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Rega Dance Orchestra: The Vamp

March 12, 2010

Theda Bara as Cleopatra, in authentic Ptolemaic costume.

Rega Dance Orchestra
The Vamp

Recorded in 1919

The idea of the “vamp” burst into the national consciousness at about the time of the First World War. Strange things were happening. Women were demanding the right to vote, and they were getting it. Some extremists were even suggesting that women could do just about anything men could do. These newfangled women had even started pursuing men, rather than vice versa. It was unnatural. A woman pursuing a man was a monster, a kind of vampire.

So the character of the vamp (short for “vampire,” of course) became a Hollywood staple, the woman who knew what she wanted and went after it directly, who embodied everything that was simultaneously attractive and horrifying about modern femininity.

In 1919 came this popular musical composition, whose memorable verse consists of a repeated rhythmic phrase (What’s the musical term for that again? I think it starts with a V) behind descending minor scales. Something about the music caught the idea of the vamp perfectly. Every band played it, and many of them recorded it. Here’s a pretty good version by the Rega Dance Orchestra.

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From → Hot Dance

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