Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Dance

When I was in High School a million years ago, there was one song that was always played as the "last dance" song. That song was "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin. As soon as the solo guitar intro started, you knew you had better grab your best bet for the end of the dance, and it better be someone you liked, because at a whopping seven minutes, fifty eight seconds, it was a pretty serious commitment of time in close proximity. On the other hand, if you didn't have anyone to dance with on the downbeat, you could spend an extra 30-60 seconds finding an acceptable dance partner and still have plenty of cling time.

But as perfect as a last-song slow-dance-song that it was, there was always this one section where nobody ever quite knew what to do. About three-quarters of the way through the song, it gets loud and bangy and upbeat until the very end, when it slows down one last time. Thus the dilemma: was it a slow dance song or a fast dance song?  What was a teenager to do?

If you really liked your dance partner, you ignored the musical demands to break away and "fast dance" and instead you would cling like expensive Saran wrap until the bitter end. If you didn't like them as much, you might fast dance a bit, or laugh and act moronic (which we all did most of the time anyway) until it slowed down again. It offered a moment of levity, which was handy when necessary.

I don't know if there is a "last dance" song these days like there were in the days of yore. I don't even know if there is any hit song today that could come close to the length and slow dance tempo of "Stairway to Heaven." Even "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" pales at a measly six minutes, fourteen seconds. And who wants to dance to a song about a shipwreck (NOTE: Celine Dion's messy "My Heart Will Go On" does NOT count as a shipwreck song).

Despite its off-kilter moments of tempo and gusto, I always remember "Stairway to Heaven" as a sure thing in the unsure world of a teenager. And although my high school days are long gone, I just may find myself a copy of Stairway to Heaven and play it at about 11:52pm on New Year's Eve. It seems an appropriate ending to another year. Something long, slow and familiar to cling to, with a little bit of a kick thrown in towards the end to shake things up a bit. After all, life is never the same tempo. Last songs shouldn't be either.


Julie said...

This took me back to my very first boy-girl dance in 7th grade. I remember some Journey song as the last dance and at least two rounds of Billy Idol's "Mony Mony" (with all of the naughty shouting bits edited for the chaperones).

I'm now officially old.

P.S. Celine's abomination only counts if you do the sternum cracking thump.

Carol Song of Joy said...

Neither one of you are as old as I am! Our last dance record was either "Chances Are" or "The Twelfth of Never" by Johnny Mathis. Now these were romantic!!! Happy new year!

nlk said...

I can't remember if we had anything consistent as a last-dance song, but I do have a Stairway to Heaven story.

Stairway is a song I knew a lot of words to, at least the slow parts. So I used to sing it to my son when he was a baby. ;p

Marc T said...

The other "Forever" slow song was by Styx, called Suite Madame Blue, and including the "Prelude" was over 9 minutes long. It, too, had an interlude fast portion. Some of us just swung our hips a little over zealously, others stood awkwardly. Still a great ender. Grab your favorite partner, and let her rip!