I was driving in my car the other day and listening to the radio play old school music. I was astounded that I knew the words of just about every song. Songs I wouldn’t generally like to admit I knew the words to (like the Bee Gees). But this was a playlist from my young adolescence when music was a major part of my education.
It amazes me how just the first two bars of a long lost song can transport you right back to a time and place filled with memories. It’s interesting that the emotions felt can be so easily tapped into by simple notes and lyrics.
It fascinating how, when we are in a time, living through it, we become nostalgic for what was before. With the 80s making a comeback in fashion (why?!?) and music, I find myself revisiting those years. As youth, we were really riled up about war and human rights. The Berlin wall came down and that was certainly a wow moment. But even in the 80s, WWII still dominated thought (and let’s not forget Vietnam). War, or the memory of the horrors of war, seems to linger long in people’s minds – longer than most events.
I hated that the 80s were my defining time – I wanted to go back twenty years to the 60s – people were freer then (it seemed), they had more guts and a real purpose (even if drifting was the purpose). And the music was kaleidoscopically enticing.
But speaking to young adults today, they see the 80s as a time of change and ‘coolness’ – which may be why they’re embracing the bright colours of current fashion and even shoulder pads. I mean, with Dallas reappearing on TV screens, it looks like the world has gone full circle. We even have a beautiful, elegant Princess to watch as she gallivants around the world making a difference. But perhaps the young forget that the 80s was also defined by AIDS – perhaps we’ve become inured by that particular horror because it’s ongoing and still too terrible to embrace.
I don’t know what this particular age will be defined by, when we look back in 20 years – perhaps it’ll be the return to family values, urban farming, tree hugging and nutritional excellence. Perhaps it’ll look like a crashing mergence of the 60s and 80s, with a twist of 70s-styled technology thrown in for good measure. The world is certainly gearing towards a more controlled patronising state where we are told in no uncertain terms, what we can or cannot eat (that’s a contentious point when you look at obesity – whose fault is it really? The food manufacturers or people who are too stupid to make good nutritional choices?).
Whatever the now generation is creating as a legacy to leave behind, you can be sure there’ll be a soundtrack that’ll immediately whisk you back to this time and this place. Maybe the memory of war is kept alive because there are still people who survived it alive right now. Perhaps the 60s is still alive because there are still musicians alive (and performing) who were there at one of that generations defining moments – Woodstock.
My life’s song list has many pieces from both those eras, a mishmash of rock and soul.