blogging, High School Dance, Last Dance, Led Zeppelin, Lost in a Drunken Banquet of Static, Slow Dance, Stairway to Heaven, Tim L O'Brien, Tim O'Brien
We huddled together like a group of over-anxious teenage boys, which is exactly what we were, and waited for that one song.
We knew it would be the last song of the night. All night long we each kept close track of her – the one girl who made our hearts race.
If we each played our cards right, and paid careful attention to the opening strums of the song we could swoop in and get the dance.
We hadn’t danced to one song all night. A silent protest against the ballroom dance lessons. We waited till the very end for our big moment. With our heads down, staring a hole in the dance floor, we stayed near. We each had a crush on a different girl. We wished each other luck.
The dance rocked into the late night, our time was soon, we were all strategically spread out, getting as close to our intended dance mate without seeming to obvious to our intent.
The acoustic guitar introduction began. Like a hawk circling the skies above, we all soared in, and soon were on the dance floor, holding our dance partners tight to the slow rhythms of the song.
“There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, Ooh, and she’s buying the stairway to heaven.”
The song lasted eight minutes, long for a song, but not long enough for us. We were all in our own “heaven” as we slowly stepped, moving in a tight little circle, arms wrapped around each other.
A quick glance around the dance floor to make sure we had all reached our mark.
We held tight never wanting to let go. Until…
Until that part in the song when our “slow dance” song turns into a high tempo hard rock song. We had to think quickly. One of three things was going to happen:
1. If you were one of the lucky ones you remained slow dancing despite the increased tempo of the song. This was the preferred choice, and it meant your dancer partner wanted to remain close to you, as well.
2. Like everyone else, you broke apart and began to “fast dance” to the song. This was not preferred, fast dancing scared the crap out of us, and no one wanted to look like a fool, but at least you were still dancing with your dream girl, which in itself might mean something.
3. The unthinkable happens. The confusion concerning the proper way to dance to the tempo change sends your partner walking off the dance floor with you following behind like a scolded little puppy. Half the dance floor would always clear out after the tempo up-tick, meaning half of us hawks had transformed into sparrows, or some other sort of chi-chi bird.
It’s hard to believe that 40 years ago this month Led Zeppelin released its fourth album. The album had no title on the cover and was always referred to as IV.
The song Stairway to Heaven went on to become the most played song on FM radio in the ’70’s.
Total sales for the album have reached 32 million, 23 million in the US alone, making it the third best-selling album (behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the Eagles Greatest Hits) of all time.
And for 32 million teenagers Stairway to Heaven was the most anticipated song of the dance.
Can you remember your high school dances? Was there that one song that sent you searching the crowd for a dance partner? Did the song Stairway to Heaven give you fits on the dance floor, or was there another song that made you look clueless on the dance floor ? Or were you the Staying Alive era John Travolta of your class?
August McLaughlin said:
I love this post! You really captured the butterfly-filled days of teen-hood. It drew me back to roller skating field trips and the much anticipated “snowflake” songs. (In MN, *everything* is snow-themed.) The DJ would play a ballad, like “Glory of Love” or “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and the boys would nervously cross the floor toward us. We all pretended to hate it… 😉
Tom Langley said:
Any slow dance song,rendering cheek to cheek,as The Four Aces,The Four Lads,The Four Freshman,The Hilltoppers……………One early,clumsy dance included a bump into another couple.My partner asked what I had in my pocket . Was proud of my quick recovery as I responded,”KEYS” !
Doug Stephan said:
LOL You nailed it once again. Love the photo; pretty sure you were on your way to the River Oaks Country Club to see “Vince Vance and the Valiants”, or was it “Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88’s”? White tuxedos must have been “in” that year; I opted for the one with tails.
When I got to that age, Stairway to Heaven had JUST been usurped by Purple Rain. I still get sweaty palms when I hear that song.
My first boyfriend wore a white tux to our prom too – with tails!
Karen McFarland said:
You cracked me up Tim!
I had forgotten about the change in the tempo in that song. And you were right, we all scrambled on the dance floor trying to figure out what our next move was. lol
The other nightmare came when you were stuck dancing for what seemed like an hour to By, By Miss American Pie…
But I’ll still take the oldies over the techno! (Jenny Hansen)
Thanks Tim, that was fun! And thank you so much for all your support!
Pat O'Dea Rosen said:
Ah! Now I know what boys went through at those long-ago high-school dances. Thanks for the male perspective, Tim.
Sheila Seabrook said:
Oh, Tim, girls are so fortunate because they rarely have to do the asking. I always worried when it was time for the Sadie Hawkins dance (held in the fall in my part of the world) when it was time for the girls to ask the boys to dance.
Loved revisting the teen years through your post. Thanks!
Mike Chapman said:
I remember like it was yesterday.. Actually, I had Led Zeppelin IV cranked up in my truck yesterday.. You nailed it Bubba!!
Great post that reminded me of the butterflies I’d get as I waited for that someone to ask me to dance:) I do remember more awkward then the temp of the song was in jr. high dances where I was taller then many of the guys. I remember visions of boys standing on the steps around the dancefloor to dance so they’d be tall enough!
Lena Corazon said:
Wonderful post, Tim, and I love that photo. I have to laugh, though, thinking about high school dances. I went to an all-girls Catholic school, and while we had a ‘brother’ all-boys school, our dances were always mostly girls. Combine that with the fact that our assistant principal was a stickler for propriety, and there really wasn’t much chance for any slow-dancing.
At first it was a disappointment — I had had this fantasy that revolved around meeting my One True Love at a dance, sort of like the lyrics in Madonna’s “Crazy For You”. You know, “I see you through the smoky air/Can’t you feel the weight of my stare…” Eventually, though, dances became a fun time to hang out with friends. For senior prom, half the class took each other, because we were tired of being fixed up with guys who we had to babysit for the entire night, and the whole thing was one big party. So many fun times!
Louise Behiel said:
As i read your post, Tim, I felt the jittery tummy and uncertainty…I could also see it in the girls. Made me very glad I went to an all girls convent school…
Teresa M. Owen said:
What? I thought it was just us girls who were uncomfortable and awkward! It wasn’t until a party my senior year that I discovered I could medicate my way through a school dance with a ketchup squeeze bottle full of vodka.
Actually, that didn’t help either.
Charlie Turano said:
Tim, thanks for the walk down memory lane. It was “Stairway to Heaven”, but also “Desperado”. We all wore Cowboy Boots with our tuxedos (Urban Cowboy). My favorite tux was brown because it matched my Trans Am. The girl I asked was Debbie Costa, the nice girl I’ve been married to for 26 years…