. . .
People seem to have forgotten — or perhaps, it’s been scrubbed from history — what happened after the 1989 Batman film was released, even though it caught everybody by surprise. While the media was all worried about violence that might break out after showings of Do The Right Thing, they completely missed the true threat: virginal white males who got all het up by Jack Nicholson’s performance.
This was a cohort who were already pissed off about the casting of “Mr. Mom as Batman” — as if an actor as great as Michael Keaton somehow couldn’t pull it off — but instead of channeling their anger at him, they decided that behaving like the Clown Prince of Crime would be a better tack.
And so for a few weeks in 1989, there were various outbursts of vandalism by a group that called themselves “The Pale Moonlight Brigade,” and while some of them — as Frank-Ass told me later — were just looking for an excuse to cause trouble, others were pretty serious, and society seemed to teeter on the edge of collapse until rescue came from an unlikely corner: Prince, who united the country with the power of dance. The Batdance.
And while the Batdance will always be inferior to the Batusi, it was still the right dance for the right moment.
Now, I should point out that 1989 was a much simpler time, just before the monoculture started splitting apart, and probably the very last time in U.S. history that you could unite the country with the power of dance. But so it came to pass that everybody was so captivated with the “Batdance” that all of the violence ceased, and the Pale Moonlight Brigade just kinda faded away.
This was all kind of an accident: Prince only got involved through the kind of horseshit synergistic corporate-think — he had no rights to the music he made for the film — that would have him scrawling “slave” on his face within just a few years. But Lovesexy had kinda stiffed — by his standards — so I guess he figured what the hell, and weirdly enough the Batman soundtrack sounds both kinda phoned in and musically consistent.
Most of the songs are just straight-up funk songs with lotsa guitar, sometimes kinda sorta thematically in tune with the film and sometimes not. But I love Prince funk songs and I love Prince guitar, so I kinda love it. It all came to a head with the deeply silly and deeply catchy “Batdance,” which gives away the game with the title, and so “Batdance” is a pastiche of hard funk sprinkled with clips from the film, a tremendous guitar solo, chicks singing “Bat-mannnnn” in a tribute to Neil Hefti’s TV theme, and a mid-tempo interlude / tribute / stalker shoutout to Kim Basinger.
Like I said, this is all incredibly silly and incredibly disposable, but also fun enough to make it all the way to #1 on the Billboard charts, his first #1 since “Kiss,” and along with the film, drove the album to top the charts, the first time since Around The World in a Day, and something he wouldn’t do again until 2006.
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