Opening with an infectious, faux-Latin percussion beat and a disco-fied string/horn backing, Barry Manilow's "Copacabana (At the Copa)" immediately signaled itself as a departure from the sort of MOR balladry that had given the singer his greatest success. The song is doubly unique in Manilow's repertoire, since not only was it danceable, it was also a story song with dark and even sleazy subject matter -- wild nightclubs, showgirls, gangsters, murder, alcoholism, insanity. However, it's all handled with a campy theatricality that makes it tempting to attribute the song to a lingering sensibility developed in Manilow's early days, when he performed with Bette Midler in New York City's gay bathhouses. (In fact, "Copacabana" was even turned into a stage musical in the early '90s -- obviously, with a great many additional songs.) Issues of stereotyping aside, though, the song is hugely entertaining regardless of whether you treat it as kitsch; its dramatic, show tune-esque musical flourishes help evoke the atmosphere of both the Copa's nightclub past and the disco it becomes. That theatrical flair also means the song is just plain fun to dance to, which is why the story of Tony the bartender, Lola the showgirl, and Rico the killer has become an enduring dancefloor favorite. "Copacabana" scraped the lower reaches of the Top Ten in 1978, but even though it wasn't Manilow's biggest hit, it remained one of his best-known -- and best-loved -- songs, particularly among more rock-oriented audiences.