Jheri Curl June: Dazz Band’s “Joystick”

In my introduction to Jheri Curl June, I noted that jheri curl music is an inherently hybrid, polyglot genre, blending funk and soul with rock, disco, and pop. Another prominent influence–one that spawned its own subset of JCM, better  known to the less folically-obsessed as electro-funk–is the robotic, heavily synthesized form of dance music known as electro. One could detect traces of electro-funk in yesterday’s selection, Midnight Star’s “No Parking on the Dance Floor.” But its influence is even more evident in today’s: the title track of the Cincinnati, Ohio-based Dazz Band‘s 1983 album Joystick. With its vocodored vocal hook, throbbing drum machine beat, lyrics drawing from the imagery of those newfangled vidya games, and washes of “futuristic” synthesizer squiggles, the debt “Joystick” owes to the likes of Afrika Bambaataa is obvious. But it’s still very much a jheri-curl song, as evidenced by this 1984 Soul Train appearance:

See, if you couldn’t figure it out from the album cover detail above, an arcade/Atari joystick looks kinda like a dick. So, the Dazz Band helpfully suggest, “just take control of the stick” and they’ll “let you play around.” It’s a ridiculously sophomoric premise, and the band’s explanatory dance moves are performed with absurd conviction. But still, you have to kind of admire the historical moment that allowed a bunch of grown-ass African American men to claim that “love is just like a video game” and come across as smooth, rather than…well, nerds.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a very special installment of Jheri Curl June. In the meantime, keep up with our Spotify playlist after the jump!





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