I was born in the late ’80s…’86 to be exact, so I only have a few memories of the insatiably irreverent era. I remember my parents splitting up towards the turn of the decade, and I remember my first love being Uncle Jesse, and I remember what everyone else remembers…the music.
Yesterday I saw the movie, Rock of Ages, a fun, broadway-style musical about the omnipresence of rock n’roll in the ’80s. Putting the expected cheesy parts and exaggerations aside, it was a great look at what the music scene was in this era and why people never got over it. Music was not part of the decade, the music was the decade. It was like Catholicism in the middle ages…What else was there? It was love, it was hate, it was livelihood, it was sex, and it was society. If you were rockin’ with it, or if you were doing everything in your power to stop it…you were part of it. You were Dee Snider or Tipper Gore, but whoever you were, like it or not, you were the music.
I’m not saying there aren’t songs from other time periods that have been amazing…there are too many to count. However, about every song from this era was one of those songs. Why else would a 26-year-old woman remember singing “Wild in the Streets” watching her Dad’s wannabe Bon Jovi hair blowing in the wind en route to the beach at three years old. Why would I remember the resemblance between the voice of Axl Rose and my first cat that was his namesake? Why would I remember like it was yesterday, the first time I ever heard “Talk Dirty to Me”, knowing I could already feel it was something someone would shake their finger at me for listening to? It’s because every single thing in that time period reached in and played the soul like restless six-string. It strummed through us, 3-years-old or 30- years-old. It tickled the senses of that monster living deeply within everyone, even the stiff-suited politicians. Everyone wanted to reach out and lick it, taste it, know it…and it hasn’t happened again since then. Not with that strength.
The ’80s smelled like leather, whiskey, and sex, and somewhere in my bones I know it gave me my first kiss before I was ready, and maybe even flared up the writer in me a little bit. I think if I can harness that spark that was so aflame in the year I was born, I might really be something one day; something real, that stings at the same time it soothes. Maybe I can be as penetrating in literature as the music around me was when the doctor first removed me from the only safe place I’ve ever been. Maybe I can use my art the way they did. Mine isn’t about a melody, but it is about pouring out that thing squirming inside onto paper, knowing there must be some reason for it. It’s my craft, often a saving grace, that for about a ten-year stretch people just weren’t afraid of dancing in. Maybe I can pitch what I have that hard..maybe I can wrap my arms around someone and they get it…at least someone else who remembers even an ounce of the ’80s…(shivering)