By The Landlord
“Rock is all about filling up the chest cavities and empty kneecaps and elbows.” – Jimi Hendrix
“My wrists are rivers, my fingers are words.” – Charles Bukowski
“I'm fine, and my hips are fine. My false knee is fine. My false hips are fine. Everything's cooking.” – Liza Minnelli
We all enjoy freedom of movement. And if not only for ourselves, but surely for others too? Topical indeed, but mischievously, here at the Bar this week let’s apply it songs about particle parts of the body, not only for knees, hips, elbows, wrists and toes, but also for knuckles, ankles, shoulders and any other key bendy and swivelling bits, in humans or or animals. It's all about making connections …
What joints are we talking about here? Well, here’s a quick guide to those key areas:
Feeling a little bit on the stiff side before we begin? Then perhaps your joints need a little lubrication. Maybe drop of oil …
But to avoid injury, let’s first do a little warm up. We’ve been swivelling our hips to music for centuries. How about a little 1920s flapper action:
And to loosen those shoulders, there’s always Pete Townshend:
Now for a little bit of the science side. Joints come in several types that allow all kinds of movement. from pivot joints to move side to side, hinge Joints to bend limbs such as elbows and knees, ball and socket joints for rotation on hips, shoulders and ankle, condyloids to twist and bend, saddle joints that allow extension and flexing, but no axial rotation, and gliding joints to aid smooth motion.
And because it’s the most important part of the body for music, here’s the foot in more detail:
Most joints are self-lubricating, ideally frictionless and can withstand all sorts of pressure, compression and weights. And what makes them function better is the tissues, fibres and collagen that help them function smoothly. Fibrous joints have dense regular connective tissue that is rich in collagen, cartilagious joints might contain hyaline cartilage. Synovial joints are not directly joined but are only united by dense irregular tissue that forms a articular capsule. And facet joints come between two vertebrae. Anyway, it’s a miracle it all works, but of course these things can go wrong, and joints as much as we take them for granted, can also cause all kinds of pain:
So this week’s song nominations could refer specifically or in general to any kind of body joint, whether that be the pleasure or pain of movement. And hopefully it will be a right old knees up. But could these lyrical references also be metaphorical? Could someone give the cold shoulder, use the sharp elbow, employ elbow grease or rub elbows with others, knuckle down or under and so on? Quite possibly, but the joint has to feature in some significant way in the song.
Joint flexibility has been as much a part of the popular music movement as the sounds themselves. As Jimmy Buffett put it: “Elvis was the only man from Northeast Mississippi who could shake his hips and still be loved by rednecks, cops, and hippies.”
And who astonished audiences with his joint skills as much as the great James Brown? Just how does he do that knee judder and hip dip?
A superb shimmy is indeed begin to occur in the Bar, and all sorts of artists are trying to shoehorn a reference. “I make music for the hips, not the head,” says Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim.
“I still have my eyes on the prize: I want to be that old lady onstage shaking her hips and singing her greatest hits,” says Christina Aguilera, careful that those words didn’t fall out in the wrong way.
“All through my twenties, I spent more time worrying what I didn't have than thinking about what I did have. I wished that I was taller, had longer legs, slimmer hips, a smaller bottom, even straighter hair,” says Shakira. Well, Shaky, you’ve got it all now.
Bernard Sumner’s also in the house, trying his own special shoehorn, with this foot-in-the-door remark: “I'm terrible with decisions. And I can't make myself do something I don't like. I can't knuckle under.”
Human joints can’t really compete with the strength and flexibility of animals. Our knees are reversed in many quadrupeds, giving our mammal cousins far greater spring and speed from their back legs. And arguable our spines aren’t really designed for completely walking uprights, as we’re evolved from a previous life of walking on our knuckles. Mind you, we’re clearly and sorely out of practice. So here are also a couple of actors to explain First, the remarkable Andy Serkis, who not only played Gollum in the Tolkien books films, but also King Kong: “After 'Kong,' my knuckles have never recovered because I had to wear very heavy weights on my forearms and around my hips and ankles to get the sense of size and scale of the movement of the character…”
But it’s hard to beat this knuckle walking, and disturbing performance from special movement coach Terry Notary in The Square, in one of the most tense and brilliant scenes. No doubt who is the alpha male here:
But how might the human body evolve in the future? Certainly all our joints might be replaced. Could we end up like the Six Million Dollar Man? In real life, ironically, here’s Lee Majors, the man who played him: “I figured my body always would be able to repair itself. I think all of us believe that - until you begin to age and get hit with deteriorating joints.”
So what is the future. Could we all not only try robot dancing, but also turn into robots. While some dancers mimic robots, robots can also mimic dancing:
Joint dancing indeed. Now let’s close with some more examples of our bodily connections in motion. Can anyone better the great Grace Jones and her continuous hula-hooping? What a woman.
I think the Soul Train dancers still offer the greatest variety and flexibility:
But few of us can do this. There are many great dance films, from West Side Story to Strictly Ballroom, and many great dances in films, from Breakdance to er, Flashdance, but surely the oddest comes in that indie nerd film Napoleon Dynamite, the sulky outsider teenager played by Jon Heder (see also Blades of Glory) who bizarrely breaks out from stiffness into this during his high school elections hustings:
So then, it’s time to flex your own musical joints in lyrics, and get ready for a right good knees up. This week’s chief choreographer, massaging your nominations with plenty of flexibility, and straightening them out into lists, is also making a debut on the stage – let’s welcome the noble Noodsy! Deadline is 11pm UK on Monday for playlists published next Wednesday. Joint effort indeed.
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