One Hit Wonders: Men Without Hats

The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats

by Robert Mishou

This somewhat cryptic hit reached #4 on the AT 40 in September of 1983. There has been much discussion about the meaning to the lyrics ranging from an anti nuclear protest song to a plea for safe sex. The band’s singer and lyricist, Ivan Doroschuk, says it is neither. He wrote the lyrics to this song as a protest, not to nuclear weapons, rather to club bouncers. When New Wave music was becoming popular, it began to replace disco music in many clubs. As the style of music changed, so did the style of dancing. Dancers started to perform pogoing; a form of dancing that consisted remaining upright and thrashing about (this would eventually evolve into slam dancing and yes, I had to look this up). The bouncers at the clubs that Doroschuk attended did not allow this type of dancing and kicked out anyone who insisted on dancing in this style. This now becomes a great song that is not nearly as deep as many thought it to be. Keeping the dancing style in mind, the lyrics to this song do express the natural tendencies for young people to resent and resist authority:

I say we can go where we want to
A place they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind

And later:

We can go where we want to
The night is young and so am I
We can dress real neat
From our hands to our feet
And surprise them with a victory cry

And later still:

We can act like we want to
If we don’t, nobody will
We can act real rude
And totally removed
And I can act like an imbecile

Clearly now, this song becomes a typical teenage rebellion song, a staple of rock since the ‘50s. Couple these sentiments with an infectious keyboard and we have a perfect one hit wonder. And don’t forget the intro to the album (long) version of this song:
Sss – Aaa – Fff – Eee – Ttt – Yyy

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