Stairway to Heaven as last dance
July 9, 2006 2:29 PM   Subscribe

In Toronto, the traditional last song at a high school dance is "Stairway to Heaven". Does this happen elsewhere?

We thought this was true generally in Canada, maybe the US too, but it seems it is not - we've been asking around Canadian and non-Canadian friends, and only the Torontonians and some 905ers have heard of this. (It's also mentioned in Bare Naked Ladies song "Grade 9".)

Does anyone know of highschool dances from outside the area that have this tradition? (Please specify country and province/state, because we won't recognise most places unless they are in Southern Ontario like London or Paris or Cambridge or Hollywood).
posted by jb to Society & Culture (43 answers total)
Do they still do this? That was the case when I was in highschool in Toronto, but is it still?
posted by chococat at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2006

Oregon USA, just graduated HS. People would riot if Stairway to Heaven was played at a dance. Actually, most people probably wouldn't recognize it, but would say, "this sucks." Dances play Top40/pop/[bad] hip hop. All Zeppelin is associated with band geeks/nerds now. Basically the only classic rock you hear is stuff like AC/DCs "shook me all night long," since it, guess what, deals with sex.
posted by devilsbrigade at 2:41 PM on July 9, 2006

Ottawa Ontario: Yes.
Montreal, Quebec: Yes.
posted by furtive at 2:49 PM on July 9, 2006

I can't remember if it was the last song that was played but it was definitely played at all the high school dances I went to. "November Rain" as well.
posted by LunaticFringe at 2:50 PM on July 9, 2006

Oh, I forgot: my high school was 15 min north of Kingston ON (the 613, if you will)
posted by LunaticFringe at 2:51 PM on July 9, 2006

It was, unfortunately, played at my middle school dances (Bay Area, CA).

As an anti-social punk rock kid, I refused to go to any high school dances. However, since Anthrax and Deep Purple were frequently played over the P.A. at lunchtime, I'd be willing to bet that STH was played at the dances. Ugh.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:04 PM on July 9, 2006

7th and 8th grade in NH in the late 80s: yes, this was the last song at every single dance. My high school had no standard last song, but it was a tiny private school and had many strange and incomprehensible traditions of its own.
posted by hilatron at 3:05 PM on July 9, 2006

Absolutely, in my Middle School in Michigan, in the early 1990s, it was always the last song played at the monthly dances.

I never went to any dances in high school, but I imagine that the tradition continued.
posted by k8t at 3:05 PM on July 9, 2006

Vancouver Island, Canada: yes.
posted by acoutu at 3:06 PM on July 9, 2006

And, since it is so damn long, it has its advantages...

the last person that you'd dance with, you'd get to dance with for a long long long time...

and then you could slyly whisper, "do you need a ride home?" and a little hanky panky could take place in the back row of the minivan.

oh yeah.
posted by k8t at 3:08 PM on July 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

9th grade, Edmonton, Canada, 1991. Oh yeeeeeeeeah!
posted by blue_beetle at 3:08 PM on July 9, 2006

Relaying someone else's answer -
Cambridge, ON: "November Rain" was the last song played, early/mid '90s.
posted by Melinika at 3:11 PM on July 9, 2006

Whenever I hear Stairway, I think of dancing with Joe Wade, who was really really short. His head was right in my boobs... and we did that crappy rocking back and forth in a circle while the guy's hands are around the waist (or ass) of the girl and the girl puts her hands on his shoulders (or neck).

And then when Wayne's World came out a few years later, I was like, "why is that last-dance-song in this movie?"
posted by k8t at 3:11 PM on July 9, 2006

November Rain was the 2nd-to-last song played after 1992... but, as mentioned previously, that was about the time I stopped going to dances. :)
posted by k8t at 3:13 PM on July 9, 2006

Here's a blog posting from another Canadian discussing the same question:

And if you google ""stairway to heaven" last "school dance"" you'll see that a lot of Americans and Canadians reference it as the last song played at all dances.
posted by k8t at 3:17 PM on July 9, 2006

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, early 90s: Not as the last song, but any time we had a 'rock' theme it would usually be played.

Fishin' n the Dark was usually the 'dance with the one you want to grope' song for us.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:29 PM on July 9, 2006

I remember this from 1980s Scotland - high school discos and parties.
posted by Flitcraft at 3:45 PM on July 9, 2006

It was the last song played at all our jr. high dances in the mid-80s in the Philadelphia suburbs. But the middle part was always awkward, because the little circular shuffle traditional for slow songs didn't quite cut it, but you couldn't really break into a fast dance.
posted by jrossi4r at 3:47 PM on July 9, 2006

"American Pie" is another popular "last song" choice.
posted by ChasFile at 3:51 PM on July 9, 2006

I just finished school in Australia and as hard as we tried to add some rock to any event, you could almost always be assured that it would be a stream of rnb/top 40/hip hop. If someone played "Stairway to Heaven", there would probabky be a riot. However, throughout year 12, the one song that kept popping up was Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer."
posted by cholly at 3:51 PM on July 9, 2006

I didn't go to many dances, but I seem to recall this being a common last dance. (Maryland, 80s.)

Weddings and roller rinks, of course, play "Last Dance" as a last dance. What's with overlong epic songs with an awkward undanceable part being the last song?
posted by desuetude at 3:53 PM on July 9, 2006

All Zeppelin is associated with band geeks/nerds now.

Maybe at your high school, but this isn't true in any kind of general sense.

I went to high school in NJ, and never heard Stairway played at any school dance.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:31 PM on July 9, 2006

Response by poster: I should clarify about time - (shame on me, after asking people to be clear about geography - time matters too, thanks to those who specified).

The said "we" (my husband and I) were in highschool in Toronto (more accurately, in Etobicoke) in the mid to late 90s. The Bare Naked Ladies are a few years older than we are (maybe 5 to 10?), but it obviously can't predate 1971.
posted by jb at 4:38 PM on July 9, 2006

I graduated in 99 in Iowa City, Iowa. Stairway to Heaven was traditionally the last song at dances, unless some other theme song was declared specially.
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:58 PM on July 9, 2006

I graduated high school in 1997 in Upstate New York and we definitely had Stairway to Heaven close out a number of dances, from middle school to high school.
posted by stefnet at 5:09 PM on July 9, 2006

Outside of Boston, MA in junior high this was the case. Probably around 1986-1988. Stairway to Heaven and then the lights would come on, every time.
posted by jdl at 5:46 PM on July 9, 2006

I graduated high school in 1997 about 45 minutes from Kingston Ontario, and Stairway was played at most of the dances I went to. I don't think it was the last song, but it was always darn close to the end Since I was too shy and weird for the boys that attended the dances for most of my highschool years, it was usually just an even longer period that I got to sit on the sidelines and be pissed off that boys were dumb and I was a loser than the average slow song.

Space Coyote: Fishing in the Dark by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? I would have never expected that song played at a high school dance, but I guess that's because I associate that song with my parents, cuz they always bought the "Best of Country" albums of the year, and I remember that song being on one of them. It's a good song though, and I can still remember parts of it now.

A total aside - I remember being horrified when I heard "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" at a high school dance, cuz upon hearing it, I remembered that my parents used to play it loudly at their parties while my sister and I would be in bed trying to sleep through their noise and music and that song would always come up. 'Twas a strange moment.
posted by melissa at 5:54 PM on July 9, 2006

Oddly enough, it was never a last song at any of my school dances, but was the last song played at EVERY summer camp dance from before 1982 until 1994. In the earlier years they even played the 11-minute live version (ooh).

I was a unit head in 1994 when they ended the tradition, and personally I was sad to see it go. So many awkward moments to remember.... But the younger kids had no connection to STH at all, and there was no sense of loss among most of the campers.
posted by nadise at 6:33 PM on July 9, 2006

In my little town in Central Massachusetts, either "Stairway" or "American Pie" was the last song.

For the former, people actually danced with partners (very awkward during the faster part, not to mention way too long a song for slow dancing in junior high and high school).

For the latter, we all sort of stood in a circle and swayed and sang along.
posted by nekton at 7:07 PM on July 9, 2006

Northern Virginia, USA, in the 1990s: I'm pretty sure it never played at any of the high school dances I went to.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:48 PM on July 9, 2006

This might be one of those questions where you get basically the same answer no matter what song you ask about.
posted by parallax7d at 7:58 PM on July 9, 2006

Nope. Zeppelin certainly has its own coolness amongst a yonger crowd, but stuff they play at dances is agonizingly over-mainstream, lowest-common-denominator.

I only went to two high school dances, though. One played a bunch of horrible dreck that I tried to forget. The other was a prom and the last song was Green Day's "Time of Your Life" which was also the theme of the prom and the senior song.

(This would be in Michigan btw, and late 90s)
posted by dagnyscott at 8:32 PM on July 9, 2006

I never heard Stairway to Heaven at a high school dance (I graduated in Los Angeles a year or so ago), neither in the private-catholic-school circuit nor my inner-city school. I went to a lot of dances. Crazy.
posted by dreamyshade at 8:43 PM on July 9, 2006

Yes!!! Ottawa, Ontario. Mostly in Grades 6 to 11 (82-88 roughly).
posted by smcniven at 8:54 PM on July 9, 2006

I never heard Stairway to Heaven at a high school dance (I graduated in Los Angeles a year or so ago), neither in the private-catholic-school circuit nor my inner-city school. I went to a lot of dances. Crazy.

Ditto. It would have been a strange way to end the intense block of reggaeton that seems to be the fashion now. (Also graduated from an Los Angeles high school).
posted by antiform at 9:00 PM on July 9, 2006

I don't recall StH being the last song at any dance from the sixth-grade dance at Tecumseh Public School (Brampton, Ontario) to the grad dance at my high school in coastal South Carolina. Not once, ever. In fact, I'm fairly sure I never heard it played at any school dance at all (timeline, 1989-1996 or thereabouts).
posted by Cricket at 9:34 PM on July 9, 2006

It's more common in overwhelmingly white areas, particularly in the northeast. This was still current practice as of at least as recently as ten years ago in central pennsylvania, where I grew up. It's never been tradition in urban areas.
posted by anildash at 9:46 PM on July 9, 2006

I went to high school in TO, attended many dances, and ...

Not only did I never hear "Stairway to Heaven" played at any school dance, but I didn't even hear the song all the way through til my mid-twenties.
posted by Tomatillo at 12:50 AM on July 10, 2006

Yes! I can't believe it is so widespread....What a strange song to pick.

For me it was junior high, 1987-88. Virginia suburbs of Washington DC.
posted by eileen at 6:46 AM on July 10, 2006

London ON, Canada. 80's and 90's Stairway to heaven was almost always the last song... or Alphaville's "Forever Young"
posted by Hanover Phist at 7:47 AM on July 10, 2006

Never heard it played at a school dance on Long Island, NY. Seems like an odd choice since I can't picture anyone dancing to. Zeppelin rocks though. That can't be denied.
posted by bingwah at 8:02 AM on July 10, 2006

Northern Virginia (DC 'burbs) HS graduate this year - Never, ever, ever, would imagine this. I did sound for several school dances and would have been ripped to small bits for playing that.
posted by phrontist at 8:17 AM on July 10, 2006

Heh, I just mentioned that yesterday in this thread. I went to school in Oshawa, Ontario 85-91, & this was the last song at every dance. Not only that, but this box set (newly released at the time) was the *only* thing played at the after-prom party I attended (out at somebody's barn).
posted by stinkycheese at 10:49 AM on July 10, 2006

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