From the Vault: the safety dance

Last night, Nolan went through my iTunes library so he could put some of my awesome music on his iPod. He’s been after me for months to give him Radiohead, The Beatles, Tool, Decemberists, and a lot of my 80s stuff.

While he looked, the following exchange occurred:

Nolan: Why do you have The Safety Dance in your iTunes library? Me: So I can dance, if I want to. Duh. Nolan: You are so weird.

He ended up taking a little over 5 GB of my music, and I enacted a don’t ask, don’t tell policy about Men Without Hats. Shortly after he went to bed, I was washing dishes, and remembered this old blog post from 2003:

Anne and I were listening to Fred while we were driving home from Burbank the other day. That stupid “Safety Dance” song came on, and I said to her, “This is the weirdest song, ever.”

“Yeah, who thought this was a good idea?” she said.

“I mean, think about all the steps that went into this: someone wrote down all these words, then composed music, then produced the whole thing . . . and at every step of the way, they believed that this was a song worth releasing.” I said.

“Hey, Neil,” she said, in a really bad British accent, “Let’s make a song about the Safety Dance!”

“Oh, that’s brilliant!” I said, in my own bad accent, “We’ll have them all hoppin’ and dancin’ and –“

I started to giggle, and was unable to continue.

“You can dance! You can dance! Everybody look at your hands!” I sang, involuntarily.

CLAP! CLAP! went Anne’s hands.

“You can dance! You can dance! Everybody’s taking the chaaaaa-HAAAAA-nnnncccceeeeee . . . ” I continued.

“With the SAFETY DANCE!” We shouted out in unison.

“We are such dorks,” Anne said.

“Yeah,” I agreed.

We sang the remainder of the song with extreme gusto.

I should also point out that when we got home, Ryan told us that he wants to buy “Thriller.”

I think there’s something in the water here.

2003 seems like an eternity ago. I guess in some ways, it was, wasn’t it?

73 thoughts on “From the Vault: the safety dance”

  1. I love that song! I wish the video were available on iTunes… or anywhere, for that matter! What other 80’s music did Nolan take?
    -Alicia (@aliciawag)

  2. The other thing we had in the 80s without access to the Internet was the phenomena of “misheard” lyrics.
    Some of them were absolute gems when they didn’t come with album sleeve lyrics or you only heard the song on the radio.
    You had no quick method of verifying the “accuracy” of your interpretation.
    Here is a funny archive on some current and classic misheard lyrics.
    Speaking of Thriller…Michael Jackson, while extremely popular at the time, had quite a few misheard interpretations circulating…
    My wife in the early 90s used to think the song from Utah Saints was sung “Utah stinks ya ya ya Utah Stinks” rather than “Utah Saints U U U Utah Saints” 😉

  3. My favorite episode or Futurama is the one with 80’s guy (The guy with boneitis), wherein they sing Safety Dance through the entire episode.
    “Awesome. Awesome to the max.”

  4. Am I being a dick if I point out that MWH are Canadian, not British?
    I’ll err on the side of caution and not point that out then.
    BTW, “Pop Goes the World” is a much better MWH song. I can say this with certainty because I own their Best Of… album, “Greatest Hats”.

  5. MWH are indeed from Montreal. But none of that matters. They called their “Best of” album “Greatest Hats”. that vindicates everything else.

  6. And don’t forget they actually went out and made a video for this song! (and it’s on my iPod as well – head hangs in shame)
    Break a leg today, Wil!

  7. I dunno… 2003 doesn’t seem all that long ago to me, but I’ve been on this ’80’s kick for awhile now, at least the last year, and I can’t figure it out.
    Is it just nostalgia, a longing to go back? I wouldn’t think so… I hated high school and I wasn’t fond of the crap happening at home either.
    But, whatever the reason, I’m enjoying taking the little trips back with The Safety Dance, Thriller, The Breakfast Club, whatever I see or hear from that time.

  8. I’d forgotten just how mental the Safety Dance video was ( – a May pole *and* morris dancers! Only us Brits would consider prancing about while hitting big sticks together “safe”.
    I think Health and Safety execs have forced morris dancers to use handkerchiefs now instead!

  9. See also:
    “I am a modern man who hides behind a mask… DOMO ARIGATO!!!”
    “I’m saiiiiling away… lads!”
    I mean, Styx is *awesome*, but if you really listen, it’s just hilarious. They thought they were making *music* that was totally k-rad, but it’s just oh so cheesy. No one can even come close to that today without having to be cheeseballs about it. They were sincere in their creativity, and it’s freaking cheesy. That’s what makes it awesome 😀

  10. You know what makes this the best song ever? This blog post. This discussion. I’m sure this wasn’t what was intended when the song was written, but there is soooo much entertainment value with this song. Kinda like the “Rocky Horror picture show”, it was an unintended gem :) Case in point:

  11. Safety Dance (Scrubs Version)
  12. (BTW,I work in a Hospital ICU. Little known fact: This is how we get through our days. Safety dance.)

  13. I could make the feeble case that, while MWH were obviously Canadian -pshaw! Everyone knows THAT – the bad British accents we did belonged to, uhm, someone at the record company.
    Yeah, that’s the ticket! The record company!
    Because, as I’m sure you know, everyone in the 80s who was lame in music spoke in a British accent, whether they were British or not.
    And now, here’s Jim Darkmagic to distract you with some magical birds.

  14. I had to play this song today after seeing your twitter because it was stuck in my head. I always thought the video out”weirded” the song by a lot. *shudders*
    Gosh, 2003 does seems like forever ago. Six years? Really? So weird. 2003 seems like just last year or something to me. Very odd.

  15. It may be dorky, but at least it’s upbeat! They obviously did SOMETHING right to keep people singing it all these years. :]
    Also, I love these little glimpses into your family life.

  16. My husband and I have both placed The Safety Dance as a the group ringtone for collections and other companies that we don’t want to talk to. That way we always get the pleasure of hearing a fun song when they call, since we’re not planning on answering the phone! Many a dorky dance has ensued when a telemarketer as called us!

  17. I am not sure if it is accurate, but I am sure I could attribute it to the blue pants wearing, animated character, also known as Homer Simpson who said:
    “Safety dance, Safety Dance
    Everybody take off your pants”
    Good times. Best. Misheard lyric. EVER.

  18. I hate that I can’t seem to find the unedited versions of those shows on Netflix. I watched them while I lived in Tasmania, they were brilliant. :)

  19. No, it’s true: now that I think of it, they did have bad British accents (in fact, I’ve karaoked that song with a bad British accent, because I’m a purist when it comes to high art.) Why? I have no idea. I like the record company hypothesis (hereafter referred to as the RCH, should anyone decide to publish some peer-reviewed literature on the subject.)

  20. No lie: that song came on Sonos earlier this morning, while we were listening to the 80s stream from KROQ. I’d thought of it for the first time in years yesterday, because Anne referenced something about buffalo gals going around the outside (I know it’s a different song) so when it came on the stream, we both kind of went “buh?”
    Anne said, “I didn’t like this song in the 80s, and I don’t like it now.”
    I said, “I didn’t like it in the 80s, but it doesn’t bother me now, for some reason.”
    Either way, we agreed that it really didn’t belong on the 80s stream from KROQ online, though.

  21. Sure, it’s a goofy song, but it’s also fun as hell. The video’s even more bizarre, adding a surreal layer of nonsense to something already nonsensical, causing everything nearby to collapse into — not a perfectly sensible black hole, but instead a chartreuse hole lined with pink llama fur. Or something.
    But it’s still a fun song.

  22. Wil — I found your blog after your awesome and funny interview w/ at Comic Con last year and have been reading it every day (sometimes multiple times a day) ever since. I was laid off in December and I just wanted to say that in between my job search surfing (like today), I can always count on your posts to bring a laugh/smile to my day — so thank you and keep up the great work!

  23. What are you talking about?! The Safety Dance is amazing… in some sort of postmodern, ironic way! It’s perfect to torture housemates with, and tell your kids “This is what we used to listen to back in the days!”
    Plus, the music video is genius, if you like scary jester midgets.
    Has it been turned into a lame dance tune yet?

  24. For the record, Men Without Hats’ “Pop Goes the World” and “In the 21st Century” remain among my favorite 80’s CDs EVAR.
    …And I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that…

  25. About eight years ago, I took my wife, who about four months pregnant at the time, to a big party, at which a DJ was playing a lot of 80s music. He put on “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung, whose deep and insightful lyrics I’m sure you recall:

      Everybody have fun tonight
      Everybody Wang Chung tonight

    My wife said: “Is it okay to Wang Chung when you’re pregnant?”
    A friend of ours, standing nearby, said: “Hmm… I’m not sure. Maybe you should stick to the Safety Dance.”
    As far as I’m concerned, that joke fully justifies the song’s existence.

  26. Safety Dance is never not awesome :-)
    Speaking of the 80’s, not sure if someone has posted this or not but someone on youtube has done up a “What if ‘Watchmen’ was done as an 80’s Saturday morning cartoon?”
    aaaannnnd my tv guide for next week came in the mail and had a picture and little blurb previewing the Family Guy/Star Trek the Next Gen. ep. It said it would be on March 29th.

  27. Oh, so totally there, song wise and original post (OMG, was it *that* long ago?). And for some reason, “Dance Hall Days” always pops into my head in tandem with “Safety Dance”.

  28. As weird as that song is, here we are, what, 20 some years later talking about it! We can all dance if we want too.
    BTW, they were Canadian—from Montreal—not British, so you’d need a different accent, eh?

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