High School Dance Soundtrack

highschool-1950s-promProm season is upon us, my friends. And while those still in prom-appropriate age categories are getting a whirlwind tutorial in tulle and sequins, the fine art of tuxedos, and how to put a lot of effort into asking someone out without actually speaking to them face-to-face, here at the library we’re taking a stroll, or maybe a slow dance, down memory lane. There are generations of memorable, trendy pop hits that have been the soundtrack of our teenage lives, and some even stand the test of time. Today we’re looking back on our favorite songs from high school dances, and wishing this year’s crop of prom-goers a safe and happy evening out.

James: In ’82, my class of white hillbillies chose 1999 by Prince as its “official song” for the year book.  My Prom song choice was another hit from that record… Little Red Corvette. That said, most of the music I listened to wasn’t invited to the prom.  Couldn’t afford the Tuxedo rental.

 Julie: “Always and forever/Each moment with you/Is just like a dream to me/That somehow came true, yeah.” Has there ever been a sappier song ever written than Always and Forever by Luther Vandross? This was a standard slow song at every school dance I ever attended. You could sway around in semi darkness with your sweaty, pimply faced date and imagine that they were the most amazing person and you were going to be in love forever! NOT! Of course, my memories of this song are the Heatwave version with an incredibly high falsetto part — it made it that much more romantic.

Rita: I never had crushes on boys who had crushes on me. When the intro to Look What You’ve Done to Me by Boz Scaggs would play over the gym speakers I would have an anxiety attack over who might be the boy giving me a tap on the shoulder.

Charlene: For our Sweetheart Ball, the Class of 1987 proudly featured Can’t Help Falling in Love. Some Kind of Wonderful was a big teen movie back in the day, and Can’t Help Falling in Love by Lick the Tins was on the soundtrack. Clearly, we weren’t cool enough to pull off the Lick the Tins version, so we went with Corey Hart, but I remember it being a solid choice at the time. Speaking to the timelessness of the song, Twenty One Pilots did a cover of it not too long ago.Now, the song where the magic seemed to be happening for yours truly on the dance floor was Crazy for You by Madonna. Don’t underestimate the power of the Material Girl.  Good times, bad dresses, really bad hair!

Amanda: The theme songs of my high school dances at Mountain View High School in our very own Orem, Utah were dominated by Celine Dion. I remember one year My Heart Will Go On from Titanic was the theme of our big girl’s choice formal and for the professional photos they had a backdrop of the Titanic sinking and people drowning in the water. What? It was bizarre. I totally have a soft spot in my heart for Celine, but I did get rather tired of those ballads. What we all liked best is when they played favorite 80s or some vintage swing music or any songs to which we could do improvise line dances with some break-dancing every once in a while. Many were also enamored of Dave Matthews Band and Sara McLachlan ballads. Songs that were always played were U2’s With or Without You, Chicago’s You’re the Inspiration, ABBA’s Dancing Queen, and Chris deBurgh’s Lady in Red.   

Mike: Not sure about my “favorite” high school dance song. I will say that the most memorable ones were pretty cliché for kids in the late 80s, early 90s: Forever Young (Alphaville), Somebody (Depeche Mode), Lady in red (Chris de Burgh), with the occasional hair metal soft ballad by Def Leppard, GnR, or Bon Jovi, thrown in for some unironic heat. I did manage to finally dance with a long-time crush my sophomore year to Winds of Change (Scorpions), and I was sure I blew a rare opportunity when I realized afterward that it was a political song and not a love song. I also remember that the theme to the 9th Grade Night Dance, by popular vote, was Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. It was at once, awesome, hilarious, and baffling, when Jimmy Page, et al. really started to jam near the end of the song and everyone still tried to slow dance.

Amy: Let’s go with Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Taylor. It puts into music and lyrics exactly how it feels to be 15 and fumbling into romance for the first time. Forever Young by Alphaville was also a staple at high school dances in the 80s. I always thought it was actually a strange choice for a dance theme, as the song isn’t really about romance but fear of war and death, but I guess there is something to be said about the idea of remaining young forever. In your poofy prom dress. With the boy you really shouldn’t stay with forever, young or not. But, catchy and you can slow dance to it! (For the record, I never wore a poofy prom dress. I didn’t even go to prom, but for the dances I *did* go to, I wore black velvet or black silk. Not that I was dramatic or anything. I was going ironically anyway.)

Chelsea: Between Love Story and Teardrops on My Guitar, Taylor Swift was always a big part of my prom experiences. Her songs were really pretty perfect because whether girls were dancing with their Romeos or they were sitting on the sidelines heartbroken while Romeo danced with someone else, T-Swift had a way of singing straight to your soul.

Anita: Oh my gosh, I’m dying over here!! This is what comes to mind right off the bat and all of the silly/fun memories of the dances. Disclaimer: I lived in Rexburg, Idaho during Jr/High School. Obviously, during the late 80s/early 90s–Everything I do, I do it for you (Bryan Adams), Every Rose Has its Thorn (Poison), Going Fishin’ in the Dark (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)–dead give away that I grew up in Idaho! Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid… again, Idaho, Red Red Wine (UB40)

Lori: So hard to choose –   Everyone loved Stairway to Heaven  but about 3/4 of the way through the song  you couldn’t dance to it anymore so the DJ would just fade it into something else.  Dream Weaver – Gary Wright, You ain’t seen nothin’ yet – Bachman Turner Overdrive, Happy Man – Chicago which (now actor) Kyle McLachan sang  and played on my Yamaha 12 string guitar (which I bought from Randy Bachman of aforementioned band) at prom, Desperado by the Eagles, More Than a Feeling from Boston and pretty much anything from Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder.  My personal fave was Sir Duke.   Takes one back doesn’t it?  

And a bonus from Art: My “prom” was a Military Ball.  I remember dancing with my date to Slow Dancin’ (Swayin’ to the Music) by Johnny Rivers.  Although soft and peaceful, there was tension between my date and I.  Jealousy to be specific.  At one point, we left the dance to go outside and argue with one another over her interest in another boy.  I’m still friends with this person and decades later we get a kick out of our antics all those years ago.  We’ve also apologized to one another.  🙂



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