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POP EYE

September 21, 1986|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

NICK DANILOFF, MOVE OVER: You'd think Allee Willis had seen everything.

After all, the 36-year-old songwriter has shared a Grammy for her Pointers Sisters hit "Neutron Dance," makes art collages out of old refrigerators and has a house equipped with multicolored bowling balls in the cactus garden, a table top made out of a windshield from a B-52 bomber and a backyard with six-foot plastic Godzillas.

But now Willis has really earned some notoriety. She's been denounced by Pravda!

For writing "Neutron Dance's" lyrics, the Communist Party daily labeled her a "self-declared priest of nuclear art" and a proponent of a new genre of nihilistic rock musicians who teach American youths that "nuclear war is inevitable."

According to the Pravda piece, which appeared late last month, Willis is a "nuclear gravedigger" whose songs are performed by the "stars of the American firmament--Tina Turner, Cher, Melissa Manchester and Patti LaBelle--under the howl of sirens and the squeal of the enraptured public."

According to Pravda's "word-for-word" translation, the lyrics to "Neutron Dance" contain prophecies of a "powerful nuclear explosion" that will "annihilate everything." Unfortunately, a few things got lost in the translation, including Willis' gender--the Pravda commentary repeatedly refers to her as "him."

And according to Willis, who seems a bit perplexed by her status as a nuclear subversive, Pravda got virtually all of the lyrics wrong, too. It's a toss-up as to who misunderstands pop music more--the Soviets or the Parents Music Resource Center.

"The whole Pravda article was the most perverted thing I'd ever read," said Willis, who's written dozens of pop hits. "That song is supposed to be about optimism--that whatever happens to you, you should think positively. I'm about as political as my dog. And even if I'd wanted to write a song about the end of the world, I would never have put it in a shuffle with 168 beats per minute.

Willis laughed. "This whole thing is very tilted. It's not even funny-hysterical. It's more like neurotic-hysterical. I mean, I care about individuality and human rights. But I'm no Joan Baez--I have no political charisma at all."

Willis said she's written a reply to the Pravda piece, but she wants to have it translated into Russian before she sends it. "I don't want to be turned into a political volleyball," she said. "But I do get the feeling from reading the Pravda story that the KGB has either been watching me or at least reading my press clippings. They certainly seem to know a lot about me. I mean, I always wanted to be controversial, but this is ridiculous."

Willis is also concerned that her notoriety will spread even further when the Soviets find out she's written "Set Me Free," the title theme for the upcoming film "Jumping Jack Flash," which is about a bank computer operator who ends up being chased by--you guessed it--the KGB.

Nonetheless, Willis is enjoying one aspect of her new role as a "priest" of nuclear art.

"I've never known what to term my art," she said. "But now, when people ask what I do, I can say, 'Well, Pravda calls it nuclear art.' They've single-handedly given me what Picasso worked 50 years for--an art movement."

PRAVDA'S TRANSLATION OF "NEUTRON DANCE"

A powerful nuclear explosion is approaching,

It will annihilate everything, the choice is yours,

Either feel sorry that you have no money,

No love, no anything, or do the right thing, and dance . . .

ALLEE WILLIS' LYRICS TO "NEUTRON DANCE"

I don't want to take it anymore, I'll just stay here, locked behind the door,

Just no time to stop and get away, 'cause I work so hard to make it every day,

It's hard to say, just how some things never change,

And it's hard to find any strength to draw the line.

I'm just burning, doing the Neutron Dance . . .

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