Dancing in the Moonlight

Triggering memories with just a song title.

This morning, at 3 AM, a mouse walked into the humane mousetrap I’d set at the bottom of Alex the Bird’s cage. As it struggled to get out, the rattling of the little plastic trap woke me up. At 3 AM.

I’m not sleeping well these days and once I was up and had silenced the trap I couldn’t get back to sleep. I reached for my iPad and checked out Twitter and Facebook. My U.K. friends are always up in the middle of my night and I thought they might have something interesting to say or some interesting link to follow. Something to keep my mind off the personal problems that are making sleep so tough these days.

I found a Facebook update from a pilot friend who’d just returned from an overseas contract. I’m assuming he won’t mind if I reproduce it here:

I have not used Pandora on my phone for about a month.This morning before I select Pandora to plug into the jeep I am singing “Dancin’ in the Moonlight”! It was the last song I had on A month ago! I did not remember that, but my subconscious did!

Ball and Chain Ad
Image from killingtime2 on Flickr.

And that triggered a memory from forty years ago…sitting on my bed in the attic bedroom I shared with my sister, listening to “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest on a Panasonic “Ball and Chain” AM radio. My radio was dark blue, my bedspread and the wallpaper were pink. It was 1972, the year the song came out, and I was about 11 years old. I was just beginning my “music enlightenment” — discovering that there was more music than the Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole my parents listened to on their console stereo downstairs. I tuned into WWDJ in those days, a Hackensack, NJ-based pop radio station.

I remember fiddling with the tuning dial on that radio, picking up weak signals from faraway places like Chicago and Philadelphia and Boston.

I clearly remember listening to other Top 40 pop songs on that silly little radio: Precious and Few (Climax), Also Sprach Zarathustra (theme from 2001; Deodado), Crocodile Rock and Bennie and the Jets (Elton John), Your Mama Don’t Dance (Loggins and Messina), My Maria (B.W. Stevenson), Ain’t No Sunshine and Lean on Me (Bill Withers), American Pie (Don McLean), An Old Fashioned Love Song and Shambala (Three Dog Night), Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is? (Chicago), Oye Como Va (Santana), Angie (Rolling Stones), Pick Up the Pieces (Average White Band), I Shot the Sheriff (Eric Clapton), Killing Me Softly with His Song (Roberta Flack), My Love (Paul McCartney and Wings), Alone Again (Naturally) (Gilbert O’Sulllivan), Brandy (Looking Glass), A Horse with No Name (America), Without You (Nilsson), I can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash), The Candy Man (Sammy Davis, Jr.), I Am Woman (Helen Reddy), Nights in White Satin (The Moody Blues), Song Sung Blue (Neil Diamond), Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree (Tony Orlando & Dawn), You’re So Vain (Carly Simon), Superstition (Stevie Wonder), Let’s Get It On (Marvin Gaye), Photograph (Ringo Starr), Half-Breed (Cher), Brother Louie (Stories), Love Train (The O’Jays), Will It Go Round in Circles (Billy Preston), Kodachrome (Paul Simon), Give Me Love (George Harrison), and Time in a Bottle (Jim Croce). With a little help from Top 40 songs lists, I can go on and on. What kids today call “oldies” is what I listened to on that silly little radio in the early 1970s.

I was listening to that radio in my bedroom when Jim Croce‘s death in a plane crash was announced in 1973.

In 1973, I began buying record albums and playing them on a portable turntable set up in a corner of our room. I still have those albums, many of which have the year of purchase written in the upper corner of the album jacket.

In 1974, WWDJ suddenly switched to an all-religion broadcast. By then, I’d begun exploring FM radio with WNEW-FM, a real rock station, on the same console that played Sinatra for my parents downstairs.

All those memories, triggered by a Facebook update.

This morning, when I sat down at my computer, I decided to play Dancing In the Moonlight. I was very surprised to find that it wasn’t on my Mac in iTunes. Easily remedied: I went to Amazon.com, did a search, and had the MP3 playing within minutes. 99¢ wasn’t much of a financial burden for a music-based flashback.

For a moment, in my mind, I was back in that old attic bedroom with that silly little radio on my bedside table, listening to its tinny sound. Back then, could I ever imagine that I’d be listening to the song from my computer, plugged into a surround-sound system in an RV in the middle of Washington State? I don’t think so.

And to my Facebook friend: thanks for triggering the memory.

7 thoughts on “Dancing in the Moonlight

  1. We were in Burns, Oregon weekend before last (the start of another epic motorcycle road trip) having breakfast at Ye Old Castle, a kitsch filled restaurant that looked like it hadn’t been updated since 1985. On the radio, a Casey Kasem’s Top 40 from the early 70s was being re-broadcast in it’s entirety. “Cherokee Nation” was played, along with some other slightly less memorable songs. It was wild to hear Casey’s countdown, which I used to listen to religiously each Sunday night from 6-9 on KW3 in Wenatchee. We had just been listening to a 70’s playlist on the iPod while on a long, empty expanse of highway, an occurrence that I (as iPod DJ) make happen at least once on every trip. That music just takes you back…

    The songs you’ve mentioned are some of the ones I first remember listening to in 1972 and 1973. I was in 4th grade. Sunnyslope elementary that year had a very hip music teacher who had our little kids choir singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” (with “darn” substituted for “damn” for the “the whole DARN bus is cheering” line) and “You’re so Vain” and “Song Sung Blue.”

    I remember “Rock the Boat” playing over and over one the summer of 1975 when I was picking my 3 boxes of cherries each morning, the required minimum before I could retreat to the A/C of the house. (I hated picking cherries!) I had a RadioShack portable that I sat at the bottom of the tree. During the summer we slept outside a lot and the radio would pick up faraway stations. It seemed so inexplicable that night skies would allow the signal to carry farther, but it did and there was an such a feeling of wonder to hear voices so far from one’s own little patch of the world.

    Although I deeply love the internet for how it’s made distances close and all content immediately consumable, I treasure the memories of our 70s music and technology. Vintage is a feeling — and a deep one!

What do you think?