Eighties, so Unabridged, and Me
Time itself sat as a vivid road in my mind
In the eighties I was me; so unabridged and hopeful. Facing forwards. Facing all the glorious things that life had waiting for me. So unhindered. So unrestrained. So easily, naturally me.
A FAR OFF REALM
Life spanned tantalisingly ahead. And time itself sat as a vivid road in my mind. From childhood to teens I saw a straight, protected road. A curve began at 13, turning, arching, in preparation; slowly reaching round, ready to face in the opposite direction by 18. At 20 I expected to have the full open road of adulthood splaying ahead. I could always see it, out of the corner of my eye. Aware of its presence, its looming reality right around the next bend. Until that point, that which I knew awaited me – the glamour of ambition and adulting a far off realm – just for now, for a little while longer, I cherished the protection, the sweetness, the dreamy innocence of childhood. All to be discovered, to be experienced. But just not yet.
THE EIGHTIES AGED 4
I entered the eighties aged 4. Beginning to discover what made me tick with each exploratory step forward. I learnt to dance. My mother had noticed from early on that I loved to mimic stars I would see on the television, as they danced to their tunes. I had stood inches away from Kate Bush in 1978, waving my arms in an exact mirror image of her Wuthering Heights performance. This being a clear sign of that yet to come. I enrolled in a ballroom dance class. Learning the Foxtrot, the Waltz, the Quick Step. I kicked the eighties off with music in my soul, expressed lightly through my feet. I found affinity in a melody and felt compelled to move to a beat.
THAT STATIC NOISE
Soon enough I had taken control of the record player, standing prominently in our living room. Hours would pass in which I had flipped numerous singles, lowered the needle carefully time and again. That static noise held an exquisite anticipation for me, as the disk spinned around and my selection began. Single after single. Album after album. I ploughed through my parents record collection, diligently, attentively. Making myself listen to each and every song in time. Some I quickly moved past, with not a second thought. Some I fell in love with, placing them in my blossoming repertoire. This early introduction to the breadth of musical genres available to all inclined to seek them, gave me a feel for what I liked and an understanding of an alternative point of view. I learnt refinement of my own inclinations. Developed an openness towards differentness. Each of value to a life moving forwards.
THE MOMENT OF NUANCE
As an era, the eighties was a time of experimentation. This was the moment of nuance, of evolution, of the alternative. Early eighties was strongly androgenous. It was to be the decade when sexuality became something subjective. Although, still, homosexuality remained a taboo subject, and the HIV/AIDS discussion often came from a point of blame, of fear; to some degree, this went on to form the beginnings of what would become an open, transparent floor for frank, unbiased consideration of civil liberties relating to identity and self-expression. Fashion itself gave more room for obscure storytelling. Stories became other-wordly, leaning ever more towards sci-fi and technological advancement. This was the dawning time of the gamer.
Mid eighties I became totally, obsessively hooked after taking ownership of a Sinclair Spectrum. A hand-me-down of the highest order. It had arrived within a plastic bag full of cassette games: Donkey Kong, Tetris, Lemmings. Outright eighties classics! Accompanying it was the peculiar looking tape loader, crucial to the whole shebang. There I’d sit, painstakingly inputting codes, until the reassuring, screechy weeeeeeeee sound signalled the tape being read and understood. Only then was I granted glorious access into the most surreal universe ever – one filled with adorable characters and random objects, within lands a reality away from my own real life. As an eighties child I was cast in a time of futuristic anomalies. Electro-pop being the musical backdrop played loudly on my ghetto blaster. The distinctive tink-tink-tink beat of electro-pop genius blasting out, filling my room with vibrant, eclectic energy. I would come alive. Happily adopting the then misunderstood eighties theme for breaking boundaries and destroying assumption.
It is now late eighties, and I am in senior school, aged 13. I have been swapping home made cassette tapes with friends for a few years now. As with the random records I had once discovered via my parents aged 5, here I was discovering new bands through random mix-tapes given to me by my peers. As introduction my first steps into this new world came in the form of ‘best of’ albums or 'Hits of" said years. One afternoon after school, I went to an older boy's house with a friend. As we approached the door I could hear music blaring inside. We knocked. Then knocked a little harder. After minutes of waiting she pressed and held the door bell. Eventually the door opened. "Come in" he said, already walking back towards the source of the music. As I step inside, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. My heart starts racing and I feel the excitment building within. The depth of the bass is sensational. The moment an epiphany. My life is transformed. I know it. In an instant the new teenage me is born. I have discovered the world of rock. It is eighties rock. It is to be a whole new world of discovery that I carry through into my looming teenage years.
As I consider my growth throughout the eighties, I wonder which part of it exactly is me. Am I the sweet bopping child, dancing along to chart hits of the time. Am I the awkward older child, the one exploring and searching for something, for that which resonates. Or am I the pre-teen ready to defy convention and become my own chosen version of me. Perhaps it is that I am an amalgamation of all of these and more.
This is why the eighties is my favourite decade of all for music. Even though I have favourites from other eras too, it is the eighties, in all its random, eclectic obscurity that truly resonates with me the most. For it is through this time that I became what I see as this creative person. As it is only through experiencing life on all sides, though all angles of the prism lense, that we sit apart yet alongside comfortably and with a level of integrity.