Without a doubt, my favourite dance record ever made is Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads. I must have heard it over five hundred times. Upon listening again recently, I realized that every single composite part defines an attribute of dance music which I love. After going through every piece here, I created a mix of records I’m currently enjoying (there are thousands out there) which I feel each represent at least one of these characteristics. Please go and listen to the Talking Heads track first, by whatever means.
Once In A Lifetime is the perfect example of a record retaining the excitement of a live band and yet still being underpinned by an undefinable magic. Human instrumentation but with an Eno-produced shine that makes listeners feel it could never be recreated by anyone else. The best dance records all sound not entirely of this world.
Once In A Lifetime features the most amazing, sparkling snyths. It’s that sound that has you reaching for the ceilings of clubs at 5:30am and causes some people to dance as if they were picking stars out of the sky. It adds a pretty face to a sweating, pulsing set of limbs.
Once In A Lifetime features the best bassline ever – three notes. In isolation, it would make you dance. Talking Heads’ rhythm section was the perfect cross between funk groove and (post) punk simplicity. Furthermore, it boldly announces it’s entrance with a bombastic opening slide. Pop stars should never be retiring.
Once In A Lifetime features lyrics that have intellectual depth but, more importantly, can be sung along to all the way without any further thought. The spoken word verse acts as another instrument – and one that makes me smile every time.
Once In A Lifetime features a simple 4/4 beat that never tries to be over complicated or purposefully disjointed. Every piece of extra percussion that enters the fray only adds to what is already there. It’s very easy to throw the idea of Afro-Beat around at the moment but Talking Heads understood the power of the genre and its ability to constantly add more drums whilst never having any interfere with each other.
Once In A Lifertime features a loud guitar line that breaks in at the end (growing up listening mainly to rock music, such unabashed noisy intrusions within music still get me, when done properly). All the best dance records add something significant at the optimum moment, just when you think there is nothing more to offer.
Once In A Lifetime features the greatest chorus ever written. A melody that soars away from the verses and leaves me breathless every time I hear it.
Once In A Lifetime (and this is the best bit) is proud of itself. It knows that every part of the song is perfect and, because of this, never stops repeating itself. Even the fade out at the end of the recorded track suggests that it is infinite in its nature. The bassline never rests. The chorus just keeps on going and going. I never want it to end – the best dance records all recognize the value of repetition. This is a song about attempting to enjoy your life today, before it passes you by. Surely the very ethos of experiencing dance music.
01. Guy Cuevas – Obsession (The Nassau Mix)
02. LCD Soundsystem – Someone Great (Instrumental)
03. In Flagranti – In The Silver
04. Captain Comatose – Price Gun Baby
05. Snax – It Ain’t Love (Edit)
06. Simone Fedi – Sub Space (Out Of City Remix)
07. Logic – The Final Frontier (The Groove)
08. Dondolo – Tetanus Crisid (Hot Chip Remix)
09. FC Kahuna – Nothing Is Wrong
10. Juan Maclean – Give Me Every Little Thing (Cajmere Remix)
11. Scissor Sisters – I Don’t Feel Like Dancing (Erol Alkan’s Carnival Of Light Re-Work)