“I'm young, I'm wild and I'm free
I got the magic power of the music in me”
The last place you’d expect to have a musical epiphany is at an elementary school dance, yet it happens.
Get back to the future
It’s Friday night. All you want to do is come home, kick off your shoes, bury the long work week in an unmarked grave and disappear beneath a blanket of peaceful inactivity. You've earned the right to chill on the couch and allow the television to lull you stupid as Friday lets Saturday have its way. Except that little voice that keeps you honest and in line speaks up and disrupts your best laid back plans. “Dad, tonight’s the school dance. You said we could go.”
This little voice isn't your conscience, per say, but it might as well be. It’s your outer child, a product of your own DNA, shattering the tranquility and laziness of the moment with a left jab of reality and a right cross of parental responsibility.
You hear that infamous record scratch sound effect in your head. The one you thought only happened in corny teen movies. Suddenly, you’re floating above the room watching your body cowering helplessly on the couch.
Time warps and loses all meaning.
Do the time warp again
Fast forward and you find yourself at the Swing through the Decades elementary school dance. This is one in a long line of school events you’ve reluctantly attended over the years in an attempt to raise your parent report rating. However, when you get to the dance, dragging your feet all the way, it occurs to you it’s much more than just another parental obligation for you to fulfill. In the words of the Canadian rock trio Triumph,
“Then you hear the music, and it all comes crystal clear. Music does the talking, says the things you want to hear.”
You find yourself having an epiphany - Time travel exists, and It’s called music.
You gaze across the comically tiny gymnasium (for adults anyway, who've been conditioned to the big bad world and its big scary spaces). Kindergarten through fifth grade kids are dressed as adults, sporting fashion anachronisms. Grown-ups are dressed as children dressed as adults in similar fashion relics. They’re all celebrating and reflecting on their decade of choice (1950s - 2000s) and dancing, or at least their best representation of dance as they understand it, to the music that defined their favorite decade and made it real.
Tragically, the kids have already stumbled into whichever social clique will have them, but at this age, the cliques are still mostly gender specific so the girls dance and fraternize with the girls. The boys don’t really dance, but the music sneaks inside their bodies and courses through them, a precursor to the hormones that will be in full attack mode not too far down the road. The music works them into a frenzy and they channel it the way boys channel everything, by horsing around. You might catch the boys subconsciously skipping to the beat as they dart across the dance floor chasing after friends. You see the boys spinning around in circles or knee sliding across the gym floor as the music takes hold. You know the music has really taken over when you hear the chorus of children’s voices, boys and girls, rising above the music and the din of the crowd, singing along to songs born decades before them. It’s both eerie and captivating to hear children of varying ages singing along to adult songs whether it’s a simple, frivolous tune like “Mickey” or a dark psychological dirge like “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” It’s a reminder of how music has the power to bring people together from differing eras, backgrounds, and circumstances and level the playing field, or the dance floor called life.
As the night waltzes on, you absorb the iconic reference points of time gone by - broken in and over sized letter jackets and leather jackets swallowing tiny frames but still imparting a mention of swagger, temporarily slicked back hair losing its hold as the night goes on and the music intensifies its dominance. Childhood inhibitions weaken, and the horsing around gets more rambunctious and even crosses genders. You see short, shimmering Tina Turner dresses and exaggerated Afro wigs, peace sign medallions and psychedelic patterns throbbing underneath the pulsating lights. There are flashes of leg warmers and fingerless gloves, skinny new wave ties and spiked hair with a suggestion of wannabe attitude. However, more important than all of these cultural footprints in time is what you see in the faces and body language of the children dancing, oblivious to the doubts and responsibilities that come with age. You see a hint of the grown-ups they will become. You see children casually introduced to their adult selves by the common thread of music. In an effort to wrap your mind around this live action time travel epiphany you've stumbled upon, you wonder when the past and the present meet again in the not too distant future, will there be instant recognition or only a nagging impulse of a familiar face they can’t quite place. Most likely, music will reunite them and help them remember when that time comes.
In the expressions and the posture of the adults, even those blindsided by the parental obligation of yet another school event, you see a glimpse of the child they once were. You watch empathetically as they’re reacquainted with their past and you wonder if they are content with who they've become. However, you stop short of posing this same question to yourself. These are questions for another time. On a night like tonight, it’s the music that matters. Music speaks simultaneously to the child and the adult in everyone who listens. This is what give music its strength. It’s what gives it teeth to accommodate your hunger for more. Music transports you to where and when you’d rather be. Time travel is on your side and everything is good in the moment as long as the music plays.
Click on the links below to travel through time and listen to a few songs that say the things you want to hear.
- Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley & His Comets
- Johnny Be Good - Chuck Berry
- Shout - The Isley Brothers
- At the Hop - Danny and the Juniors
- Runaway - Del Shannon
- Twist and Shout - The Isley Brothers
- Louie Louie - The Kingsmen
- Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin
- American Girl - Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
- My Sharona - The Knack
- Rock Lobster - The B52’s
- Brown Sugar - The Rolling Stones
- Don’t Stop Believing - Journey
- Thriller - Michael Jackson
- Love Shack - The B52’s
- Just Like Heaven - The Cure
- All These Things I've Done - The Killers
- Rebellion (Lies) - The Arcade Fire
- Clumsy - Fergie
- Blow Me (One Last Kiss) - Pink
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