Stayin’ alive

How to survive without resorting to disco
By DAVID THORPE  |  October 28, 2008

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Once in a while, usually during slow rock weeks, some strange little “quirky news” story will get stuck in the media craw and bounce around uselessly to pretty much every outlet. Just such a story sprang up last week and seemed to follow me everywhere I looked: it’s been reported (all over the place) that the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees could help the process of CPR — it runs at about 103 beats per minute, the approximate rate of chest compressions recommended during resuscitation. Therefore, keeping the song’s tempo in mind and following the beat could indeed aid in stayin’ alive.

The story probably sounds like a forgettable, well-meaning little dalliance to you, but there’s something about seeing it pop up a dozen times that made me start to think (though that sort of story is generally designed to do the opposite): do we really need to be revived with the aid of disco? There must be hundreds of songs out there with the same tempo, so can’t our doctors come up with something a little less ignominious?

One disco-weary Dr. Gilbert was quoted in the story as digging slightly deeper into the matter: “I heard a rumor that ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ works also, but it didn’t seem quite as appropriate.” Consulting a beat-matching reference Web site for DJs — www.djbpmstudio.com — I discovered that he wasn’t quite on the money, since the Queen track clocks in at about 110 BPM.

I did, however, find dozens of wonderfully suitable 103 BPM options on the site. If Dr. Gilbert is a Queen fan, he might consider “Who Wants To Live Forever,” since it has the right pace and a slightly more positive message. There’s also Simple Minds’ “Alive and Kicking” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can Make It If You Try.” If you’re more of a hip-hop person, you could even time your efforts to Nas’s recent mixtape track “Don’t Body Yourself.” For that matter, Amy Winehouse’s “Fuck Me Pumps” runs around 103, though that title strikes me as a pretty ghoulish idea for lifesaving chest compressions.

If the patient seems to be slipping past the threshold of death and in need of resurrection, I hope some hep citizen will pick an appropriate track. House of Pain’s “Guess Who’s Back” clocks in at 103, as does Kris Kross’s “Warm It Up.” Although it’s a little melancholy, the classic Suede B-side “The Living Dead” is also about the right speed; it would be particularly appropriate to counteract a heroin overdose. Suede also taketh away, however: your pumps might be encouraged by the well-timed beats of “She’s Not Dead,” but be careful not to slip into the similar tempo of their later “He’s Gone.”

In the event of one of those supernatural experiences where the dying party briefly enters the afterlife, I hope the medic has the good sense to base his or her timing on “Shout at the Devil” by Mötley Crüe. Might as well stick it to Satan while you’re down there.

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