Sunday, July 15, 2012

Prep for Dark Knight Rises: The Danceable Batman

As we head toward Wednesday and the release of the much-anticipated Dark Knight Rises, I cannot help but reminded of a simpler time when the average person on the street did not associate inverted semi-trailers and Christopher Nolan with The Dark Knight Detective.

The comics are, of course, silent.  We imagine the lonely street sounds of Gotham, and we can believe the sound effects splattered across the page in beautifully rendered and colored lettering.  But never do comics cross over with music, not unless they're brought to the screen.

I was at basketball camp in the week before the release of Tim Burton's highly anticipated Batman.  In fact, I had read the novelization of the movie during my downtime at camp that year.  The session ended mid-day on Friday, the day Batman hit theaters and it was a whole thing making sure I got to the movie that night (which I did.  Thanks, Peabo's Mom!). 

It's hard to explain exactly how Bat-Crazy I was (very publicly) in 1988, and what a big deal the film felt like at the time.  I'd been following Batman's production via magazines, newspaper articles, notes in the comics and other places, had taped the trailer and watched it over and over...

The camp took place at the University of Texas and we stayed in the dorms at The Dobie, and I still very much remember everyone stopping in the cafeteria line to watch the video for "Bat Dance" (there was a TV on MTV for some reason near the door).   The video was appreciated, but not as much as in 1987, when the video had been for George Michael's "I Want Your Sex".

Like anyone else born in the 1970's, I had a warm spot in my heart for Prince, but found him an odd fit for Batman. It's only in cold hindsight that I have to assume this was neither Tim Burton nor Prince's doing so much as that of WB executives.  But who knows?  (Probably Prince, I guess.).

That insight does not mean I'm any closer to deciphering the narrative of the video, or why Batman is spiritually represented by lots of ladies in the video, or why someone thought it clever to have just the one dancer with the "all this and brains, too" ironed onto her dress.  Or why all the liberal use of sampling and lip synching.

Yes, of course I owned that tape.

I am still curious about what actual adults thought of this thing at the time, and if "Batdance" got play at the clubs (and, if so, was there a "bat dance"?).  I do know that this video disappeared rather quickly even in the long tail of the Bat-Craze.

So, yeah, we all got to see Prince work out some issues around how we all felt about Kim Basinger in the late 80's, but unlike us mere mortals, he had the advantage of song and dance, a huge budget and Batman as a conduit.

 Of course this was not the first not the last time Batman would drop it like it's hot.  The 1960's series starring Adam West was well aware that were the Caped Crusader to take to the dance floor, he'd do it on his own terms, and with his own dance.  And thus was born: The Batusi

That's not to mention the entire musical someone wrote and produced without DC's permission. Oh, yes, most absolutely.

It's almost as good as the musical Batman himself sat through on Batman Beyond.

And then this guy, who wrote a song about Batman and used footage from a Rockstar game for the video.

I have no explanation.

No less a power than the great Jim Steinman once composed an entire Batman musical - which went on not to get produced. Steinman is, of course, the gentleman who wrote Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell. And part of me thinks: yeah, totally, STEINMAN. But somehow it just never happened.

Here is the romantic ballad by Batman and Catwoman, "Not Allowed".

Oh, well.  In a better world, Mister Steinman.

But let us never forget: In order to save Wonder Woman, Batman once sang "Am I Blue?" in a nightclub.

That's what being a hero is all about.


Jake Shore said...

Good grief. I forgot about that song and video. Thanks for bringing that back into my life.

I don't think most people remember how big that movie was at the time. Kids today can expect a big budget superhero movie nearly every other week. But back in 1989, only Superman had graced the big screen, and that franchise fizzled out long before. I remember pouring through the official movie magazine for weeks before the movie opened.

The League said...

And the explosion in merchandise. Man, you could get Bat-anything. What I really remember was thinking how weird it was that suddenly, everyone else was talking about Batman. It was weird. But at least they didn't think I was just obsessing about Adam West anymore, which in 1988, I found a bit embarrassing. Funny how today I have no problem championing everything about that take.