Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Just Can't Fight That Feeling...of the 80's

...and those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
Friedrich Nietzsche

It starts with a slight bob of the head. In seconds, rhythmic pulses hit the blood stream. Progressively, the instinctive need takes over. I glance around, looking at my handful of girlfriends, with whom I’ve grown up with for more than half my life. I exchange an awkward smile, and then the seriousness sets in—am I going to do this, or am I going to do this?

Without second thought, we head for the platform to take our place near the DJ booth, like dancers auditioning for Dick Clark’s American Bandstand with plenty to prove. I give myself the last notes of the intro to fully brace myself, and I throw all inhibitions out the back exit. We move in close, casting confident glances around the room while entertaining hip-sways and arm-waves to keep the beat.

Then the chorus hits.

Fists pump the air for dramatic effect. Fingers point in dedication. Feet jump in excited motion. Heads swing to the beat. We yell in song to each other and the sea of 150 other college students with a heart for the eighties. After all, the eighties are where we came from.

As a child who was conceived during the early eighties, there is no misunderstanding as to why eighties music, the first era of music to my knowing, would move me entirely different than any other. The genius of Michael Jackson, Heart, Journey, The Bangles, Prince, and Cyndi Lauper are just a handful of artists who would make musical landmarks in my life as a child.

As a young girl, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” was my nighttime jam, “You Spin Me ‘Round (Like a Record)” had me rollerblading fiercely around my garage, while “Kiss” accompanied many a lip syncs at birthday slumber parties.

As a teenager and on into college, eighties music would continue to be the soundtrack for a good time. It was the beats and lyrics of the eighties that could liven any function, and encourage the creation and execution of moves that one didn’t know were possible. If you weren’t enthused by the beats of “Rock With You,” “Love Shack,” and “We Built This City,” something was seriously wrong with you--seriously.

When I transferred to Washington State University my junior year of college, just shy of my twenty-first birthday, and having just spent two years living in Orem, Utah where my nightlife consisted of the Dollar Theater and runs to Sonic for a diet cherry lime aid, I was oblivious to the nightlife in Pullman, Washington, let alone Valhalla night club. It wasn’t long before the Saturday night crowds lined up outside the brick building peaked my interest, and I realized the small college town tucked between wheat fields was no Orem, Utah, and something even more exciting than free flicks and diet drinks was about to be revealed—Valhalla’s very own Eighties Night.

After a few long-awaited months and birthdays, and one failed entry attempt, my friends and I were finally legal to step foot into the Valhalla time machine for ourselves. Rocking our most breathable get-ups and wearing makeup that screamed “no homework tonight!” we bounced back a few decades. Hardly did we imagine the amount of passion that would expel from each of us on that dark, disco dance floor, nor did we fathom that the way we would exit would be entirely different than the way we would enter.

Since Club Valhalla threw such a great party, it was understandable during Eighties Night if someone spilled half a drink on you in attempt to fully let loose on the dance floor. In fact, if you managed to leave the establishment unscathed by a $1.50 wells drink, or weren’t drenched in the release of your own bodily toxins when the DJ began packing his records, you were either A) too busy observing children-of-the- eighties-gone-wild to have yourself a good time, or B) you weren’t dancing hard enough. And, if the reason you still looked the way you did when you walked in was either of these, well, then you shouldn’t have bothered paying that cover charge, because friend, eighties music is for dancing.

Never did we imagine, that we would insist on spending every Saturday night following, the very same way.

With graduation on our heels, and the real world beckoning its call, yes, indeed, we spent our last Saturday evening at Valhalla. It was then that we made our final song dedications and gave one more execution of the moves that we had perfected during the course of the year. For one last time, we closed down the club with the rest of them who wanted just one more fill of eighties music for the week, year, or in our case, for the rest of our college careers.

Just a few short months after college graduation, and beginning to realize a new life without a weekend eighties soundtrack, there was zero hesitation when the DJ asked what I wanted to play at my wedding reception.

Jazz of course.

Seriously, did you think I’d encourage five females to do the things they did at Eighties Night in front of my grandparents and at least half of my Mother’s church congregation? I’m no fool.

As it turned out, the night couldn’t have been any more entertaining. We schmoozed through dinner to the likes of Natalie Cole, Norah Jones, and Frank Sinatra, gasped at the best man’s “I hope you make it” toast, and enjoyed a warm welcome given to my husband from my extended family to a traditional family tune, accompanied by Grandpa on the guitar.

When the reception technicalities were checked off the list, and I no longer felt obligated to keep things classy, I simply glanced over my shoulder at the DJ, and yelled the key words.

“Hit it!”

Never mind that the DJ didn’t actually catch my cue, and in just a few more seconds and hand motions we were off. Just like every good movie from the eighties that filmed the occasions on a dance floor, when Journey came blasting across the speakers, guests from all age-ranges and levels of conservativeness headed to the floor—some running and singing aloud as they made their way through the chairs and tables, others smiling in their seat at the nostalgic opportunity that had just met them.

And we danced.

I busted moves that I forgot I knew how. The crowd cheered for those who surprised with a sudden need for dancing, and hollered wide-eyed for those we didn’t know had a dancing-bone in them.

My new husband and I danced until the tunes of the eighties had us wiped out from stimulation overload, and we had no other choice but to retreat for refuge. It was no Valhalla party-till-2am-party, it was only 10pm, but it was the reception of our lifetime, and eighties music was our soundtrack.

Some nights when I’ve had it with the grown-up life, and the world feels like it may just as well come crashing down because it wouldn’t look much worse than my house, or when I feel like I’ve lost the battle to three and five year old, I reflect on my younger years free of such obligations. More often than naught, I think of those nights as a Coug in Pullman, when the only thing on my agenda for the weekend was Valhalla and busting those free-style moves, which have since grown a little rusty. Usually, after a few moments of reflection, I begin to hear those familiar lyrics, and I start bobbing my head, and then I smile, because you see--

Eighties music is for dancing--and a few moves can change anything.
P.S. Calling all 80's night pictures!  Email me at cbmccully(at)hotmail.com


vintch August 2, 2011 at 10:48 AM  

i LOVE this tribute to dancing. and that quote at the beginning! aaah...your experiences are so heartwarming and i love how you link music to experiences:) i've got similar memories myself:)

kimbirdy August 2, 2011 at 12:27 PM  

yes!! i'm a child from the early 80's as well. i shared a room with my sister who was a teenager in the 80's, so i was completely immersed in 80's music at all hours of the day and night. i wouldn't have changed a thing! :)

Connie August 2, 2011 at 5:21 PM  

Oh, Cass, I laughed 'til I cried reading this! As soon as I read your title of this post, I was hoping you'd share your memories of dancing to 80s music in college and at your reception. I loved the reception, dancing away with baby Maya in my arms--who cared that I didn't have Dad up there with me! Yes, I've danced to 50s on up to 80s music. After that, not so much. Loved this post, Hon!

Fit With Flash August 3, 2011 at 7:08 AM  

um... i don't even know you. have never been to your blog until now. based on this post alone: i heart you.

Bonnie August 3, 2011 at 7:59 AM  

oh man! so it must be a while. I'm not sure if my last comment went through... :( I was just saying how much I enjoyed this post and how it makes me want to put on roller skates and fly around the rink to "Take My Breath Away." :) I've really enjoyed reading some of your older posts too - the pics of your new place are gorgeous! I hope to be able to catch up soon! Hope all is well!! xoxoxo Bonnie

Jacqueline August 3, 2011 at 2:38 PM  

Now you have me singing and dancing! The 80s had great dance music! Love it. Such a fun post to read. It is so funny when the kids are singing something from then and I join in and they wonder how I can possibly know that song!

koralee August 3, 2011 at 9:30 PM  

Your blog and words are so lovely! Thank you for visiting me the other day... off to read some of your past posts and visit your etsy shop! xoxoxo

Janet Fonoimoana August 4, 2011 at 7:36 AM  

Cassie, you're a VERY gifted writer. Your words are as soulful as music.

Anonymous August 6, 2011 at 5:16 PM  

I loved your writing (and dancing). You rock (in more ways than one).
I'm so glad that my littlest sis enjoyed the 80s because then I don't feel so old (if that makes any sense).
Interestingly, I had some extra cash and decided I wanted a new CD. You'll never guess what two CDs I purchased... Michael Jackson (my MJ "tape" from years ago is long gone) and Journey. LOVE THOSE HITS! And now it is fun in a different way introducing these tunes to my own kids. It is such a kick hearing my 6 year old son or 10 year old daughter singing to MJ...and singing the most of the right words too. It sure is fun sharing good times with my kids. It's like I'm a kid all over again but by proxy.

Anonymous August 6, 2011 at 5:21 PM  

Our family favorite right now from the 80s would have to be "Smooth Criminal" by MJ. "Annie are you okay? are you okay Annie...You've been hit by, you've been struck by, a smooth criminal." The YouTube video is amazing with characteristic MJ moves.
For most people it seems, Michael Jackson went from cool, to odd, to amazing again.

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” ― Ray Bradbury
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