The Safety Dance
|"The Safety Dance"|
|Single by Men Without Hats|
|from the album Rhythm of Youth|
"Living in China" (US)
|Released||January 14, 1983 (Canada)
March 16, 1983 (US)
August 22, 1983 (UK)
|Length||4:36 (album version)
2:47 (single version)
|Men Without Hats singles chronology|
"The Safety Dance" is a song written and recorded by Canadian new wave band Men Without Hats. It was initially released in Canada in January 1983 as the 2nd single from the band's first full-length album, Rhythm of Youth. The song was written by Ivan Doroschuk after he had been kicked out of a club for pogoing.
The song entered the Canadian top 50 in February 1983, peaking at no. 11 on 14 May. In the meantime, "The Safety Dance" was released in the US on March 16, but did not enter the US charts for a few months. When it finally did, the record became a bigger hit than it had been in Canada, peaking at no. 3 in September 1983. It also reached no. 1 on Cash Box, as well as no. 1 on the Billboard Dance Chart. "The Safety Dance" similarly found success in other parts of the world, entering the UK charts in August and peaking at no. 6 in early November, and entering the New Zealand charts in November, eventually peaking at no. 2 in early 1984.
Meaning of the song
The writer/performer, Ivan Doroschuk, has explained that "The Safety Dance" is a protest against bouncers stopping dancers pogoing to 1980s new wave music in clubs when disco was dying and new wave was up and coming. New wave dancing, especially pogoing, was different from disco dancing, because it was done individually instead of with partners and involved holding the torso rigid and thrashing about. To uninformed bystanders this could look dangerous, especially if pogoers accidentally bounced into one another (the more deliberately violent evolution of pogoing is slam dancing). The bouncers did not like pogoing so they would tell pogoers to stop or be kicked out of the club. Thus, the song is a protest and a call for freedom of expression. Other lyrics in the song include references to the way pogoing looked to bouncers, especially "And you can act real rude and totally removed/And I can act like an imbecile".
Doroschuk responded to two common interpretations of the song. Firstly, he notes it is not a call for safe sex. Doroschuk says that is reading too much into the lyrics. Secondly, he explained that it is not an anti-nuclear protest song per se despite the nuclear imagery at the end of the video. Doroschuk stated that "it wasn't a question of just being anti-nuclear, it was a question of being anti-establishment."
The music video for the song, directed by Tim Pope, is notable for its English folk revival imagery, notably Morris men, Mummers, Punch and Judy and a Maypole. It was filmed in the village of West Kington, near Chippenham, in South West England. Ivan Doroschuk is the only member of the band actually to perform in the video. Doroschuk, and others in the video, can be seen repeatedly forming an "S" sign by jerking both arms into a stiff pose, one arm in an upward curve and the other in a downward curve, apparently referring to the first letter in 'safety'. The Morris dance seen in the video was the Chippenham Town Morris Men from Wiltshire, performing in Monkton Park. The dwarf actor is Mike Edmonds. His T-shirt in the video shows the "Rhythm of Youth" album cover. The song used in this video is the shorter single version.
For many years, fans have questioned the band members about who is the blonde young girl dancing with Ivan and Mike in the music video. Despite a series of enquiries, she has not been identified and remains unknown. In 2013. the band members have finally announced on their Facebook page that the mystery dancer was Louise Court. She is currently works as an UK editor of Cosmopolitan magazine as a highly accomplished journalist.
In popular culture
Referenced in a 2002 episode of Futurama, Season 4, Episode 9. When 'That 80’s Guy' asked Fry if he remembered "The Safety Dance" and also a short time later, after 'That Guy' had easily taken over the Planet Express Company, in celebration, he loudly imitated the notes of the most memorable part of the song.
Radio DJ Kidd Chris created a parody of the song with recordings of George Takei's voice and named it The Sulu Dance in reference to Takei's character in the Star Trek series.
- Politis, John (1983). "Men Without Hats – Rhythm of Youth". Voice of Youth Advocates: VOYA (Scarecrow Press) 6: 356. "The single by Men Without Hats, "The Safety Dance," may be the best new wave dance song since The B-52's "Rock Lobster.""
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- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications)
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- "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
- "Rhythm of Youth – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
- CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending OCTOBER 1, 1983 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 13, 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
- "Canadian Content (Cancon) – Volume 63, No. 19, June 24, 1996". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 21, 2013.
- "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
- "Top Singles – Volume 39, No. 17, December 24, 1983". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
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- "Top 100 Hits for 1983". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
- The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1983 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 11, 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
- "Canadian single certifications – Men Without Hats – Safety Dance". Music Canada.
- "British single certifications – Men Without Hats – Safety Dance". British Phonographic Industry. Enter Safety Dance in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
- Sweney, Mark (18 March 2010). "Hugh Jackman steps in for Lipton ads". The Guardian. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
- Men Without Hats – Official Site
- Ivan Doroschuk explains meaning behind song
- Website of dancers who appear in the video
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