Certain songs are so well-known that we assume they were hits, but their popularity is actually retroactive. “I Want Candy,” by Bow Wow Wow, for example, is a definitive ’80s pop song and often used as shorthand in movies when they want to tell you that what you are watching is happening in the ’80s. Ironically, few people listened to that song in the ’80s—it topped out at #62 in the U.S.
Even if a lot of people may not know the name of the tune or the band that did it, Electric Six’s “Danger! High Voltage” is that kind of song. (If I went up to a stranger on the street, under the age of 45, and said, “Fire in the disco,” they would reply, “Fire in the Taco Bell!”) It totally defines the rock climate of 2003-04 in at least two ways:
1) Jack White is involved. He was at his peak, recording brilliant White Stripes album after brilliant White Stripes album, revitalizing the careers of fading icons (he produced and played on Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose), and was so famous that musicians he’d get in fights with could parlay that publicity into a hit (as happened with Jason Stollsteimer and his band the Von Bondies and their song, “C’mon, C’mon”). White sings co-lead on the song…though he didn’t take credit and denies taking part in the song or the band, who is from…Detroit.
2) It’s dance rock, which was the style at the time. In 2003, alternative rock had a brief but massive creative renaissance with a fad sometimes called “new New Wave”: hook-filled, often keyboard-laden poppy rock that you could dance to from bands like Franz Ferdinand and the Killers. “Danger! High Voltage!” is so early ’80s that it has both a driving dance beat and a saxophone solo that belongs in an ABC song.
All told, this should have been a massive radio or club hit. Perhaps the fear of seeing something that says “Danger! High Voltage!” and staying away from it is just that entrenched. (That, or people think Taco Bell fires are no laughing matter.)
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