two spooky beats to every halloween bar

in my itunes recently added folder right now is harry belafonte‘s greatest hits. it’s ACERS and perfect for halloween because…

i can’t help thinking that there’s something slightly sinister about calypso – whether it’s the lyrics, or it’s origins in the slavetrade. or maybe it has something to do with winona ryder (slightly spooky in a nice way) dancing to calypso/calypso-influenced music in films?

first she floats up the stair-rail to the tune of ‘jump in the line (shake senora)’ in beetlejuice (genius, tim burton). then a couple of years later she plays a slightly creepy teen with an obsession with nuns and does a kitchen dance-off with her mum (cher) and christina ricci in mermaids to ‘if you wanna be happy’. both a pure pleasure to watch, as well as listen to. but still – with a sinister vignette.

creepiness aside this got me thinking how good-for-disco all this syncopated rhythms and call-and-response stuff is. when the creeps played mr belafonte’s ‘jump in the line (shake senora)’ at one of our discos last year, we looked up and saw the dancefloor had turned into a mass conga. surreal, brilliant and a wee bit spooky.

so, in honour of the musical power of calypso and halloween on sunday, here are my favourite ten calypso/afrobeat/sounds like it could be calypso-influenced songs. in no particular order:

  • “if you wanna be happy” jimmy soul/roaring lion
  • “surprise hotel” fool’s gold
  • “feeling hot hot hot” arrow
  • “right by your side” eurythmics
  • “jump in the line (shake senora)” henry belafonte/lord kitchener
  • “white sky” vampire weekend
  • “banana boat song” henry belafonte
  • “on the wings of a dove” – madness
  • “graceland” – paul simon
  • “the lion sleeps tonight” – the tokens/solomon linda

i should add that the last song on this list was covered in 1982 by a band called tight fit, who in doing so somehow managed to bottle everything bad about the 80s in one small youtube clip. well done them:

srsly? leopard skin camel toes, jungle drums and safari helmets?


don’t let your friends say you have no taste

after the hottest disco ever – steamy windows by 10pm – we watched mermaids (click on that link, the wikipedia plot synopsis alone is laugh-out-loud hilarious). what a film. it’s love on a school bus-brilliant: winona, cher, indoor swimming, 1963, twee dresses (on winona), jimmy soul, shoop shoop and nuns.

this wee clip tells you everything you need to know about why mermaids is genius:

and what a soundtrack. for a moment, while preparing for saturday’s disco i realised i had three songs from it on my playlist. after removing ‘big girls don’t cry’, i stuck with ‘just one look’ and jimmy soul’s amazing ‘if you wanna be happy’. great tune, great lyrics, including the following pearl of wisdom:

“if you make an ugly woman your wife / you’ll be happy for the rest of your life / an ugly woman cooks her meals on time”

“don’t let your friends say you have no taste / go ahead and marry anyway / though her face is ugly, her eyes don’t match / take it from me she’s a better catch”

fact: it was written by frank guida and was billboard number one in 1963. appaz, the song is based on a calypso called ‘ugly woman’ by roaring lion (WLTM). and it joins a long line of distinguished tunes covered by kid creole and the coconuts.

might play ‘the shoop shoop song’ next time.