I spent all week telling myself I wasn’t going to write about “Dance Hall Days,” since I had just covered a different haunted-melody 1984 hit and didn’t want to repeat myself. But the song stuck with me, those opening chords and that shuffling beat kept popping up in my head as if to say C’mon, Dave. You can’t deny it any longer. This is the Best Song Ever.
There’s a mystery to the song, an incompleteness to Wang Chung frontman Jack Hues’ lyrics that draws us in. The title alone suggests nostalgia, emphasized by a chorus singing of a time “When I, you and everyone we knew / Could believe, do, and share in what was true.” Better days, indeed, and better days are days best remembered in the fog of memory. The verses paint a fragmented picture of dancing – or, at least, of closeness. The verses (presented, oddly, in second person present tense, as opposed to the first person past tense of the chorus) tease at love, sex, comfort, even cruelty (“And play upon her darkest fears”), all sung in a slightly removed tone. It suggests intimacy, but perhaps only the shadow of it, recalled in a dream.
A dream. Yes, that’s what “Dance Hall Days” sounds like. The far-away quality of the tune hooks me, especially as it begins to drift, seemingly endlessly, with its mantra of “And you need her and she needs you,” only to burst back into the chorus. Well, “burst” is the wrong word; this is not a song that “bursts.” It glides, so cool on craze.