Musical Flashback: Heaven 17

It’s 1988. I’m 16. My best friend the Queen Bee and I are dancing. At the Sanitarium.

The Sanitarium was a dark, dank, early-days-of-goth club, unmarked and off the beaten path, but close enough to Austin’s famed Sixth Street to get the trickle-down crowd. The inside of the club was dingy and painted black –I shudder to think what the place must have looked like during the day. It was 18 and over, but Queen Bee and I never let a silly thing like NUMBERS stop us.

On Wednesday nights, the Sanitarium turned into an early-80s new-wave fan’s wet dream. It was Retro Night.

We LIVED for Retro Night.

Even in the late 80s we were smart enough to realize that 80s music fucking ROCKED. So as early as 1987 “retro nights” made the club scene, playing tunes from just five or six years ago. It was always an amalgam of UltraVox, Yaz, the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Siouxie, Psychedelic Furs, and other classic new wave artists melded into a solid night of serious dancing.

Queen Bee and I were pretty much your typical boy crazy 16-year-olds, and in those days we spent plenty of time flirting our way through the Sixth Street nightlife and high school keg parties on dead end streets. But Retro Night wasn’t about boys. Retro Night was All About the Dancing.

So back to 1988. The Sanitarium. My eyes are closed, my body’s moving. I am completely lost in the music. Queen Bee dances alongside me, eyes shut just as tight. Every now and then we glance over at each other, but the moving never stops.

Our jackets are safely stashed behind the bar, with the bartender who overlooked our badly copied hand stamps, hastily created with magic marker at the car after waiting outside for someone, ANYONE to come out the exit and show us that night’s symbol.

We have no cares. Not school, not boys, not even the creepy bartender leering at us while we dance. (He asked the Queen Bee out almost every week. She never said yes.)

Sure, my mom might wake up and see that I’ve snuck out (again), but I’M 16 now! I have a license! My own car! A job! I can do whatever I want! I’m practically grown up! And this song is so fucking good, none of it matters. I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it.

As my hips sway and my arms wave with the music, I have no idea that 20 years from now I will hear this very same song and flash back to this very same moment and wish, for just one split second, that I could go back in time.

It was a good moment.

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