Friday, September 30, 2005
The return of Arbitrary but Fun Friday
Following from yesterday’s once-a-season baseball post: the Yanks-Red Sox chase has me thinking of 1978—not because the Yankees came back from 14 games down this year or anything, but because so few people remember that in late September of that year, the Red Sox actually caught the Yankees, and not the other way around.
Yes, the Boston Massacre was terrible (15-3, 13-2, 7-0, 7-4, in case you didn’t have the scores on hand). Yes, the Red Sox lost 14 of their first 17 games in September, and the Yankees finished by winning 24 of 33. But let’s keep things in perspective, shall we? The Bosox were 62-28 (.689) after the first ninety games. They went 37-35 the rest of the way, yeah, but played .567 ball over the final two months while the Yankees went .712 in the same span. And here’s the real kicker: after sweeping four in Fenway from September 7-10, the Yankees went up by 3-1/2 games. The Red Sox caught ‘em by winning their final eight games; the Yankees won six of seven, but lost 9-2 to the Indians on the final day.
So, dear friends, when I was but 17 and a callow college freshman living in New York in the early autumn of 1978, I couldn’t go anywhere in the city without running into “Boston Sucks” buttons. And I was appalled, appalled at the rudeness and discourtesy of it all. For, in fact, the Boston Red Sox did not suck. They were a damn good team, and if Lou Piniella (sweet but never fleet Lou) hadn’t made that amazing running backhanded grab in deep right field (with two out and two on and Boston up two runs) just before Bucky Dent entered the Hall of the Immortals, the Red Sox would’ve taken that division title.
But the “Boston Sucks” buttons, of course, were competing locally with the “Disco Sucks” buttons: it was the year of the Brilliant Pennant Race, yeah, but it was also the year Robert Stigwood, Peter Frampton, and the Bee Gees brought you their epochal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Clearly, the Robert Stigwood Organization needed to be killed dead, and disco with it. “Die, disco, die,” we said, and we meant it. Disco sucked.
And yet, in the end, despite the soulless, mass-produced dreck that most of disco had become by 1978, some of disco did not suck either. Some of it has aged well, and not in a retro or camp kind of way. Even “Disco Inferno,” after more than a quarter century, has remained kind of hot, though this hustlin’ blog is kind of agnostic about Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights.” So, then, in the spirit of 1978, I invite you all to nominate disco songs that Do Not Suck. And because these things are arbitrary, I will start things off by citing James Brown’s distinction between disco and funk—namely, that disco stays on top of the groove while funk gets inside the groove and works it—and suggest that Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “Shame” stays on top of the groove, never really working it, and yet Does Not Suck. Far from it: on the contrary, it kicks it. Granted, “Shame” was released in 1977, not 1978. But anything from 1974-79 is fair game in this game. Have a good weekend, party people.