Dancing to the Decades

So I’m spinning records at WORN’s Decades Dance, and I’ve been contemplating what I’m going to play and thinking about “vintage music” in general.

I’m starting to wonder if there might be two completely different ways of listening to music. A lot of people tell me that they really like a specific song because it reminds them of a specific point in time… “My Prayer” by the Platters was playing on the radio when Laurie had her first kiss at the drive-in… The Fifth Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues” was all over the radio the week Emily’s daughter was born… Sam’s first slow dance was to Styx’s “Come Sail Away”

Certainly, I have associations with some of my favourite music. I have a fond and vivid image in my mind of Matias’s first girlfriend screaming, “I’m not no limburger!” along with the B-52s’ “Dance this Mess Around” at the first real teenager party I attended. But that’s not even my earliest memory of it. When I was nine, my cousin Donny showed me the first B-52s album and said “This is New Wave. I’m not crazy about it, but it’s future music. It’s what you’ll be listening to when you’re a teenager.”

And he was right. But the crappy BASF tape I had copied his album on wore out a few years later. So I exchanged the Corey Hart record I had won from MuchMusic (I correctly identified all the celebrity cameos in the Ghostbusters video) at my favourite used record store for a genuine vinyl copy of the album. It sounded so much better than the crappy tape.

In the early 2000s, I had to go a while without a turntable. I remember being at the now-defunct Virgin Megastore at 14th and Broadway in New York and seeing the B-52s CD on sale for $5! I bought it and got back to the place I was staying, and listened to it on a DVD player through a crappy TV’s speakers. And it sounded damned good after going so long without hearing it.

A couple of years ago, I was managing a book warehouse, and we had a bunch of punk kids working there. They only had about six different tapes, but the one we’d agree to play the most was the B-52s.

My point is that I have MANY associations with “Dance this Mess Around” and the first B-52s album. Sometimes when I listen to it, I think about one old time or another. But sometimes I think about Kate Pierson’s amazing voice, and how I’d like to stay at her bed & breakfast. Sometimes I think that guitarist Ricky Wilson died way too soon. Sometimes I think about what I’m going to cook for dinner. The music seems to grow with me and adapt to what’s going on in my life.

But I recently attended a bazaar in a church basement, and as I walked in, A-HA’s “Take on Me” was blasting over the crappy sound system. Something about hearing that song while walking into a large room with stale air and a couple of hundred people put me into a time machine. It was like being 15 and crashing the dance at Northern Collegiate.

But let me make this clear, I HATED that song when I was 15. I found the lyrics insipid (and not just because English is A-HA’s second language). The singer’s performance is equal parts pretension and melodrama (with no hint of wit). The melody is crude and broad and the arrangement is unbearably eager but without any edges or solidity.

Alright I guess I still hate it. But something about hearing it…every once in a while…under the right circumstances…in the right environment…makes me feel good.

It seems odd that music I liked doesn’t particularly make me nostalgic, but music I hated does. I guess that I have associations with “Dance this Mess Around” because I like it, but I like “Take on Me” because I have associations with it.

I’d like some input on what songs WORN readers have associations with. I’m especially interested to hear what vintage music from the nineties really “takes you back.”

- Ted Kulczycky

18 thoughts on “Dancing to the Decades

  1. Oh, the 90s. Juliana Hatfield, Liz Phair, Rage Against the Machine, the Beastie Boys, pavement, PJ Harvey, the Pixies, L7, pretty much anything on the Matador label… And Tricky, and Massive Attack, and Bjork. And Portishead – which I like better now than I did then.

    I know exactly what you mean about associations with music. I know this because I love dancing to the Spice Girls – and I really REALLY hated them. I was too old for their demographic when they came out, and that sort of porn sugar mix half-dressed-happy-hits made me want to gag. Now it just seems ridiculously cute.

    When I first started listening to Sinatra my mom wrinkled her nose at me. She said that she’d never liked ol’ Frankie – she found him smarmy and insincere and she could never understand why the girls went so crazy over him. But one day she came home with a record she found for me at the Goodwill. We put it on and she started singing and dancing along. “I thought you didn’t like this stuff,” I said. “I guess I’m getting old,” she replied. “It isn’t music anymore – it’s memories.”

    Which, I guess, is what you want.
    What you really really want.

  2. This song reminds me of summer camps, school dances, and hanging out in my basement. Apparently we just wanted an excuse to jump around ridiculously at any given time.

  3. My teenage years in the 90s as I’d like to remember: the Blind Melon Bee Song, Green Day, Hole, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, Seether by Veruca Salt, The Muffs. Other songs that I remember a lot, but am more ashamed of now: Jeremy by Pearl Jam, Boombastic by Shaggy, Sweat (A La La La La Long) by Inner Circle, Whoomp! (There it is), Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice…

    I like the idea of double headers of songs that heavily “sample” others like the Vanilla Ice one and the Bowie one, the Tom Tom Club one and the Mariah Carey one…

  4. Oh Boy, I have just been thrust into an all out nineties nostalgia. Some favorites that have come to mind are the following:
    1) I Love you, always forever by Donna Lewis
    2) Your like a dream come true by Brian McKnight- I can vividly remember slowdancing with Blake Pullin (my three year crush) at the Holland Landing Dance.
    3) Mariah Carey…Fantasy perhaps?
    4) Waterfalls by TLC
    5) Stay by Lisa Loeb- Though I’m not sure I really loved this until after the 90s.
    These are just a few that sunk into my life between the back to back country music albums that my parents raised me with. Though I do fondly recall my first tapes being No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom and Monica’s Angel of Mine (my mild form of 90s rebellion from my parents).

    Casie

  5. Songs that make me nostalgic for middle school:
    Doo Wop (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill
    No Scrubs by TLC
    The Boy is Mine by Brandy & Monica
    ANYTHING by The Cranberries
    all of Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt

  6. Ted, please play an Oasis song in my memory. Perhaps “Morning Glory?” But my number one album of 90s music I actually listened to in the 90s is probably “Jagged Little Pill.” I remember my sister Samantha and I listening to it on a boombox on our patio, hoping our mom didn’t notice the word “fuck” in “You Oughta Know” – but also hoping that she did.

    Also, love the Freaks and Geeks reference…

  7. Big Girls don’t Cry – Jersey Boys
    Two Little Girls from Little Rock – Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell
    Dirty Diana, Rockin’ Robin – Michael Jackson
    Sing it Back, Fun for Me – Moloko
    Say my name – Destiny’s Child

    -Valentina

  8. The 90s are too late. I get all pained and happy if I happen to hear any of these:
    Echo Beach – Martha and the Muffins
    Nova Heart – Spoons
    Only You – Yaz
    Take the Long Way Home – Supertramp
    High School Confidential – Rough Trade

  9. If you were in high school during the early 90′s in Canada, one song will resonate like no other: Maestro Fresh Wes’ “Let Your Backbone Slide”.

  10. I spent the 90′s in elementary school with my best friend trying to imitate her older sisters Kathleen Hanna-esque cool and jumping on trampolines listening to Riot Grrrl. So Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, and Le Tigre, take me waaaay back.

  11. LAUREN HILL – Heh, good call. And Digable Planets. Outstanding. Both extremely danceable.
    The entire Tank Girl soundtrack…

    It’s goin’ down, yo the girl got a gun best run
    ’cause she’s quick to flip and empty out the clip
    and make a man understand where she’s comin’ from…

    Better recognize when she comes she comes correct
    collects respect and, if not, you catch a broken neck
    Buddy…

    HA – that’s going to be in my head all night now.
    I am LOVING this discussion.
    x.g.

  12. Yes, B-52′s, please!!!

    I would love to hear any of these songs! (sorry some aren’t 90′s):

    Oasis- (anything)
    Spin Doctors – “Two Princes”
    Bell Biv DeVoe – “Poison”
    Digital Underground – “Humpty Dance”
    Deee-Lite – “Groove Is In The Heart”
    Breeders – “Cannonball”
    EMF – “Unbelievable”
    Montell Jordan – “This Is How We Do It”
    Supergrass – “Alright”

    Hall & Oates – “I Can’t Go For That”
    Shocking Blue (“Send Me a Postcard” or “Venus”)
    10cc – “Dreadlock Holiday”
    Iggy & The Stooges (anything!)
    David Bowie – “Queen Bitch”
    Haircut 100- “Love Plus One”
    The English Beat- “Mirror In The Bathroom”
    New Order – (“Bizarre Love Triangle”, “True Faith”, or “Blue Monday”)
    Tommy James & The Shondells – “Crimson & Clover”
    ? & The Mysterians – “96 Tears”
    Duran Duran (anything)

    I can’t wait, I’m so excited to dance!

  13. FYI, I’ve been on a spice girls fever since this post. I watched the movie for the first time ever. I’m sort of rethinking my 50s outfit…..

    Did anybody say The Cure yet? I guess technically all the songs I liked from them are from the late 80s. But Friday I’m in Love definitely takes me back.

    Also, Cake – “Short Skirt Long Jacket”

    While I’m on the C’s – The Cranberries and The Cardigans!

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