In 1988, NBC produced three television movies starring a gaggle of teenage stars from some of the most popular sitcoms of the day. And for this episode, I sit down and talk about them. So strap in for “Crash Course,” get on the floor for “Dance ’til Dawn” and set sail on a “Class Cruise!”
I guess that if you were going to comb through the annals of pop hits that have made their ways into senior proms and yearbooks, you wouldn’t expect to find lyrics about being resilient in the face of Armageddon. No, your regular prom fare is about being the best of friends to the end or holding onto that girl or guy and never letting go. Sometimes the song is written specifically to be used at a prom or graduation (I’m looking at you, Vitamin C) but “Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?” A lyric like that is unexpected. Unless, that is, you went to high school on Long Island in the 1980s or 1990s, as my class—the Sayville High School Class of 1995—was one of many who dialed up Alphaville’s “Forever Young” for a slow dance at prom.
Running about 3:45 and coming from the 1984 album of the same name, the song was written by Marian Gold, Bernhard Lloyd and Frank Mertens, who comprised the German synth-pop band (whose original name was actually Forever Young). Coming out at the height of Duran Duran’s MTV reign and around the same time as U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, “Forever Young” seems like it was an album that got lost in a sea of new wave songs that were ruling the playlists of stations like WLIR (later WDRE) in the early to mid-1980s. However, though the title track only hit 65 on the Billboard Hot 100, stuck around, becoming a cult hit well into the later part of the decade, nearly three years after its release. According an article in the June 11, 1988 issue of Billboard (whose text is included in the liner notes to the Singles Collection CD), the song was voted as #1 on a countdown by listeners of WDRE in 1988, and had a definite influence across the Island:
“Forever Young” is so slow and dreamy that Laura Branigan could cover it (and did). While “Forever” was the top record of 1985 at WPST Trenton, NJ, where it is still played as an oldie, it hasn’t been passed from one hip, top 40 PD to another (Both “Blue Monday” and “I Melt With You” have). It’s not even played everywhere in its own format. It has shown up at various Long Island high schools as a class song in recent years. The song’s popularity among teens may be due to its emphasis on mortality, a running theme in the bopper hits of the ‘70s.
WDRE, the name during the late 1980s and early 1990s of what was once WLIR, a leading modern-rock station based on Long Island.