The Man Doesn’t Want You To Dance And The Man Doesn’t Want You To Know How To Fight For Your Right To Dance, Either*

June 10, 2012

Paloma claims to have never seen the movie Footloose. It surprised me to learn of this fact because we are nearly the same age and, as far as I know, everyone our age saw Footloose in 1984.

I knew little of the crushing, oppressive nature of totalitarian regimes before Footloose. Sure, we were at the height of Cold War tensions in 1984, but the Soviets merely wanted to nuke us like microwave bacon; they didn’t want to stop us from dancing.

Then, I saw Footloose – as a double bill with Flashdance at our local drive-in no less – and saw the peril to personal freedom that could result from unchecked power and a failure to separate church and state.

(especially when John Lithgow is involved).

And, thanks to Kevin Bacon, I learned that petulance, Bible passages, encouragement from the owner of the local grain mill, and Kenny Loggins was all that was necessary for one man to fight tyranny.

So, you can imagine my delight when I saw that Footloose was showing this evening on one of the cable stations. In these days of wire taps, the Patriot Act, and all-expenses-paid trips to Guantanamo, the lessons of Footloose are more important than ever.

But no, it was not to be.

Of late, some of our cable channels will simply freeze as though the interns at the station have gotten stoned and paused the DVD – “Dude, it’s like we have the power to stop time.”

Paloma and I settled in and turned to the appropriate channel but instead of Kevin Bacon, there was Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein, motionless and inert. I could only wonder if it was the result of stoned interns or something more sinister.

Perhaps from some undisclosed bunker, Dick Cheney doesn’t want the subversive lessons of Footloose to be viewed by the American people.

We ended up watching The Family Stone which, coincidentally, starred Sarah Jessica Parker who also appeared in Footloose. In one scene, she got liquored to the gills, dancing drunkenly to a song on the bar jukebox.

I turned to Paloma. “She has Kevin Bacon to thank for that dance.”

Here are four songs about The Man…

Rage Against The Machine – The Ghost Of Tom Joad
from Live & Rare (1998)

I didn’t immediately gravitate to Rage Against The Machine. I thought some of their lyrics and politics to be half-baked. However, seeing them live, opening for U2, made me a fan of the sheer sonic force of their music. The Ghost Of Tom Joad has become one of my favorite Springsteen songs and their version is a stellar.

The Clash – Rock The Casbah
from Combat Rock (1982)

John Lithgow didn’t approve of dancing and the Sharif didn’t like “that boogie sound.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a farm kid in the hinterlands of America or a Bedouin in the deserts of the Middle East, The Man will try to keep you down if you let him.

Bruce Cockburn – If I Had A Rocket Launcher
from Stealing Fire (1984)

Fortunately for John Lithgow, it didn’t come to armed conflict in Footloose, but I have no doubt that Kevin Bacon was keeping all of his options on the table.

Unfortunately, If I Had A Rocket Launcher is all that most people know of Bruce Cockburn, one of the more underrated artists out there. I met him once, following a show, and he was as cordial, gracious, and unassuming as any musician I’ve encountered.

Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’ – Fly Me Courageous
from Fly Me Courageous (1991)

I remember seeing the video for Fly Me Courageous in the middle of the night while I was in college and being blown away by its monstrous groove. It still never fails to make me stop whatever I’m doing when I hear it.

The song arrived as the US was prepping to drive Iraq from Kuwait and interpreted by many listeners as a pro-war anthem. It sounds more like a cautionary tale to me.

*remixed from June 2008

The Mother Of All ’80s Movie Mothers

May 8, 2010

Some time ago, I happened upon the movie Gremlins. As I watched the zany antics of the titular creatures, I took note of the actress who played the mother of the main human character.

She looked familiar.

By the time she went all Sarah Connors on the marauding gremlins – even making a mess of the family microwave to kill one of them – I had to consult IMDb.

Frances Lee McCain was the name of the actress.

Scanning her credits, it was quickly apparent as to why she looked so familiar as I hit a stretch of movies in the ’80s.

In 1984, she was the care-worn mother of Kevin Bacon in Footloose. Was she recently divorced or widowed – I think it’s only noted that his father is not in the picture – when she dragged Ren off from Chicago to Sticksville?

Footloose was one of the biggest movies of the summer. One of the other must-see movie for us high school kids that year?


A year later, there was Michael J. Fox going back to the ’50s and fending off the amorous advances of his teenaged mother in Back To The Future.

And in the role of the Lea Thompson’s mother was Frances Lee McCain.

So, in a span of a year or so, this actress was cast as the mother of main characters in three movies and hits the trifecta with all three flicks among the highest-grossing of the time, drawing sell-out crowds during the summers of ’84 and ’85.

Along the way she was there for an angst-ridden Kevin Bacon, slaughtered gremlins with household appliances, and narrowly avoided an incestuous love connection between her daughter and her grandson.

Nobody knows the trouble Francis Lee McCain has seen.

(and my mom used to complain about laundry)

But McCain wasn’t through, yet. As summer ended and I headed off to college in 1986, she appeared in another iconic movie of the ’80s as Gordie Lachance’s mother in Stand By Me.

For a moment, I considered throwing up a track from each soundtrack, but…have you seen the tracklisting for Gremlins?

Here are four songs mentioning mothers…

Journey – Mother, Father
from Escape

One of the biggest albums of my musically-formative years, Journey’s Escape had a handful of songs which got a lot of airplay on radio (some to the point of burnout). The disquieting Mother, Father – a tale of a family in disrepair – was a favorite partially because it didn’t get played into the ground.

Paul Simon – Mother And Child Reunion
from Negotiations And Love Songs

Paul Simon had already reached his commercial peak by the time I truly began listening to music (though, his career would get a second wind in the late ’80s with the mammoth success of Graceland). So, though I know a lot of his more popular stuff, he remains an artist whose catalog I’ve mentally tagged for further investigation.

The winsome Mother And Child Reunion was inspired by a Chinese dish consisting of egg and chicken which I always thought was rather clever. The song also features a prominent line-up of guest musicians including members of reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff’s backing band and members of Toots & The Maytals as well as Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney, providing backing vocals.

Tracy Bonham – Mother Mother
from The Burdens Of Being Upright

In the mid-’90s, there was a tremendous wave of female artists and female-led acts – so many that a new one seemed to arrive every twenty minutes only to be elbowed out of the way twenty minutes later. Naturally, the music industry chased the trend with its usual lemming-like singlemindedness.

One of the acts that broke through was singer/songwriter Tracy Bonham. Mother Mother was inescapable during the summer of ’96 and is an insanely riveting peek into the mindset of someone having a come apart.

The Police – Mother
from Synchronicity

On the rare occasion when Mother pops up on shuffle, Paloma and I laugh and crack wise for the the song’s full three minutes. The chaotic track arrives in the middle of side one of The Police’s mega-selling Synchronicity and, at the time when I had recorded the album from Frog’s Midnight Album on WEBN, it was the one song which I was guaranteed to skip over.

I’m still not a big fan of the song. It still seems noticeably out of place on Synchronicity like some strange hiccup in the album’s flow, but, should I ever relent and get a cellphone, Mother – with guitarist Andy Summers screaming “Is that my mother on the phone?” – is going to be the ringtone I set for my mom.