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Bustin' Loose, Janitorial Division (Say It Ain't So, Chuck)

It has come to this.

In the sensitive system of cultural metrics developed by the legendary Henry Allen, spiritual god of The Washington Post's Style section, there is an exquisite beauty that the greatest artists and entrepreneurs deliver when they "go too far enough"--that is, they stretch the pop culture balloon just enough to give us a burst of meaning, but not so far as to be utterly banal or impossibly opaque.

Now, from, of all places, the Atlanta airport, comes this: The city's aviation department, eager to get passengers to clean up after themselves and take advantage of the airport's eateries and other shops, commissioned three great soul music acts to record new versions of their classic hits--complete with lyrics singing the praises of the Atlanta airport.

These songs are now playing regularly on the airport PA system, which means that flying through Atlanta now involves hearing Washington's own Chuck Brown doing, well, not quite "Bustin' Loose," but something called "We're Steady Cleaning Up," an inspirational number apparently intent on getting folks to pick up their trash.

We have entered the realm of going a lot farther than too far enough.

You have to listen to this thing to believe it, and you can here, but if you can't listen at the moment, at least consider these new lyrics:

"Come on, now. We're steady cleanin' up. Need some help, y'all [This takes the place of the sublime "Gimme the bridge now" from the go-go classic.] Talking 'bout cleanin' up, y'all. Please throw your trash away, throw it away...."

It goes on. And on. All to the tune of "Bustin' Loose." The music bed is unmistakably Chuck Brown's unit in action, and the voice cannot be anyone other than the Godfather of Go-Go. I pray the paycheck was a whopper.

Same for Lakeside's "Fantastic Voyage," the 1980 funk tune that hit #1 the following year. It's been reborn as --it pains me to type these words-- "Our New Concessions."

Sample lyrics: "Coming soon; anticipate / Our new concessions. Construction's almost complete; it'll be brand new / Next time you're here, try 'em all, y'all."

Enough. There is a third song, a reworking of Peaches and Herb's 1978 "Shake Your Groove Thing," now known in the Atlanta concourses as, gulp, "Keep It Opening Day Fresh."

What is it with these Atlanta geniuses that two of the three numbers they chose to savage are from D.C. artists? I'm not going to slam Anacostia's Herb Fame or Chuck Brown for going along with this horror-show; they have to do what they have to do. But someone actually wrote these lyrics. Someone actually thought this was a worthy tribute to these classic tunes. Someone thought people hanging around waiting for their next flight would listen to these new lyrics and suddenly decide to bus their trays.

This is, of course, the most insidious sort of marketing insanity. And Atlanta isn't done--they're pumping scents into the passenger concourse to try to alter the moods of harried travelers. The first scent is called "Breeze." I have a suggestion for the second scent, but I don't think I'm allowed to publish it, this being the electronic sibling of a family newspaper. (How come there's no such concept as a "family web site?")

By Marc Fisher |  April 21, 2009; 8:25 AM ET  | Category:  Music , The District
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

This is terrible, but Chuck got paid, so who cares. Also, if I was in the Atlanta airport and this came on, I would probably dance to it a little bit.

I was much more dismayed by Chuck's shilling for the D.C. Lottery, which surely doesn't need help in its continuing mission to take money from people who can't do math.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | April 21, 2009 9:28 AM

Lindemann777: A government lottery is a tax on the dreams on the poor.

Posted by: MikeLicht | April 21, 2009 2:26 PM

Wind me up Chuck!

Posted by: knjon353 | April 21, 2009 5:19 PM

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