Detail of the cover illustration of Menace comic book issue #5 by Bill Everett, 1953
Power-pop dreamboat Dwight Twilley and his band (the Dwight Twilley Band) never matched the success of their first single "I'm on Fire", a Top 20 hit in 1975. Twilley was stymied at every turn in his career by weird problems and misfortune. Twilley's follow-up single to "I'm on Fire", "Shark (in the Dark)", was shelved because of the success of Jaws. His songwriting partner Phil Seymour quit the band in 1978 to pursue a solo career and eventually succumbed to cancer. Producer Jack Nitzsche had a breakdown of some kind during the recording of Twilley's fourth album, Blueprint, delaying its release for three years.
When Twilley untangled himself from his record-label problems and finally put out the Blueprint album in 1982, the record's title was changed to Scuba Divers and it featured some new songs. It's a solid record of old-school guitar pop, and it benefits from great guitar-work from Bill Pitcock and contributions from John and Susan Cowsill. One thing about the album that stands out on first glance, though, is the song "10,000 American Scuba Divers Dancin'" - known mostly for using generic-sounding song titles, there's something very un-Twilley about that song name. It's not the apostrophe at the end of "Dancin'" - Twilley did that in his titles all the time. It's - well, the whole rest of the title that seems out of character from a guy who favored titles like "Somebody to Love", "Cryin' Over Me", "Darlin'", and "Runaway". Why is it important that the scuba divers are American? Why are there so many of them? What would make scuba divers, known primarily as loners and weirdos, do such a large-scale group dance number?
There's no good explanation for the out-of-character title that I can think of, but the song is actually one of my favorite Twilley compositions. After a pounding piano intro and brief verse, the song goes straight to the song's nonsense chorus, which pairs the song's title with other similarly bizarre groupings, like "300 frozen robots seething". My favorite part of the song, though, is the stupid-sounding but awesome post-chorus line, "What it means is what it means is what it really means." Susan's backing vocal adds a lot to this song, and the unexpected mostly-chorus structure makes it more interesting. There are a few better songs in the Twilley discography, but there aren't any quite like "10,000 American Scuba Divers Dancin'".
"10,000 American Scuba Divers Dancin'" by Dwight Twilley