I’ve always said that a good song is the one that can be sung with a simple guitar or piano accompaniment and it sounds like nothing is missing in the arrangement. I’ve also said that an arrangement can sometimes hamper a good song’s ability to shine.
The early 80s saw an interesting New Age-style Rock emerge and despite the fact that it still had the hard edges associated with Rock, the genre tried to incorporate other gentler themes into itself. Occasionally it worked, but more times than not, it obliterated the beauty of the song in record time.
Now I must admit that I loved what Billy Idol could do with a song, complete with spiky blond hair and the perfunctory sneer that came along with the attitude. The bad boy image and the defiant lyrics coupled with thumping bass lines, layers of nasty guitar and heart stopping drums was enough to bring an entire generation to its feet within the first four beats of any bar of music, with “Rebel Yell” and the aggressive remake of the Tommy James and The Shondells’ hit “Mony Mony” as playlist staples.
That being said, I never developed a taste for Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” The song fell flat on a number of levels and it just wasn’t as dance floor inspiring as his other songs. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong with the song but I also didn’t get the feeling that the song was a bad song and unworthy of having been recorded.
So, what exactly was wrong with the song? I asked more than a few people and although we all felt that the song wasn’t Idol-worthy, none of us felt it was exactly Idol-unworthy either.
When the Boomtang Boys re-recorded the song in the 90s, it was given a nice little techno shine up. Even though the song was more appealing, it still lacked something that none of us could quite identify. The lyrics were sung with a quirky vocal in the vein of Belinda Carlisle or the Spice Girls and the arrangement was more dance oriented but it still wasn’t quite right.
Recently, FOX Television has unleashed a new sitcom — “GLEE.” It’s an unrealistic portrayal of high school life without a doubt but then again it’s not meant to be a realistic portrayal of high school life. It’s about so much more than high school.
Imagine my surprise when one of the characters on the show sang “Dancing With Myself.” It took 20 years for someone to record a version of this song that brought together the elements needed to allow this song to finally take flight and soar. With the pretense stripped from the arrangement and a simple honesty layered into the mix, what emerged was a song that had wanted to breathe for years and was finally able to do just that.
Oddly enough, as I listened to it on the show, my young son asked me if the song was written in the 1930s.
“No,” I answered, “it’s a song from your mom’s generation only done the way it should have been done long ago. It found its roots. It just happens that the arrangement was supposed to be from the past.”
With that he smiled and replied, “I like it.” And truth be told, I like it, too.