Shortly after my 17th birthday, 12 days to be exact, on August 15th, 1976, Abba released Dancing Queen in Sweden. A couple of days later it came to the United States. Recorded a year earlier, they knew it would be a monster hit. They held it until the release of their 4th studio album.
It was my anthem and ushered me with a full head of steam into my Disco phase.
She was young and sweet, only 17, a Dancing Queen, oh yeah. . .
Now then. I will not apologize for Disco. I’ve always said I never confused the music I listened to with the music I danced to. These are not just different genres, but different activities. Most of my favorites are not danceable. There are a few exceptions and sometimes it’s quite bizarre – like the interpretive dance I do to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, but generally speaking separate. Separate but equal. Good dance music is as good as good listening music.
Disco was a hoot and a holler. Step, step, heel toe, pivot…. The theater of it! The clothes! The shoes! The glitter eyeliner! The steps. The twirls. The lifts.
I loved it all.
All of it. My best friend and I began sneaking into, well brazenly entering, Huntington’s premier disco that same year. We dressed up and dressed the part and with Marshall just down the road, nobody questioned whether we were 18 or not.
We both had jobs at the newspaper as telemarketers – we signed up folks for the daily newspaper. Every cent we earned, $2.30 an hour, went to iced tea to drink at work and clothes to wear to the Inferno. And gas money and the $3 each we needed for the door charge and 2 drinks.
When Dancing Queen came up in the rotation, I was in heaven. It was one of the few songs, I didn’t have an established set of steps for. I was always free-basing Dancing Queen. Lots of twirls, hair flying, dress belling, arms above my head. Complete abandonment. I never waited for a partner – I just ran to the dance floor. Donnie, a guy and my best friend, usually came with me.
Oh how we could dance.
And we did.
Though we were just friends, Always and Forever, was our song. In later years, there was Knock on Wood and Raining Men. I also remember the Ohio Players and Earth Wind and Fire.
We danced our teenage angst away every Saturday night until we were nothing but smiles clothed in Quiana and platform shoes –buzzed on weak Tequila Sunrises.
And I was there for all of it. I danced my way right into the country rock of the early 80s when I traded my platforms for cowboy boots and the Quiana dress for a pair button-fly Levi’s and a cowboy hat adorned with dried flowers.
And then dance died. Or what I understood dance to be. I’m not sure it has recovered. I wait for the revivals. There was a brief attempt at a disco revival a few years ago, but it went nowhere. Nonetheless the ex and I attended a New Year’s Eve Disco Dance party in the waning days of our 20-year marriage.
It was fun – but he hadn’t done disco. Didn’t know all 57 steps of the Latin Hustle and had no interest in the bump or the bus stop or the rope.
He was committed to his normal, but fun and quirky, free styling.
I wanted to move into unison. This, not surprisingly, is an analogy for why our marriage failed.
I’m getting off on a tangent not germane to this story.
Abba’s Dancing Queen was my song. I listened to it in my bedroom, the car, the disco. I didn’t have the album. I didn’t need it. The song was everywhere all the time. It was a phenomenon. Even now, when I hear it, I am 17 again and on a dance floor, hair flying, sweat dripping and twirling. Young, but not so sweet. Reliving what Springsteen immortalized in Glory Days.
I was a Dancing Queen.