Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Village People - Cruisin'

Today (September 25th) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Cruisin’, the first full-length studio album from the Village People. This one, produced by French disco guru Jacques Morali, went Platinum in both the US and Canada. Chart-wise, it reached number 24 in the UK, number 5 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and number 3 on the US Billboard Album chart.

Side one opens with “Y.M.C.A.”. As the album’s sole single, this one went to number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Disco charts. It reached number 1 in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Having sold over 10 million physical copies, it is easily the most identifiable Village People song. The lyrics carry a mixed meaning though. Victor Willis, who was the group’s lead singer at the time and the writer of the song, said it was a way to convey the fun urban black youths had at the local YMCA. However, the YMCA also carried the reputation as being a popular cruising/hookup spot for both straight and gay men.

The rest of side one consists of a two-song medley.

The first half is “The Women”, which was also the B-side to the earlier mentioned single. Backed by a strong disco beat, the song pays tribute to the fairer of the sexes. It also name-drops some famous females including Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and more.

“I’m a Cruiser” showcases the act of checking people out in public with the end-goal of hooking up.

Side two begins with the cascading synths of “Hot Cop”, which paid tribute to the first persona Willis has in the group. The refrain of the chorus “party, boogie boogie, get on down” summed up the Village People mantra of having a good time.

“My Roommate” deals with a situation most people have faced at one time or another in their life - a roommate who does things that get on their nerves.

On the closing track, “Ups and Down” addresses addiction to pills to get through the day and night. The synth sound effects on this one remind me of blasters and such from Star Wars which was all the rage at the time.

Being a big disco fan, I owned a copy of Cruisin’ on vinyl back in the late 1970’s. I would drop the needle of my small turntable down on this one and practice my dance steps in my bedroom. Each side gave a solid eighteen minute workout.

For my review of the group’s self-titled 1977 debut Village People, click here.

For my review of the soundtrack from 1980’s Can’t Stop the Music which featured the band, click here.

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