A Song That Makes You Want to Dance

30-Day Song Challenge, Day 6: A Song That Makes You Want to Dance

Yeah, today’s choice is another Journey song but this one comes with a story.

About a year and a half ago, Anne and I were in New Orleans, walking down Royal Street in the French Quarter one fine morning. The day was bright but a bit chilly, and even though it wasn’t particularly early, there weren’t many people around. It was a Sunday, you see, and I like to imagine that most folks were nursing hangovers or in church, or maybe both. The street was slowly beginning to come to life as we strolled: shop owners were opening the shutters over their windows, a man in an apron was spraying the sidewalk with a hose (I probably don’t want to know what he was hosing away), and a hulking garbage truck was creeping slowly down the narrow 18th-century cross streets.

At one particular corner, we encountered a street musician, a pretty Asian woman playing the violin with skill and passion. (I’ve since learned that her name is Tanya Huang, and she’s a regular fixture on that corner.) We stopped to listen and after a moment, I realized that I knew the song. It wasn’t a classical piece or jazz… it was Journey. And well, cheesy as it sounds, I was moved by the moment and the location and the music, moved to take Anne’s hand and spin her around, then close in for some cheek-to-cheek. I even sang a bit to her, one of the lines I was certain I knew:

“Lovin’ a music man ain’t always what it’s supposed to be

Oh, girl, you stand by me…

I’m forever yours, faithfully… “

I gave her a little dip, then suddenly felt sheepish because I realized we had an audience. Tanya was smiling at us as she played, and looking around, I saw a black man leaning against a door frame. When I caught his eye, he flashed me a huge grin and a nod. I nodded back at him, and for just a moment, I felt like I really got New Orleans, and maybe I even belonged there. Like I caught the fleeting, flashing, silvery spirit of the place in my hand long enough to feel its heat before it flew away.

That’s the sort of memory I’m always hoping to make when I travel, the kind that comes to define a place for you. I’ll be honest, our NOLA trip was a little bumpy for various reasons. But when I think of the place, my mind always goes to the moment I danced with my Anne in the middle of Royal Street to the melody of “Faithfully.”

“Faithfully” was released in the spring of 1983, just as I was finishing eighth grade. At the time, I thought it was pretty boring, just a sappy ballad; I much preferred the angry rocking sounds of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” the single that had preceded “Faithfully” by a couple of months. But the song made it to number 12 on the Billboard charts in spite of my disdain, and I gradually came around on it. It’s become one of the band’s signature tunes and always leads to a sing-along and a lot of affectionate cuddling and swaying when they perform it live.

The video is something of a classic as well, the first documentary-style “life on the road” clip, which was later imitated by bands ranging from Bon Jovi to Richard Marx. It’s become something a cliche now — oh, another band singing about how tough it is to be out touring — but this song and this video still work. It worked in New Orleans, anyhow…

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