The River's Badge

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ahhh, 1984

The eighties. Some people love 'em, some hate 'em. I loved them. In music, that is. And life in general was pretty good. We had a good president, a more or less unified country. People were essentially happy.

There are times in music that reflect people's state of consciousness. The late sixties were angry, raucous; and thus was the music. The seventies lulled everyone into a quiet catatonia, which gave rise to artists like John Denver and the Carpenters. Times were bad. People had to wait in line to fill their cars with gas. While Jimmy Carter quietly read his Bible in the White House, everyday folk were clawing to put food on the table for their kids and bemoaning that the world was going to hell. The soft strums of Denver's twelve-string helped to quell the bitter bile that rose in people's throats.

The nineties were a blur. No one stood for anything. The nineties were a static line. Not bad; not necessarily good. They just existed.

I am a firm believer that the mood of the populace at any given time can be gleaned from its music. We are reflections of the life we live.

I hadn't yet turned thirty by 1984, so life was alive with possibilities and new wonders. I had two boys who were turning out quite nicely; I never had much money -- I had a little credit union account at the hospital where I worked, in which I would deposit a little money from each paycheck to save for our summer vacation, which invariably took place in the Black Hills of South Dakota -- camping in a pop-up trailer. Camping beneath the tall pines. Granted, I've always been a creature of habit, but if you find a place you love, why only visit it once? The blacktop on the way there was hot and dusty, our car had air conditioning that worked "sometimes" -- at least until it froze up and then we'd roll down the windows and let the hot breath of July whisk the sweat from our sunburned faces. We played Mad Libs, the boys tried their best to annoy one another; we joked and bantered.

And we had the music.

I expected this song to be the number one hit of 1984, as much as we heard it. I mean, as much as we heard it. Over and over and over again. But surprisingly, it was only number six. I eventually formed a raw hate for the song, but that happens anytime one is forced to listen to something ad nauseum. We didn't have choices; no iPods and certainly no cell phones. What? A phone one can take with you? When our camper blew a tire along Highway 83, we couldn't punch up a highway helper. Instead we limped along to the first town on the map; thumped rubber for eighteen miles 'til we got to a truck stop that, mercifully, had a tire in stock that fit. If Van Halen was playing on the radio somewhere along that eighteen-mile chug, I'm sure I punched a tiny fist-sized dent in the car speaker.


I loved Huey Lewis & The News. Huey always seemed to me like the accountant who got pulled onto the stage on karaoke night and was mortified, but decided to just go with it. And he knocked everybody out and found himself the talk of the office come Monday morning. "Who knew?" Good old Hugh from down the hall. The guy with the pocket protector!"

I don't get it, but this song was only number forty-four:




When I first saw this next video, I thought, "what a quirky girl!". Cyndi Lauper was definitely different. She wasn't Madonna (that's a good thing). She was her own self, and nobody was complaining (#15 on the year). Totally the vibe of the eighties:


Culture Club was certainly different, but that was a-okay. Boy George was a pretty girl; soft, feminine. It didn't even cross my mind to make any judgments. I liked their music. This song was number ten for the year:


Confession:  I never saw this movie. I may have seen a part of this movie, but never the whole thing. And that's just not like me. I'm all about guys dancing -- from Saturday Night Fever to Dirty Dancing to Grease. Men won't understand this, but women love to see a guy dancing. It's sexy, maybe because it's so rare. It takes an elegant confidence for a man to get out there and do it. John Travolta did it (twice), Patrick Swayze did it with awesomeness. And Kenny Loggins also did it (in the guise of Kevin Bacon):


And then there is this:


An aside -- practically every movie soundtrack from the eighties featured Kenny Loggins. It was decreed.

Ghostbusters:  Had to buy the t-shirts; my kids demanded them. The red circle crossing out the ghost in the middle. Ghostbusters was a touchstone of the eighties. I didn't get it then; later I watched the movie and still didn't get it. I love Bill Murray, but this movie is essentially lame. It has...count 'em...two laughs in its entirety. It was an eighties thing, which requires no explanation. It just was:


There are two artists who essentially dominated the eighties. Like 'em or loathe them; it's how it was. There are tons of hits from 1984 and I'm just scratching the surface, but let's give credit where it's due. And it's due here:


Courtney Cox was just some girl in a music video who was pulled onstage by Bruce Springsteen. Who knew she would later become mega-rich and would live on in reruns forever. Nevertheless, this video is about Bruce, not Courtney. And Bruce was, only after Lionel (sorry) almost the biggest name of the eighties:


Yep, somebody's sorely missing. Trouble is, he was pathologically private about sharing his music online. Sad for many reasons, but primarily because he had the biggest hit of 1984. I'll try next time around to find something of his to post. Or, failing that, maybe I'll just post his picture.

Nineteen eighty-four:  happiness.

It's gonna be a hard year to beat.













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