Secretly Horrifying Song Lyrics: "Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung

Music Features Wang Chung
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We’re back, and for the first time since the first time, we’re headed to the magical ‘80s. Today’s suggestion comes from Troy Vera, who writes:

“I would love to read your take on Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days”...it is going to be the topic of the next tawdry book series that 16 and 60 year old females will be sneaking to work to read on their lunch break.”

Note to everyone: If you want to entice me to choose your song, compare it to the greatest book of all time, 50 Shades of Grey. I will not say no. Speaking of which, if you have a song you think needs to be closely analyzed for horror content, send us an email at mailbag@pastemagazine.com.

I have to admit that I’ve never heard of this song, even though it has over two million views on YouTube. Still, how bad could it be? It seems like an ode to more innocent times, when all we cared about was the dance hall. How quaint! Nobody even calls it the “dance hall” anymore, except in Utah, where words like “disco” and “club” get you thrown in prison. Personally, I think Troy is dead wrong and we’re going to find that any sign of horror was just a funny misunderstanding.

So let’s check it out! As usual, I won’t be researching any context until afterward. Lyrics in bold, my commentary after.

 

Take your baby by the hand

Come on, Troy! This is obviously just classic feel-good Americana, hearkening back to a time of square dances and town picnics and quilting bees. He’s just taking his girl by the hand. He’s going a’courtin’! Why are you so cynical?

And make her do a high hand stand

Hmmm…okay, that’s a little off. Why would you force someone to do a hand stand? And what exactly is a “high” hand stand? Is that where you’re not allowed to use your head for balance? But no, that would be called a “head stand.” Perhaps it’s a measure of exactly how much you’re allowed to bend your elbows, or—GODDAMIT I’M LOSING FOCUS. THE HANDSTAND IS NOT IMPORTANT.

What is important is that the singer is advocating that we force women into non-consensual hand stands. I’ll admit, that’s a bit strange and not a platform I’d necessarily support. But I’m sure there’s a good explanation.

Take your baby by the heel

Look, I’m going to say it: That’s not as innocent as taking your baby by the hand. If you’re taking your baby by the heel, you owe us all an explanation.

And do the next thing that you feel

TROY, I APOLOGIZE. YOU WERE RIGHT. WANG CHUNG IS WEIRD.

This line is so insanely creepy, and I can’t help but notice that the singer’s facial expression when he delivers that line in the video is exactly as terrifying as you might imagine:

WangChung.png

Shudder. You do NOT want to run across that dude in a dance hall. Or any public setting, really.

I hesitate to even ask this next question, but I feel a moral obligation: What is that next thing that you feel, Wang Chung? What is it??! Would you swing them around dangerously? Would you steal their shoes? Way worse? Actually, forget it. I don’t want the answer.

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days

Were you, though? Were you really in phase when you were constantly forcing people to do high hand stands, or taking them by the heel and then doing the next thing you feel? Those aren’t even dance moves, Wang Chung guy! Did you notice that you had fewer and fewer dance partners over time? Did you get kicked out of a lot of dance halls? Did most of the local places give the bouncers a photo of you, and put up signs like, “Touching Anyone’s Heel is Strictly Prohibited”? There’s a reason for that, Wang Chung guy, and you are that reason.

We were cool on craze

That’s not a thing.

When I, you and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true

Conversation among Wang Chung guy’s peer group upon seeing him enter the dance hall.

Girl 1: Oh, son of a bitch. Who invited that guy?

Girl 2: I am not doing another high stand. I am fucking not doing it.

Girl 3: Uh, you think you had it bad? Last Friday he held me by my heels and gave me a wedgie for an entire song. And the song was “In My Time of Dying” by Led Zeppelin. THAT’S OVER 10 MINUTES, GUYS. Why would they even play that song here?

Girl 1: Always keep your hands in your pockets. And if he reaches for your heels, just run. Believe me, just run.

Take you baby by the hair

Oh good, we’re back to the disturbing advice section.

And pull her close and “there there there”

It doesn’t make it better when you console someone after manhandling their hair, hands, and heels, Wang Chung guy.

Have you noticed that all his commands are highly specific? It’s like he’s reading from his personal nightmare journal. This is a sure sign of a pyschopath. It’s the same way some serial killers need to arrange their dead victims like a famous painting, or make a coat from their skin Buffalo Bill style. There’s always a weirdly directed urge underlying the violence, and Wang Chung guy seems to be acting out his own private rituals here. Bottom line: If Wang Chung guy is around, avoid dance halls for a few days.

NOT IN THE DANCE HALL, WANG CHUNG! THIS IS NOT THE TIME OR THE PLACE!

Take your baby by the ears
And play upon her darkest fears

Oh my God oh my God oh my God. Troy was right, this man should be arrested. I’ve endured a lot of frightening lines in the past month, but this one might cut the deepest. I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. It feels like I’m tied to a chair in a basement.

Although, if I’m being honest, I do kind of want to buy Wang Chung’s dance instructional video. I imagine it would be 30 minutes of violence and sinister monologues. So unconventional! I’m an awkward dancer, and maybe this is what I’ve been missing. I need to play upon fears more.

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true

“I don’t necessarily consider this true, as such.”

-Woman who has just been spun by her heels, forced into a handstand position, consoled in creepy fashion, and reminded that she hates spiders.

So take your baby by the wrist

For some reason, it took me this long to realize how menacing the word “baby” is here. And I also just realized that he’s advising us to do all these things to a single female, presumably our girlfriend. Call me crazy, but I think that girl would have dumped me sometime after the forced handstand or the heel grabbing. Even if she somehow lasted to the part where I grabbed her by the ears and played on her fears, I think that was definitely the end.

And in her mouth an amethyst

I’d love to give you the benefit of the doubt and say you’re just being descriptive and metaphorical, Wang Chung guy, but based on the rest of your lyrics, I can only assume you’re asking us to literally force the stone into her mouth to satisfy some awful fetish. And I’m not up for that.

And in her eyes two sapphires blue

Again, “sapphire blue” is a fine way to describe somebody’s eyes. In a normal song, I’d call it good imagery and move along. Here though, it just feels a lot like I’m being asked to violently remove someone’s eyeballs and replace them with two gems I brought along for the occasion. What you want to do in the privacy of your own home is one thing, Wang Chung guy, but again, NOT IN THE DANCE HALL! WHAT DID I JUST SAY?! NOT HERE!

Actually, don’t do that in the privacy of your own home either, please.

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true

To recap, here are a list of things Wang Chung guys thinks are “true”:

Non-consensual handstands, heel-related impulse violence, hair-pulling, forcing gemstones into eyes and mouths, ear-and-wrist-grabbing, preying upon fears.

And those are just the things we could get to in a short song. Is there a tumblr where we can read the rest? If so, please report it to the FBI immediately.

***

And that’s that! I looked at the song’s Wikipedia page for context, but all I see is that it did really well on the charts when it was released in 1984. There’s nothing at all to diminish the utter terror we all feel right now.

Official Horror Rating: 9.1

Check out our previous installments:

Don’t You Want Me – The Human League
Fake PalindromesAndrew Bird 
Young Girl – Gary Puckett and The Union Gap

And if you’d like to submit a song for consideration to “Secretly Horrifying Song Lyrics,” send an email to mailbag@pastemagazine.com. Gratitude and full credit on these pages will be yours, and both are eternal.

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