Year in Music: Throwback or keeper?

Pub date December 12, 2007
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

I was born at the dawn of the 1980s, and as I’ve gradually climbed the aging ladder, the remnants of what I recall from my childhood have slowly faded into a dim star set to expire in some far-too-advanced digital-age contraption. I’ve been pretty hungry of late for an endless helping of nostalgic pop culture, and nothing satisfies an empty stomach more than watching The Making of Thriller or catching a five-second clip of Hulk Hogan leg-dropping Mr. Wonderful. You see, when I was a wee youngster, I channeled many of my fantasies from TV debauchery: I wanted to be the Karate Kid and yearned to live on the set of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I started watching MTV before kindergarten, and the thought of soaring from a wire above the sea of 10,000 screaming fans in Bon Jovi’s "Livin’ on a Prayer" music video seemed like heaven to me. I longed to spike a volleyball in some drunken beachgoer’s face during the weeklong episodes of MTV’s Spring Break, but the closest I ever came to a beach was the grungy kiddie pool in my backyard. Sadly, I was never able to find another means of capitalizing on my fool’s paradise, but I remain convinced in my adulthood that something will eventually creep up and take me back to the Cosby generation.

YouTube finally answered my prayers in the beginning of 2005. Then I had the entire 1980s at my fingertips, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s been nothing but talking cars, pastel-clothed coppers, and cat-eating aliens from the planet Melmac in my tiny universe. I can now explore and eat up all of the catchy theme songs from old faves such as Pinwheel, Hey Dude, and Hickory Hideout, or scratch my head and wonder why I found Punky Brewster so compelling in the first place. I’m able to watch Alanis Morissette getting slimed on You Can’t Do That on Television, and then I can immediately point and click on a poor-quality money shot of Mr. T flexing his muscles in front of a burning helicopter. It’s so damn bad, but it’s addicting. I’ve come to realize that most of these flashes from the past should have stayed in my childhood, simply because they seemed so much cooler back then. Just last week I watched the first two segments of The Decline of Western Civilization, but they didn’t do it for me, because I just didn’t identify with those lifestyles as a toddler.

Much of my compulsion of wanting to relive the ’80s stems from the fact that all of my idols from that period — from Luke Skywalker to the Lost Boys — were larger than life. And I suppose I’m seeking an escape from the perpetual yawn of reality TV. I might not be Marty McFly, but if I ever find myself behind the wheel of a time-traveling DeLorean DMC-12, I will probably set the flux capacitor to the year 1989 and put it in park.

TOP 10

Britney Spears loses it

The Spits at the Great American Music Hall, Oct. 15

No Age, Weirdo Rippers (FatCat)

Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Cendre (Touch)

Calvin Johnson at the Rickshaw Stop, June 15

Black Dice, Load Blown (Paw Tracks). Someday they could become a really great pop band.

Paula Abdul’s drunken interview on the Fox News Channel

Japanther at the Hemlock Tavern, May 30

Aa, GAaME (Gigantic)

Kanye West, Graduation (Roc-A-Fella). My favorite album of 2007. I hear he’s remixing a Michael Jackson song for the 25th-anniversary rerelease of Thriller.