Still Chained to “Unchained Melody”


I recall Peggy saying ‘yes’ when I asked her to dance at our 8th grade graduation dance in 1964. Not knowing all the intricacies of “slow dancing” as it was called back then; I did know it was the closest thing to having sex while 10 nuns were watching you. When “Unchained Melody” played, it usually was either the last record put on the phonograph by Father Kennedy or very close to it. When Peggy and I made it to the dance floor,  “Unchained Melody” began to play. I decided it was time for my “bear hug” move.

Oh, my love, my darling,
I’ve hungered for your touch a long, lonely time,
Time goes by so slowly and time can do so much.”

She moved my hands from her sides to the middle of her back. If this song could last another 15 minutes, I could be the first on my block to…”Okay kids, lights are on, clean up your tables. Your parents are waiting in the lobby.”

“Are you still mine? I need your love, I need your love, God speed your love to me.”

She was never to be mine. I never saw Peggy after graduation; she went on to a female only high school; I went to a demonic public school. My first imaginary one night stand was gone forever?

“Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea.
Lonely rivers sigh, “Wait for me, wait for me”
“I’ll be coming home, wait for me!”

When I came home from Vietnam, I didn’t slow dance that much. It was difficult to slow dance to Aqualung.  Years later when I was living in Europe, I went to a “disco” in Frankfurt Germany with a friend of mine. I didn’t know my friend was gay until Klaus asked him to dance and my friend said yes. They slowed danced to “Unchained Melody.” The night was young and they were playing that song already? I looked for a female to dance with soon after my friend left our table. By the time I found a lady to dance with, Bobby Hatfield was in the middle of the best bear hug lyrics:

Lonely rivers sigh, “Wait for me, wait for me”
“I’ll be coming home, wait for me!”

The song again ended too soon. I walked her back to her table and I went back to the United States.

Many years later, I watched the movie ‘Ghosts’ with Whoopi Goldberg and the late Patrick Swayze on a flight to Florida. They played “Unchained Melody” to the point my spine was completely numb with chills.   Humming the lyrics, I walked through the terminal with a bounce in my step and smile on my face thinking of that 8th grade evening. Twenty six years later, my parents were waiting to pick me up, again. In the lobby.

(1955 copyright: Music by Alex North and Lyrics by Hy Zaret)

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