When former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart gave his opinion on a landmark obscenity case, he wrote, “While hard-core pornography was hard to define, I know it, when I see it.” (The less famous next part of the sentence is, “and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”)
When it comes to a great song, there’s no need to define it. We know when we hear it. Judges know porn; we know music. Which brings us to The Cosmopolitans, a New Wave, mostly all-girl band, that sounded a lot like the B-52’s.
Jamie Sims, a classically trained musician, formed an alternative dance group – The Cosmopolitan Dance Troop – in North Carolina and moved to New York City to pursue a career in modern dance. On her first night in NYC, she attended a record release party for Blondie’s first album! How’s that for street cred?
In the early days of The Cosmopolitan Dance Troop, they go-go danced on stage with bands like The dB’s and The Fleshtones. During this period, Sims began writing goofy songs for the act. The troupe struggled, so friends of The Cosmopolitans organized a benefit show at CBGB to help them out.
At the benefit, they performed one of their wacky compositions along with their high energy, pom-pom girl/go-go dance act. The crowd ate it up. From that point, they began to book themselves as a rock band, while performing to pre-taped songs.
In 1980, they recorded three songs, and in a couple of months were signed by Shake Records. Shake released the single “(How to Keep Your) Husband Happy” b/w “Wild Moose Party.” Soon after that, it went into rotation on WNEW, a major rock station in New York.
“(How to Keep Your) Husband Happy” is based on 1950s fitness guru Debbie Drake’s exercise record. The song is a Gloria Steinem nightmare. It offers great “advice” like, “Shape up, tone up,” “Nice voice; keep it soft and musical,” and my favorite, “Excess fat, Taboo!”
Sims delivers the lines in a sarcastic cheerleader tone that will have you reaching for your pom-poms and wishing this band had recorded more material. A marvelous retro video directed by Michael Dugan includes footage from their performance on the infamous Uncle Floyd Show and illustrates exactly how “MTV-ready” the band was. But the birth of MTVwas still a year away.
If you want more, just listen to “Chevy Baby.” A song about – you guessed it – trading your baby for a Chevy. The Cosmopolitans toured the East Coast, but stardom never materialized. Sims contracted Epstein Barr Virus and the group dissolved in 1982.
Sims lives in Virginia, where she currently composes classical music. Everybody ready? Let’s go! Shape up! Tone Up!…