Hands Up – Ottawan

I remember this song.  I was nine when it strode into the charts like a goliath crushing all before it.  Actually, it took a while for it to push aside Down Under by Men at Work, but then it was there, at the heady pinnacle of the charts in all of its glorious repetition for eight long weeks.  EIGHT weeks.  Many years later I found the album featuring this song in a bin of records being thrown out.

The woman’s hair is only pushed into the shade by the garish sun of the dude’s top.  Everything about this song is so on message that everything to do with it features people with their hands up.  The video features movie clips of people putting their hands up, the single cover has a fun hands up gimmick, and the alternate video has a whole hands up dance routine.  I think this explains why it is one of the first pop songs I can actually remember.  It wore a groove in my brain.  Hell, I’m surprised I don’t have a Pavlovian hand raising response every time I hear the song.

Nowadays it turns out that I have developed a fascination with the back up singers.  I mean I don’t want to be hating on the majestic musical masterpiece that is Hands Up, but the guys in the gold sequined waistcoats and tight white pants are totally working it.

You think he looks cool, but check out the other guy in the white pants (not the lame dude in blue).

And that’s about where this post was going to end.  Until I found this.  I really can’t say anything to make this funnier than it already is.  All I can say is, don’t turn away – there is a routine at the end which made me cry.

Is the Ottawan guy even singing a language?  Is he doing it in Klingon?

So then I went looking for information that would help explain which former general now breaking rocks in Siberia thought that this would be a good idea.  My quest took me to this clip which does nothing to answer my question, but I think is a powerful tool to demolish racial stereotypes.  Some people think that all black people can dance.  I offer this as proof that this is a racist generalisation (about thirty seconds of this and you get the idea).

Even funnier than the young lady’s outfit is that when I first heard the lyrics I thought he said:

She is D – -Delirious

She is I – Inflatable

But I’m guessing he says Incredible.  Honestly though, it does sound like Inflatable.

Anyway, what the hell is going on?  Delirious, Superstitious, Complicated.  What kind of inflatable doll are we describing here?  Is there an exorcism happening?

Wait.  Did she just say C – Such a Cutie?  Um, no.  Not C, such a cutie.  What?  She just did it again.  C – Sweet as Candy.  No, no, no.  You can’t change the rules like this.  Acronyms don’t work on a third word into the sentence basis.  These bloody French people.  Do I have to bring up Waterloo again?

A commentator on this youtube clip tells us:

The outfit is dated alright but you can’t complain about the dance! This is on par with advanced ballet. Or on par with Michael Jackson if you prefer contemporary references. The style is dated, and so it should be (this song is from the 70s after all) but the technical skill is worthy of all our respect, regardless of time or place.

Two things.

1) “Dated” suggests that this outfit was once in fashion.

2) “On a par with advanced ballet” suggests this is on a par with advanced ballet.   Well, this guy’s local ballet company must really suck.

As I write this I am listening, for the first time in my life, to the album Ottawan 2.  Here is the track listing:

Pleasingly, the album version of Hands Up has some extra bits in it not featured on the single.  Most of these are to do with whizzy synth effects like space ships don’t sound like except in children’s sci fi movies.

You might expect a track listing like the one above to indicate the order of the songs.  Not so.  Side One starts with Hands Up, but then goes to Siesta for two, and then to A.I.E. is my song.*  While I am listening (Sing along with the juke box is terrible) I have found a new game to play called caption the album cover:

You know you want to play.  If only she could turn the gun on him.

_ _ _

*I’m going to go on record here and say that A.I.E is a good song.  Although their version is not as good as this.

The rest of the songs?  Well it was in the bin for a reason.

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō

4 thoughts on “Hands Up – Ottawan”

  1. New Zealand seems to be the country in the world that this song spoke to. Although it was pretty popular in Scandinavian countries too.

  2. I probably invested too much time trying to piece together the narrative of the guy’s top. Something to do with skiing, and a dog and a church. His top is like a alpine Fellini movie.

  3. This band is completely vague to me. I want to say that this is the first time I’ve seen or heard them. But then, I played Hands Up and it felt as comfortably familiar as a sweet lullaby my mom might’ve sung to me when I was a baby while wearing feathers pasted onto her leotard.

    He clearly says “Inflatable”. Why does he have a strong accent and she doesn’t? This is all making my head hurt.

  4. ROFLMAO You sure do pick ’em. I remember this song – I have my own memories associated with it – looking at the Pleiades (a star cluster in the night sky, not the neighbour’s daughter) through my bedroom window as a kid – but I do have to disagree with you on one major point:

    I’m sorry, but nothing is better than that woman’s hair, especially when her own sweater is a direct violation of international Human Rights against torture.

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