De Carmine ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’, or I Don’t Actually Hate It

by Thomas Darcy

What I have to say is that I ultimately don’t trust these Poor Print people when they say the issue’s theme is just a suggestion. I accept that many pieces before me and no doubt after (pending continued JCR funding) in fact have little relation to the others that exist around them. Obviously, I haven’t read the article about Jude Bellingham written by Ben Nolan, the JCR’s favourite cultural vandal, but I have to assume neither the writer nor his subject died at the end. Nevertheless, given I insist on some kind of link, let me argue that envy is a sin and sins are the domain of the devil – let’s leave it there and move on from this pre-amble.

We live in tumultuous times. I was pushed to write this alternative thesis of mine not through opportunity, not through encouragement, and some would wrongly argue not through any sense of the importance of my work. They say there’s very little point in my crusade. But what compels me to pick up my pen again is duty, necessity and urgency. It is this urgency of impending disaster that compels me to break the silence which I must shamefully admit I succumbed to. I thought my duty had been fulfilled, but I realise almost too late that I have in fact been neglectful in witnessing others alike with me but who yet cannot enjoy the same salvation I myself exult in.

We are all no doubt aware of the headliners for our ball this year. Though I could speak of swing bands longer than anyone, it is to the band Toploader that I turn my attention. It has been some years now since I became aware of the secret lurking beneath mankind: that the song ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ arose from evil. I propose (and in this I have full faith) that the song was written by the devil many years ago, and that over the decades it has been repeatedly released in an effort to subliminally infect humanity. We all know the song; we are all aware of its lingering relevance to pop culture, in spite of itself perhaps. But for too long now the masses have been ignorant that they were being subtly swayed over to the worship of hellspawn, and for too long all too many of us had no clue just how dark was the night hung over our heads. I confess, I realised this long ago. Much as the devil gave the song’s writer their inspiration, inspiration was put in me. I spoke out, I wrote PowerPoints and lectured all who would listen (for indeed listeners were my target). I hoped I was helping people. I thought I had achieved my work as best as I could, that I’d played my part. But now I see the harbinger of this blight on the horizon. I see they approach me, and I know they target me, that they come for revenge. But more than this, they come for us all too; and I could not bear to sit by in inaction, when I have the knowledge that might save people if I can only convince them to cover their ears.

I have no idea how much Toploader know, whether they were agents or puppets. They wouldn’t be the first. The song has a rich history dating back years before them, and from the beginning it has been steeped in the forces of evil. I must speak quickly, and I could never say all that I have to say. But let me at least set you off thinking freely with this: would an innocent song advocate extreme sexual promiscuity? Would an innocent song do this with lyrics written as archaically as ‘We get in on ’most every night?’ instead of ‘almost every night’ like I and people of sense assumed it was saying? Would an innocent song release an official lyric video confirming this, literal decades after the song came out, and in which skeletons, ghouls and monsters danced around the lyrics in the dead of night? Would the song itself embody the Gothic in its setting? Would it literally say in its lyrics ‘It’s a supernatural delight!’? WOULD IT MOCK ME SO?

There can be no excuse. From the beginning, Sherman Kelly was the tool of the devil. Born amidst the seat of power in Washington, he was a musical prodigy, of suspicious talent and unsound tastes. He never took to the precautions his teachers set him. Instead, he studied psychology, so as to understand the mind, and English, so as to craft his songs, and travelled the world to spread his reach and further his knowledge. Sherman Kelly found himself attacked one day by a gang. On the island of Saint Croix in 1969, he ended up beaten and bruised in hospital. I’m sure I need not point out the significance; of course the puppet of the devil should find himself attacked so on the island of the Holy Cross, in that heinous year of all times. Amidst his pain the image of a beautiful world, of dancing and pleasure drifted to his mind and so he wrote it down. Pity is what I can only feel for the man who is so led astray as he was.

Sherman Kelly was never able to succeed on his own. Dark powers were required to get this song to chart. And so, two years later, King Harvest roared to chart success with the first famous version of the song. Though possessing all the connections and influence to strike the music scene which they so embodied, the band has sunk into relative obscurity outside of this song. I, for one, question them: perhaps I see connections to the pagan worship of the harvest king Saturn where everyone else is blind. Perhaps I see that Pikachu is an honorary member of the band, as in a pinned YouTube comment by them, and my heart instinctively sinks with understanding.

So Satan was satisfied, for a time. But soon the flames had to be fanned again. Enter Toploader. I would argue (indeed, read ‘have’) that this is the band’s legacy. For all that, their song burns eternal in the minds of the masses. How many could claim to have known them otherwise? And yet, the song persists. Not only did it achieve success in 2000, it continues to have relevance; we prove that with our ball. The devil is not a fool. The songs of the 70s won’t work for the modern day, and so the song evolves every time, comes to adopt the musical hallmarks of its day. It embodies the time it exists in; it endlessly adapts itself, bends like the willow, or perhaps a river or some such thing. And yet at its core, it’s always the same foul message …

These days, we think we’re safe from the foolish supernatural beliefs of our ancestors. But not whilst that song exists. Not whilst it continues to change, becoming an EDM song at the height of the pandemic. Does it surprise you? Of course it could rise during such terrible days. Not whilst it’s used in Love Island, and then TikTok … Need I say much more …? It’s surely apparent. We are no safer from it today than we ever were. Not unless we resist. I have been one of the lucky few to come to understand the danger, and protect myself from it. I am grateful. As the wave approaches, and it cannot be denied any longer, I feel the time has come for me to speak out once more. I must.

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford, written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff. New issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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