Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: The Floaters' "Float On"


When the members of Modest Mouse were still in short pants, the Detroit-based soul group The Floaters released a song for the ages called "Float On" in 1977. This thoroughly visionary track foresees the 21st Century's renewed enthusiasm for the accurate predictive process of Astrology, online dating, and an anonymous woman finding out how sweet it was to share her love with Larry.

After doing extensive research on astrology, I was shocked to discover that it was not--in fact--invented by Miss Cleo in the 1990s. Who knew?! It turns out that Astrology dates all the way back to the 1960s. A formerly agnostic astronomer by the name of Dr. Lowell Astor was employed at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. The observatory is known for having some huge ass telescopes. He noticed that Mars, the Red Planet, temporarily entered the constellation Sagittarius. About two weeks later, a bit of good luck came his way. From this humble moment, the astrological arts arose, and became a phenomenon during the 1960s and 1970s. It's popularity started to wane during the presidency of Gerald Ford, for obvious reasons: he was a Leo. But thanks to the sexy powers of The Floaters (who were, collectively, "Aquarius, Libra, Leo, [and] Cancer" and "Ralph, Charles, Paul, [and] Larry," respectively), astrology came back into full force.

In the song, each member of the group reveals: 1) their astrological sign; 2) their first name; and, 3) what kind of woman they are looking for. By doing this, they set up the entire paradigm of online dating. More on this later. They continue their quest for the woman of their desires by "taking" their hand and inviting them to a place called "Love Land," which is presumably somewhere in the greater metropolitan area of Detroit, Michigan. Finally, each member promises to show the lady how sweet it will be if she shares "her love" with him. The combined effect of this amorous barrage is that one will "float, FLOAT, float on." The light doo-wop singing of The Floaters, combined with the smooth funk of their backing band, amounts to a dulcet online dating profile.

Now, at the time this song was rising up the charts, the phrase "online dating" meant about as much as "snarg friltawog tigghol" did. Sure, matchmaking services existed. One such system is documented in the classic Bernard Malamud short story "The Magic Barrel" (1958). Some even utilized phones, newspapers, and computers. But by launching a full multimedia campaign, including TV appearances and live shows, The Floaters were promoting themselves across purposes: first, as great soul singers, and, most importantly, as all around good dudes who want to meet some compatible nice ladies for possible connubial relations and even a potential relationship. "Float On" served as their irresistible profile. Its continued play on the radio served as the contemporary online dating equivalent of men constantly bombarding women's inboxes with pervy notes. (Forgive the poor phrasing of the conclusion of that last sentence.) According to my in-the-know imaginary friend, Dr. Fred "Forklift" Quarg, the prototype for match.com's first profile page was based on this song. For instance, under the prompt, "Come with me baby to _______," you would enter the name of the place you would like to seduce your prospective date. Apparently, the standards and practices team at the aforementioned dating site thought that was pretty creepy.

Thanks to "Float On," astrology became a healing power of love, subverting the then-popular claim, made so eloquently by the female news broadcaster in the film Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), that it was meant "merely to support people who [could not] take responsibility for their own lives." Similarly, by providing a general outline for what online dating should look like, it subsequently replaced beer as the way most awkward people hook up. It never really helped Larry, though. All he needed was the glorious majesty of sweet sweet song.

*-For the purposes of full disclosure, I candidly admit that the name of the group discussed (The Floaters) and the name of the song discussed ("Float On") played no part in my selection for its entry in this series of song profiles, even if it very closely resembles my last name.

Here's a sexy clip of the song: