Some ethnomusicological egghead has no doubt already linked certain cultures' music to the biorhythms and locomotion of the human organism. Me, I'm an idiot. I walk to work, I listen to my iPod. It's as simple as that. In fact, I rarely do one without the other–and sometimes it makes for some damned awkward ambulation. Just this morning, I almost fell on my ass after slipping on a patch of slimy sidewalk while trying to switch gears between Slint's "Washer" and Bobby Darin's "Artificial Flowers." (And don't even get me started on Scritti Politti's "Skank Bloc Bologna." Trying to keep pace with that bass line is like rollerskating on the back of a whale.)
I've started paying more attention lately while winding my way along Denver's lovely avenues, and I've discovered that some songs are undeniably perfect to walk to. It's more than just a marching beat and the ideal BPM, though–the best walking songs have just the right syncopation, either overt or implied, so that your hips, arms, and shoulders all have something to sway to. Kinda like jazzercize, I guess. (Or at the very least, the way John Travolta uses his walk in Saturday Night Fever.) Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon? Why is my brain so easily hijacked? Walking: voluntary or involuntary? Music: motivator or enslaver? My following top-five list of walking songs (circa this week) won't answer any of those questions, but it's sure better than doing all the real work that's piling up around here.
5. The Clash, "Pressure Drop" Yeah, I know this song is currently in the process of being ruined forever by some goddamn car commercial. Ah, the irony. But The Clash's bubbly version of the Toots & The Maytals classic puts a spring–make that a catapult–in my step whenever it pops on the iPod.
4. Thelma Houston, "Don't Leave Me This Way" That bass That sass It's hard not to bust into the hustle in the middle of the intersection. Bee Gees, eat your heart out.
3. Lungfish, "Put Your Hand In My Hand" Okay, so this song appears on Lungfish's album Talking Songs For Walking, but really, "Put Your Hand In My Hand" made it on the list on its own merits. One of Asa Osborne's most lulling, circular riffs locks into Daniel Higgs' chanted vocals–and the result is total hypnosis.
2. !!!, "Heart Of Hearts" Intentional or not, "Heart Of Hearts" sounds like Nine Inch Nails gone house–and that slithering low end, jabbing guitar, and sultry backup vocal never fail to get my rear in gear whilst getting out of here.
And the winner is
1. The Sugarhill Gang, "Apache" What can I say about this one? Whipping snare, handclaps, bongos (you might even call them incredible), and sweet laser noises all add up to locomotive gold. It's just a tad bit faster than my normal walking rate, too, so I eat up a lot of ground during "Apache"'s six minutes. Even if I'm beat, stressed, and/or not too happy to get where I'm going, Sugarhill makes me strut like an admittedly jive turkey every time.