Makin' Out by Smyle

permalink         categories: music · repeat-1 song of the day         originally posted: 2005-06-14 19:42:14

Makin' Out was commissioned by MAD Magazine in 1978, and released as a free "flexi-disc" single stuck to the cover of "MAD Super-Special #26". I was in the fourth grade at the time, and I remember getting a copy of it and taking it over to Peter Ho's house where the two of us listened to it over and over.

Back in 1996 MAD re-released all these such one-off singles on one CD titled MAD Grooves: Classic Schlock 'n' Roll!. (Be warned: the snippet Amazon has online cuts isn't wonderfully representative.) I got the CD, listened to Makin' Out over-and-over, then mostly forgot about it. Today I revisited it and was pleasantly surprised.

There's no ignoring one core fact: it's disco. (I mention this for the knee-jerk disco hatas in the audience.) Not syrupy over-the-top disco, and not awful by any stretch. According to the MAD Grooves liner notes, their intent was to make a disco parody. But it's not parody; really it's just a disco-styled novelty song. (Their song Barely Alive is much better as parody, being a direct take on Stayin' Alive. However, that song is ruined by the unrelenting tinny triangle...) Anyway, musically it's really pretty good. I particularly like the extra beats they throw in the middle of the stanzas... if I remember correctly, this was there precisely so you couldn't dance to it.

The lyrics are very much a product of their time. They make references to a litany of then-popular cultural phenomenons, to wit:

  • Star Wars and Star Trek (their first movies were both brand new)
  • Pet Rocks
  • Jacques Cousteau
  • Astrology
  • The Fonz
  • Archie Bunker
  • Ralph Nader "and his hot Crusaders"
  • Superman and King Kong (both had recently had their first "remakes")
  • The Six-Million Dollar Man
  • Peanuts
  • Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
  • Muppets ("Well, it's not quite a mop, not quite a puppet, but man (*laughing*)... so, to answer you question, I don't know.")
They do a lot of voices/impersonations when referring to all this stuff, and some of 'em have some really great impersonations or line readings. I particularly like the readings for Santa Claus, Jacques Cousteau, The Fonz, and Dracula. Oh, and the singer who takes the stanza about astrology.

The song was written by MAD personell; the lyrics were by Frank Jacobs, and the song was by Norman Blagman. It was performed by Smyle, about whom I know next-to-nothing. the liner notes for MAD Grooves claim they were "... a New Jersy band Blagman discovered in a club." If you Google for "makin' out" smyle you only get about fifteen hits. Most of those are irrelevant, a couple are references to the song getting played on the Dr. Demento show, and a couple are from archives of MAD Magazine content. Only this one is relevant, about drummer/vocalist Ronnie Mattia who played on the track.

The liner notes also mention "vocal contributions" (presumably impersonations) by Jane Gennaro and Alfreida Norwood. The latter only four mentions on Google, all from the liner notes of Makin' Out. It appears that Jane Gennaro (links to picture) is a working actress / voice actress / writer; she's appeared on stage, in several recent popular video games, and has even contributed to NPR.

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