The omnipresent Volkswagen 2012 Beetle commercial that features the highly catchy “Clapping Song” (‘3-6-9, the goose drank wine’) got me thinking about hand claps in music. From The Game’s “How We Do” intro to Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” to The Black Keys’ “Howlin’ For You,” hand-claps inject a lively punch wherever they spring up in a song. But some hand-clap tunes are so compelling, they arouse the urge to clap along. You can’t fight it. Regardless of how plentiful or sparse the claps are, you must succumb to them. So, I devised a list of these tempting little numbers. Here are 7 hand-clap songs that you cannot listen to without clapping along:
Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes”—One day, Warren Oates was trimming his burly ‘stache in the bathroom when he got the brilliant idea to throw hand-claps into what might have otherwise been a meh song. Or, maybe it was Daryl Hall and his girlfriend, Sara, who came up with it over pillow talk. Either way, it ended up being #1 on the charts in 1981 for two weeks in a row. Perhaps it was the claps? Regardless, if you can get through this song without clapping along, you are a far stronger person than I.
David Bowie’s “A Space Oddity”—Bowie had a vision when he put on his platform boots, dyed his hair vibrant red and crooned about outer space. And that vision included carefully placing two sets of hand-claps after the bridges of this song. These genius hand-claps punctuate the helplessness expressed in the lyrics, ‘Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do…’ And when you hear them, the hold is strong, as if you were kidnapped and anally-probed by an alien. And when you returned to Earth, the first thing you thought was, “Must. Clap. Hands.”
Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”—Written by Queen bassist John Deacon, this was supposedly inspired by a documentary he saw on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. But just because it speaks of machine guns ready to blow doesn’t mean it can’t induce massive hip-shaking and funky hand-claps. It’s probably one of Queen’s catchiest tracks. It’s also the song I hear in my head at the end of a bad date.
Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night”—These Scots knew how to get the crowd pumped. Even if you hear this on a Tuesday night, you’ll feel like it’s Saturday. This spirited song demands you put your hands together enthusiastically and dance a Scottish jig, while you drink Scotchy-Scotch and chant everyone’s favorite day of the week. When The Bay City Rollers produced this track, they sent a powerful message to a nation of listeners: You, too, can spell and clap at the same time.
Prince’s “Little Red Corvette”—This track has it all, moaning, squealing, simulated sex, and yes, hand-claps. Proof that Prince is, indeed, a musical genius. When you hear “Little Red Corvette,” it prompts you to do three things: Chuckle when Prince compares himself to a jockey (the Purple One is 5’2,” also the average height of a jockey). Attempt to sing, ‘Girl, you’ve an ass like I’ve never seen’ in Prince’s soulful wail. And involuntarily clap twice rhythmically, every single time he sings the chorus.
Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In the Middle”—Before Mr. Blonde mangled the cop’s ear in Reservoir Dogs, this bouncy tune evoked images of a discussion taking place across people a dinner table—which was actually Stealers Wheel’s inspiration for the song. (It was written as a jab to the music industry.) Its infectious beat is enhanced by three minutes and thirty seconds of those magical hand-claps.