Friday, October 17, 2008

Who Knew... Disco Is Good For Something After All!

Of course, Disco first went through its Popular phase, then it went through the "Jeez, what were they thinking?" stage, then it finally came around to the "Heaps of fun, in a goofy sort of way" stage, where it will probably rest for the remainder of eternity, or at least until Western civilization finally falls due to spreading decadence.

My wife and I still have fond memories from the time we were courtin', when we went to a local sit-down pizza joint, and they were playing a not-very-long loop of disco numbers over their sound system. I think we got to hear Ring My Bell at least three times during the course of that dinner.

Repeat after me, in a rapidly descending falsetto: BHOOOOoooohhhh!

Ahem. Anyway, as I mentioned, these songs have somehow come around to being fun again, in a really campy way. You know you're being totally silly and un-hip when you dance to them, but that's half the fun. You get to pretend that you're a hip, happenin' swinger when these songs come on, and everyone else is in on the joke, so they play along with you. And you and everyone else gets to laugh at you, while laughing with you.

And you get to laugh at your parents' generation for coming up with this stuff.*

Well, I saw a news item today that put a smile on my face: Bee-Gees Song Stayin' Alive Helps Doctors Perform CPR.

(By the way, I love that picture of the three of them. Check out those manly rugs of theirs. Ah, yes: the seventies were where it was at, that's fer sure! Thankfully, we can tell by the way they use their walk that they're actually women's men--If it hadn't been for that, I'm not sure I would have guessed.)

Here's the issue: most people, when they learn how to do chest compressions during CPR, don't have a good intuitive feel for the correct rate to do them. Chest compressions should be performed at the rate of 100 per minute, which is significantly faster than people tend to do.

Well, apparently some doctor somewhere figured out that this rate is very close to the tempo of that great Bee Gees classic, Stayin' Alive: 103 beats per minute.

In case you need reminding:

And the really neat thing about this song, is that it gets stuck in your head! Even if you've only heard the song once or twice before in your life, you still can't get rid of it! It just goes into this endless loop up there and plays OVER and OVER and OVER....

So anyway, these CPR trainers got hold of the idea that they would put this song on the stereo while their cadets were practicing chest compressions, and before you know it, everyone was pumping in time with the music--at more or less the correct rate. And even when the music is taken away, it is apparently such a strong mnemonic, that their students were beating at pretty close to the correct rate several weeks later. They just get the song in their heads while trying to save lives, and do their thing... and it works.

I love this extended quote:

Dr. Matthew Gilbert, a 28-year-old medical resident, was among participants in the University of Illinois study. Since then, he said, he has revived real patients by keeping the song in his head while doing CPR.

Mr Gilbert said he was surprised the song worked as well as it did.

"I was a little worried because I've been told that I have a complete lack of rhythm," he said. Also, Mr Gilbert said he's not really a disco fan.

He does happen to like a certain Queen song with a similar beat.

"I heard a rumour that 'Another One Bites the Dust' works also, but it didn't seem quite as appropriate," Mr Gilbert said.

Indeed. No, that one would be bad during CPR.


Anyway, as I was thinking about writing this post, I decided to see whether there was a youtube version of Stayin' Alive available. When I found it, I started playing it here just for kicks. When my two daughters heard the music start up, they wandered over to the computer to see what I was doing. And they saw those three guys with the rugs doing their things.

And before the song was over? You guessed it: I had two little girls running around, singing OVER and OVER and OVER:

"Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Stayin' Alive! Stayin' Alive! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Stayin' Alive! Stayin' Alive! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah...."

I think they liked it. In fact, I think they liked it a wee bit too much. We like it better than the whole Ring of Fire thing that Auntie Jean inflicted on us a few years back (in the form of one of those musical birthday cards)...

...but we fear we may have just corrupted the next generation, contributing to the inevitable collapse of Western civilization.

Ah, well. At least some people's lives will be saved in the interim. God works in mysterious ways, no?

*Before you ask, my parents were most definitely not into disco.


Arby said...

A little wacky but important to learn. Somehow, on this blog, I expect nothing else!

Timothy Power said...

Hmmm... You expect nothing on this blog but that which is both wacky and important. You mean I never post anything that's mundane or trivial?

That's a serious vote of confidence there. :-)