The Friday Morning Listen: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)

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Being completely disconnected from the usual source of new pop music (read: radio), I was completely unaware of Daft Punk’s huge hit single “Get Lucky.” In fact, the first time I heard it was a few days ago when Stephen Colbert emerged unexpectedly on Jimmy Fallon’s stage to dance with the host for a few moments before heading back behind the curtains. It was one of those random, hilarious, and head-scratching moments that I’ve come to expect from Late Night.

But then a segment from The Colbert Report goes viral, with Colbert presenting the tune (because Daft Punk have not shown up on set or some such subterfuge) with some not half-bad dance moves in a bunch of pretty danged funny situations — including a cameo by Henry Kissinger. Isn’t he a hundred and seven years old now? Good for him! Anyway, in the middle of this bit Colbert ends up onstage dancing with Fallon. Ah! So that bit wasn’t so random after all. The funny thing is that the first time I saw it I had no idea that the music was from Daft Punk.

It was a couple of days ago that I became aware of this Colbert video. When TheWife™ came home that evening, I cued it up for her. We watched, laughed out loud, and then settled in to watch the previous night’s Late Show (does anybody watch shows in real time anymore?)…which turns out to have Nile Rogers as guest guitarist, sitting in with The Roots. After the first segment, the band launches into “Le Freak,” with that monster funk guitar riff from Rogers. Woah, I am transported straight back to 1978…when I didn’t care about monster funk guitar riffs and actually hated that song.

A bit of high school dance history. If you’re of a certain age, you will remember that the music at dances was usually provided by a band. That is, several people standing at one end of the gym playing real live musical instruments. When people speak of “classic rock” these days, that is exactly what these bands played, sometimes too loudly (and in one case resulting in a dance being shut down early) but hey, we dug it.

When the disco era exploded, we began to see dances involving a DJ. Me and my disco-hating friends were not happy with this development. We wanted our rock and we wanted it loud. So, being the oh-so-clever dolts that we were, when the DJ played “Le Freak” we thought it incredibly hilarious to yell “Fuck Off!!” at the appropriate times. Amazingly, we were never kicked out of one of these dances for that behavior. It’s likely that the chaperones couldn’t hear us. I mean, this was the school administration that wouldn’t allow a band to play Aerosmith’s “Big Ten Inch Record.” C’mon, it’s about a record album! Really!! (Yes, I know it was written by Bull Moose Jackson, so shut it.)

So back to Nile Rogers and “Le Freak.” It turns out ‐ and this was related by Rogers on Late Night — that the intended original refrain for the song was indeed “Fuck Off!” I’d never heard this story before but apparently Rogers and company were invited backstage by Grace Jones for her appearance at Studio 54. She neglected to tell the security folks and when Rogers announced his presence he was told to fuck off. The rest is disco and funk history.

And to come full circle (or maybe it’s more of an amoeba shape at this point), I discover that Nile Rogers co-wrote “Get Lucky.” Just listen to the funk guitar that supports the opening. Pure Nile Rogers. Listening to it now, I just can’t identify with that 16 year old boy who had such fun yelling “Fuck Off!” Man, I totally dig that song now.

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