High school quadrangle, Melbourne. Lunchtime, 1975
Nobody cares how you wear your hair, darling…
It’s 1975 and I am 13. Gangly, spotty and awkward, I attend a secondary school on the outskirts of suburban Melbourne. Despite the Greek and Italian ancestry of many of my fellow students, there was very little of what we would now call diversity in the school’s culture. This was Aussieland; lower-middle class, conservative, protective, traditional, rhetorical and very wary of the new. Desperately white bread.
The school had little space or tolerance for teenage culture. The one exception was that for part of every lunchtime, the school’s public address system would pump out the sounds of AM Top 40 radio, filling the stark quadrangle with the sounds of “four-deen-twenny”, 3XY.
One afternoon, in between The Captain & Tennille and Pilot, I hear a solitary, emerging horn note that flares (appropriately) into a full, blared, brass section major chord. It holds itself high in mid-air before the simple boom-thump-boom-thump rhythm of a disco drum beat slides in underneath it for support. Then the vocals start: “Doo doo doot, doo doo doot, Doo doo doo doo doo-doot…”
It is the sound of Disco Tex and his Sex-O-Lettes singing Get Dancin’ and I have never heard anything like it.
The doo-doo-doot girls continue their scatting, for one long, tantalising minute, introducing the world to their leader, the 33 year old former teen idol, Joseph Montanez Jr., a.k.a. Sir Monti Rock III, a.k.a. Disco Tex. The Star of Stars.
Tex doesn’t sing. He “machine gun raps and locomotes” in English, Spanish, gibberish and tongues. He implores, he exalts, he exhausts himself. He turns himself on and tells us about it. He is part Pentecostal preacher, part extra-terrestrial. He is at the centre of a raging disco firestorm and appears to be barely in control of his mind or his body.
“What is this shit?” demands one of my fellow students. “Why don’t they play more Sweet?” asks another. “Sounds like a poofta to me” spits a third. He may have been right. Disco Tex was wildly camp, flamboyant, and coming from somewhere that sounded strange and otherworldly. In the hetero-normative world of 1970s Australian suburbia, the closest we got to camp was comedian Dick Emery doing his floppy wristed, “Hello, honky tonks” routine. Emery was playing for laughs. With Disco Tex, one could not be quite sure what he was playing for.
Almost 40 years later I can see there is no ambiguity about the central topic of the song. I didn’t think I knew anything about sex at thirteen, but some primate part of my consciousness was touched by the sensuality of the raucous, baying audience, the girly chorus singing about Disco Tex “trucking with his Sex-O-Lettes”, and the barely contained lust behind DT’s libidinal ranting. I sensed that if you listened hard enough you could actually smell wild, musky odours coming out of the speakers while this played. It had a thrall. I was hypnotised and converted to…I wasn’t quite sure what.
I heard bliss, joy, redemption, salvation and salivation! It is riotous, formless, wet and sweaty. Tex explodes with ecstasy and declares, without reservation, to no one, and, to everyone, “I love you, darling. So happy!”
On my fourteenth birthday my best mate, Peter, presented me with two gifts, one of which I still hold close to my heart. When I opened his present a lime green gift set of Brut 33 talc and splash-on cologne sat alongside the real gem of the package – my first ever 7 inch single – Get Dancin’.
It was slightly warped, so the four-on-the-floor intro was accompanied by a deep, dysrhythmic offbeat when the needle bumped over the early part of the vinyl. It was a gift, as the saying goes that just kept on giving: the B-side carried on from where the A-side left off. Get Dancin’ Part 2 is a post-coital renaissance, a res-erection, if you will, and a continuation of Tex’s absurdly delightful philosophical treatise on dancing and its relation to the meaning of life. He implores us to heed his words:
You can’t think of all the wrong
All the wrong of the world
You can’t think of all
The bad things you do
You just get out, get dancing
Well, I’ll do mine, be happy
Pull your hair out, run around
These barely comprehensible words came from a spring of rich, hedonistic wisdom, far away from the tedium of endless school assemblies, brutish locker room scuffles and the brain-deadening dullness of a double math period.
I would like to conclude this reflection on my first 45 in the spirit of Disco Tex, a man not averse to borrowing the ideas of others. I feel there is no other way to finish right now except to steal and repeat the farewell rap, (at 3 minutes: 12 seconds), that precedes his second coming on the single. Is this the greatest false ending in popular music? Perhaps. Take it, Tex…
Ohhhh, Thank You Very Much, I love you, the Sex-O-Lettes, I love you; my chiffon is wet, darling, my chiffon is wet, my wig is wet, I am tired, I can’t, I am exhausted from all this, I am overwhelmed; OK, but you’ll have to help me, you’ll have to get up here and dance, you’ll have to get up, c’mon, come on and help me, help me, come on please, come on and dance, please help me, (OK girls, here we go), come on….
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeeeeaaaaah.
© Stephen Andrew.