Retro music can mean different things to different people. For some, it is the rock of Led Zep and perhaps Rolling Stones, for others, the pop of Abba and Boney M and for still others, the jazz from that time.
During parties and on the dance floor however, retro specifically refers to the dance songs we grew up with…despite all the new Hindi music that also gets us onto the floor simply because our brains are so comfortable with the lyrics and visuals they come with, we are also hard-wired to a certain set of “disco” songs from the 70s and 80s.
No song epitomises that better than Funkytown, by Lipps, Inc (pronounced Lip Sync). While I was dancing to Funkytown on New Year’s Eve, my brain, a mush of various combinations of dark and clear liquids, wandered lazily towards trying to make sense of Funkytown.
We were in our 10th Std, going onto Junior College, when it hit the charts. Despite the gestation period that most English songs had before they hit Indian shores, this one became popular virtually instantaneously. Funkytown refers to New York, which the band wanted to move to from Minneapolis. The song was perhaps the last “great” disco song, with nothing really going for it but its one silly beat and banal lyrics…and yet it gets into your head and refuses to leave…as is happening right now while I am writing this.
And then Doordarshan played the Funkytown video on one of the New Year’s Eve night programs. My memory is fuzzy and I don’t remember whether this was before the Asian Games on B/W TV (1980, 1981) or after (1982), once color TV came in, but I remember that the video had these women in black (so it could have been B/W or color), with transparent tops that showed everything and left nothing to the imagination. This was early 1980s and the Funkytown video on DD became a huge talking point among us hormonally challenged boys for the next few days. I am not sure if the DD employee who green-signaled the video knew about it, did it intentionally, whether DD realized this, and/or if the person responsible faced any consequences. The next time we saw transparent tops like these was when Fashion TV hit our screens in the mid-2000s.
Like Funkytown, there are many other “retro” numbers that can get us onto the floor. None however beats “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins, which is an instant “switch-on” and if followed with a properly tempoed selection that includes The Bee Gees, ABBA, Jim Morrison, etc. can keep us on the floor for hours.
Just like every person with a camera is not a photographer, every individual with headphones, a playlist and the ability to spin, is not a DJ. Consistently over the last year, I have seen so-called DJs who play one or two rocking numbers to get people on the floor and then follow up with some rubbish that actually empties the floor. Even a lag of 10–20 seconds between songs makes a huge difference. A good DJ, especially a retro-DJ is not cheap, does not get thrown-in with the catering and decorations and should be able to ensure a packed floor without any let-up.
If you start with Footloose, have Funkytown and YMCA thrown in somewhere, add stuff from Saturday Night Fever and lots of ABBA, you can’t go wrong, as long as you keep the tempo steady and going.