1999 Is Back, And It's Never Going To Die

Categories: This Weekend

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy press
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
By Nathan Smith

These days, swing revivalists seem to have comfortably settled into their own niche in the music industry. Brian Setzer has cornered the market in playing swingin' Christmas carols to grown folks; Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, out on its own Christmas tour all month, will play a post-Christmas show December 27 at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler.

Back in 1999, they were riding high on the pop charts at the crest of the Swing Revival. Now, to put it kindly, they ain't. The Swing Revival was one among many odd little musical fads that took hold of the mainstream in the late '90s. In fact, identifying and exploiting new fads was the dominant business model of the record industry at the time, and it was successful as hell. Record companies had never sold so many copies of hit albums before, and they certainly haven't since.

Nobody's going diamond anymore, but the musical trend Class of 1999 has had a great year. Here's how they did it.

The Swing Revival: Led by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Cherry-Poppin' Daddies and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a Swing Revival was in full, uh, bloom in 1999. Couples took swing-dancing classes together, and guys at my high school wore zoot suits to prom. It was certainly novel: Ska acts like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones had softened up rock audiences for a full-blown brass attack, and for a while there, the 1930s became retro-chic.

The peak: Setzer won a pop Grammy and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy showed up at the Super Bowl XXXIII halftime show.

The problem: The whole trend was started by a Gap commercial. The mall retailer used Prima's version in a "Khakis Swing" commercial in 1998, and I guess they must have sold a shitload of pants, because pretty soon swing was all over TV. At least you could dance to it, but the nostalgia burned out quick in the mainstream.

Today: Setzer and BBVD are both playing to large crowds across the country, Phoenix included.

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