The Wide Angle: Songs to fit the mood of prom survival time

Published 6:42 am Saturday, May 4, 2019

Last Saturday night, I made my annual pilgrimage over to Austin High School to cover prom and the school’s grand march.

It’s a little bit of a daunting prospect in an auditorium that’s lit for circumstance and not for tired photographers at the end of their work week. Also, everybody is better looking than I am.

It should be known up front that I’ve never been much of a prom guy. I did attend both of mine back in those mythical days known only as the 90s, and got involved in all the pomp and circumstance that comes along with the event.

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I dressed nicely in a tux that made me look like an eight-year-old playing James Bond dress-up, I washed the car I had access to, which was a struggle given that it was a rusting early 80s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and I even bought the glasses marking the occasion, which for at least one year was a champagne glass with our prom motto engraved on the side.

Champagne glasses probably weren’t the best choice for high school prom memorabilia now that I think back on it.

None of this was helped by the fact I had very little in the way of social skills and danced like an awkward walking  2 x 4 with the occasional spasmic jerk on those rare occasions I thought I had the moves. I very much did not have “moves.” I had twitches in the best of times.

But, with all of that thankfully in the past, I covered this prom like I usually did, making sure to catch as many of the good-looking teens as I could in my limited time, but as I was maneuvering around, I began to pay a little more attention to my surroundings.

In particular was the music.

I was hearing songs, in 2019, that I could very well have heard at my own prom. Prom powerhouses such as Survivor and Fire House.

This, of course, dated me somewhat as I walked through the school humming and singing to myself the familiar tunes. It was a little weird and I asked myself a couple times why I was reliving my own prom — without the aforementioned awkwardness so notably displayed on my own grand marches.

Something was gnawing on me in the back of my head though. I was struggling to place this thought for the longest time, even on my way back to the office.

It finally struck me when I reached my desk. As I usually do, I put on some music. In this case I was struck by the mood of what I just covered and put on some Survivor for the rest of the night.

For those of you who might be a bit young to appreciate Survivor, this is the band that ultimately would be responsible for inserting itself in every high school pep band you’ve ever heard.

No, not that one. That’s “The Final Countdown” and that was by Europe. No, not the entire continent of Europe, the band of five big-haired dudes from Sweden.

The other one. “Eye of the Tiger.” Yep, that was Survivor, but like so many other groups during that time, they had more than that one song and so as I was listening to them Saturday night, it began to dawn on me, at least partly, why those songs are still played today and why it was the source of itching in the back of my head.

The lyrics.  Those lyrics stand with a person and nobody could really encapsulate a night as epic as these bands could. They were cheesy, a little bit sappy, but ultimately memorable. I suppose today, one of the artists I can think of that would most easily be compared to those bands would be Edward Sheeran. The hooks and melodies of these groups just stuck with you and can easily make a night more memorable.

Let’s examine a little closer the songs of Survivor, mostly because I’ve already been talking about them. First, “The Search” and its chorus.

“I was living for a dream,

Loving for a moment

Taking on the world,

That was just my style

Now I look into your eyes

I can see forever,

The search is over

You were with me all the       while.”

That’s just prom gold right there, but let’s speed things up a little and look at “I Can’t Hold Back.”

“I can feel you tremble when we touch

And I feel the hand of fate reaching out to both of us.”

Come on, now we’re bringing fate into this? That’s pretty high minded to think fate could in anyway contribute to high school romance, but that was the bread and butter of groups in the 80s, spilling into the 90s.

You may not think it now, but the 80s and early 90s weren’t just partying all the time and gigantic hair. These were songs written with catchy, if not sappy lyrics, and we loved it. And don’t for a moment think they didn’t know what they were doing. These bands knew that kind of things would work and they jumped in like a cliff diver.

And they would have been right. I can remember those songs today as if I was getting ready for prom myself.

But don’t worry, I won’t really “attend” prom. I was weird the way it was. I don’t need to be 45-years-old weird at a high school prom.