I'm Not Satisfied
That Fatal Mailing List #73: "Mystery Dance" (1977)
”Mystery Dance” is a song about having sex.
There are more vulgar, direct ways to put it, but that’s the gist. It’s a pretty clever song about having sex, and it does capture sexual experience at a specific point on the timeline—namely, that moment when you think you know way more than you actually do about how things work. But at the end of the day, we all know what the “mystery dance” really is.
Though the title suggests this dance is mysterious, the lyrics really underscore the anxiety around it too. Our characters have a heightened sense of the dance’s importance in their lives; they must be teenagers. Every verse is a different lunge or fumble toward the actual dance itself; something is always getting in the way, and it’s usually the dancers themselves.
Sonically, EC and his friends in Clover tackle “Mystery Dance” like a lost track from Elvis Presley’s Sun sessions. Lots of echo and slapback. They don’t let the song wear out its welcome, either. Just over a minute and a half, and it’s done. Not unlike the Mystery Dance itself, in some cases.
Stream “Mystery Dance” on the service of your choice.