The following was printed (The Boise Weekly) on September 25, 2002.
The Great Wheel of Boogie
Not so long ago, this commercial came on teevee before I could get to the mute button. Can’t remember what they were selling, but it had a funky old 70s song for a theme. Something my wife and I used to dance to back when we were getting to know one another. Could have been “Play That Funky Music”—that’s on a commercial for something or other, you know. Or it might have been “Pick Up the Pieces.“ Great tune—no vocals, all horns and rhythm. Who needs vocals, I say. It’s usually the bass player who gets you dancing, anyway, and the singer just takes credit for it.
But now that I think about it, it was likely “Brick House.” That was some dance tune, I tell you. Good ol’ Commodores. Da! du du da … da … Da! (twothreefour) (one) dudududu … dudududu … DA!—DA!—DA!—Remember? Play “Brick House” at a funeral, and don’t be surprised if the dearly deceased started twitching.
Again, I don’t know what they were advertising, but it well may have been Depends. Maybe Ensure. Or Viagra. One thing I know for sure, it wasn’t a commercial for anything Nintendo puts out. It was nothing young people are interested in because ad makers don’t use old 70s funk tunes to sell stuff to kids, have you noticed? Music in teevee commercials has become increasingly generation-specific. They probably do studies or those focus group things that demonstrate, conclusively, that if you try to sell a 50-year old man a can of Coke by using Britney Spears in the commercial, he is 87-percent more likely to crave a Pepsi.
No, if you’re out to hook a 50-year old man, you take him back to his glory days. Back to when he was slim and virile and hopping from one discotheque to the next with hot babes hanging on his every word. Those were the days, eh? Shake your booty, indeed! That’s why they’re using tunes like “Brick House” and “Play that Funky Music” in commercials nowadays, to hook those 50 year old men into a Cadillac or a new pair of reading glasses. (I’m probably wrong about that commercial being for Depends, though. Viagra, maybe, but Depends sort of sell themselves, know what I mean?)
Anyway, it was one funky old tune and out in the kitchen, my wife started dancing to herself. She was a good dancer back in the day, and still is. That is, when she can find someone to dance with. I gave it up years ago. I was bad then, and just got worse. Even back when I was slim and virile, people would clear the dance floor when I started up, and not because they thought I moved like Travolta, either. They just didn’t want to get hurt, is all.
But when a funky enough tune comes on, sometimes I do sort of a … well … let’s call it a “couch dance.” It’s all in my neck and chin and lips. I don’t know what it looks like from the outside, but from back here, it’s like … “OH YEAH! Groove on, Bro! Shake That Neck! You GO, GUY!”
So here was my wife, all bumpy and grindy, her hips going this way and her shoulders that—and me, doing my couch dance—and our daughter’s looking first at her mother, then at me, then back to Mom. I couldn’t tell if she was amused, alarmed, astonished, or all of the above. And we danced that way all through the whole commercial. Twenty-five … 30 seconds. It felt good to know I still have it in me.
When it was over, my kid shook her head. “Jeez, Dad … you and Mom, you must be the two most embarrassing people in the world!”
* * *
Yeah, that’s where we’re at in the Cope household these days. She won’t turn 13 until next month (my kid, not my wife), but she’s been practicing up for it the last year or two. Everything I do either embarrasses her or drives her nuts. Take American Idol. We argued over that show all summer long. She’d say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Dad. Justin is really talented. And Kelly is even way more talented.”
I’d say, “Daughter, are you aware there was a time when young people didn’t rely on hyped-up television shows to tell them what was good or not? And did you know that singers haven’t always tried to sound like all the other singers? And since when does America’s youth allow corporate weenies to pick their idols for them? And wouldn’t it be a lot better if we watched a Star Trek rerun instead of that dumb show? And surely, you’re not going to make me listen to pre-fab crap like this until you go away to college, are you?”
Nothing worked. She was so happy when Kelly won, she cried.
* * *
But you wait and see. One of these days, 20 … 30 years on down the line, my daughter’s gonna be out in her own kitchen, and her own kids will have the teevee on in the next room. And—count on it!—a commercial will come up with one of those old-time Made-For-Kelly, focus group songs for a theme. And my daughter will start dancing and feeling 20 … 30 years younger. And her kids will watch, probably a bit confused. And probably, as kids so often do at their parents’ expense, they’ll laugh. Possibly even make some fun of her music, like her dad once did.
Don’t ask me why, but I am comforted by that vision.
September 25, 2002