Music has a funny way of defining our lives. Even the memories from our past when we aren’t our best selves. Led Zeppelin has reserved a spot in my memory from middle school that I still wish that I could go back and do a little better.

Untitled, best known as Led Zeppelin “IV” was their fourth studio album. Released in 1971, and featured what many argue to be the greatest rock song to ever exist, “Stairway to Heaven.” Although never released as a single, it became Led Zeppelin’s signature song, and still dominates radio airplay on rock stations worldwide. So many people have been introduced to Zeppelin with this crazy rock ballad, and while few truly know the meaning of it, it remains genius fifty years later.

Rewind to 1990 and my eighth-grade dance. The DJ played the requisite Do Me (Bell Biv Devoe), The Humpty Dance (Digital Underground), U Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer), and It Takes Two (Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock). And being in the Midwest, you could sprinkle in your popular rock bands like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. The night went just like any other party with hormonal kids who were too cool for their own good: a bunch of guys standing around watching other guys dance and clown, while all the girls were making fun of the guys dancing or just minding their own business (honestly I don’t know what girls did at our dances). Not much of a romantic thing at all. But everyone knows when they hear “last dance” that it’s your only chance to ask the person you want to dance with to dance with you. To my recollection at this dance, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to dance with, but evidently, there was someone that wanted to dance with me.

I remember my eyes constantly darting around to see which of my friends were looking at me, judging me while I danced with her.

The first few guitar notes to “Stairway to Heaven” started playing as I turned to scurry off the dance floor. But she was right there behind me, waiting to ask me if I wanted to dance. She was different, we might call her goth today. She wasn’t pretty, but she had something about her that made her stand out, and she was nice. But in eighth grade, the least cool thing you can ever do is dance with somebody who’s not popular, and on top of that, for almost an entire eight minutes. I remember not wanting to embarrass her by saying no, but that eight minutes of dancing felt like forty-five minutes. I remember my eyes constantly darting around to see which of my friends were looking at me, judging me while I danced with her.

There were two things that I didn’t realize at that time that I’ve come to realize now. The first is how legendary Led Zeppelin was. At that point, they seemed like some scary black magic voodoo death metal band as I didn’t know much of their music, aside from Stairway and maybe “Black Dog.” But over the years I have grown to love their music and see the unparalleled impact that they’ve made in the genre of rock.

The second realization is that nobody’s too cool to be dancing with someone else. Of course, the dancing is metaphorical for so much more in life. But at that age, your ego is tied so much to what others think of you. I look back on these things now and it seems so silly. Being kind or open to new experiences should never be avoided. And if someone judges you for being open or nice to somebody, then that’s on them. Looking back to that night, I wish I embraced the moment, because who the hell cares? I feel honored that she thought I was the kind of person that she could dance with.

Washington Township Rec Center – the scene of that fateful night.

And as we wind on down the road

Our shadows taller than our soul

There walks a lady we all know

Who shines white light and wants to show

How everything still turns to gold

Like the songs you hear on King’s Passage? Then check out the KP Jukebox playlist on Spotify!