11 January 2017, No. 229, Commodores, ‘Brick House (A Special Length Disco Version)’

The dollar bins at The Marvelous in West Philadelphia were the source of my copy of “Brick House (A Special Length Disco Version)” by Commodores, which is No. 229 on this list. Mine is one of those double-A-sided 12s, but I made a digital copy of each side anyway. Each digital copy bears a note in the title: “better,” “worse.” The worse version has more record noise—more pops and clicks—than the better version, and though I like record noise well enough to play just about any beat-up piece of polyvinyl chloride if it’s the only copy I have, I don’t seek out the noisiest copies; in fact, if I have a version from a CD and a version from vinyl, which one I’ll play is a toss-up. Probably the one with cue points already set up. This record, I play the better side, which is still not without the audio indicators of dust, wear, and tear. Physical artifacts beget audio artifacts, after all.

I never understood the appeal of serving as tenor in a metaphor whose vehicle is the brick shithouse of the “built like a…” cliché. “Hey girl, you’re like an outhouse” seems about as smooth as “you remind me of my Jeep.” And in the case of Mr. Kelly, the Commodores lyrics are maybe a little too close to his actual sentiments about women, never mind metaphor.

Seriously, though, whatever happened to, like, light through yonder window, y’know? Arise, fair sun, and pee on the envious moon like a president-elect in a Russian presidential suite. Shithouse as vehicle is inescapable, it seems. Just keep your eye on the truly deserving tenors and disregard the misdirection.

I get it that one might seek a certain metaphorical sturdiness in a mate, and solid is a synonym for good, but really I suspect that at the root of my confusion are cultural differences in beauty standards. Cf. the Monday Upstairs at Elena’s Soul on which a group including a big black girl was hanging out. Fich had me put on a song I’d never heard, Jimmy Jones’ “Watch Out for Da Big Girl,” much to my skinny white boy mortification. But the big girl recognized her song immediately and dragged her friends out onto the floor to tear it up.

Commodores shout out some measurements in “Brick House”—“36-24-36”—but they leave off a crucial qualifier that sheds light on the ideal body image thing and the racial differences implied. I should have learned the lesson long ago when Mix-a-Lot reinserted the caveat after the measurements, disclaiming: “36-24-36? Only if she’s 5’3”.”

So if you’re built like a brick shithouse, know that you’re mighty mighty, and let it all hang out.

Also: Shake it down. Shake it down now.