“Boogie Wonderland” — Earth, Wind and Fire with The Emotions

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Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

The great thing about music is there’s a song for every feeling. And the feeling I get from “Boogie Wonderland” is always one of joy.

After a run of more serious-minded posts, I figured it was about time to let some joy into our lives and as Earth, Wind and Fire’s 1979 classic is the most joyous song I know, I figured that had to be the next record on my virtual turntable.

When I say joy, I don’t just mean “happy”…it’s the spirit of devil-may-care abandon infusing “Boogie Wonderland” which makes it such a pleasure to listen to. Joy isn’t something better than happy, although it’s certainly in the same part of the spectrum…it’s something different.

Perhaps joyful is happy with an extra dose of carefree abandon. Who knows, I’m not a dictionary compiler. But I do know that my mood lifts every time “Boogie Wonderland” comes along.

Or even hints at coming along…in the UK, a short instrumental section of “Boogie Wonderland” is being used for a commercial at the moment and my family thinks I’m slightly crazy for inserting the “Haahhh, haahhh” sections at the appropriate point in the instrumental.

I admit it, that probably is slightly crazy. But I can’t listen to “Boogie Wonderland”…or even a short instrumental section from it…without wanting to join in and start grooving. That’s what joy does for you…you want to be part of the experience in any way you can.

Now, “Boogie Wonderland” is definitely from the golden age of disco. I know some of you might question whether that’s an era that ever had a golden age, but I’d argue “Boogie Wonderland” is a classic song by any standard…which just happens to be strongly associated in people’s minds with gold lame jumpsuits and an infectious disco beat.

A bit like the Bee Gees, perhaps, Earth, Wind and Fire will probably be firmly associated in music lovers’ minds with the disco sound until the end of time, but that’s in danger of trivialising and typecasting them in the face of a much more comprehensive body of work, and indeed the superior quality of the disco records they did make.

Earth, Wind and Fire were formed by lead singer, and former Chess Records session drummer, Maurice White in 1969. In the years since, they’ve picked up six Grammys, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and were awarded their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

They were so much more than a fluffy “filler” act who somehow managed to scrape out a formulaic hit at the height of disco’s popularity (not that “Boogie Wonderland” is remotely formulaic, although you might think it is…that’s because they set the formula which everyone coming after them copied).

I got that first-hand when I saw Earth, Wind and Fire live in London some time in the mid-1980s. My goodness, they certainly knew how to put on a show…

There wasn’t a single person in the huge venue that day who wasn’t grooving around before Earth, Wind and Fire were more than a song or two into their repertoire. We just couldn’t help ourselves…the band were like modern-day Pied Pipers and we all moved in sync to their music.

If you’ve read some of the other things I’ve written around here, you’ll know I’m a sucker for a great brass section and Earth, Wind and Fire’s brass section is one of the most smoking-hot brass sections you’re ever likely to encounter — not just in the disco era, but at just about any other time in the history of recorded music.

There’s a serious side to “Boogie Wonderland”, though, alongside the smoking hot brass section and infectious disco beat.

It’s the story of someone dancing the night away to forget all the troubles they encounter during the day. That was a pretty common theme for films, TV programmes and records during the late 1970s, but not many disco-era hits told the story like this…

Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts of men
Who need more than they get
Daylight deals a bad hand to a woman
Who has laid too many bets
The mirror stares you in the face and says
“Baby, uh, uh, it don’t work”
You say your prayers though you don’t care
You dance and you shake the hurt

Let’s face it, “dark, but dance-able” is a relatively rare musical style…although in this case we hardly notice the darkness as we’re far too busy grooving away to that disco beat…

And of course The Emotions…they’re the three ladies in the red trousers and billowing tops in the video below…lighten the mood with their vocal, over and above their choice of clothing.

A casual listen to “Boogie Wonderland” probably wouldn’t have most people realising the song was as dark as it is. It’s like one of those Russian dolls where you take off the outer layer, but there’s so much more than you’d expect to find on the inside…

But this is disco, of course, so there are no problems which can’t be solved by a quick spin around the dance floor…

I find romance
When I start to dance
In boogie wonderland

We’re on a journey. A journey from a hum-drum life where, try as we might, we can’t find comfort and contentment in the arms of someone who loves us.

So every night after work we set off on a journey to our own magical kingdom…a bit like Dorothy’s journey to Oz…except our disco kingdom only comes alive when we pull on our sequinned lame jumpsuit and set off for the bright lights of the club.

There we leave all our daytime cares behind us and come alive once more in the company of the beautiful people and an infectious beat that gets inside us and won’t let go until we’ve danced the night away…

All the love in the world can’t be gone
And the need to be loved can’t be wrong
All the records are playing
And my heart keep saying
Boogie wonderland, wonderland

The need to be loved can’t be wrong…but until love comes along we’re going to have quite a party without it, is what I take from Earth, Wind and Fire’s performance.

And, as rules for life go, I can think of plenty worse plans than dancing the night away at the disco while you wait for love to strike. You’re doing nobody any harm and the music lets you feel truly alive again.

We all need to feel loved, and I earnestly wish that you find the love you deserve.

But in the meantime, why not join me down at boogie wonderland for a bit of a groove?

I’m a terrible dancer, so don’t get too close as I’m very likely to stand on your toes.

However I love the music and if you want to be instantly transported to a more joyful place, I couldn’t think of a better way to lift anybody’s mood than putting Earth, Wind and Fire…with The Emotions…and “Boogie Wonderland” on the turntable.

C’mon…sing along with me at the top of your voice…boogie wonderlaaaaand, haahhh, haahhh…!

I promise you’ll feel better…

If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/6ztstiyZL6FXzh4aG46ZPD

Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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