Get the Funk Up

I haven’t been getting to my daily posts much lately, despite my best efforts.

I started a new job a couple weeks ago, and I’ve mostly been focusing my writing time on personal journaling. But as I write this, there are just a few hours left in August, and that means autumn starts tomorrow, at least in meteorological terms. 

During this transitional time, I get sentimental for the end of summer 1989. 

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

It was a big time for me. I struck up my first relationship with a girl. I was entering my sophomore year of high school with a more positive outlook than I’d had in middle school and 9th grade. And I’d spent the past few weeks going to the movie theater at least once every couple of weeks to watch Tim Burton’s Batman. By the end of August, I’m certain I’d seen it at least seven times.

Between the movie and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns series, I developed a big love for the Caped Crusader, and it’s an affection that’s sustained over the decades since. That’s one of the great things about comic books and movies. It doesn’t really matter if the newer stuff is good or not. There’s always the stuff that came before and made you love it in the first place.

But I digress …

Like I said, I’d gone out of my way to see Michael Keaton dress up in latex quite a few times, but that was easily outpaced by something else: my consumption of the Batman movie soundtrack by Prince.

God I loved that soundtrack (and still do). Most of my music listening that summer was devoted to two soundtracks: Batman and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. (I could really take you down a nostalgia rabbit hole with Bill & Ted. Maybe I will someday.) Also the cassingle for Batdance, the lead song off the Batman soundtrack.

I was 14 at the time and working on the farm my dad managed. Days were spent driving tractors and milking cows. Nights were spent either hanging out with friends or chilling in my room. Wherever I was, my cheap-o boom box was my constant companion. At work, I’d rotate the two soundtracks. At night, I’d often put Batdance in the tape deck and let it roll on “repeat.” The B side was 200 Balloons, which I liked good enough. 

Batdance blew my mind the first time I heard it. To some degree it still does. 

There are multiple songs from the soundtrack competing against each other in the mix, as well as others that didn’t make the final cut. Samples from the movie play throughout, sometimes as a backdrop, sometimes front and center. The chorus sings “Batdance” as a callback to the Batman TV show theme. (At the time, Adam West’s portrayal of Batman was sniffed at by “sophisticated” fans who couldn’t bear to see their hero not taken deadly seriously.) And Prince keeps screaming, “GET THE FUNK UP!” Which was and is the coolest damn thing ever.

Then there’s the video.

Woo boy!

Photo credit: comicbook.com

All I’ll say is that seeing Prince dressed as half-Batman/half-Joker really scratched an itch I never knew I had. It also led me to do some hardcore ranting about how this was all foreshadowing Billy Dee Williams becoming Two-Face in the next movie. But nobody listened, and Billy Dee didn’t come back for Batman Returns.

Thirty-two years later, there’s something in the air. Burton’s Batman is in the zeitgeist. DC Comics just started a Batman ’89 mini-series that picks up where Batman Returns left off. Michael Keaton is putting the cowl back on for the Flash movie that’s due out a little over a year from now. And just this evening, I was fortunate enough to see the work of Tony McMillen, a comic creator who shared his Batman Summer ’89 with the Cartoonist Kayfabe Facebook group. 

McMillen’s work was a punch in the gut. I’d had Batdance on my mind the past few days as was thinking about writing something. Then his work showed up, and it literally choked me up. I was 14 again, walking into the Bijou cinema in Morrisville, VT, ready to be wowed by Jack Nicholson’s Joker, swept away by Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale, and inspired by Keaton’s take on the Dark Knight. (I also really liked Bob the Goon.) Then there’s the way his summer with Batman turned into something much larger.

“That summer never really ended for me. Even when it did.”

Yeah, Tony. I definitely get that.

I got in touch with McMillen right away, and he was gracious enough to allow me to share his work here. 

To check out more of McMillen’s work, you can click here. Thanks so much for letting me share your work, Tony. I really appreciate it.

And now there’s about 45 minutes less left to summer. Unless, like Tony and me, you get caught up in one of those summers that just doesn’t end.

But either way, there’s still time to go outside, dance with the devil by the pale moonlight, and by all means, GET THE FUNK UP!

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