Outrageous, alarming, courageous, charming

It took an autumn day in Concord to bring me back to this blog. Devoted to stories, some personal, most not, about popular songs, my stated goal is to post 365, one for each day of the year. I’m at #320 but since this is a re-posted song, alas, it doesn’t count. Surely I’ll get there in the end.

Perhaps my greatest joy is to watch my kids, now in their 20s, live their lives with a “fist full of gusto,” to steal a line from an old beer commercial. I was much the same at that age, which goes some way to explain this thankfully washed-out picture (considering the poor excuse for a beard), taken in Istanbul in the fall of 1980, not long after that year’s coup d’état.

That’s me, sixth from the left, on the deck of a fishing boat just-in from the Sea of Marmara. Jumping into scenes like this was the kind of thing I did back then and, as their friends may concur, the apples haven’t fallen far from the tree.

Since the enforcement of martial law, hotel rooms had become quite affordable that season, and despite a midnight curfew the supper clubs remained open. Though there was no coffee to be had due to an embargo, there was still plenty of high-test (absinthe-like) Turkish raki or “lion’s milk” as it was called, which leads us, hours later, to the dance floor of an old town establishment known for its belly dancing show.

Featuring a small orchestra, its musicians swaying back and forth in their fezzes, and a conjuror with magic orbs and rings of fire, between sets, and starring a marvel of a belly dancer, whose tummy moved in more directions than a three-cycle washing machine, it didn’t disappoint. Then, when the show was over we in the audience had the opportunity to grab a piece of the floor for ourselves while the music played on.

Somewhere along the way a Portuguese girl, named Maria, made it her mission to teach me the Bailarico, a folk dance where the girl backs up and the boy moves forward with little bouncing steps, then you raise your hands up high, before you embrace, and spin in place, then to one side, and then the other, and then…well, you get the picture. Everything was proceeding splendidly until the lights were thrown on and it was announced that 30 minutes remained before curfew.

The music may have stopped but with “lion’s milk” coursing through our veins the urge to dance had not. Maria and I, as it turned out, were staying at the same hotel; and so (I swear this is all true) we danced all the way home.

Perhaps you too have songs you like to sing to yourself from time to time. I know I do, and as an accompaniment to the Bailarico this one works perfectly … “I may go out tomorrow…” Hands in the air… “If I can borrow a coat to wear…” Embrace and spin … around a lamppost… “Oh I’d step out in style…” Step, step, step … down the street through an intersection with blinking traffic lights… “With my sincere smile and my dancing bear…”

When at last we spun through the hotel’s revolving door… “Making the grandest entrances it’s Sim-on Smith and the Ama-zing Dan-cing Bear….” at two minutes before midnight we’d been through the song at least half a dozen times. It’s funny how you suddenly remember these things.

Written by Randy Newman this song was first popularized by Alan Price in 1967, then Harry Nilsson in 1970. Newman finally released his own version on his 1972 album, “Sail Away”. It’s nearly half a century since he wrote it and I’ll bet he still doesn’t realize how nicely it accompanies the Bailarico.

Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear

I may go out tomorrow, if I can borrow a coat to wear,

Oh I’d step out in style with my sincere smile and my dancing bear,

Outrageous, alarming, courageous, charming

Oh who would think a boy and bear

Could be well accepted everywhere

It’s just amazing how fair people can be.

Seen at the nicest places where well-fed faces all stop to stare

Making the grandest entrance it’s Simon Smith and his dancing bear.

They’ll love us, won’t they?

They feed us, don’t they?

Oh, who would think a boy and bear

Could be well accepted everywhere

It’s just amazing how fair people can be.

Who needs money when you’re funny?

The big attraction everywhere

Will be Simon Smith and his dancing bear

It’s Simon Smith and the amazing dancing bear

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