Decadence Dance by Extreme: Songs in the Key of Mutiny

“Decadence Dance,” by Extreme. It is the song that changed my perception about the band who became and remain my favorite. It was also the initial inspiration for me wanting to try to write my own songs. Ironically, “Decadence” is very representative of how incredibly misunderstood the band Extreme is. And for a while, even I missed the point of this particular song, simply because of the way it sounds. I was missing the message.

I get it now and love it even more.

Francis … Be Careful …

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“Francis …. Francis, be careful …”

Back in 1991, Extreme had a massive hit with a song called “More Than Words.” A mixed blessing at best, the band is still – and will probably forever be – associated with that song. I’ve learned to like it and appreciate the craftsmanship of that brilliant little tune, but at the time, I disliked it strongly. I viewed Extreme as those two long-haired guys sitting on stools singing a love song in the black and white video. And that was the end of that.

But I will forever remember riding in a car with a friend and his father to baseball team practice. I was sitting in the back seat, and my friend put a cassette tape into the stereo. Suddenly, this wailing guitar riff thundered through the speakers. I remember it as being one of the more exciting things I’d heard. I asked what that could possibly be and my friend answered, Extreme.

The “More Than Words” Guys?!

I asked, you mean those guys that sing that “More Than Words” song? He said yes. I was dumbfounded. And as it turned out, many people who bought the entire album, “Pornograffitti,” were just as shocked when they expected more music like “More Than Words” and instead found a lot more tracks like “Decadence Dance,” “L’il Jack Horny,” “When I’m President,” and “Get the Funk Out.”

That moment caused me to investigate Extreme further and go and buy that record, which eventually led to seeing them perform live at a festival the next year. Next came the release of their epic and critically-acclaimed masterpiece, “III Sides to Every Story.” By then, my love affair with this band and my desire to want to write my own music was in full swing.  But in truth, it all traces back to this song, “Decadence Dance.”

The "More Than Words" guys at full throttle.

The “More Than Words” guys at full throttle.

The lyrics and tone of this song reflect largely what Mutineer is all about. To me, it’s about the madness of people wanting and needing to have and do more, comparing themselves to others and what they do and have, and never finding any sense of peace and contentment. Or, once you’re in that pursuit, or what Extreme calls the “Decadence Dance,” there is no end to it. You’re trapped. And you’re not being true to who you really are.

“It’s Hard to Stop Once the Music Gets Started”

They reference more common phrases like “rat races” and “keeping up with the Joneses,” but the line that always really stuck out to me was where they say, “Till the soles of your feet harden up like your heart did.” Imagine, the idea of chasing after what you think you want, and having that harden your heart rather than soften it. Isn’t that the complete opposite of the point of the whole exercise?

I view this song is saying, basically, everyone is in a trance. They are following for the sake of following and they are not being true to themselves and they may never even realize it. I’ve always thought it was a brilliant song that was unfortunately, horribly misrepresented by an embarrassing, 80’s-style hair-metal-type music video. But if you ever see these guys perform the song live, it is difficult not to appreciate their musicianship and the sincerity with which they perform and write.

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Here’s an example in the video below, taken by a fan in Argentina in 2015. Even if you don’t watch the whole thing, I suggest zipping to about the 2-minute mark so that you can get to about where the song starts. The next minute or so of this video makes me giddy, and has me suspecting I must be part Argentinian given the way these people react. A few things I love about it:

At 2:47, when lead singer Gary Cherone shouts “Let’s go,” you can feel the emotional mayhem kick in. Gary, 53 years old at the time of the video, seems kinetically linked to his songs. Nuno Bettencourt is similar with his guitar. It’s as if it’s an extension of his body. and the two of them never stop moving. Some rock fans don’t like how Gary moves around stage, but I’ve just always thought this was how a rock band was supposed to be. I still haven’t seen another that makes their music feel so alive.

At 3:06, Gary and Nuno look over at each other nodding. They know they’re in for an energetic evening. These fans are clearly not among those who only know the band from “More Than Words.”

This song absolutely has to be a part of the Mutineer concert. I have listened to this song at top volume thousands and thousands of time and I never get tired of it. I’m not asking you to like the song, but rather to consider how fundamentally important and inspirational it is to me, and how it so totally reflects the spirit of this project.

And therefore, it is definitely one of the Songs in the Key of Mutiny.

Decadence Dance
Lyrics (by Gary Cherone)

Trying so hard to keep up with the Joneses
Running a rat racing won by our noses
Always put one foot in front of the other
And dance to the beat of the decadent drummer

Just buy a brand new pair of Fred Astaire shoes
Climbing to the top, never gonna stop
It’s the same old song and one two three and dec-a-dance

Dance, dance
Dance, dance
Dancing to the decadence dance
Everybody deca-dancing
Dancing to the decadence
Dancing to the decadence dance

It’s hard to stop once the music gets started
‘Til the soles of your feet harden up like your heart did
Stepping in line with the sign of the timer
Seduced by the tune of the decadent dancer

Just buy a brand new pair of Fred Astaire shoes
Climbing to the top, never gonna stop
It’s the same old song and one two three and dec-a-dance

CHORUS

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