Wishing I Were Stuck in the 80s

12/21/01 by Qubert

I was watching late night television just now, and TimeLife had an infomercial about an 80's music collection (is there ever anything worth watching at 1:30 am?). I loved it and am considering ordering it. 7 CDs for five easy payments of $29.95! But if I act now, I will get an 8th album, with one less payment and free shipping! How can I miss?

But why would I want a collection of 80's music? I remember a lot of the songs, like "Ghostbusters" and "Take On Me" and "Footloose." But the real classics escape me. REM and Kajagoogoo and Spandau Ballet -- these are bands whose music I have come to love after their New Wave heyday. I don't remember Martha Quinn's run on MTV. (Her appearance as host of this infomercial is the extent of my Martha knowledge.) Except for "Money for Nothing" and "Oh, Sherrie," I don't remember much MTV before about 1988. It seems like I do, though, and that's what saddens me. Years of a steady diet of VH1 Classic and 80's retrospectives and Totally 80's have made me nostalgic for a period in which I didn't live. Not in any meaningful pop culture manner, anyhow.

The early 80's for me meant Return of the Jedi, Tron, The A-Team, and G.I. Joe. Musically, it meant Foreigner and Journey. I turned ten years old in 1983. I didn't party with Spicoli or drive my Trans Am to school by the sounds of "The Stroke" like Billy Madison. My adolescent years consisted of Guns 'N Roses and later, Nirvana. I saw the greatest heights of the hair band, those eye-shadowed and spandex-clad ambassadors of 80's excess at its best and worst, and the full-scale anti-everything revolt of Grunge. The turn of the 90's was an important time, I guess.

But back to the original point: My life did not revolve around the bands in that collection. Why do I care what happened several years before I was old enough to pay attention? I went to school with a guy who always felt that he'd been born 30 years too late. He would have loved to have been a teenager in 1958, not 1988. The music, the cars, the attitudes -- they all spoke to him across the years. But he gave no thought to civil rights, McCarthyism, or any other 50's ugliness. He's nostalgic for a time he never knew, so he felt subconsciously free to "remember" only the nice bits. That's how I feel about 1983. I wish I'd been a sophomore in high school then, not 7 years later. I wish I could have experienced 80's fashion and movies and music and video games and attitudes as an upper teen-something. And like my friend, I don't long for hyper-conservative backlashes to sexual revolutions or the rise of AIDS; I've no wish to see those days, fer sure!

So why? Well, why not? Optimism reigned in the later early-80's. Fashion dared to clash and lived to tell about it. Women and men grew amazing topiaries from their heads. VCRs were still betamax, cable was something only rich people accessed, and the Macintosh was like something no one had ever seen. Who knew from the fax machine, the Palm Pilot, or even the pocket-sized cell phone? Greed was good; just ask Gordon Gekko.  Men were animals of strength and testosterone, striving to get rich and acquire women in their striving to be Masters of the Universe. Women sometimes didn't mind being acquired as long as they gave as good as they got. CD players were unattainable, and Live Aid captivated the world.

Okay, you caught me. The above-mentioned justifications are not reasons to love a time period. They really are not much more than a catalogue of the day. I have no really good reasons.

I just like it, I guess. . .

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