Someone posted a photo of a band playing at one of the Saturday night dances took place at my high school back in the day when I was still a young girl filled with so much energy and idealistic optimism about the future. I faithfully attended those dances every weekend even though I learned the meaning of the term “wallflower” on those long ago nights. I was shy and gawky and a late bloomer, so I probably looked like somebody’s little sister sneaking in to an event where I did not quite belong. Somehow I still managed to have so much fun because I enjoyed the music and the conversations with my fellow wallflowers and some of the boys in my class who were not yet quite ready to commit to asking someone to dance.
Now and again some young fellow from another school would show up not knowing anyone. They’d see me sitting on the sidelines and ask me to hit the dance floor with them. I rarely even knew any of their names. I simply enjoyed moving to the music and being freed from my perch on the sidelines for a time. It also provided me with a bit of victory as I glanced at the reluctant warriors from my school who seemed amazed that I actually knew how to dance. Thus it went week after week for four years and my memories of those times are all so very good.
I was a teen of the sixties when the music was dominated by groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Back then the radio was a conduit to the world with new songs and new artists coming out continually. It was all so wonderful. I liked the bands with innovative styles of playing and creating intricate and meaningful lyrics. Some of those experimenting with music actually played at those Saturday night dances, which was yet another reason that I showed up each week even if I had to sit out the entire night on a metal chairs near the wall. I was entranced with the music of my era.
I remember going to one of our school football games one fall evening with a group of my girlfriends. We traveled to the stadium in the big Volkswagen bus that my friend Eileen had borrowed from her parents for the occasion. We crowded inside and turned on the radio full blast to accompany our raucous conversation that was filled with the laughter and silliness of teenage girls. All of a sudden the DJ played The House of the Rising Sun by the Animals and we were stunned into total silence. We all thought that it was one of the best songs that we had ever heard and evidently we were not alone because the DJ announced that the telephone lines were lighting up with requests to play it again and again. We sat in the VW bus listening unit a commercial finally broke the trance that had overtaken us.
That photo of the Saturday night dances at my school stirred my memories of the wonderful moments of my youth, most of which were influenced by music. I remembered seeing Roy Orbison perform live at a fundraiser for our school and going to see the Beach Boys with the same group of friends who discovered The House of the Rising Sun with me on that memorable football night. It felt as though every facet of those days was influenced by the artists of the era. There were so many who touched my very soul and changed me just as the books that I read had also done.
I never had a great deal of extra change for purchasing records and buying LPs was totally out of my economic reach. When my best friend, Claudia, gave me Revolver by the Beatles for a Christmas gift one year it felt as though I had won the lottery. I must have played that album over and over and over. Luckily my mother liked it as much as I did and my brothers who were younger began to adopt an interest in music as well. Later Claudia would gift me with the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and once again I wore the album out from overplaying it.
I was a sophomore in college when I met my husband. Our relationship really clicked when I learned that he enjoyed music as much as I did. We had the same taste in artists and he was also rather clever in bringing the sounds to us when we went out on dates. Long before tape decks, CD players or streaming was available in cars he carried a tape deck in the backseat that played his favorite songs. Sometimes he actually created themes for the evening with his playlists.
We launched our longstanding love affair to the sounds of the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Donovan, the Dave Clark Five, Peter Paul and Mary, the Association and of course the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. We’ve been listening to music ever since and once even saw Donovan live in a venue so intimate that we might have been able to reach out and touch him from our table.
Our tastes have evolved with the times but the classics from the sixties will always be our favorites. They are the songs of our youth, songs that inspired us to be better versions of ourselves. That was the music that pushed us to leave the isolated safety of our childhood homes and go forth in the world to hopefully do good work. Somehow it doesn’t even seem so long ago. When I hear those sounds I’m still that skinny fresh-faced girl whose baby fine hair refused to stay put in a big bouffant. It was a wonderful time.