Friday, May 31, 2013
The Late Train
Daft Punk's new vid for Get Lucky features a nostalgic compilation of Soul Train line dances of a 70s vintage. Kind of makes me yearn.
I used to love Soul Train. I admit I probably never watched an episode to the end. The show's arc tended to drop in the bucket during the last two-thirds, especially when the B and C list featured guests were cycling through multiple lip-synchs. (Cornelius wasn't the most dynamic of interviewers.) On rarer occasions the show did feature just about every likely A-list guest in history––Stevie Wonder, Arethea Franklin (singing live, including miscue), Public Enemy (they can't even rap live?), David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, Al Green––but it was the dancing that made the show. To my then adolescent biology, I found some of the dancing to be downright aphrodisiac. It seemed to get only hotter in the 80s when the ladies dropped their baggies and wedgies for the spandex and short skirts. Aside from the erotic element for the overzealous, without the dancing, Soul Train might've been a slower jammed version of Solid Gold, albeit far more funky. And hip.
The iconic theme song, redolent of wide lapels, platform shoes, and beach ball afros:
Many of Soul Train's dancers were, if not professional, of a professional caliber. Many of them—e.g. Jody Watley, Rosie Perez, Toni Basil, Cheryl Song, and Paula Abdul—found fame beyond the Train. Despite the raging dynamism of the style changes, one thing remained consistent (at least until the twilight of the show's run), Don Cornelius. He remained its epitome-of-cool figurehead. You'd think with his Paul Robeson baritone and his ever present Xanax chill, he was imperturbable. But as we saw near the end, apparently this was not the case. (To his credit, he did have a physiological brain deformity.) Sadly, he'd eventually take his own life.
Here's a funky time capsule of almost an hour and a half of non-stop Soul Train line dancing. You definitely need this: Consider it like an audio-visual and inguinal Red Bull and plate of oysters, if you know what I'm saying.
If you hunger for more, there's now a Soul Train Cruise.