Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Loco-Motion: The Greatest Swindel in Pop Music History


As is often the case, my mind has drifted away from what I ought to be doing and onto something more pressing.” The Loco-Motion." Yes, that's how the word is correctly written when you're referring to the 1962 dance hit by Little Eva and, later, Grand by Funk Railroad and Kylie Minogue. It's a catchy song, if a bit simple. If you listen to it, it rings through your heads for days. But my principal objection to "The Loco-Motion is that, like many songs of the 50s dancehall genre, it's essentially a tease.

I'm willing to overlook the name of the song — a cute little pun on the word “locomotion” that basically amounts to “crazy motion.” While "The Loco-Motion" amps you on doing the actual dance for which the song is named, it completely neglects to tell you how to do it. Other similarly dippy songs, like "The Hokey-Pokey" or "The Bunny Hop" actually explain very thoroughly. You'd have to be an idiot not to be able to do them. More like "The Hustle" did twenty years later, "The Loco-Motion" demands that you do something without tell you how.

My evidence: the lyrics. Again, simple as all hell, but here they are.
(Come on baby, do the Loco-Motion)
I know you'll get to like it if you give it a chance now
(Come on baby, do the Loco-Motion)
My little baby sister can do it with ease
It's easier than learning your ABC's
So apparently small, possibly ugly children can do this. Also, I should get to liking it pretty quickly. Okay, maybe I will do the Loco-Motion.
So come on, come on — do the Loco-Motion with me
You gotta swing your hips now
Come on baby — jump up, jump back
Oh well I think you got the knack.
Oh well I think you got the knack.
I don't. Does "the knack" involve a thrusting motion? — and jumping a bit? Whee.
Now that you can do it, let's make a chain now
(Come on baby, do the Loco-Motion)
Chug-a-chug-a motion like a railway train now
(Come on baby, do the Loco-Motion)
Coupled with the dance steps I gleaned from the previous lines, I’m apparently swinging my hips and jumping forwards and backwards. Yet my arms are apparently free enough that I can join hands with those of my friends and then move in a manner than mimics a train. Neat. Are we still hip-swinging and jumping in place? Yes? And managing not to fall down? Oh, cool.
Do it nice and easy now — don't lose control
This is a slow dance?
A little bit of rhythm and a lot of soul
So come on, come on — do the Loco-Motion with me
Dancing like a train involves soul?
Move around the floor in a Loco-Motion
So we’re hip-swinging, jumping, forming a chain, making like a choo-choo and now we’re also moving around the room? Surely scores will be trampled.
(Come on baby, do the Loco-Motion)
Do it holding hands if you get the notion
I thought we were already. What else were we supposed to use in making the train, our genitals? ... Oh.
(Come on baby, do the Loco-Motion)
There's never been a dance that's so easy to do
It even makes you happy when you're feeling blue
Now you’re just rubbing it in my face, lady. It’s apparently easier than shitting in a bucket and I can’t do it. Not only that, but the dance apparently has some magical depression-clearing properties. But I'll never know, I guess.
So come on, come on — do the Loco-Motion with me
For the life of me, I don’t know what this dance must look like, other than a mess of tangled limbs pathetically trying to be a train. Maybe the name is more appropriate than I thought.

So who's to blame here? Little Eva? Surely not Kylie? No, I looked into it, and the song was apparently written by Carole King, back in the early days of her songwriting career. I was surprised, honestly, because I would expect that something this shallow wouldn't have Carole King's name attached to it. But that's the truth, sadly.

So, fuck you, Carole King.

EDIT: It has since been pointed out to me that King wrote this song with Gerry Goffin. Also, this post initially, erroneously had the song being released in 1952, but the text has been corrected to state that date as 1962.


  1. Anonymous2:56 PM

    I always just thought the loco-motion was sex.

  2. Anonymous7:07 PM

    Chances are her husband, Gerry Goffin wrote the lyrics, and Carole King, the tune.
    Drew....You're an idiot.
    Fuck YOU! You rude bitch.

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks for you interest in my blog.

    Apparently when I wrote this three years ago, I had been misinformed about who wrote the song. Goffin is indeed credited alongside King. Thanks for setting me straight.

    Unfortunately, you got the impression that my post about "The Loco-Motion" was dead serious. One might think a hyperbolic title like "The Greatest Swindle in Pop Music History" would have been a tip-off, but if you didn't get that, then you probably don't see how one might jokingly consider a pop trifle like this one to be malicious. In short, it describes a dance that's apparently easy and that also grants instant happiness, yet it doesn't explain how to actually do the dance. Not that clearly, anyway. Out of context, the "Fuck you, Carole King" might seem flippant, but I feel in the tone of the article, it's fine. If the dance truly does grant happiness and it truly is easy to do, then it's an awfully selfish move on the songwriters' parts not to have made the dance steps more explicit.

    What really amuses me about you, however, is that you've apparently taken offense at my willingness to speak about Carole King in a harsh manner, and then chosen to do so by calling me an idiot, saying "fuck you" specifically to me, and then calling me a "rude bitch."

    What point, exactly, were you trying to express? That people should be nicer? Or just that Carole King doesn't deserve to be subjected to what you've deemed defamation? Because if it's the latter, believe me --- she either doesn't care or has a giant mountain of money to dry her tears on.

    If I truly am a rude bitch, then at least I had the conviction to speak my mind openly, not drop a poorly punctuated anonymous comment on someone else's blog --- the online communication equivalent of a drive-by house-egging. Had you wanted to truly make yourself seem bigger than I am, you should have just corrected me and told me that you wished I'd spoken more nicely about someone you apparently admire.

    But, again, thanks for telling me who actually wrote the song.

  4. Also, Sanam, if you thought "The Loco-Motion" was about sex, then how did you explain the part about the baby sister being able to do it with her?

  5. Anonymous8:42 AM

    wow, you really ARE a bitch!

  6. Anonymous9:11 AM

    I came here from I think this is pretty funny.

  7. Anonymous9:19 AM

    yeah, hysterical..the song was from 1962, not 52.

  8. D'oh. Thank you. I guess I was in a hurry when I put this up three years ago.

  9. Anonymous6:27 PM

    Do you think if you keep Anonymous (or the anonymouses - part of the problem with posting anonymously is that you can never be certain you're having a coherent conversation) engaged long enough a post from '05 could break some sort of record for most comments?

    I always thought it was about sex too. Guess I never paid enough attention to notice the little baby sister lyrics, sorry CK fans. Maybe some of you can offer some thoughtful analysis for us here?

  10. Monica: Good question.

    With these people, I feel they'll eventually become altogether disgusted with me and stop. With adherents of other celebrities, however, there's no end to their rage.

  11. Anonymous10:31 AM

    You should thank them for the extra hits, and write about Carole King more often to increase your traffic.

  12. Anonymous5:37 AM

    Drew, I think this is absolutely HILARIOUS! I quite enjoy this type of "crazy talk", especially when done with subtlety.

  13. Anonymous5:33 AM

    After mulling over your plight for several days, last night, just before dozing off, an idea suddenly seered itself into my consciousness with the brightness and intensity of a laser beam. Maybe you have considered this but dismissed it before actually trying it. Have you consulted with your little baby sister? If you have none, possibly a relative or acquaintance does. This may be the key to escaping you nightmarish predicament. Please post any updates to this blog, as our concern is genuine, particularly if you ARE suffering through some sort of clinical depression and hoping for this dance to provide some imperative relief.

  14. Anonymous5:43 AM

    Would it be possible to also analyze the worst song of all time that Carol King was a part of: Mocking Bird? She did it with James Taylor and it is a disgrace to JT. She must have had something on him – no way JT would do that without a gun to his head.

  15. Anonymous12:29 AM

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