I’m 18 years old, and I’m at university, living away from home for the first time. Dances are popular at my school, except they’re not called “dances’; they’re “beer gardens.” Why the Oktoberfest sensibility in this Canadian Maritime school I have no idea.
But I’m there, surrounded by new people, peers, knowledge-seekers, the hormonally maddened, just like me. I’m thrilled by the opportunity to remake myself here. In fact, I’ve already begun the thought process of dumping my old girlfriend back home for this new girl, this girl who I began dancing with, yes, at a beer garden. Don’t feel bad for the girl back home; she was a lesbian but didn’t know it yet.
We were ready to dance, ready to scream, youth of 1984, Cold War kids, Frankie says Relax.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…”
It’s a terrible opening to a dance song: the organ, the spoken word. It’s a hymn, for God’s sake! But we rush the floor, screaming, cheering. We are the beloved, heeding Prince’s call. We’re pulled in. Because we know what’s coming: the beat is going to kick in. The beat, the driving synth drum, the riff — oh, that riff! — irresistible.
And we dance. Honestly, we don’t listen to the lyrics after that, except to shout, “Oh no let’s go!” It’s the music that is the passion, the drive, the compulsion, to go crazy, no precious conceit or hint of cynicism in this music, just pure sound and joy, putting a stupid grin on my face dancing with a new girl, who amazingly is into me. I think, “Wow. My life right now.”
And then the final guitar, stopping the beat. How can you end a dance song like this, with such virtuoso, face-melting, screaming electricity? But what can we do? We keep dancing, slowing down, writhing, grinding, the joyful noise ending in something almost dirty. Of course! That’s rock and roll! Sex! That’s why we’re here, right? What else did we think this was all leading up to?
Some people air-guitar, and that’s okay. They’ve gone crazy. They fall on the floor. One song, for a few moments, and we’re young. Even now, I hear it, and I’m young. And life is good.