It was 1983; I was in seventh grade, a year equally filled with excitement and fear. It was the year that I left my left my Bay Area private school for public school, leaving a sheltered bubble behind for a school with scary looking longhaired kids in denim jackets, Mötley Crüe and Iron Maiden patches. It was the year that I would attend my first ever school dance.
Have you ever had an old song transport you back in time to the moment when it soundtracked an important part of your life? Pandora’s Class Of 1983 station not only reminded me how much awesome music was born 30 years ago – everything from Madonna’s eponymous debut to Slayer’s first album Show No Mercy – but a lot of these songs pulled me right back to the year I became a teenager.
Listening to these tunes on Pandora now, it seems like every other song peppering the Class Of 1983 station was played by the DJ at my first school dance. That fateful night it occurred to me that I’d never before asked a girl to dance. My new friend Brodie assured me, “They have to say yes. They’ll look like jerks if they say no.” So after popping-up the collar on my Izod shirt, I walked up to a smiling girl with feathered hair and introduced myself. She said her name was Melina. I smiled back and asked her to dance.
Luckily the DJ played the German version of Nena’s “99 Luftballons” so we could talk and get to know each other instead bumming out on Nena’s lyrics of an impending nuclear war. It turned out Melina was new to the school as well. As the song segued into The Musical Youth’s “Pass The Dutchie” she asked me if we could keep dancing! Who cared if I wouldn’t find out what a “dutchie” was until a couple years later?
She and I didn’t dance with anyone else the entire night. We laughed and did the pogo to Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun.” And when the longhairs came out to stomp around in their red-laced hiking boots to Metallica’s “Jump In The Fire,” I was more fascinated than intimidated. We actually found ourselves dancing with them when the best song from Def Leppard’s Pyromania was blasting throughout the cafeteria-turned-dance-floor. To this day I still believe that the rush of dancing with a pretty girl to “Photograph” is totally unrivaled.
Everybody’s thrashing about came to an abrupt end when the moody synthesizers from Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” started playing. And now, we were slow dancing, awkwardly swaying back and forth with our wrists draped over each other’s shoulders. It was during the second chorus that I got my first kiss, and subsequently, my first girlfriend. I can still remember the swirled smell of Bonnie Bell perfume and green apple Jolly Rancher like it was yesterday.
But it wasn’t yesterday. It was three decades ago. The more I use Pandora the more I realize how that’s just part of the power of music – it can take us right back to when certain songs punctuated our coming of age.
Of course you don’t have to be as old as I am to enjoy this Class Of 1983 station on Pandora. Nostalgia aside, we can all appreciate the overwhelming amount of good and eclectic music that was released in just one year. And there was still a bunch of music coming out then by artists that I wouldn’t discover until many years later (like The Replacements, Tom Waits, The Waterboys and The Rain Parade).
Listening to Class Of 1983 on Pandora also serves as a reminder of a time before the separation music genres was the norm. Back in 1983 pop, punk, rap, rock, reggae, metal, soul and new wave could all be played on one radio station – or at one junior high school dance.