Having been witness to the Eighties revival of the past few years, digging out music that I used to listen to constantly both at home and on my Walkman, and remembering what it felt like to be there, makes me realise how the Sixties kids, including my own mum and dad, felt when the Sixties revival took place in the Eighties. I realise how ridiculous it must have looked because, frankly, no matter how good these Eighties revivalists may look and sound, they don’t have it completely right and they never will. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that, on the whole, they’re too young to have seen the Eighties for themselves and so by default don’t know how they felt, but also because the political and social climate was utterly different then and anything that resembles clothing or music from that time just isn’t going to cut it because it’s not in the right context.
I’m not moaning, not really. It’s nice for me to remember those times, when I was growing up with parents I must have driven mad, playing the same music over and over again (a-ha being a case in point) and it gives me a sense of warmth, not least because my parents never thought I was nuts (even though they readily admit now that I am a bit strange). The kids who are trying to recreate the Eighties, especially those who weren’t born until the following decade, just don’t get it.
It makes me realise that my fascination with the Sixties when I was a teenager was probably triggered by the revival of the time, but I did grow up listening to a lot of music from that time and I genuinely liked it (and still do). Now I see people half my age and younger trying to recreate a version of the Eighties that never happened and I do find it all quite annoying, as people must have twenty years ago. We’ve left that decade and even the century it belonged to behind and times are different now. Hell, we didn’t have chavs in the Eighties. Yobbos, yes, mobile phones the size of bricks and even I gave in and wore leg-warmers and boob tubes. But we had different things to worry and protest about.
My memories of that decade are of Maggie Thatcher privatising the railways and closing down the mines, The Safety Dance, Love and Pride, The Land of Make Believe (yes, I loved Bucks Fizz and continue to have enormous respect for what they did and the music they made), Take On Me, The Dark Crystal, Back to the Future and Pretty In Pink. All of these things take me back and all are repositories of wonderful memories. But we no longer have Maggie Thatcher (thank ****), the mines are almost forgotten (sadly) and, I’ll be honest here, no one has made films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth since Jim Henson’s genius. Animated films are great (Ice Age and Kung Fu Panda have me rolling around on the floor, helpless with giggles) but they lack the naïveté of puppets.
I mentioned a-ha (again) and these guys alone make me glad I grew up in the Eighties. It wasn’t all roses, far from it; those were dark, dark days for a lot of people. But that was why the colourful clothes stood out as brightly as they did. They contrasted completely with the political mire we were all wading through. We were the kids; we had it easier than the adults. All we had to worry about was whether our lipstick was the right shade of pink or if we could persuade our parents to let us stay up late enough to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But we didn’t close our eyes to what was going on. We just cloaked the bad stuff in bright colours and musicians dressed as highwaymen (oh, yes, I loved Adam and the Ants). Recently, a BBC programme reminded me of the early video games, the battle between VHS and Betamax, the Commodore 64 (state of the art at the time), having only three and then later four TV channels to choose from (that was why we watched so much crap). Personally, I had an Acorn Electron to play games on and one of my favourites was the Sphinx Adventure (which drove my family insane because we always ended up in the forest or being killed by a pirate with an axe – if you were there, I have no need to explain and if you weren’t, trust me, it’d take too long).
Believe me: if you now can’t live without an iphone, the internet, satellite TV, central heating and Blu-Ray, you wouldn’t survive a month if someone picked you up and plonked you into the real Eighties. They were a fantastic time to grow up, but they can’t be recreated, no matter how hard people may try. In the next decade, who knows? Maybe the Nineties will come into favour in their turn and the fashion, the music, the art, the films, the fads and the ridiculous shoulder pads of the Eighties will slink back there in a virtual time machine. But I’ll remember them. Because I was there.