Sunday 18 March 2012

You Can't Stop The Music

I used to love The Village People when I was a kid, but in a way that I suppose is fairly unusual, in that I took them entirely literally. Being only eight or so years old when they first appeared (and perhaps naive even for a kid of that age), I didn't see the gay subtext (or in their case just plain text) at all. Which meant that I viewed them as a peculiarly big-hearted group who liked to write encouraging, optimistic songs about institutions that were normally overlooked by pop (homeless hostels, the U.S. Navy etc.) and to dress up in cool gear for the pleasure of us kids (because who else could they be dressing like that for?)

In fact, I even viewed the dressing up as a sign of their sincerity. When I was in infants school, the last day of term was always looked forward to partly because it was the one day we could dress how we wanted to, and this became a kind of ritual in which every kid would bring an outfit, so the classroom was invariably full of cowboys, spacemen and medieval knights in plastic armour. One of the great suspicions I had about adults was that these were people who could dress how they liked, and yet they all somehow conspired to dress as boringly as possible. And here were the Village People showing that it could be done - all you needed was the chutzpah to get on and do it.

Just think about this for a minute or two. Right now, you could be wearing a silver construction worker's helmet. Why aren't you?


Schizo Stroller said...

But I am wearing one. It has long kept the voices out.

Seriously though there is evidence that having a fetishistic object does actually help keep voices and other unwanted emotional energies out.

Kids and the Village people on the other hand want to share their 'happy' emotional energies.

As you grow up you learn, in a repressed unconscious way, about these energies. Few relate them to what you wear though. (Other than certain fashion gurus and other wardrope shamans who have their own need to control those shared energies of others through fetishes

Greyhoos said...

> "One of the great suspicions I had about adults was that these were people who could dress how they liked,..."

I was young at the time that they were popular, a little too young to figure out the whole gay role-playing aspect of their act. But in relation to your comments above, I think I just saw their act as a musical version of Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?

Phil Knight said...

You know, I was really hoping the first comment would be "but construction workers' helmets are all yellow these days, Phil".

I have actually worn a construction worker's helmet on the odd occasion in a professional capacity, and I can confirm that they do make you feel great. Like a very important yet modest "do-er".

Greyhoos said...

Oh, btw...

David K Wayne said...

I used to have a (red) construction helmet that I nicked from a job I had. I really regret leaving it behind when I moved. They really do have a 'feel-good factor', especially when worn outside for leisure time. It was a reminder why kids love hats - any hats. Up to a certain age (before the kind of peer pressures that designate the Village People as the 'wrong' thing to like), a Victorian bonnet or a plastic plate is as good as a cowboy stetson or army helmet really.

Phil Knight said...

When you're wearing a hat, you're really wearing a (boom-tish) metaphor, aren't you?

They put you in a frame of mind to act in the manner the hat suggests. Maybe we should design a dedicated blogging hat, maybe with one of those little propellors on the top, like the Australian lifeguards used to wear.

Problem Chimp said...

Hey there, long time listener first time caller. Surely a specialist blogging hat should be made out of tin-foil?

Matt Moore said...

I completely relate to this post. The movie made it onto UK TV in the early 80s and me and my brother (both pre-pubescent) loved it. The gayness of it completely passed us by. It was, as you say, just happy, optimistic music.

Coincidentally, for the last two years running, one of the Australian terrestrial TV channels has shown it in the early hours of year. For 2 years running, I have found myself lying on my mother-in-law's couch in Wollongong, mildly inebriated and wondering whatever happened to Steve Guttenberg*. Wondering if next year I will be on the same couch**, watching the same athletics sequence in the "YMCA" segment while drunken people shout at each other in the early hours of New Year's Day.

The movie no longer enchants me. Perhaps I have lost something.

*Yes, I could Google this but I'm not really wondering that hard.
**Lest this sound more pathetic than it actually is, we're just visiting my mother-in-law and she's pretty good as in-laws go.

Martin Wisse said...

Actually, I don't think this was at all an unusual way to enjoy the Village People, certainly not in their heyday, as I don't think many people did irony and knowningly camp winks in the seventies.

If you look at them in their natural context, Top of the Pops, they fit in quite well with all the other light entertainment unserious acts on at the time. They weren't that much different from a Brotherhood of Man or Showaddywaddy.