Chuck’s Record Collection:
K-Tel’s “Get Dancin’

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​To listen to “dance music” in the fall of 1982 was to be in a strange place.

​It was a place of musical segregation.

Disco was dead – or so went the prevailing wisdom.

Rap and hip-hop were bubbling up, but only occasionally on the Hot 100. 

Top R&B/pop superstars (Stevie Wonder, Donna Summer, Rick James, Aretha Franklin) saw releases underperforming. 

Air Supply and other balladeers reigned, with frequent country crossovers from acts such as Alabama, Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers, and Juice Newton.

​Within weeks, that would change.

Prince’s blockbuster “1999” would be released, with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” coming a month later. 

Both albums, and the artists, would push MTV, the Hot 100 and pop music overall in a much more rhythmic – and integrated – direction for the rest of the decade.

K-tel’s 1982 compilation “Get Dancin’,“ subtitled “Hot Hits to Get You Movin’,” highlights that singularly interesting time:

Post-disco, pre-“1999” and “Thriller.” 

And it does so quite well.

​By this time, K-tel was past its U.S. peak.

MTV satisfied one-stop consumption of current hits. 

And although stratified racially and musically, FM radio and record stores catered to their audiences. 

And for anyone who wanted more, there was always Columbia House’s “dozen hits for 1 penny” pitch. (I got a good number of albums that way.)

So, the 1980s K-tel releases needed more sophistication than the omnibus approaches of Sounds Spectacular or Hit Machine

“Get Dancin’” works as a primer to post-disco R&B, with peppy new-wave influences thrown in. This is clear as early as the second track of side one, Jermaine Jackson’s “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy.” 

Anyone who thinks brother Michael pioneered R&B/rock hybrids through his work with Eddie Van Halen on “Beat It” ought to be reminded that Jermaine collaborated with Devo, of all artists, on “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy,” a top 20 hit a half-year earlier.

Similarly, it’s easy to forget that the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited,” a Top 10 pop hit upon re-release in 1984, was originally a Top 30 hit in 1982.

Its bouncy, keyboard-heavy melody straddled dance, R&B and adult contemporary.

To me, side one is flawless:

Beginning with Kool & the Gang’s “Let’s Go Dancin’,” a Top 40 track that mines the reggae-lite dance lilt to greater effect than Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” would a year later. (Neither holds a candle to Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster,” though.)

From there, we hear some of the best R&B and dance pop of the day: Jackson’s hit; Patrice Rushen’s stellar “Forget Me Nots”; Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much”; Aretha Franklin’s “Jump to It”; and then-newcomer Laura Branigan’s “Gloria.” (I bet the use of the year-old Vandross hit was intended to pair with the then-hot Franklin song, co-written and produced by Vandross.)

One of the album’s pluses is that by this time, K-tel had stopped editing and compressing their tracks to offer 8 or 10 hits per side. I’d rather have six tracks like these than harder-to-enjoy snippets.

Side two may be more adventurous, but it’s also more bewildering.

The leadoff track, Toni Basil’s “Mickey,” is the biggest Hot 100 hit on the album (with “Gloria” not far behind). At the time of this release, “Mickey” was just catching fire – and it’s not at all the slinky R&B of Rushen, Vandross or Franklin. Still, it has its charms and certainly meets the criterion of being a “hot hit to get you movin.”

​Q-Feel’s “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)” is more curious. It did not hit the Hot 100 in 1982, bubbling under in its initial run and making it only via a re-release later in the decade.

I guess the producers wanted a nod to the British new-wave pop making noise on MTV and “American Top 40.” Maybe they simply couldn’t afford a bigger hit, like the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran,” or ABC’s “The Look of Love.” Still, I would have gone with any of these songs before the more anonymous Q-Feel track.

The next track, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message,” completely stands out. In some ways, that’s good: It would have been a big oversight not to have included at least one rap track.

And “The Message” was as big a Hot 100 hit as rap songs got in 1982, hitting No. 62. 

Although “The Message” doesn’t sample Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” – a different Grandmaster Flash track, “It’s Nasty,” does that – its intro bears enough resemblance to help the song fit on a dance album.

At the same time, it’s disconcerting to hear an anti-gay slur- not once, but twice, on a K-tel record, even as the same track beeps out part of the word “pissing.” 

Following “The Message” is “I Really Don’t Need No Light,” a track from former LTD lead singer Jeffrey Osborne. It’s a bit too midtempo; K-tel could have gone with either The Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip” or the Gap Band’s “Early in the Morning” or “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” (all of which were hits in this time frame) and kept the energy up.

Evelyn King’s “Love Come Down” is a fitting closer.

Not only is it a great track on its own, but King is one of the few artists on this album to have success in the days of disco. That makes “Love Come Down” a fitting wrap to a collection bridging disco and the R&B/power-pop of the next few years.

Top-shelf:  All of side one:

  • “Let’s Go Dancin’,”
  • “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy,”
  • “Forget Me Nots,”
  • “Never Too Much,”
  • “Jump to It,”
  • and “Gloria.”
  • On side two, “Mickey,”
  • “I’m So Excited,”
  • and “Love Come Down.”

Yuck: 

  • “Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop),”
  • “I Really Don’t Need No Light.”

Question marks: ?

  • If K-tel had applied the same beeps to “f*g” that it did to “*issin,” I’d be OK with the inclusion of “The Message.”

As it stands: I’m not a fan.

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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JJ Live At Leeds
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April 30, 2024 8:10 am

Always learning…never heard of Q Feel before so that’s a surprise to find they’re British. Wiki describes them as a one hit wonder. The word ‘wonder’ is being pushed to extremes given its chart performance. They had so little impact here that they entered Dancing In Heaven in A Song For Europe and came 6th out of 8. That’s the contest to select the song to represent us at Eurovision, nevermind the actual main event.

Based on this I imagine your comment about getting a British new wave pop act on the cheap is entirely accurate.

The inclusion of Toni Basil and The Message seem out of place in the general feel but everything pales compared to the exuberance of The Pointer Sisters.

rollerboogie
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April 30, 2024 8:43 am

’82 really was an interesting time of shifting styles in general and that is certainly reflected in this compilation. Cool stuff. I had no idea that a Jermaine Jackson/Devo collab existed. Listening now, and it sounds like I imagined it would. Very tight.

Forget Me Nots is right in my wheelhouse as an obsessive fan of great basslines. That one’s got one of all time best. I lstened to a Caropop podcast interview of Patrice Rushen and it was awesome to hear her talk about music. She’s an incredible musician and continues to make an impact, working with young aspiring musicians.

I have a clear memory of waking up in my dorm room one morning in college and hearing my neighbor’s radio playing “I’m So Excited”, with him singing along an octave below the sisters, not sounding excited at all.

That obscure Q-Feel song is pretty great. I want to say that the synth bass line is a frenetic pre-cursor to Billie Jean’s iconic bass line, but that may ruffle some feathers.

Regarding the slurs on The Message- One of terms that people use a lot these days in discussing older films and music is “it hasn’t aged well”. I maintain that music and films are not milk or cheese, capable of changing in any way, so no, they don’t age. They stay exactly the same. The art and music don’t change, but hopefully we as people can evolve and see the errors of our ways. I think gay slurs are heard less often in pop culture, but still not completely gone, so we’ve got a ways to go.

LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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May 1, 2024 12:02 pm
Reply to  cstolliver

My flawed perception at the time would have called the word “slang” rather than a slur. (I used the word occasionally as a kid, and I did NOT use profanity or the n-word.) Live and learn. It is a bummer when an otherwise good song is ruined by flawed lyrics.

Zeusaphone
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May 1, 2024 6:51 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Patrice Rushen is very smart and extremely knowledgeable about music. It’s always a joy to listen to her talk about it.

Virgindog
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April 30, 2024 8:50 am

I like Devo but I never knew they worked with Jermaine Jackson. I never even heard “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” before today. As you say, it’s a great combination. It sounds like what Prince was doing at the time. Thanks for the Tuesday morning dance party!

blu_cheez
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April 30, 2024 7:05 pm

…puts down his “Dancing In Heaven Is Actually A Fun Song” sign and walks home in the rain, which masks his tears…

Last edited 2 months ago by blu_cheez
cappiethedog
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May 1, 2024 1:22 am

I’m getting behind “Dancing in Heaven” only because of my Sparks fandom. Maybe, Q Feel is paying homage to No. 1 in Heaven.

I’m watching the music video. Q Feel helps me imagine what Devo would look like with female backup vocalists.

It’s nice to know that Devo was part of a song that charted in the top 40. I think “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” was credited solely to Jermaine Jackson. I forgot about their contribution. It helps make up for those disappointed people who never got that Michael Jackson/Adam Ant duet. After the moonwalk, the highlight of the Motown special for me was Jose Feliciano introducing Adam Ant.

LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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May 1, 2024 12:05 pm

I really like the Pointer Sisters, but I am not a fan of “I’m So Excited”. Too much caffeine.

But I DO like “Let’s Go Dancin'”! I never heard that song until I found it about a year ago, and it’s pretty good! As is “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy”, though I had no idea about the DEVO connection.

Good stuff!

Phylum of Alexandria
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May 1, 2024 2:09 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

“Too much caffeine?”

Was that a callback to a classic episode of Saved By the Bell?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oRipJAlW5M

Zeusaphone
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May 1, 2024 7:07 pm

I remember “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy”. It sounds like a light version of electro, although that’s definitely not an 808 drum sound. Could be an early Linn or one of Jim Mothersbaugh’s DIY monstrosities. You’d never mistake the song for Zapp or Warp 9 or even Midnight Star, but it’s a kindred spirit.

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