Monday, November 17, 2014

Van McCoy, "The Hustle" (1975)

May 31, 1975, #1

When Whit Stillman makes fun of dance crazes this has to be factored in too. I can't speak with any authority, of course, but I suspect the line dance known as "the Hustle" is not so far removed from "the Twist"—that is, essentially individualized writhing on a dance floor to groovy prerecorded music, with coordinated moves and gestures included or dispensed with as seen fit. At any rate it doesn't matter at all for my purposes. For something so universally reviled in its time, not to mention a one-time #1 hit across the land, Van McCoy's "The Hustle" seems to have slid away remarkably far into obscurity, especially when one considers that the issue at hand, disco music, in many ways remains as vital as ever—more so. "The Hustle" is very early disco, of course, commercial product more recognizable to me now as '70s Philly soul than disco (though McCoy is a D.C. native and it was recorded in New York City). You can hear how the arrangements, particularly the horn charts, were later utilized by the soundtrack artists such as David Shire working to the side of the Bee Gees in Saturday Night Fever, and you can even hear how the instrumental breaks sound like theme and bumper music from '70s game shows. Yet for all this heap of mediocrity the whole of it sounds transcendentally splendiferous to me to this moment, hitting its chirpy soaring marching doot-doots and deet-deets on the flute with wonderful pop economy and precision, a rainbow world of sweets and soft perfume extending to the horizon. I love living inside it and I hope Whit Stillman does a movie about it someday. Inspirational line: "Do it. Do the Hustle."

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