It’s something I’ve never done for fun, fame or financial gain.
I’ve never felt inclined.
Though I didn’t grow up in that town in Footloose, there wasn’t much dancing in my hometown. I slow danced at prom one year, but I only recall one or two dances being held during four years of high school.
Mostly kids just gathered informally in some farmer’s field past the outskirts of town with a few kegs procured by older students (who’d make the trek to the state where eighteen was legal) with ‘EBN or 96 Rock blaring from someone’s car stereo.
I don’t remember much dancing.
One Friday afternoon in school, my buddy Beej proposed that we head into Cincinnati that evening.
A trip to The City was an offer that could not be refused. We weren’t old enough to do much more than be mall rats, but – in 1984, growing up in a town with two red lights – the mall was an oasis of civilization.
A trip to The City meant shopping for music.
The catch was that – as neither of us had cars and, in fact had only had drivers licenses for a few months – we would be tagging along with his brother, Junior.
Junior was a senior, a tall, gangly basketball player and mathematical genius whose behavior might have been mistaken, at times, as autistic.
(he now works for the military)
Beej and I were headed to Cincinnati for music, but Junior had a different agenda. For some reason, inexplicable to either Beej or myself, Junior wanted to learn to moonwalk.
It wasn’t as though Junior even listened to Michael Jackson.
And that is how the three of us ended up at some small dance studio in a dingy strip mall in a dodgy part of Cincinnati one Friday night, attending a Michael Jackson dance class at the height of Thriller‘s radio blitzkrieg.
I remember nothing from the class aside from standing off to the side, reading (and rereading) the Hot 100 from a page that had been ripped from Billboard magazine and taped to the wall.
There were half a dozen record stores that wouldn’t be open for much longer and I was stuck like a hostage in a dance studio in a skeezy neighborhood with the clock ticking.
If I recall, we had time to hit Peaches.
I know without doubt that I never saw Junior moonwalk.
Here are four songs that I recall from the beginning of March, 1984 when Beej, Junior, and I made that trip…
Big Country – Fields Of Fire
from The Crossing
Sometimes lost in the attention given to the effects-laden guitars of Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson, was that the band had a formidable rhythm section. Bassist Tony Butler has played with The Pretenders, Roger Daltrey, and Pete Townshend
Drummer Mark Brzezicki has an equally impressive array of credits. He also had one of the largest wingspans of any human I’ve ever seen (or so it seemed). Seeing him play live was mesmerizing – like watching the Hindu goddess Kali behind a drum kit.
The thunderous Fields Of Fire was the follow-up single to In A Big Country and one that a lot of people missed.
Nena – 99 Luftballoons
from Totally ’80s
Several of my friends and I were taking our second year of German in high school when Nena arrived. So, we understood that 99 Luftballoons was a song about red balloons sung by a cute chick named Nena who didn’t shave her armpits.
Then, when the English version arrived, we knew the full, terrifying truth in the lyrics to the perky song.
Oddly enough, I first heard the song when I discovered 97X in the fall of ’83 and that alternative station was also the first place I heard another German singer, Peter Schilling. Additionally, 97X was playing several German versions of Peter Gabriel songs like Schock Den Affen and Spiel Ohne Grenzen.
The Pretenders – Show Me
from Learning To Crawl
I didn’t know much more then Brass In Pocket and Back On The Chain Gang when Learning To Crawl was released in early ’84, but the album was a favorite of Beej’s at the time.
It was a fantastic record even beyond the hits. As we were listening to radio stations from Cincinnati, the Ohio-centric My City Was Gone was played often, 2000 Miles has become a modern-rock Christmas standard, and I’ve always dug the rollicking Thumbelina.
But there’s something about the celestial feel of the jangly Show Me that’s always made the song a favorite.
And when I hear a track from Learning To Crawl, I can’t help but picture the album cover and how shifty the character closest to the top – it’s either Malcolm Foster or Robbie McIntosh – appears to be.
Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now
from Into The Gap
I didn’t really think much of Thompson Twins when I heard their first hits Love On Your Side and Lies. The songs were initially pleasant but soon became annoying and grating.
So, I was truly surprised when I heard Hold Me Now. It was languid, hypnotic, and lush.
(and it still sounds pretty stellar)