This is the second post in a biweekly series. Read about the series — and just what we mean by “freestyle music” — here. Freestyle Fridays post on the first and third Fridays of each month.
For me, this song simply sounds like the 80s. If the last song was the first freestyle mega-hit, I need to follow it up with my own, personal freestyle ur-text.
A short history of the song: Company B was a dance-pop trio put together by Miami-based producer Ish Ledesma. Adorned with white wigs and clad in blue leather, the trio’s first single, “Fascinated,” took dance clubs by storm in 1986. It crossed over to the pop chart in the early months of 1987 and peaked at Number 21 that June. Company B never repeated the success of “Fascinated,” though they continue to record and perform to this day. The members of the trio have changed repeatedly since the very beginning; in fact, one member left the group between the releases of the single “Fascinated” and their debut album. This reinforces the impression that Company B was a producer-created girl group where the individual members were less important than the songs and, maybe, the image. Maybe that’s why they group wore those platinum wigs in the video: the wigs are more iconic than any individual member of the group, so everyone is replaceable.
It’s interesting that this was a Miami freestyle song (though an early one). Miami freestyle was considered more upbeat and cheery, compared to darker New York freestyle. But “Fascinated” doesn’t sound upbeat to me. It’s a little sinister in the way that some disco can be, hinting at things that go on in the darker corners of the club – or at home after you’ve left.
Everyone remembers his or her first gay bar, right? For years – decades – I’ve cherished and told and retold my own first gay bar experience: It’s the summer of 1987. After work in downtown Providence, I meet my friend Tom for a drink at an upscale (non-gay) bar I know will serve us. We’re both 20 years old and underage, but my work drag (as a messenger for a big law firm) has been getting me access to bars and nightclubs since, um, early high school. It’s maybe a Tuesday night, and the bar is pretty quiet, so Tom suggests we try another place he knows, nearby. But, he says, and pauses: “It’s a gay bar….” “Let’s go!” I yell, already at the door.
Tom takes me around the corner to the corner of Weybosset and Westminster Streets. There’s a door under a huge metallic awning, but no sign. Inside the door is a massive, wide, long staircase leading up to the second floor. We pass a bouncer, who smiles and nods at us, and step into The No Name. It’s like stepping into a purple-lit Nagle print, with mirrors and lights and music and videos and lots of dark spaces – an Eighties masterpiece of a gay bar. There weren’t many people in this club, either, but Tom and I had a lot more to talk about, so the crowd wasn’t so important. And I later learned that the song playing – the song we heard as we opened the door, as I peered up that dark, dangerous staircase, as we strode into the club past that benevolent doorman and headed for the smiling bartender at the back of the room – the song playing during that slow-motion entrance was Company B’s “Fascinated.”
It’s a great memory, a fundamental first-time-in-a-gay-bar story.
But it’s not true.
Well, it’s mostly true. Only recently did I realize that this was NOT actually my first gay bar. I’d been to a smaller, more suburban gay bar in Smithfield, Rhode Island almost exactly one year before that. But that time I was with some weird guy I’d met while working in Providence, who didn’t really like me that much. So I prefer the lightly embellished story. The one where I am slow-motion walking into a club with the amazing synth intro of “Fascinated” playing, their bright white wigs on the video screens while Tom and I, newly out to each other, walked toward the cute, smiling bartender with an early-early-80s gay man’s mustache.
- Number 1 US Dance, March 7-28, 1987
- Number 21 US Hot 100, June 13, 1987