Back to the 80s

As a general rule I detest 80s nostalgia, because it tends to focus on the aspects of 80s culture that I liked the least. But there is no denying that they were the Good Old Days. In the privacy of my own mind I often time-travel to that now-somewhat-long-ago era, and I always have a good time there.

One of these flashbacks was triggered the other day by the distinctly post-80s technomagic of my iPod. I like to listen to the songs on it in alphabetical order, as I am all too happy to discuss with anyone who will listen. Lately I have been in the Ns, and when a bunch of songs starting with the word “New” came up, it was hard not to notice that almost all of them were from the 80s. I guess we were kind of obsessed with newness back then—it was Morning in America after all, and while I never cared for Ronald Wilson Reagan 666, I have to admit that his version of America was pretty fun. There was a lot of energy in the air in them days. We were all going to be rich and excellent and sexy and cool… smash cut to Rodney Dangerfield on the back patio at Bushwood Country Club shouting “We’re all gonna get laid!”

And it was all bogus of course, all a big delusion that would come crashing down soon enough. But what a delusion. I don’t know if the kids today are still capable of feeling that way about the future. I hope they are, because everybody deserves the chance to be stupidly grandiose and optimistic until they are at least 18.

So anyway…won’t you join me in a quick 31-minute trip to the magical land of yesteryear? This may be a little heavy on the technopop for some people, but then that was the 80s in a nutshell, wasn’t it? Playlist and notes after the jump.

1. Lords of the New Church: “New Church”
This was the theme song to my radio show at KZSC in Santa Cruz for quite a while. It always used to get me hyped. Still does. The clip from Handel is my own addition.

2. Shriekback: “New Home”
Shriekback was one of my favorite bands from the 80s, and this is from their slickest (but still deeply odd) album, Jam Science. Sort of disco from Mars.

3. Ultravox: “New Europeans”
This is Ultravox Mk. II of course – the somber, fashion-forward version fronted by Midge Ure. Producer Conny Plank lends a distinct Germanic sheen to the sound, which I couldn’t get enough of at the time and still have a distinct weakness for.

4. John Foxx: “A New Kind of Man”
John Foxx was the lead singer of Ultravox Mk. I, the quirkier/punkier version, but by this stage of his career his music was highly Kraftwerk-derived and almost entirely electronic. The Bowie influence is, of course, unmistakable and worn with pride.

5. Ashwin Batish: “New Dehli Vice”
A little light relief. Ashwin Batish used to run the shop in Santa Cruz where I bought my many, many cassette tapes. He was also a highly trained sitarist who made an album called Sitar Power that combined Indian classical music with guitars and drum machines. The careening riffs he throws on top of “New Dehli Vice” used to blow my mind; sometimes they still do.

6. The Cramps: “New Kind of Kick”
The Cramps are kind of the oddball here, every but as scuzzy and warped as most of these bands are slick. Lux Interior’s (R.I.P.) primal howl is like a message direct from the reptile brain. This song more or less summed up my philosophy of life circa 1986.

7. Duran Duran: “New Religion”
It takes balls to segue from the Cramps to Duran Duran, dontcha think? I hope it’s that, anyway, and not, you know, the rocks in the head. The Duran Duran scene in Greenberg almost put me off them for good. Almost. But not quite.

8. The Church: “A New Season”
Straight-up lysergic aural pleasure. Shoots me right back to the summer of 88, which was one of the good ones, maybe the best. Now, I think, a nice stiff drink.

4 Responses to “Back to the 80s”

  1. Merle Baggard Says:

    I watched unplugged Night Ranger on On Demand last night. You can still rock in America. I’m sure what I like is what you detest, but I can’t help but enjoy some of the 80′s power balads, Sister Christian included.

  2. Merle Baggard Says:

    Also, great point on optimism. I do feel for kids today. Must be hard for them to look forward to a future of unemployment and enviromental degradation. On the other hand, we had the threat of nuclear war always over our heads (playing countless hours of missile comand didn’t help my psyche). Our parents had Viet Nam, our grandparents WW2 and the depression, so maybe it’s not so bad afterall. The world has always been fucked up. In some ways, it’s better now than it’s ever been. In some ways worse. But I do think there’s a jadedness in young people now. I think it began in the 90′s. That’s when sincerety went out of style.

  3. Knox Bronson Says:

    No “New Values” by Iggy? Well, it was released in 1979, so a little early for your 80′s compilation. God, Shriekback is a weird band.

  4. Nguyen Von Funk Says:

    I spent the majority of the 80s in a drug induced stupor, sleeping with strippers and spending their money. Good times!

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