When Lauren asked for songs to play during the evening at her wedding, I struggled to think of anything that might lay to waste the tame parameters of Dad Dancing. Then it came to me, the single that I bought in 1972. A raw, unpolished gem that I’ve been singing in my head for years without ever knowing more than a few phrases.
‘Burlesque’, by Family. Hot and funky, great bluesy bar song.
A pneumatic drill of a guitar riff to open, followed by a voice sounding like a cross between Noddy Holder, Joe Cocker and Tom Waits. Hats off for Roger Chapman’s uniquely powerful warble, pushing late night boundaries towards the morning.
Rolling and tumbling ain’t done me no harm
Gonna boogie my night all away
Rita and Greta been twisting my arm into
Heading out west
Down to the Burlesque
Saving my ace through to you
Bass pumping your brains out between the verses.
Well, drinking and sinking, I’m feeling alright
Right down to my snakey spat shoes
Just about shutdown and three in the night
Lyrics sublimely painting the deliberately diminished options. Sound scorching the earth and banishing all but the moment.
Well I finally lost Rita and Greta went home
I guess that leaves just me and you
Been kinda sneaky to get you alone
Oh but you in that dress
I got all my cards in one shoe
Chapman ended each verse with a rising howl. Try this on karaoke and you’ll be hoarse for a month. Long after it fades, the tune stays burned in the mind. Turns out that the Burlesque was a bar and night club in Leicester, which mysteriously burnt down in the late 70s.
From a perspective of old githood, it’s in my nature to compare things. ‘Stay with me’, for all of its brilliance, is relatively linear and formulaic. A join the dots sex romp. Up the hill and back down. ‘Burlesque’ offers more: a riff to stir the dead, and a ride into a lucid alcoholic dream where you can provide your own ending. Maybe the dress comes off, maybe a big poker win. Perhaps drinking your soul into the next life. All three?
To celebrate my daughter’s marriage, I would have loved to twist and shake the old carcass to that. But I forgot to remind the DJ and got carried away on the bumper cars, buoyed by many glasses of Laphroaig, rolling and tumbling with deep happiness.