1978: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
by Michele Christopher
Turtle is recuperating from a long night. I'm sitting here with a stomach virus I caught from my kid, but I'm restless. So turtle says "write about a year. I'll catch up later." Well, this isn't so much about a year. More about a specific day within a year. And I told this story a long time ago in another life, but I don't know that any of you were around for that. So here's my story of teenage rebellion and anarchy in the name of rock and roll.
We don't hang out at the mall like the other kids. We are too cool. Instead we hang out in Kevin's room with the black lights and Yes posters, or we hang out in Paul's garage, with the drum set and the Ramones "Road to Ruin" playing over and over. But every once in a while we have to get out. Not just to 7-11 to find someone to buy beer for us or the park to score something to get high with. Those are necessary trips, part of our daily existence. That’s not so much ‘getting out’ as it is survival. If any of you grew up in the suburbs in the late 70's or even 80's, you understand. It was like a vast wasteland of emptiness. Boredom. Nothing to do except go to the mall and stare at the rich, vapid girls from your high school on their shopping binges or the old people doing their power walking. This is why we stay in Kevin’s room or Paul’s garage dulling our brains with chemicals and prog rock. It was better than sitting in front of Macy’s eating a stale mall pretzel and waiting for some group of cheerleaders to give you that “why do you exist on the same plane as me?” look.
But every once in a while we have to go to the mall, because Record World owns us (side note, I would later on work for Record World for four years, but that's a whole bunch of other stories). It is the only reason to get on public transportation or to beg someone's older brother for a ride.
So it’s a Saturday and we have nothing to do. Kevin's mom just kicked us out of the house (I think this has to do with my attempt to play the drums). Paul's mother is having a garage sale so we can't hang out there. Well, fuck it. Let’s get on the bus. We’re going to the mall. We pool our money together. Enough to get on the bus, buy an album, and have enough left over to ask Kevin's brother to buy us quarts of beer when we get home. Perfect day.
"You cannot get through this way. You must go around the other entrance to the mall and wait on line." The guard has hand in his pocket. As if we are supposed to believe his fantasy that he’s a real cop and he’s got a gun in there.
I ask him what the line is for. He rolls his eyes at me.
"The show. The concert." Rolls his eyes again as if I’m supposed to know.
We look past the velvet ropes and see that there’s this huge line of middle aged women and a giggling teenagers snaking around the mall. Oh shit. What have we walked into here?
There's an amp set up on each corner of the square the ropes have formed. There's a makeshift stage in the middle, really just a few planks of wood.
A concert. A show.
"So, who's playing?" Kevin asks the guard. He rolls his eyes again. "Only Leo Sayer!"
We pass this look between each other. You now. The look. The glance. A conspiracy forming in our heads without even saying anything out loud. The guard senses something going on. He looks us up and down, sees the army jackets and the long hair and the patches and you can just about see the light bulb go on over his head.
"Hey! You're not here to see Leo!"
We walk around the other side of the mall. We stake the place out, eyeing the set up of the amps and the positioning of the security guards. We synchronize our watches and hatch our plan and wait. We wait patiently. Fifteen minutes until Leo Sayer bounces on to the stage, white boy afro and squeaky voice, ready to rock the world with "You Make me Feel Like Dancing.".
We must do this. In the name of good music. In the name of Joey Ramone.
Five minutes til Leo.
Finally, the crowd of housewives screams. . The sound of 200 or more tone-deaf women swooning at this dude who looks like a leprechaun in a fro.
We assume our positions. We wish each other luck in our mission. It's time.
Leo is escorted on to the wooden plank stage by his manager and two mall security guards. The women scream. The music cues (this is the 70's - he's going to lip sync). We take off in four different directions.
Thirty seconds. That’s all it takes us to do this. We have unplugged all of Leo's speakers. The music stops. Leo is just about to "sing" the first words into the mic and everything goes dead. He's mouthing words to dead air. Silence.
The security guard from the record store spies me as I am walking away from the northeast amp.
We meet at the bus shelter. It’s too risky to wait another ten minutes for the bus to come so we start the long walk home, laughing the whole way.
We get home, tell Kevin's brother about what happened. He buys us beer and lets us drink it in his room. This is the big time. The older brother's room. Cool. He tilts his quart of Miller toward us. “Rock and roll!”
Rock and roll.