Bejewell on October 26th, 2008

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.

Every Wednesday night, 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 ’87 “retro nights” started popping up around the club scene, with DJs spinning tunes from just five or six years ago.  It was generally 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 Wednesday nights were different. 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.  And this song is playing:

Let Me Go – Heaven 17 from Mario Anzaldua on Vimeo.

Our jackets are safely stashed behind the bar, watched over by the bartender who always 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.  No worries.  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 anyway.  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 in my mom car, while driving my baby son to a doctor’s visit, 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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20 Responses to “Musical Flashback: Heaven 17”

  1. Beautiful post… And I have songs like that of my own ;)

    Zs last blog post..Eeeeeeeeew!

  2. Ooooh, the 80′s had the best music (and some of the worst) but we won’t talk about that. Certain songs take me right back as well. It’s kinda funny to think about what a leg warmer wearing dork I was, but you know….it made me who I am today – a non-leg warmer wearing dork.

    kailas last blog post..People will think you’re a real Zombie – with tattoos on you.

  3. Cannot. Push. Play…. Must. Resist.

    Am not allowed to go back to 1988.

    WaltzInExiles last blog post..Indoctrination

  4. I L-O-V-E 80s music. I went to see Duran Duran about 8 years ago and it was SO fun to dance like a teenager again.

    Anastasias last blog post..Regrets, I Have A Few

  5. How had I forgotten this song?!

    foradifferentkindofgirl (FADKOG)s last blog post..‘…that is what I do, hey, baby’

  6. Whilst I detested Heaven 17 with a passion, music is one of those things that can instantly transform you to a different time and place and it is magical.

    The Grocers last blog post..Wave of Wakefulness.

  7. Yaz – that brings back memories…very good memories! I remember trying to find Yaz on cassette…not easy to do in the sticks where I lived!

    Miss Know It Alls last blog post..Swiper Bo Video

  8. I loved the 80′s, and my go to song is still Blister in the Sun, although Kiss Off cannot be resisted. I loved the Violent Femmes, Siouxie, The Cure and so many others.

  9. Awesome! Great post. I loved the ’80s, and this post took me right back. Ty.

  10. I love the ’80s. I didn’t even see the ’80s, but I love them.
    Brilliant post.

    Razs last blog post..Sing It Loud

  11. What a wonderful memory. Music is wonderful at recreating those forgotten moments in time. I love Austin, and I miss it!

    Rheas last blog post..Why are there flowers in their pants?

  12. We remember the 80′s as a fun decade. Great song and great memory!

    the sits girlss last blog post..Featured Blogger: Everything But the Kitchen Sink

  13. Music brings back many memory’s. I was a late 60′s child. The Doors, Hendrix, Joplin, the Fugs, Mothers of Invention – Suzy Creamcheese, the Motown sound, James brown – Sex machine, Sly and the family Stone, Rolling Stones, beatles, Diana Ross, The Who, Vietnam, woodstock, Crosby Stills and Nash, Kent State.

    I stayed a fan of rock all my life. Every significant event of my adult life has an associated song with it. Some still good, some awful. The 80′s were a divergence then, i stayed more hard rock, Metallica, AC/DC, along with older blues/rock like SRV and Stones. I didnt get into the hair bands, however GNR and Slash were good.

    The 90′s brought more divergence, I didnt follow techno or rap, some good players still out there, SRV, I could never understand my kids like of rap, they werent from the hood, they would be scared chitless in south central la at DAY time. They grew up in rural oklahoma for heavens sake.

    Marriage, births, deaths even, life goes on, the music is all around.

    The Stones, they are still there. Who would have thunk!

    LarryLilys last blog post..Great, now I am being told I am a woman

  14. If you don’t have Sirius radio you must get Sirius radio. Channel 22 is all retro 80s genius, all the time. They play this song by Heaven 17 often as well as many other beauties like, hello, “I promise” from When in Rome. Best.Song.Ever

    rockzees last blog post..Mad Men Tuesday

  15. Ahh, to be a girl in the 1980s…I would be much more friendly to boys named Jim…err-sorry, I must have been channeling some subconscious wishes…

    Great descriptions, I almost feel like I was there…except for the whole Texas thing…and the girl thing…and the underage sneakiness…well, it was a great post!

    Jim Huffmans last blog post..I Can Feel It Coming In The Air Tonight

  16. God that sounds fun. When I was 16 we were hanging out in fields at keg parties. Sometimes I do want to go back, though.

    Great song!

    blissfully caffeinateds last blog post..Ghost of Halloweens Past

  17. I think music and dancing is the number one thing that keeps us in the present and takes us back to the past. I love those 80s songs, too.

    Prefers Her Fantasy Lifes last blog post..Wordless Wednesday on a Tuesday

  18. Oh my God. You just brought me back to The Octagon. Same black walls, same retro night dance fest. Totally unexpected. I haven’t heard that song in YEARS.

    San Diego Mommas last blog post..Giveaways!

  19. Yup. Yup. Yup.

    But tell my 17 year old that I admit to all that and I will be forced to cut you.

    In a nice way of course.

    Kelleys last blog post..How about I call this ‘the one where Kelley tempts fate’.

  20. The 80s was such a crazy and at the same time fun and care free time. Quite a unique time.

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