how i wrote in 1987
by request: the long goodbye (robert altman, 1973)

music friday: the drifters, "save the last dance for me"

Sometimes you’ll hear/see a song in a movie or TV show (or commercial, for that matter) and forever after, the song will be connected in your mind to that new artifact. Think “Singin’ in the Rain” after watching A Clockwork Orange, or Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” and that Volkswagen advertisement. Often, perhaps usually, the connection is something other than pleasant … I don’t like thinking of commercials when I’m listening to music. But then there are the times when a great song gets attached to something lovely, and I don’t mind a bit.

“Save the Last Dance for Me” was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, who together wrote many, many hits, including “A Teenager in Love”, “Viva Las Vegas” and lots of other Elvis songs, and several for the Drifters, such as “This Magic Moment”. The recording was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Drifters had a long history marked by many personnel changes and battles over who owned the name of the group. Singing lead at the time of “Save the Last Dance for Me” was Ben E. King, perhaps best known for “Stand by Me”. Among the artists who have recorded the song: Jay and the Americans, Buck Owens, Ike & Tina Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Harry Nilsson, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Michael Bublé, even Bruce Willis.

The American version of Queer As Folk lasted for five seasons and was a fairly substantial hit for Showtime. As is common with these things, fans of the U.K. original didn’t much care for the U.S. remake. The original only lasted 10 episodes, so no matter how closely the U.S. version stuck to the original, its 83 episodes were going to take the characters beyond their U.K. counterparts. And in truth, the later seasons weren’t as good as the first ones.

This video comes near the end of the final episode of Season One. You can pick up on the romantic gist of what’s going on, but just in case, the young blond boy is at his high school prom with his friend; the love of his life, who is more than ten years older, makes a surprise appearance and they share a dance together. I could watch this over and over, although it’s a bit of a cheat … the season didn’t end with this scene, but instead with a horrific cliffhanger where the young boy is severely beaten by gay-bashing classmates. Still, one can always pretend the season ended when this video ended. (Trivia note: the actors who played the older man and the young boy in the U.K. version were Aiden Gillen, known in America for his roles as Carcetti in The Wire and Littlefinger in Game of Thrones, and Charlie Hunnam, best known here as Jax from Sons of Anarchy.)