknown, with dreams. You believed in yourself and thought you could do it, but then you found out everybody agreed, that there were no naysayers, you were exalted.
Where do you go from there?
That's what happened to Stevie Wonder.
That's what happened to Sly Stone.
And they can't come back. Because the circumstances will never be the same. The hunger, the desire, the youth.
But we still have these recorded artifacts to blow our minds.