Sunday, May 1, 2011

Do You Wanna Dance?

One of the iconic songs of the 1960’s “Do You Wanna Dance?” was in fact written in 1958 by the African American songwriter Bobby Freeman and originally titled “Do You Want to Dance?”.

This song proved to be one of the more adaptable songs of the era and was released by several artists in a variety of styles, all of which produced great versions and big hits. The original Bobby Freeman recording was used in the 1973 version of “American Graffiti”.

Some of those involved were Cliff Richard (1962), Del Shannon (1964), Bette Midler (1972), John Lennon (1975) and The Ramones (1977), but several other artists also produced their own versions.

However, perhaps the two best-known takes of the song were performed by the Beach Boys in 1965 and The Mamas and Papas in 1966, both entirely different but in their own ways intriguing and fascinating.

The Beach Boys version was a classic example of their unique style – close harmonies with a strong flavour of the 1960’s “California youth culture of surfing, cars and romance”.

Their version was released as a single with the B-side featuring “Please Let Me Wonder”, and also in the album “Today!” and rose to number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The cover of the Beach Boys single, released in 1965, containing their version of "Do You Wanna Dance". (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Mamas and Papas produced an awesome sound with Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot cutting loose in majestic harmonies backed up by the powerful John Phillips /Denny Doherty arrangements. This version appeared in their debut album “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” and rated number 1 on the Billboard 200 of 1966.

The Mamas and Papas Album cover "If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears".
(Image from Wikipedia Commons)

Both the Beach Boys and Mamas and Papas versions of “Do You Wanna Dance” came out during the Vietnam War and were played countless times by troops in their spare time, in the mess and through radio broadcasts of the day. Military veterans of the era remember these songs with great affection.

Which was the best? Well you can be the judge by listening to both great interpretations of this classical 1960’s song.

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