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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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Comments

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  1. 31
    will on 14 Sep 2011 #

    I’ve never understood why people had a problem with the cancer line. It made me laugh out loud at the time, which is never a bad sign. And how else could Turbo B have underlined the seriousness of his important message? Not ‘I’m serious as nuclear war.’ (Too 80s), nor ‘I’m serious as the break up of the Soviet Union’ (too much of a mouthful). Cancer was universal, easy to understand and, crucially, rhymed with ‘dancer’.

  2. 32
    Steve Mannion on 14 Sep 2011 #

    I preferred my Eurodance to include some sense of drama and menace (whether through oppressive chords or a gruff monotone rap) and so the likes of RIAD made quite a satisfying bridge between your ‘Rhythm Of The Night’s and your ‘Last Train To Trancentral’s. Dr. Alban’s ‘It’s My Life’ is probably the second biggest example from this year (arguably a ropier rap but so not a problem).

    Funny (not ha ha) to think how close their next darker single ‘Exterminate’ also came to topping the charts just after Christmas (iirc), and at a point where, just as people were forgetting about Iraq, the Balkan crisis was escalating severely. Also the second single with that title that year, alongside the actual Dalek-sampling effort by DMS (also one of at least two tracks that year shamelessly sampling ‘Strings Of Life’, after Altern 8’s ‘Evapor-8’ – sorry I’ll stop now).

    RIAD was the biggest selling single of 1992 if that wasn’t already mentioned.

  3. 33
    Mark M on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Re 21: Well… I Ain’t A Joke wasn’t a hit here, unlike I Know You Got Soul and Paid In Full (the Coldcut remix), both of which made the Top 20. But also, the “serious as cancer” line doesn’t leap out at you (it’s not like “It’s been a long time/I shouldn’t have left you…” or indeed “fish/which is my favorite dish”) – you could have heard the track dozens of times without noticing it, whereas in Rhythm Is A Dancer, it’s something of a punchline (not to mention just a lot clunkier).

  4. 34
    enitharmon on 14 Sep 2011 #

    will @ 32

    “Cancer was universal, easy to understand and, crucially, rhymed with ‘dancer’”

    It’s not a very good rhyme, is it? Hardly Keatsean.

    As for insensitivity: how many pop lyrics include ‘heart attack’? I lost my dad and a couple of friends to heart attacks, but I don’t take it personally.

  5. 35
    Steve Mannion on 14 Sep 2011 #

    I’m serious as Keats when I say rock the funky beats. I’m serious as Shelley when I say DJ give it some welly.

  6. 36
    hardtogethits on 14 Sep 2011 #

    #32. Being baited? I’ve become aware that some websites promulgate the notion that RIAD was the UK’s best selling single of 1992 (they would say that wouldn’t they). It wasn’t, it finished in 2nd place. Can’t go into further detail – bunny / rules.

  7. 37
    pink champale on 14 Sep 2011 #

    @34 must we once again rehearse the tired old ‘is turbo b better than keats’ debate?

  8. 38
    Tom on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Can’t remember whether Keats/beats is bunnyable or not.

    I honestly love Dr Alban’s rapping, I could and have listened to whole LPs of it: he is endlessly mild-mannered, the pioneer of “reasonable rap” (OK, maybe that was Prince Be). There’s a little of Dr Alban in Wiley I always think.

  9. 39
    Steve Mannion on 14 Sep 2011 #

    #36 Ah is this just the difference between something being the year best seller by 31st December and the overall sales of the #1 single at that time (including into the new year)? Or maybe the song in question had already surpassed Snap by that point.

    #38 Surely Alban’s Nigerian accent helped here (if only for the relative novelty of this in the charts). His “everyone’s getting tired of you” is so matter-of-fact and emotionally distant without actually sounding lazy or disinterested and it was an unusual great effect.

  10. 40
    chelovek na lune on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Not to knock Dr Alban (where did he get his doctorate?), I tend to think of MC Buzz B (and the Ruthless Rap Assassins) as being the pioneers of “reasonable rap”, to a greater extent.

    (Being ripped off years later by whichever far more commercially successful, and vulgar, and violent, rapper it was that also based a big hit around Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” has to count in MC Buzz B’s favour too).

  11. 41
    Erithian on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Rosie #34: as I mentioned in the “House of Fun” thread, Madness’ “Cardiac Arrest” entered the chart the day after my dad died of a heart attack – I’ve never quite reconciled myself with it and am quite glad it’s not a song that gets onto the greatest hits collections. Any other timing, though, and I’d probably have recognized the no doubt valid points it was making about modern life. Never had a problem with “Sheer Heart Attack” the Queen album or the line in “Up Town Top Ranking”.

    Clunkiest rhyme with “dancer” has to go to the Killers’ “Human”, surely? Clunky rhyme AND nonsense too.

  12. 42
    hardtogethits on 14 Sep 2011 #

    #39. Valid question. The record in question had outsold Snap by the end of 1992, and outsold it again in 1993, and has a comfy lead over it in all-time sales.

  13. 43
    Steve Mannion on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Booooooo (thanks)

  14. 44
    MarkG on 14 Sep 2011 #

    #41, I’d say Dancer rhymes with Answer, no matter which accent you use they both change the same way.

  15. 45
    thefatgit on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Reg Dwight (or should I say Bernie) doesn’t bother rhyming “dancer” with anything.

  16. 46
    Erithian on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Being from Manchester, dancer=cancer=answer, no problem. I mean “clunky” in the sense that it’s just a rubbish line!

  17. 47
    Pete on 14 Sep 2011 #

    @40: Its unclear where the good Doctor got his doctorate (in Sweden somewhere), but there is this terrific book about Swedish Dentists which has him at the top of the list.

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Swedish_Dentists.html?id=w3yiSQAACAAJ

  18. 48
    wichita lineman on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Ooh, ooh, Exterminate… my favourite Snap single, as electric and immediate as RIAD is snooty and silly. Lovely warm underststed keyboard riff and a neatly rhythmic verse vocal that kinda anticipates Xenomania.

    RIAD is gibberish, but it masquerades as something a lot grander, I think that’s why the cancer line jumps out. By that point I just roll my eyes.

    I have a cold. Does this make any sense?

  19. 49
    wichita lineman on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Tom – “reasonable rap”. I like that.

  20. 50
    DietMondrian on 14 Sep 2011 #

    I’d argue that “heart attack” is probably OK in a pop song as it’s a well-used way of describing being surprised or shocked – it’s an exaggeration of the heart skipping a beat – whereas “I’m as serious as cancer” doesn’t work as a simile. Turbob means to say he’s “very earnest”, not “slowly, painfully destroying life”, so the line really sticks out as thoughtless, and tasteless.

    (I’ve written the above, and stared at it for five minutes, and I’m not sure I agree with it. I don’t mind the use of “heart attack” in a lyric, despite losing my dad to a series of strokes and heart attacks, but if others feels differently, I completely accept that.)

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 53
    Tom on 14 Sep 2011 #

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

  24. 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”.

  25. 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”.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 59

    How on earth did you discover whose aunt she was?

  30. 60
    MarkG on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Josh Wink was sitting in the window seat.

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