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Sep 11

SNAP – “Rhythm Is A Dancer”

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#679, 8th August 1992

If you were to make a Eurodance drinking game, “Rhythm Is A Dancer” would have you under the table in one track. There’s Turbo B making a ninny of himself, of course, but also the wordless chanting, the house piano break, the echoed disco drums, the garbled english on the chorus, the vague mysticism, and most of all the general stateliness and spaciousness of it. Some dance music – the following Number One, for instance – sounded congested, like a party you’re having to shoulder your way through. But Eurodance always carried a sense of enormous vaulting spaces, the club as cathedral. That was the case in the Italo era – where the sparsity and echo in the track were often the source of cosmic or sci-fi metaphors – and it carried over into the lusher likes of Robert Miles. House music was just another ripple in that continuum of kitschy vastness.

The upshot is that “Rhythm” isn’t nearly as vulgar as I remember it – it’s higher minded, more spiritual, and being honest rather duller than I hoped it was. A lot of the memory of brashness comes from Turbo B and the – now notorious – “serious as cancer” lyric. It’s not a good line (according to a passing Steve M he nicked it off a US rapper anyway) but it’s certainly not helped by B’s delivery, hammering down the emphasis on “CAN-cer” as he’s running out of breath and room for the line. Terrible Euro-rap doesn’t always hurt a track – it can easily amp up the energy levels and make a song far more endearing – but Turbo B is too severe for that here. Even if he had hit on a good metaphor, serious is the last thing this record needs more of.

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  1. 51
    chelovek na lune on 14 Sep 2011 #

    @47 Goodness, that’s amazing. Thanks for bringing that to light; there as me thinking he was as qualified for his title as Professor Green.

    Hmm, Guru Josh was another raving dentist (a raving Thatcherite as well, if I remember rightly. Hmm, he should get down to Southend, where for the next month there’s a public artwork on the railway bridge over the high street depecting a massive image of Mrs T’s eyes…). I just hope both of them had stable hands when they were wielding a drill…

    A digression, somewhat.

  2. 52
    hardtogethits on 14 Sep 2011 #

    When I read Wichita at 48, (“gibberish, but it masquerades as something a lot grander”) I thought, “Yeah, like ‘Higher State of Consciousness’ by blooming Guru Josh.” Up pops Guru Josh’s name (at #51) and then I think “Actually it was Josh Wink, wasn’t it? Not Guru Josh”. I can’t work out whether I care or not, and I think this says quite a bit about the stage I’ve reached in my life. I can still tell Fearne Cotton and Fern Britton apart, though.

  3. 53
    Tom on 14 Sep 2011 #

    ISTR “Higher State Of Consciousness” is pretty straightforward lyrically!

  4. 54
    hardtogethits on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Interesting. I’ve listened again to confirm my view on “Higher State”. To me, its lyric has three parts, covering two different types of unintelligible. Parts one and two are indeed straightforward. I can work out the words but it’s got no real meaning – just the right kind of words for the type of record (a la RIAD). Part three, I simply can’t hear what they’re saying (tsk, kids these days).

    Part One: the “conscious / consciousness” stuff
    Part Two: a trite list (I think “in my mind, in my soul, in my blood, in my bones” – that kind of thing anyway).
    Part Three: Nope, never could work out what’s being mumbled but there’s definitely still something being said / sung.

    I can’t find anything on google to confirm the whole official lyric. Anyone?

    I’m not decrying the record – just as I wasn’t with RIAD. I think it’s alright. However, I think its title promises something it doesn’t come close to delivering. Hence “gibberish, but it masquerades as something a lot grander”.

  5. 55
    hardtogethits on 15 Sep 2011 #

    …which was of course Wichita’s comment on this no.1 – that phrase, though, made me think of “Higher State”.

  6. 56
    AndyPandy on 15 Sep 2011 #

    The legendary Guru Josh – named himself after his (and my) favourite Indian dish and whose ominpresence at the big parties is guaranteed to make the average ex-raver from back in the day feel nostalgic today. Sort of projected himself as a larger than life legendary figure even before he’d done anything and in some ways succeeded.
    Didn’t take himself too seriously and he was always one of my favourite characters from the whole scene back then.

  7. 57
    Steve Mannion on 15 Sep 2011 #

    #54 Those part 2 lyrics you mention only appear on the Jules & Skins mix of Higher State don’t they? That version is pure pants and not as well known as either the Tweekin’ Acid Funk mix or the Dex & Jonesey mix which are thankfully almost entirely devoid of lyrical content.

  8. 58
    wichita lineman on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Josh Wink’s Don’t Laugh has one of the most disturbing “lyrics” ever recorded. Terrifying.

    I once sat next to his aunt on a flight from New York to LA. She was a teacher in Raleigh and very sweet.

  9. 59

    How on earth did you discover whose aunt she was?

  10. 60
    MarkG on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Josh Wink was sitting in the window seat.

  11. 61
    wichita lineman on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Arf. No, she asked what I did for a “living”, and then said “ooh my nephew’s a dj…”

    What’s the consensus on Don’t Laugh? Heck, I even named a club after it.

  12. 62
    El boludo on 15 Sep 2011 #

    @51 why would they need stable hands? Are they raving horse dentists?

    …Anyway, I like this one! It sounded better in my head though. I’d give it a 6. “Rhythm Of The Night”, on the other hand, is great and would get at least an 8 from me.

    @32 There’s been a lot of Dr Who talk round here lately! I’m afraid Dr Who never meant shit to me (never seen any of the classic stuff, couldn’t sit through David Tennant’s mugging for more than a couple of minutes) but all this gives me an excuse to link to another Who-sampling track called “Exterminate”, by the amazing Lady Leshurr:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dJq4tdVIa4

  13. 63
    weej on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Bit late to this one. In short, yes, “doomy synths” = great, vocals (apparently not Penny Ford but Thea Austin) = passable, rap = ruins the whole thing, even before the ‘cancer’ line. A five seems very fair. Did Snap! really have NINE top ten hits? How? Why?

    Just listened to ‘Don’t Laugh’ for the first time, not sure what to say apart from ‘thanks, not going to sleep now’

  14. 64
    Steve Mannion on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Still don’t see what’s so bad about the rap – seems standard Eurodance quality (my only gripe is that MCs often struggled to fit lines within the higher tempo very well, TurBoB certainly not the worst offender here). And if you don’t like this Snap you should never hear ‘Welcome To Tomorrow’.

    #61 I never liked ‘Don’t Laugh’ but MTV used to air this weird edit of it that only lasted about a minute. Size 9 ‘I’m Ready’ was alright tho.

  15. 65
    Ben Cook on 15 Sep 2011 #

    I’m sorry but this is an utter MASTERPIECE. Sounds as fresh now as they day it was recorded. The most epicly amazing record continental Europe has ever produced.

  16. 66
    Ben Cook on 15 Sep 2011 #

    I am slightly too young to remember when this was in the charts, but this must have sounded innovative (if cheesy) at the time? It’s a world away from the heavy rave stuff that had been dominating up until around the time this came out.

    If anything, did this song kill rave as a mainstream genre? By the start of 1993 all the dance music in the charts was far more commercial and hooky.

    “Welcome To Tomorrow” from 1994 was another favourite of mine. Compared to some other eurodance acts who stuck to the same formula, at least Snap! did experiment a little bit. They never tried to do another song that sounded the same as this.

    By the way the singer on this record is Thea Austin not Penny Ford, and was sadly the only single she did with Snap!

  17. 67
    punctum on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Best remembered for Turbo B’s preposterous proclamation that “I’m as serious as cancer when I say rhythm is a dancer,” Snap!’s second number one was significantly less powerful but sold substantially more than their first. Removing all traces of echt-rebellion, they gambled on the likelihood of the public not knowing or remembering “Auto-Man,” a long-lost B-side by early eighties electro pioneers Newcleus, by using it as the basis of a not very elevating would-be Eurotechno anthem. While it set the template for scores of middleground Eurodance pop crossovers to come – Urban Cookie Collective, Haddaway, Dr Alban and Corona being just four of the temporary beneficiaries – “Rhythm Is A Dancer” is markedly less interesting than any of those; in a way it does look forward to the megaclubs with their endlessly and seamlessly escalating trance sets, but completely lacks the unutterable transcendence that the latter were, at their best, capable of producing or inducing. Thea Austin’s vocal is competent but uninvolving, the production is one-dimensional – there is no sense of development or climax – and the fairly pompous, Jean-Michel Jarre-echoing keyboards suggest prog-rockers trying to get in via the tradesman’s entrance. Yet in the 1992 of “The Drowners,” “Out Of Space,” “Popscene,” “Creep,” “Everybody Hurts,” “Constant Craving,” “Middle Of The Road,” “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” and “The Blue Room” it was number one in Britain for six weeks – but then the Britain of 1992 was the make-do-and-mend/settle-for-what-you-know/rock-not-the-boat Britain which elected John Major back into alleged power for another half-decade.

  18. 68
    lonepilgrim on 15 Sep 2011 #

    I just realised that this was number 1 on the day Mrs Pilgrim and I got married

  19. 69
    Steve Mannion on 16 Sep 2011 #

    #66 If anything killed rave, or rather caused the fragmentation of it – from a creative perspective rather than a political one (CJA), it was more directly the likes of the kids TV-sampling hits mentioned on the Jimmy Nail thread.

  20. 70
    Ben Cook on 16 Sep 2011 #

    67 – I cannot understand how anyone could not think this wasn’t, even if not their cup of tea, one of the finest examples of commercial dance music ever. How can you say it’s not interesting?

  21. 71
    El boludo on 16 Sep 2011 #

    @70, I think he articulated it pretty well in his comment, to be fair, even if you disagree. It’s not like there’s some objective measure of worth for “commercial dance music”! For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s anywhere near the finest examples of the genre, although as I said above I have a lot of goodwill towards it.

  22. 72
    Ben Cook on 18 Sep 2011 #

    Articulate but wrong. It didn’t spend 6 weeks at number one for nothing. It still fills dancefloors to this day. It must have something going for it.

  23. 73
    punctum on 19 Sep 2011 #

    Not “wrong” but “a different opinion.” What you have to understand is that other people are not you.

  24. 74
    Jimmy the Swede on 19 Sep 2011 #

    #73 – Exactly right. There’s no such thing as “wrong” when discussing opinions. For my part, the ravy davy gravy period passed me by without the slightest microspeck of interest, quite possibly because I was into my thirties by then, although I don’t think I would have seen the point of it as a twenty year old, to be honest. Even though I saw no merit in it at all, I would never be arrogant enough to sneer at those of you who have discussed this genre so enthusiastically.

  25. 75
    Alan Connor on 20 Sep 2011 #

    Higher State of Consciousness is precisely three minutes in, I think, its single edit. We used to use it to time Boggle games.

  26. 76
    pink champale on 21 Sep 2011 #

    i was actually woken up this morning by a brief (glorious) snatch of higher state of consciousness, played as part of a medley of house hits on radio 5. i think something to do with the ministry of sound’s 20th birthday. nicky c declared they were all ‘sounding a bit dated’ (!).

    he later concluded an interview with some swampy character who’s living in a historical tree to stop it being chopped down by reciting the lyrics of strawberry fields forever in that peculiar tone of voice he adopts whenever making some really obvious point about the beatles. even by campbell standards this was a higher state of partridgeness.

  27. 77
    chelovek na lune on 21 Sep 2011 #

    This track clearly still has something – have just heard (on spotify) the “Thriller Jill `Rhythm Is A Dancer’” mash-up of Nicola Robert’s rather lovely new single, “Lucky Day” which places her vocals over Snap!’s keyboards.

    Does it work? Not entirely sure yet, although on the dancefloor it might. It’s certainly done cleverly and showing sensitivity towards both tracks.

  28. 78
    punctum on 22 Sep 2011 #

    “Lucky Day”’s one of my favourite singles of 2011 thus far – love Nicola’s voice, the way it seems to channel the spirit of Billy Mackenzie into Clare Grogan. Won’t get anywhere of course because it’s not a Club Banger but it deserves not to be lost; looking forward to the album next week.

  29. 79
    Chris Gilmour on 22 Sep 2011 #

    For me this is still breathtaking; a handful of simple elements tightly combining the uplifting and the melancholy like all brilliant dance music should, my favourite being that lovely update of the clumpy, stompy Technotronic synth sound to used underpin it (‘Love that bass line’ copyright Tony Dortie, TOTP, 1992). As much as I loved the torrent of glorious Euro-pop-rave this helped spawn, I actually think this is still the best, perhaps along with a number one from the next year which builds on the ideas and sounds of RIAD verrry closely. This also sound tracked my first visits to gay clubs, so brings back many happy memories of getting dressed up, putting too much Lynx on and being very excited by dry ice. You may like to know that the original 12″ version of this gently extends the radio version but drops the rap altogether! A nine, but if I was listening to it now, I’d get all excited and give it a ten.

  30. 80
    MarkG on 29 Sep 2011 #

    What’s that massive great blue button there for?

  31. 81
    Alan not logged in on 29 Sep 2011 #

    er yeah, sorry. i’ll try to get rid of the ‘default gravatar’ blue button.

  32. 82
    Patrick Mexico on 19 Feb 2014 #

    It may have been released last October but Bastille’s cover of this and The Rhythm of the Night still induces vitriolic rage in me not seen since the days of Genghis Khan.

    I don’t expect White Riot from any of that media-trained, beige drama school lot but holy mackerel, it’s like having your favourite childhood dessert melted down 20 years later and turned into cabbage soup. Hospital cabbage soup.

  33. 83
    Mark G on 20 Feb 2014 #

    You(re) gonna/must love their Earthsong/Common People medley then..

  34. 84
    mapman132 on 6 Sep 2014 #

    I really liked this at the time, but notably I never noticed the infamous “cancer” line until many years later. Digging out one of my 20-year-old off-the-radio tapes I confirmed what I suspected: the version played on US radio in 1992, at least the stations I listened to, was missing the rap entirely – just a long instrumental over that section. Explains why I liked it (I hated rap at the time) as well as why it sounded so different from “The Power” just two years prior. I find the cancer line jarring – for shock value it might work in some contexts, but to punctuate the assertion that “rhythm is a dancer” (whatever that means), it sounds kind of ridiculous.

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