29
Apr 09

EDDY GRANT – “I Don’t Wanna Dance”

FT + Popular35 comments • 3,236 views

#510, 13th November 1982

Eddy Grant’s breakthrough with the Equals on “Baby Come Back” had come by upping reggae’s stomp quotient at the expense of its lilt. I don’t know a lot about his solo career but cuts like the slashing “Do You Feel My Love” suggest he kept an interest in how his music could be made heavier – the force of the riff on that song, and the Sweet-style bovver-boy shout-outs on “Electric Avenue”, point to a fusion of rock and reggae on very different terms from the ones Bob Marley had set.

Neither of those songs hit the top, though: “I Don’t Wanna Dance” carries traces of their heft but doesn’t work as well – here it seems clumsy, those thumping drumbeats at the end of each verse giving Eddy a faintly comical air. It’s not so much that he doesn’t wanna dance, but he’s wearing clown shoes and the dancefloor is full of banana skins.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Erithian on 29 Apr 2009 #

    You do wonder sometimes about the circumstances in which one particular track by a given artist reaches number one when others don’t – the quality of the opposition at a specific time, a hook that reaches more people than the next song. Here’s another case where you could nominate quite a few singles of his which would have made better number ones – wouldn’t it have been fun if “Gimme Hope Joanna” had been his contribution to this list? IDWD is OK I suppose, but a bit stodgy and not one you’d be too excited about hearing again.

    “Electric Avenue” was placed in VH-1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s – the list mentioned by James K the other day in which “Come On Eileen” was number one.

    Someone else who wasn’t gonna dance no more (doubt if he ever did much, unlike one of his successors) – Leonid Brezhnev, whose death was announced the day after this hit the top.

    Number 2 Watch – Dionne Warwick’s startling and classy comeback with “Heartbreaker”, followed by the Human League’s “Mirror Man”.

  2. 2
    Doctor Casino on 29 Apr 2009 #

    Maybe a little harsh, but I basically agree – this is an odd Number One for Grant, who actually recorded a lot of great material in this period. Strongly recommended: the entire “Walking on Sunshine” album, which is just sweet, burbly syntho-pop with reggae inclinations.

    The album this cut comes from, “Killer on the Rampage,” is a bit more mixed, more of a collection of chart-aiming singles – but several of them are GREAT. The title track (which always reminds me of “Night Fever,” maybe it’s just the tempo) has a groovy menace, “Too Young To Fall” is a super catchy tale of rejecting jailbait, and of course there’s “Electric Avenue,” which assuredly deserved to get #1 instead of this.

    And later, of course, “Gimme Hope Jo’anna,” which is perhaps a bit heavy-handed, but by then Grant was an absolute master of fusing hooks and production into an inseparable wallop of singalongability.

  3. 3
    Doctor Casino on 29 Apr 2009 #

    oops, xpost to Erithian, looks like we covered some of the same ground. Hard for me to decide which would be a more perfect #1 for Eddy, “Jo’Anna” or “Electric Avenue.”

  4. 4
    wichitalineman on 29 Apr 2009 #

    One of those number ones that baffled me then and baffles me now. A friend’s little brother singing it round the house when it was still outside the Top 10 gave me a clue to a catchiness I just couldn’t find for myself.

    Eddy did patent that minimal squelchy bass, though, stripping it from four notes on Living On The Front Line to one on the off-beat for Electric Avenue. A couple of steps up from the UB40 press-button-and-go karaoke, but I’ll take Baby Come Back (the Equals’ take!) any day over this mediocrity.

    Eddy’s soul/glam/bovver beat is heard to best effect on the Equals’ Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys, which is proper irresistable to yr feet.

    A reeeally long gap between his two extensive runs of hits – what was he up to between ’70 and ’79?

    Seeing as this is the closest she gets to a Popular entry, I’ll say that Dionne Warwick’s Heartbreaker is a 10 for me. “My love is stronger than the universe”. Jesus. Too much.

  5. 5
    Doctor Casino on 29 Apr 2009 #

    After a few more moments’ reflection, the basic problem is that not only does he not want to dance, you don’t either – it’d make more sense if the song was a bit more uptempo so you could understand why someone would even be tempted. (Compare to “Jo’anna,” which is willing to pair its vicious lyric with a jaunty, optimistic tune.) Someone should try speeding this one up slightly and see how it turns out…

  6. 6
    Doctor Casino on 29 Apr 2009 #

    (A certain bunnied 2006 #1 may have in fact based itself on this very idea!)

  7. 7
    Tom on 29 Apr 2009 #

    Singalongability on this was centred on “the feeling is baaaaad, the feeling is baaaaad” hook – this got a bit of playground adaptation.

  8. 8
    Erithian on 29 Apr 2009 #

    And indeed it was adapted at Greenham Common, as a friend described to me:
    “I don’t wanna screw, screw with the system no more,
    Never did nothing to help me though –
    Oh well the system is baaaad, the system is baaaad…”

    I’m sure it kept those cold nights at bay.

  9. 9
    Izzy on 29 Apr 2009 #

    I went on an ‘island safari’ tour when we were in Barbados a couple of years back. The driver made a big thing of hooting and hollering when we passed by Eddy’s ranch in the north of the island. We got waves back from the two gentlemen relaxing on the veranda, but sadly the house is set miles back from the road so I can’t confirm whether it was him or not.

  10. 10
    Erithian on 29 Apr 2009 #

    Izzy, the Barbados island safari is fantastic, isn’t it? Our driver pointed out the nicely understated bar owned by the auntie of boxer Nigel Benn: a huge sign with a painting of Nigel Benn and the words “Nigel Benn’s Auntie’s Bar” just in case you missed it.

  11. 11
    Izzy on 29 Apr 2009 #

    Haha, we saw that too – she’s obviously not overly-concerned about the neighbours thinking she might be freeloading on Nigel’s fame. The tour was great, although we had to have two goes because it was absolutely tipping it down the first day. Very Britishly we insisted on soldiering on until the jeep could safely go no further – our driver seemed nonplussed at our lunatic stoicism.

  12. 12
    AndyPandy on 29 Apr 2009 #

    I surprised noones mentioned his comeback hit from 1979 ‘Living on the Frontline’ which I thought would have got a lot of props on here – a far cry from this very commercial slice of pop-dance

  13. 13
    lonepilgrim on 29 Apr 2009 #

    I’m surprised this got to number 1 for all of the reasons already mentioned. EG doesn’t deliver much variety vocally – relying on a hoarse shout that is quite invigorating on Baby come back but overbearing on this tune.

  14. 14
    The Lurker on 29 Apr 2009 #

    Reading these comments and Tom’s review I was thinking that you had all been a bit harsh – I had fond memories of this song from my childhood, fonder than I had of Musical Youth or Culture Club. On listening to it for the first time probably since 1982, I’m forced to admit you’re probably right – it is fairly lumpen and the arrangement is horribly dated. I think I’d stretch to a 6 out of 10, but mainly from playground nostalgia.

    I guess it may have been helped to number one by the two previous reggae-ish songs?

  15. 15
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 29 Apr 2009 #

    i think there was also a sort of in-industry fondness for eddy, who had after all been around for a fair old time by now, without ever quite establishing a signature style — i think this era suited him because it gave slightly unfocused quirkiness more wiggle-room than usual, plus (possibly because the sudden caribbean tinge and pop’s mild reggaefication had shifted mainstream radio’s and the general public’s ideas of what black music could be) his own not-especially reggae-ish sound sounded like it might be the next “ethnic” thing (which in the event it wasn’t)

  16. 16
    Doctor Casino on 29 Apr 2009 #

    “Living on the Frontline” is great! One of the standouts on Walking on Sunshine although “My Love My Love” is the one I tend to play people to try and sell Grant.

  17. 17
    Jonathan Bogart on 29 Apr 2009 #

    “Electric Avenue” being the only Eddy Grant I know (aside from a handful of Equals songs which I only learned existed because of Popular!), I’ve nothing to contribute here, aside from expressing an oft-felt envy that British folk my age got to grow up with all this great reggae (straight or off-brand) which went unknown in my own land. There’s not even a decent skinhead subculture here; reggae is basically Marley posters in dorm rooms and the COPS theme.

    Thank God for record shops.

  18. 18
    The Intl on 30 Apr 2009 #

    Guess he wanted to sell records to the kids.

  19. 19
    Billy Smart on 30 Apr 2009 #

    And, indeed as one of the kids of 1982, I can confirm that this was highly popular at my primary school. I suspect that, rather like ‘Ebony & Ivory’, this may have been the tastes of younger generations of parents being passed on to their children.

    I imagine that the optimum circumstances to listen to this might be when drunk in the company of friends.

  20. 20
    lonepilgrim on 30 Apr 2009 #

    interesting that this is the third reggae-ish number 1 tune in a row.

    What strikes me now is how uninvolving EGs persona appears. I can’t imagine hardcore fans emulating him because there’s nothing to latch on to.

  21. 21
    vinylscot on 30 Apr 2009 #

    Someone mentioned above that “Jo-anna” was a little “heavy-handed”. It contains one of my very favourite bad lyrics – the phrase “weapons in the shape of guns”.

    What could these weapons be? What other weapons are the same shape as guns?

    Sorry, I can be a literalist tw*t sometimes.

  22. 22
    Alan on 30 Apr 2009 #

    You are Tanya Headon AICM5£

    “X in the shape of Y” as a phrase = “category X more specifically (embodied in ) instance Y of that category”

    ie shape = embodiment.

    see, i can hate fun if i try.

  23. 23
    peter goodlaws on 30 Apr 2009 #

    I generally agree that this plods along a bit too much, unlike “Living on the Frontline” (Railton Road, Brixton, Waldo tells me and he should know), which is tremendous as the Doc says. In IDWTD Eddy seems to be in a permanent growl, which may or may not be intentional, as after all the guy DON’T WANT to dance. Well, nobody’s asking you to, you idiot!

    As for Nigel Benn, wonderfully entertaining fighter but basically a typical bully. Very good when he was in with someone who wasn’t too keen. Different story when folk had a pop back. As much as I was rooting for him against Steve Collins, I’ll never forget the look of absolute horror on Nigel’s face when the supposed gentle Irishman with almost a twinkle in his eye started seriously dishing out violent and terminal correction and Benn suddenly looked about as intimidating as Tiny Clanger. Collins did for that posturing, lisping nancy, Mr Ewbank too, of course, fight fans will remember.

  24. 24
    Conrad on 30 Apr 2009 #

    “Heartbreaker” would have made a wonderful Number 1.

    This I could take or leave. Plodding is right, although I’ve also heard it described as “confident” and I suppose there is a certain confidence on display in the minimalism of arrangement. It makes a little go a long way.

  25. 25
    Kat but logged out innit on 30 Apr 2009 #

    Never heard this song until just now – it’s not really an instant classic, is it? I can see how the melody might get lodged in your head after a while though. The feeling is baaaaaad, the feeling is baaaaad. Thumbs up to the video though, I might have to go and blog it RIGHT AWAY…

  26. 26
    vinylscot on 30 Apr 2009 #

    Alan @22 – I am not Tanya, but thanks for the compliment.

    Back to IDWD, I always took thought it sounded rather like a petulant or stroppy fifteen-year-old who actually DOES want to dance, but doesn’t have the bottle. I can remember many a local disco during my early teen years when I found it difficult to get up the nerve – fear of rejection, not being “cool” enough, getting laughed at by your mates, etc. The phrasing, as well as the lyrics themselves, reminds me of this.

  27. 27
    Malice Cooper on 30 Apr 2009 #

    I remember at the time knowing this would get to number one.It is gentle and easy and a song that appeals to all generations.

    I particularly enjoyed Lenny Henry at the time on “Three of a kind” doing “Eddie Grunt”. “I get a bill for from dee electric company.It keeps on gettin’ higher”

  28. 28
    LondonLee on 30 Apr 2009 #

    I do like the minimalism of this and Eddy’s other hits around this time, he did have his “own” sound which owed as much to Brixton as it did Kingstown. This is a bit of a plodder though.

    It’s been a while since I’ve listened to any of them that closely but he never did the fake Jamaican accent did he, and always sounded like the Sarf London boy he was. His voice reminds me of Jazzie B a little in that respect.

  29. 29
    LondonLee on 30 Apr 2009 #

    Actually, scratch that last comment. I just went and watched the video and he pronounces dance like an American unlike Jazzie B who always said darnce

  30. 30
    DV on 4 May 2009 #

    I’ve a bit of a soft spot for this, especially when he sits on the raft feeling all sadface. I think my dad, in stereotypical dad fashion, thought his (Eddy’s) hair looked stupid.

  31. 31
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Re Gorillaz: Eddy’s indignant rage seems a bit overdone, don’t you think ?

    Meanwhile, I wonder if he noticed the rather more obvious similarity between these two songs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uChZXCLVMzA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SI6KTW0Z-4Y

  32. 32
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Re Gorillaz: Eddy’s indignant rage seems a bit overdone, don’t you think ?

    I wonder if he also spotted the marked similarity between his Rub A Dub Dub, recorded with The Equals, and a bunny baiting Danish club phenomenon from the mid 90s?

    (dear admin – I tried to put the youtube links up but have been left ‘awaiting moderation’, so apologies if this post goes up three times)

  33. 33
    seekenee on 29 Nov 2011 #

    This was very popular at the local community hall 1982 Christmas disco as was House of Fun and Come on Eileen, unsurprisingly. I always found this one a bit of a drag, especially the chorus, for me the other worthy Eddy hit is Do You Feel My Love?

  34. 34
    Auntie Beryl on 15 Feb 2013 #

    A song ruined by certain Radio 1 DJs – Steve Wright is prime suspect in this – cutting into the song halfway through to smarmily reply “thank you” to the lyric “I love your personality”. These were dark days for pop radio.

  35. 35
    hectorthebat on 1 Nov 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Complete Book of the British Charts (UK, 2001) – Neil Warwick’s Top 10 Singles 9
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 50

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