On this day in music history: June 3, 1983 – “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats is released. Written by Ivan Doroschuk, it is the debut single release and the biggest hit for the synth pop/new wave band from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1977 as a punk rock band and first known as Wave 21, it features brothers Ivan Doroschuk (lead vocals), Stefan Doroschuk (bass) and Colin Doroschuk (guitar), along with Pete Seabrooke (guitar), Dave Hill (bass) and John Gurrin (drums). They change their name to Men Without Hats after punk gives way to new wave. Their quirky name comes as a result of the brothers’ refusal to wear hats during Canada’s often bitterly cold winters. The band features a rotating line up, with Ivan and Stefan being only constant members. After more changes in personnel, Men Without Hats are then signed to Statik Records (distributed by Sire Records internationally). The band record their debut album “Rhythm Of Youth”, issuing “I Like” as the first single. It fails to chart in Canada or Europe, and is followed up by “The Safety Dance”. The song is a result of an experience during Men Without Hats’ early days. Bouncers in a club they were playing in, were admonishing patrons stop pogo dancing. The dance consists of someone jumping up and down like a pogo stick, while either flailing your arms. Regarded as the predecessor to moshing and slam dancing, some venues ban it, to avoid injuries. Released in Canada and Europe first, “The Safety Dance” peaks at #11 on the Canadian singles chart, and #6 on the UK singles chart in early 1983. Off of the back of that success, it’s licensed to MCA distributed Backstreet Records in the US. “The Safety Dance” is supported by a music video directed by Tim Pope (The Cure, Soft Cell), inspired by 17th and 18th century English folklore and culture. Filmed in the village of West Kington in Wiltshire, UK, actors in period dress are seen dancing in groups and around the maypole. British dwarf actor Mike Edmonds (Flash Gordon, Time Bandits, Return Of The Jedi), as the jester who accompanies Doroschuk. Throughout the video, Ivan makes the distinctive movements of jerking his arms into the shape of an “S”, to signify the “safety dance”. A big hit on American dance floors first, an extended version (included on the “Rhythm Of Youth” album) spends one week at #1 on the Billboard Club Play chart, on July 2, 1983. The original single mix crosses over to radio, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on September 10, 1983. Regarded as an 80’s new wave classic, Men Without Hats will find following up their big hit nearly impossible. They chart in the US only two more times with “I Like” (#84 Pop) and “Pop Goes The World” (#20 Pop). In 1984, “Weird Al” Yankovic spoofs “The Safety Dance” with “The Brady Bunch” on his album “In 3-D”.
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