I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes. I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale. Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not. In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey. I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site. With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment.
I’m not usually one to become obsessed. I naturally enjoy some things/people/places/sounds than others, but rarely have those things become focal points, or even all-out blinders. I tend to keep my amusement preferences at bay lest I simply become too attached.
So it should come as no surprise (haha) when I say that I truly and near-mindlessly obsessed with Deee-Lite, the band and particularly their song “Groove is in the Heart.” And even more particularly (peculiarly?), a certain pair of shoes. But more on that in a moment.
It’s possible that I’ve mentioned in this space before that the first three albums (cassettes) I ever bought with my own money were Billy Joel’s Storm Front, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, and Deee-Lite’s World Clique. It was 1990, and I was a young high schooler who wanted nothing to do with high school. So when I wasn’t trying desperately to look as though I could tolerate life among my peers, I was listening to music, especially anything and everything Top 40 radio (though not solely). From that time, a song from each of those albums became quite buried in my psyche, namely “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Black Cat,” and “Groove is in the Heart.” Each one could be the subject of an iTunes Diaries as I no longer have the tapes, never got the CDs, and instead purchased the singles through iTunes. But “Groove is in the Heart” stands a little taller than the rest because of a pair of shoes. Literally. These shoes:
Known as the “Munster” by renowned designer John Fluevog, I knew them as either “Deee-Lite” shoes or “witch shoes,” as they were sometimes derided. And the first time I saw them was as part of Deee-Lite’s lead singer Lady Miss Keir’s wardrobe in the “Groove is in the Heart” video (and later on the World Clique Album cover). Though I didn’t know it at the time, my obsession with these shoes would eventually rule my fashion sensibilities; and my adoration for “Groove is in the Heart” would eventually rule my music sensibilities.
More so than any song of its time, “Groove is in the Heart” set the stage for what would be the return of 1970s fashions in the early 1990s. I mean, just look and listen! “Groove is in the Heart” reeks of funktown soul and disco beats. The colorful psychedelia might lend itself to the late 1960s, sure, but no one can deny that the same palette ruled the disco era with an iron fist. If anything, what Deee-Lite did in that video and with the song is pick out the best of both worlds and combine them under the watchful eye of a talented turntabalist. For me, this song served as the next steps towards dance-y and mash-y electronica after Kon Kan’s “I Beg Your Pardon.” It can both be placed within a time — because there is something rather “90s” about it — and be timeless.
So back to those Fluevogs. I didn’t fully embrace the 1970s trend until a few years after “Groove is in the Heart” hit big. And by then, I think my influence may have come more from Priscilla Queen of the Desert than World Clique, but goddamn if I still didn’t want a pair of those Fluevogs! But like any middle-class, suburban kid, my problem was access. Not only were those beautiful, towering, designer Deee-Lite shoes hella expensive — not gonna happen on a meager work-study salary — but I didn’t have access to any place that sold the knockoff “witch shoes.” So I continued to admire from afar, thinking that maybe, someday, I’d have a pair of my very own
…she said in a misty, dreamlike state…
Well *poof* went the daydream, because it didn’t happen. By the time I could find and afford a pair of Deee-Lite shoes, my disco-goth phase had passed. Oh, I made do with some rather chunky heels of my own in the meantime…
…but nothing ever quite came close to those Fluevogs. At least I have “Groove is in the Heart” to remind me of the maybe, someday factor. Because I’m not dead yet.