The other day I was listening to my iPod and “Stuff Like That” started playing, and I started thinking about things and reminiscing, which got me to marveling, as I always have, at the divine voice of Nickolas Ashford. Not to say Valerie Simpson and Chaka Khan were not the vocal key to the awesomeness of that particular song. How cool is Quincy Jones? The coolest.
So, thinking about the wonder of Nick Ashford's vocals, and that time period in general, I was going to make a Super Sexy Seventies playlist, but the fact is, I don’t own a whole lot of music I’d add to it, and so I’ll need to make an online sort of playlist, which is more work and thus less fun to me. When I was a kid, I didn’t go in much for love stuff, especially if it was slow. I didn’t understand why any kid would, but of course, some of them did. People, you know, and their different ways. Thus, what I've collected in my iPod memory bank mostly reflects my tastes at that time.
I didn’t like much sentimentality unless it was accompanied by (really, secondary to) a strong bass line and a good beat, or maybe an adorable hook; if it was good for harmonizing to or dancing to, etc. Gosh, if I’d been a child in the 90s, listening to yodeling “divas” on the radio, I’d have lurched even more swiftly into the past, or whatever I could find as alternative. Anyway, so the songs I liked back then that we’d think of as sexy still mostly “had a beat and I could dance to it.”
Where was I? Somehow I found myself thinking next about the music played at the skating rink on Friday nights. Everyone went to the Friday night skate for awhile, at Landmark Skate Center on the outskirts of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. It’s still there! But no longer outskirts, I guess. I loved skating nights, though I was never part of a crowd of kids. It was nice, people were mostly nice, and having fun, and skating was one thing I could do reasonably well, having learned it for a Girl Scout badge.
I was never great at it, because I feared falling down. Some years later, I took a tae kwon do class at the church, for some exercise and social time, but he could never get me to practice falling the way everyone else seemed able to do. My brain says, “No, falling is a bad thing. Don’t pretend to do that.” So I didn’t master much tae kwon do, or skating backwards, though I could manage it if necessary. (About like driving a manual transmission: only if an absolute must. Car transmissions have advanced pretty far, you anachronistic driving elitists.)
But we’d skate around and around, and people who could do fancy things stayed in the middle, and sometimes we’d do the Hokey Pokey or the Limbo. Mostly I was there for the adrenaline and the fun music, and to feel like I was a part of things, which is something I rarely felt. Now and then, the DJ would call for a “couples skate,” and we’d have to sit down while a boring song played and people skated while clutching each other, though a few always put on a nice dance-skate show.
this is the epitome of a 1978 couples skate song. i'm sharing it because the video shows us everything we wish to forget about that period of time.
All the girls wanted a boy to ask her to couples skate, so I did, too, but also did not. First, no boy would ever have asked me, anyway, so why pine too much for it? I was repulsive to boys who had just discovered girls.* Second, I’d have had to skate backwards more than I’d like. Third, the music was, you know, love stuff. So during couples skates, we’d go to the refreshment stand for a drink we called “Suicide.” It was three kinds of soda mixed together. I’ve never been a great fan of sweet soda, but the Suicide was the drink to order, and so I did.
And then a cool song would start again and we’d all rush back onto the rink. I decided to collect the ones I remembered hearing during that time into a playlist, limited by what I already own on my iPod, and factoring in the other place I went to sometimes on Saturday nights, Skateland USA in nearby Grandview. They had a slightly broader crowd, and slightly broader music. Skateland closed about ten years ago, it seems, because it was drawing a rough crowd, causing area problems, and driving away the family friendly appeal. But I liked going there now and then when I was in 8th grade.
In junior high I became very fashion-forward. And in 8th grade, narrow jeans came in style, finally, and I had them before or as early as anyone else. My mom converted the dumb flares to them, and I got a pair of Levis I just worshipped. But when a woman ran into me on the skating rink I did nearly the splits trying not to fall, and though I weighed nearly nothing back then, maybe 100 lbs, I tore those pants open! Yes, in back! So I had to sit at a table the whole rest of the night until my friend’s mom arrived to bring us home. I had people to talk with sometimes, and was happy to laugh at myself about it, for some reason? But it grew boring and frustrating. I think maybe that was the last time I was at that skating rink. And then in high school, I stopped going skating altogether. Still, when I hear certain songs, I tend to think of them as “skate songs.”
i don't know if this was a skate song where i lived. it would have been one in the city. you know, how things were/are. but I played it some evenings at home for an hour at a time and so it should count.
So I made a list of top skating songs that I own and remember (I’m sure my memory is the faultiest aspect of it,) and put it in a Google spreadsheet with links. I thought of making it a YouTube playlist, and maybe I still will, but I like spreadsheets. I’m going to add more notes and more alternative recordings, but it’s otherwise complete for now, and you can access it here, if you care to.
*I think I’ll cover this soon. Who would be a kid in the early teens again—anyone? It’s the worst, even for the people who looked to everyone else like they had it easy. (this was not my bedroom, which was at all times both very cute and even messier than my brother's.)