Nostalgic Stake Youth Dance: The Playlist

J. Stapley this morning asked the BCC bloggers for our Top 10 Stake Dance Songs. There was enough overlap in our responses that we figured it’d be worth making a playlist, so we can all be nostalgic together.

So here you go, a sweet musical journey to the cultural halls of yesteryear.

A few contextual caveats:

  • The list is very early-to-mid 90s, which seems to align with the ages of most of the permas.
  • The sands of time pour very slowly in our cultural halls, so you’ll see some 80s stuff here as well.
  • For readers (and permas) who are younger or older or international, make your own playlist and share it in the comments.
  • I’d especially love to hear what younger people were playing at their dances. My stake in Northern California was very conservative with our song selection (some of the songs on this list wouldn’t have passed our Stake Dance Committee Song Review. And yes, we had a Stake Dance Committee Song Review). I remember being shocked and tantalized by the rumor that Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” was played at one of the great and spacious regional dances in the Bay Area. This would’ve been 1995, and I assumed that the stake center had been desecrated, Kirtland-temple style.
  • Yes, some of these are tough to dance to. But we didn’t know how to dance anyway.
  • I said “hecka” a lot, a word which isn’t heard even once in any of these lyrics. I don’t know why I thought it was OK to say it.
  • The playlist is collaborative, so if you’re a Spotify user, feel free to add your own songs. Or post them in the comments and I’ll add them.

While you’re at it, post all your best (or most awkward) stake dance memories.


  1. Angela C says:

    Since I’m a little older, mine didn’t make the playlist, but every stake dance ended with Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin, including the weird part where the guy says “Breathe deep, the gathering gloom . . .” Couples weren’t sure whether to keep shuffling around or to just give up at that point, but then the orchestra swells and the song resumes. That is one long song.

  2. I attended stake dances circa the early 2000s, and we STILL heard a bunch of songs from the 80s. But no stake dance was complete without the techno Cotton Eye Joe song (complete with line dance, of course) and “Goody Two Shoes” by Adam Ant (very apt).

    Angela, couples in my stake always had the same problem with the long pause in Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I do it for you).” Very fun to observe.

  3. I don’t know how “White Lines” made it past the Edgemont Stake censor in Provo, but it was an 80s stake dance staple. Maybe the adults thought it referred to white lines painted in the chapel parking lot? Always been a mystery to me.

  4. I was given the task to make a list with the SP’s son for our stake. I included several undanceable songs from Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, and he from Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet. The playlist was used all year. That’s what happens with no adult supervision.

  5. Oh man, Cotton-eyed Joe. How’d we miss that one?

    We didn’t have Nights in White Satin, but similarly, we had to be really careful who we paired off with for November Rain.

  6. It’s too bad Mick didn’t know that, SCW. Would’ve been good ammo to use in a certain airplane conversation.

  7. Never did the stake dance thing, but this sounds a lot like high school dances in Utah in the late ’90s. Fortunately, I never had to put up with Cotton Eye Joe.

  8. Jenn M. says:

    I seem to remember Kiss From A Rose being a staple as well.

  9. Good add

  10. Next up: the early 90s mission playlist. I hope you like Enya, suckers!

  11. Jason K. says:

    To resonate with my stake dance experience, this playlist needs a lot more Depeche Mode (“Somebody” and “Enjoy the Silence”) and Erasure (run the gamut).

  12. Mark Brown says:

    I was a chaperone at a multi-stake dance in the late 90s and they played “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen and AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

  13. Mark Brown says:

    And I think “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” by Brooks & Dunn was also a fave. “We got whiskey, women, music and smoke…..”

  14. mooniqua says:

    Ok, mine skews a little older, but with some overlap–this is Mesa, AZ, late 80s:

    1 – Bizarre Love Triangle, New Order
    2 – A Little Respect, Erasure
    3 – Wild Wild West, Escape Club
    4 – Red Red Wine, UB40 (I guess the censors were a bit lax, lol!)
    5 – Somebody, Depeche Mode
    6 – Forever Young, Alphaville
    7 –

  15. Playlists in the early-mid ’70s seemed to be drawn from the Osmonds, Jackson Five, and the Carpenters. Plus the slightly older “Crimson and Clover.” And America’s “Horse with No Name.”

  16. Asphodel says:

    I was of stake dance-ing age during the swing revival of the late ’90s, so it was pretty much “Jump, Jive & Wail” all the time. It was awkward for those of us with no dancing skills whatsoever…

    When it wasn’t swing music, it was “Sandstorm” by Darude or “Blue” by Eiffel 65. I actually still kind of like those songs.

  17. Brass Monkey by the Beastie Boys got played at every youth dance I went to. And Rock Lobster. And then there was that weird mash up of swing songs that still gets played at some youth dances.

  18. Angela C says:

    My son was put in charge of the music for a stake youth conference in Singapore. It was totally different than back in my day because he basically just connected iPods to the sound system in the gym. Kids would bring up their phones or iPods queued to a song they wanted, and he would switch them out. We had stopped by in case he was ready to be picked up, but the dance was still going, so he asked us to help out with the music for a while.

    Thinking we had a church dance-worthy slow song, we started playing Blind Pilot’s Three Rounds and a Sound. Right before we got to “all the stupid s**t I’ve done” we realized the lyric wasn’t going to be appropriate, so we thought we could just pull the plug to skip that word, then plug it right back in after counting a beat. Instead there was a silent pause followed by the word “s**t.”

  19. That story is Mormonism, distilled.

  20. Jonny J says:

    ‘Nothing Compares To You’, should at least get an honorable mention. No way you are fitting a BoM between kids when they let that beat drop.

  21. Steve, the question is: Shepherd Moons or The Memory of Trees?

  22. Lady in Red by Chris De Burgh

  23. Sorry… i now see it’s there already. Don’t know how I missed it.

  24. “Faithfully” and “Open Arms” by Journey.

  25. Late ’90s Chicagoland here. I think I heard “Still the One” by Shania Twain at every. single. dance. In fact, it was often the last song of the night. Once a DJ started playing “Ava Adore” by Smashing Pumpkins but I told him to skip it before any of the adults freaked out over “you will always be my whore.”

    Singles dances in the mid-’00s were hilarious (as I suspect they’ve always been and always will be). Tons of crunk, and that “In Da Club”/”Closer” mashup was a staple. Occasionally there’d be a hip DJ who’d drop “House of Jealous Lovers.” And, of course, the swing kids would always get their “Jump Jive and Wail,” and those of us who didn’t go to BYU used the opportunity to go to the bathroom.

  26. Hedgehog says:

    Our dances always finished with Lady in Red.

    I remember Relax (Frankie goes to Hollywood) which shocked at least half the attendees who sat down and refused to dance, and Tainted Love (Soft Cell). Always on my Mind, and It’s a Sin (Pet Shop Boys), Eternal Flame (the Bangles), Lifeline (Spandau Ballet)…

  27. Pacific NW, mid- to late 90s: Stairway to Heaven was the last song at every single stake and tri-ward dance. It had similar timing and rhythm problems as a few other songs you’ve mentioned that made it so, so awkward to dance to/with someone.

    Smashing Pumpkins 1979 also got played a lot.

  28. Dave Frandin says:

    This topic sure brings back memories.. I did the “stake dance” thing back in the mid 60s, the one song that stands out clearly from those awkward times (for me, a very shy, geeky teen) was
    “The way you look tonight” by Frank Sinatra.. I met my first girlfriend there, Laura, who I dated up until I managed to get myself drafted into the Army, and get sent to Vietnam. We’d talked about getting married prior to my getting drafted, and as far as I knew, since she said she’d wait for me, we *would* get married when I got back.. But when I did come back a year later, I found out she lied, and was going to marry someone else.. When confronted, she said she didnt want to do the “Dear John/Dave” thing, and would wait till I got back to tell me.. Never heard from her again, hope she has had a good life… This was fun to reminisce about..

  29. Glenstorm says:

    Electric Slide, anyone?

  30. The amount of gay-themed 80’s pop (e.g., Erasure, Pet Shop Boys) is ironic! Definitely my experience though. To this day one of my favorite genres.

  31. Pure Energy – Information Society
    Groovy Kind of Love – Phil Collins
    Beds are Burning – Midnight Oil (banned after if was ruled the lyric “how do we sleep when our beds are burning?” was sexually explicit)
    99 Luftballoons – Nena
    You Spin me Round – Dead or Alive
    Strangelove – Depeche Mode (somehow not banned despite the lyric “I give in, too sin”)
    Fishin’ in the Dark – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (because every Stake dance needs a two step song)

    Good times and sweaty palms had by all.

  32. As mentioned above, I thought “Cotton-eyed Joe” was and LDS requirement. Also never made it through a dance without “I’m Gonna Be” by the Proclaimers.

  33. oh, right, The Proclaimers! Added, along with Toad the Wet Sprocket (Walk On The Ocean–the song that taught a million mormon kids to waltz)

  34. Ha! Totally the Proclaimers and Toad the Wet Spocket!

  35. And that one Spin Doctors song.

  36. Oh duh, Two Princes!

  37. Cynthia exactly right! Spin Doctors were playing a small casino 15 minutes from us in Colorado this weekend. I almost went!

    Ace of Base – I Saw the Sign
    Peter Cetera – The Glory of Love; Everylasting Love
    Byan Adams (he’s mormon!) Everything I Do I Do It For You
    Pet Shop Boys – Always on My Mind

  38. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    Mony Mony (B. Idol) was the quintessential church dance song. Nonsensical, high energy lyrics that no one really knew, but all sang along to.

    You had to be especially careful when you heard the opening bars of November Rain. That nine minutes could drag on for a loooooong time if you chose poorly.

    Whoomp! There it is — Tag Team
    The Dance — Garth Brooks
    U Can’t Touch This — MC Hammer
    Down Under — Men at Work

    And I testify under oath, that I witnessed at least one inclusion of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back.

  39. And then we always had to remind someone it was Howard Jones that was Mormon :)

    And it looks like Ace of Base and Bryan Adams already made it

  40. And who got Love Shack by their stake sensors?

  41. What Is Love – Haddaway

  42. Wasn’t it Howard Jones, not Peter Cetera who sang “Everlasting Love”? Definitely Mormon.

  43. I got divorced from my first husband in 1991 and jumped in with both feet for 90’s alternative and pop. This playlist reads like my newly single years, with some flashbacks to my early 20’s. Going to listen to this while I clean my office some more tomorrow.

  44. Jason K. says:

    Cynthia: the irony has not been lost on me that I bought a bunch of gay-themed pop music out of a desire to fit in with the “cool boys” a couple years older than me. Wow, was I innocent…

  45. Hedgehog says:

    My husband is a massive PSB fan. He has all their albums. We enjoyed the PSB Prom last Prom season, a piece honouring Alan Turing.

  46. Hedgehog says:

    rah, I liked Howard Jones, but never heard the mormon thing…

  47. In addition to many of those listed above, Bob Marley’s Buffalo Soldier was really common.

  48. This is awesome. I’m a bit older than the “permas” and went to dances in the late 1970’s and into the early 1980’s. It was the height of the disco era, and of course who knew how to disco dance since we weren’t going clubbing. And since Saturday Night Fever was rated R, we couldn’t learn from John Travolta. I still want to see that movie, but I digress. No dance was complete without Stairway to Heaven and Brick House. We loved Lionel Richie and Three Times a Lady. It was a big deal when we had a live band play, and the other times we had a DJ. The highlight for me was when I was actually asked to dance. As an overweight teen girl, dances were rough, but I went anyway. The best memory is this: I had dinner a week ago with a friend from HS. We live on opposite sides of the country now and I haven’t seen her in 30 plus years. She said, “What I remember most about those dances was your mom telling everyone we were dancing too close”. The joke was that we would hand my mom a Book of Mormon and it had to fit between the couple. Ah those were the days. Even today I won’t “bear hug” with my husband on the dance floor. It just feels wrong. (Not to mention it seems so high school. We are all grown up now, right?) Thanks for the post, this has been fun.

  49. I forgot my favorite dance closer:

    Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House

    Still one of my favorite songs.

  50. A Happy Hubby says:

    All I remember was that the late 70’s and even into the early 80’s the final dance was “stairway to heaven” (which nobody knew if they were supposed to keep slow dancing when the song picked up). The only other contender for last dance was the Eagle’s “the last resort”. Odd that neither song was a love song.

  51. Yeah, so many of these songs don’t make any sense for dancing teenagers looking for love. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that mormons are bad DJs.

  52. woodboy says:

    Specifically, the 12″ Bizarre Love Triangle that was released on Substance 1987.
    Great list.

  53. woodboy says:

    Reminds me of my days DJing church dances in Boston in the late 90s.

  54. hawleyberry says:

    New England – early-mid 80s – we always ended with “Stairway to Heaven” – “Rock Lobster” was almost always included (with the accompanying warnings against getting down on the ground).

  55. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I remember YSA/Institute dances frequently playing the B-52’s Roam and Rock Lobster. I later wondered why they never played ‘Love Shack’ and figured it must have been that lyric ‘wearin next to nothing’.

    I think the best fitting songs that were played were “Goody Two Shoes” (by Adam Ant?) and “You Don’t Have to Take Your Clothes Off, To Have a Good Time” (don’t remember the artist on that one). The biggest guilty pleasure song I remember was Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach”. I remember being asked to dance immediately by a girl that was so shocked that they played that one, she grabbed the first guy she walked by so she could dance to it.

  56. We had “Separate Ways” by Journey played at a dance. And that was last year.

  57. LDSneurobiologist says:

    He, I went to stake dances in the mid 2000s, and these are the songs they played then. No wonder we had terrible turnout.

  58. Michael says:

    I had a tiny DJ business, and played a lot of stake and institute dances. Final song was always “Take Me Home” by Phil Collins. Lots of requests for Bobby Brown. If nobody was dancing, I’d put in “Money” by Pink Floyd. It’s in 7/8 time, so you can’t dance to it unless you’re in the Lollipop Guild….

    Dead or Alive, The Nylons, Pet Shop Boys, U2. I loved those 12″ dance singles, the stuff that the one rock station never played, so it was always a hit to hear those longer versions. Depeche Mode, Erasure. Rock Lobster was banned because the adult leaders thought it was demonic when everybody got down on the floor, so we had to make to with Private Idaho. I also had the works from a band called The Rainmakers. They never got radio play but the music was just fantastic for dances. I recently met the band and they asked how I never saw them perform in the 80s and 90s – told them they never got to Idaho, so I had to content myself with playing their music for Mormon youth dances. I can’t even begin to relate how pleased they were with that.

  59. Hedgehog says:

    Rigel, we had a few by Madonna at our dances. I especially remember Material Girl.

%d bloggers like this: