Return of the Old World

Through the medley trend pop culture even reached back as far as the forties in Larry Elgart's "Hooked On Swing." Even classical pieces made a comeback with "Hooked On Classics" by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The swing toward pre-rock revival seemed counter to the rock ethic, as it had appeared throughout the sixties that rock had become the new American sound that outdated previous styles. But now rock itself seemed in danger of being overshadowed by multiple genres. The big band sound was supposedly a dinosaur that represented the establishment of the old guard. Rock was supposed to be the vanguard of a new generation. But the injection of the ballroom sound gradually put swing music back on the map with young people as the music eventually proved to be timeless.

It all kind of started in 1973 when Bette Midler covered the Andrews Sisters World War II hit "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Then a few years later the disco group The Ritchie Family covered the Latin instrumental "Brasil," which was originally a monster Latin hit by Xavier Cugar in the thirties. Then in 1977 Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band actually kicked off the medley craze, but with just three ballroom standards: "Whispering/Cherchez La Femme/Se Si Son." That same year Meco's cover of the Star Wars theme also contained a section called "Cantina Band," which immitated the big band sound.

Lounge music also made a huge mark in 1977 by artists Al Martino, Englebert Humperdinck, Tom Jones and Paul Anka. Even Elvis, the king of rock and roll had turned to the lounge classic "My Way" as one of his final recordings. The ballroom sound continued in 1978 with Barry Manilow's mambo hit "Copacabana." Little River Band mentioned The Glenn Miller Band in their loungy hit "Reminiscing." Stevie Wonder had paid tribute to Duke Ellington in his 1977 hit "Sir Duke." Then in 1980 the biggest legend of the entire lounge scene, Frank Sinatra, returned with his version of "Theme From New York, New York," making him the first and only artist to have hits in every decade from the forties through the eighties. His success would continue in the nineties with two albums consisting of duets with contemporary pop stars.

The traditional ballroom sound continued in the eighties, but usually with a modern twist as in "Puttin' On The Ritz" by Taco, "Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody" by David Lee Roth, "Peter Gunn" by Art Of Noise and "Route 66" by Depeche Mode. The ballroom sound even continued in the nineties with "Swing The Mood" by Jive Bunny, a medley of swing tunes that drew from big band as well as early rock and roll. The fifties swing sound had been carried on by the Los Lobos cover of "La Bamba" and The Stray Cats in the eighties. But in the nineties former Stray Cats singer Brian Setzer shifted his focus on a forties swing sound. Madonna also drew from the same era with her 1990 submissive swing hit "Hanky Panky."

Later in the nineties forties-sounding swing revival was successfully issued by Harry Connick Jr., Cherry Poppin Daddies, Lou Bega, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. The past met the present when Natalie Cole sung with her long dead father Nat on "Unforgettable." All throughout this revival, Glenn Miller's original version of "In The Mood" remained a huge dance floor favorite, especially after the more vibrant and cleaner-sounding digital remastered version came out in the nineties. Despite an earlier rock rumour that swing was dead, the more restrained and structured music of the prim and proper Victorian era was back, apparently here to stay. What makes ballroom dancing seem old fashioned, unlike rock or disco, is that the male always leads the female. He decides when she spins and it is her duty to follow. But what ballroom music really proved was the same thing that rock and roll and disco proved: it was fun party music that didn't involve or even require any deep analysis. It was all about having fun. Music doesn't have to be serious. Sometimes you gotta just let it all go.

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