David Murdock: We got the beat

David Murdock More Content Now

Call off Ponce de León — I’ve found the Fountain of Youth. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I’m comfortably middle-aged. I am, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not nice to feel young again every once in a while.

I was waiting for a red light to change while driving to work one morning when a song I haven’t heard in a while came over the speakers.

As soon as the unmistakable hook started — a driving drumbeat followed by a melodic bass line — I knew the song.

“See the people walking down the street / Fall in line just watching all their feet / They don’t know where they want to go / But they’re walking in time / They got the beat …”

That beat by The Go-Go’s is over 33 years old, but it’s a timeless and powerful pop song. I was just starting high school when the song debuted, and I associate it with that time. Whenever I hear it, I feel young again.

Of course, feeling young now isn’t the same thing as feeling young then. My feeling of being young these days is tempered by the knowledge and experience of all the years, and there is a poignant sadness to it, a feeling that the time is gone and won’t be back.

In fact, the thing about feeling young when you are young is that you don’t know that you’re feeling young — we don’t really know what feeling young is until it’s long gone.

And the sadness of it all was reinforced while I was channel-surfing the other night. I paused on VH-1 Classic as I was searching for something to watch, and there were The Go-Go’s on “Behind the Music: Remastered.”

For those who don’t remember that series, the original “Behind the Music” chronicled the careers of music acts, usually lingering on the difficult times that the musicians being profiled went through during their careers.

The “Remastered” version of the show updates the original documentaries with new material at the end. Anyway, there were The Go-Go’s, talking about all the problems they encountered when they were at the top of the charts.

The documentary also talked about their achievements. The Go-Go’s were a ground-breaking band.

According to “Behind the Music,” they were the first and only all-female band to hit the charts who played their own instruments and wrote their own songs. What was really surprising about their early history was how generally unskilled they were with their instruments when they got started. One of the band members offered the best insight when she said that they were “incompetent rock stars.”

“We Got the Beat” was recorded during that time, and that fact explains a lot of the song’s appeal — it is based mostly on attitude. I’d always marveled at the genius of the song’s simplicity, but there is some depth there.

That lyric quoted above — “They don’t know where they want to go / But they’re walking in time” — seems so very prescient today. We really don’t know where we want to go, but we go there in synch with everyone around us. We follow some sort of “life plan” without any idea of where we really want to go because, well, we got the beat.

And the beat is infectious. As I listened, I noticed my forefinger on the steering wheel tapping out the drumbeat. It had the beat. My thumb thumped the bassline. It had the beat. The woman in the car next to me was bobbing her head. She had the beat, although there is no way she was listening to the same song (I was playing an old CD I’d popped in).

Next thing I know, I’m singing the song, and I’m sure the woman in the car next to me was wondering why the middle-aged man in the car next to her was talking to himself.

She couldn’t hear the song — I had the windows up and was listening to it at a middle-aged level of volume — but she had the beat. It was just to a different song.

I had the beat all that day. When I ate breakfast, I had the beat, although I did slow the beat down just a bit to make sure I didn’t choke on my food.

I had the beat when I got to work. I had the beat shopping after work, going home, goofing around the house, and going to bed.

The beat was had all day.

By the next morning, the beat was gone. I no longer had it.

That’s OK, though. By then, I was a “Man of Constant Sorrow,” and I had a whole new soundtrack for the day.

I’m really going to have to start looking at whatever CD I pop into the stereo before I play it..

David Murdock is a correspondent for The Gadsden (Ala.) Times.