Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"Twisting By The Pool": Yuppie Rock Goes Sock Hop

It looks like after Love Over Gold, Mark Knopfler briefly lost his taste for the 14-minute long song, as he decided to turn Dire Straits' next release into a 14-minute long album. Well, 16 minutes, to be more precise, but talk about a giddy U-turn. The ExtendedancEPlay EP (I sense a pun in there somewhere) consists of four songs, none longer than five minutes, and none bearing any trace of meandering guitar heroics or brooding working-class malaise. I guess this was like Dire Straits' Zooropa, where they just cut loose for a little while and didn't try too hard to outdo themselves. That's the first U2 reference I've made in years. Hmm. Must have been the mashed potatoes I ate for lunch.

The main track off the EP, "Twisting By The Pool," a '50s dance craze pastiche complete with Little Richard-style piano pounding and backing vocals lifted straight from "At The Hop," is so campy, it's almost as campy as Elton John and Bernie Taupin's early rock n' roll homages like "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock And Roll)" and "Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady Again)." I said almost. When released as a stand-alone single, it hit #14 in the UK and #12 on the US Mainstream Rock chart, or so I've been told. The video features your standard boilerplate Dire Straits concert footage interspliced with shots of Hawaiian-shirted partygoers twisting in the vicinity of a so-called recreational water area, as well as women in swimsuits performing synchronized Busby Berkeley-style routines. That sexy secretary floating on a pool chair at 1:21 (reading the newspaper and sucking on what appears to be a Creamsicle) better be careful or she might end up soaking her brand new shirt and tie. Sadly, the record label could not convince the band members themselves to go for a swim; the sight of Mark Knopfler strutting his stuff in a two-piece might have really been something.

Even less characteristic, and even more rare, is "Badges, Posters, Stickers, T-shirts," a boogie-woogie retro-swing oddity where Knopfler paints a less-than-charitable portrait of a pair of groupies, whom, it is implied (according to one YouTube commentator), are from Leeds, since that's the accent Knopfler is supposedly using. Those Northerners, always up to no good! Perhaps the fine people of Leeds have tried to keep this track out of circulation, as it's barely made an appearance in the CD era, but once again, YouTube comes to the rescue:
Me and my mate we think you're great
Some we like and some we hate
I know him, I've seen him on the adverts
Got any badges, posters, stickers or t-shirts?

You were bloody great last time you come
I thought me 'ead was stuck in the bass drum
Bloody loud, me bloody head hurts
Got any badges, posters, stickers or t-shirts?

So how'd you get a start in show biz?
My mate's as good on the drums as he is
My mate thinks I'm bloody cracked
Please sign my jacket on the back

All them badges made of plastic
I think they're great, just fantastic
I'm unemployed, he's still at school
He gets annoyed 'cause I'm such a fool

You don't half sweat a lot up there
Haven't you got showers in here?
You're bloody great, my bloody head hurts
Got any badges, posters, stickers or t-shirts?

Yeah, me and my mate like AC/DC
Hot & sweaty, loud & greasy
My mom says we're a pair of perverts
Got any badges, posters, stickers or t-shirts?

We hitch-hiked here in pouring rain
Now we've missed the flamin' train
Hey! Can I have one of them lagers?
Thanks very much, mate
Can 'e have one?
A-one, a-two, a-one two three four

So, was this a new embrace of conciseness and playfulness for our man from Newcastle upon Tyne? Ha! Playfulness perhaps, but for any one of the 30 million proud owners of Brothers In Arms out there, as far as conciseness goes, they should know the answer to that one.

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