First Dance

Our earliest intimacies live on in memory. The right song on the radio vividly rekindles the sights, sounds and smells of the moments when we first began to explore the mysteries of affection.

I was on the young side of the kids in my neighborhood. And it was through the kindness of my friend George Harbison that I got to attend my first boy-girl party, in the basement of his parents house on Dartmoor street. It was the first time I had been to a party were dancing was the central activity, where the lights were off, and where the playlist was designed to spark the new emotions our pubescent bodies were beginning to process. Ever the introvert, I wasn’t sure what to do, and was terrified of making some social error in the presence of these older kids I admired.

So I found a dark corner and watched… until Judy Dean approached me.

During the three years I had known her, we had both transformed from the carefree innocence of elementary school to the tentative mindset that overtakes you when you realize that this person you once chased around the playground had become both physically and spiritually attractive.

She was also an intuitive and read my insecurities with the skill of a New Orleans medium. The Association’s “Everything That Touches You” spun up on George’s stereo. The cinder block walls reflected every nuance of Terry Kirkman’s lyrics and Bones Howe’s exquisite production, immersing us in the magic.

“Do you want to dance?”

That’s all it took and I was in her arms. She was a perfect fit. We seemed to melt together into this ball of sensation, creating small circles in the middle of a dozen other couples, all of whom were under The Association’s spell. I’m sure she was way ahead of me and already scoping out her next dance partner. But in that instant, everyone else disappeared. I was in love for three minutes and twenty seven seconds. I wished that I could extend that brief encounter into eternity.

“Everything That Touches You” faded out and I thanked her, returning to my corner. That seemed to break the ice and I must have danced with every other girl in attendance before the proceedings concluded.

Those moments with Judy still endure in my memory today. Nothing more really happened. I somehow earned a spot as a regular with Geroge’s crowd and probably danced with her a couple of dozen times. Each experience was special, perhaps because she was my first.

In those days, the one-year age difference was an immense gulf. Our lives drifted in different directions. Nothing developed out of our brief intimacies.

But I can’t hear an Association tune without thinking about those days, remembering the gentle press of her body against mine and how it began to reveal feelings I never knew I could have.

This is the true magic of great music. It’s a universal language that reaches into the deepest recesses of our souls. It can rip open old scars. And it can uncover the most meaningful memories, replaying every second with all the passion and excitement we felt when we were living them for the first time.


Portions of this essay appeared in my review of “Everything That Touches You” on Rock and Roll Revisited.