Boneyard Media

Archive for March, 2011

Song ID: Kool and the Gang – “Celebration” (1980)

Thursday, March 17th, 2011


A book idea I have is to take a quasi familiar, cultural wallpaper song like this and interview 500 people to get quick vignettes or anecdotes about what they were doing when they first heard it. “Celebration,” for me, long before it became a wedding standard or Erik Estrada strutted to it on CHiPs, was this:

In Salt Lake City, during the first two seasons after the New Orleans Jazz had relocated, you could get courtside tickets at the Salt Palace for $12. I saw more live basketball during 1979-81 than I would for the rest of my life. My friends and I would go early and watch the teams warm up before introductions. Before a Jazz-Pacers game in November 1980, we observed Rickey Green and John “Bay Bay” Duren doing ad lib dance steps to it as it thumped from the speakers and we had no idea what it was. Then we noticed two of the Pacers (Kenny Natt? Johnny Davis?) doing the same thing. The scene reinforces itself every time I hear this song, decades-running.

Kool and the Gang – “Celebration” (1980)

Song ID: The Beach Boys – “Airplane” (1977)

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011


The Beach Boys’ Love You record hides much complexity behind a tossed off, damaged-Brian Wilson veneer: when Wilson sings on it, the group’s guiding light sounds like he’s trying not to cough, and the synth he plays gives it a cost-cutting project-studio aura before everyone started recording that way. But these are beguiling, clever songs. The album’s penultimate one, about buckling into an airplane seat, chatting idly to strangers about loved ones back home, and gazing out the window at the incomprehensibilities of size and distance, has a knowing, elegaiac quality. Its subtle chord changes call for a version on nylon string guitar, which would perhaps sound like a companion piece to Simon and Garfunkel’s “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright.”

The Beach Boys – “Airplane” (1977)