October and November promise to be big months in Fort Wayne for 1980s nostalgia.
On Oct. 20, three local bands – Unlikely Alibi, I Wombat and Black Cat Mambo – will gather at the Brass Rail for Take on Me, Part Two, an ’80s musical tribute that might be described as a sequel to (but could never be described as a reboot of) a popular concert that happened at the same locale a year ago.
Todd Roth of Unlikely Alibi says this event is, among many other things, a chance for the band members to gain a new appreciation for songs they may have dismissed as cheesy in the past.
You listen to it now and you think, That’s actually a good song,’ he says. There’s some good songwriting and some good progressions in there.’ We were having a discussion the other day and decided that, sure, a lot of cheesy stuff got put out in the ’80s. But a lot of cheesy stuff gets put out in every decade.
On Nov. 11, Journey, Pat Benatar and Loverboy will perform at Memorial Coliseum, a déjÀ vu-inducing lineup that may very well be traveling to Fort Wayne via Doc Brown’s De Lorean.
On the national scene, the long-delayed remake (OK, reboot) of Red Dawn opens on Nov. 21 and a break-dancing version of Mickey Mouse is supposed to be one of the hot toys this Christmas.
Last summer, boy bands New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys toured as the supergroup NKOTBSB, and it doesn’t take much of an imagination to guess that New Edition, Boyz II Men, Take That, 98 Degrees, O-Town, NSYNC and Boyzone are at this very moment being recruited to form NKOTBSBNEBIIMTT98DOTNSBZ, a name that should attract the interest of boy band fans and paranoid code breakers alike.
This resilient national longing for the ’80s seems to defy, or at least bend, the 20-year rule of nostalgia which appears to be the span of time it takes teenagers to turn into 30-somethings and start pining away for being teenagers again. According to the 20-year rule, we should all be wearing flannel shirts right now and hectoring adolescents about how much better dial-up is than Wi-Fi.
When I was a kid growing up in western New York in the ’70s and ’80s, everybody was nostalgic for the ’50s and ’60s.
The visual encyclopedia we used to learn about what life in the ’50s was really like was the TV show Happy Days.
Using a TV show or a movie as a window into the historical past is always a risky proposition as anyone who has tried to write a term paper on Leonardo da Vinci based on a viewing of The Da Vinci Code can attest to.
My dad, who was a teenager in the ’50s, hated Happy Days. This hatred may have been stoked a bit by questions I asked him about his childhood, such as, How old were you when you jumped over a shark on water-skis while wearing a leather jacket and tight blue swim trunks?
Similarly, my concept of the ’60s came from reruns of Dragnet and the space hippy episode of Star Trek. So I naturally concluded that all flower children were secretly criminal masterminds.
As a person who was sentient (in a relative sense) throughout the ’80s, I can’t help but wonder what correspondingly gross misconceptions today’s kids are being spoon-fed about the decade by pandering movies and TV shows.
Today’s kids are spoiled, let me tell you.
They’ve never known hardships like having to push the play and record buttons at the same time, singing Mickey while simultaneously doing the clapping, and wishing you were famous enough to wish that you had Jessie’s girl.
If these kids want to know what the ’80s were really like, they should ask me.
I’m so old that the first guy who ever rickrolled me was Rick Astley himself (he was a last-minute substitution for Haircut 100 at the Cheeky Chappies for Africa concert).
Gather ’round, ye children, and let wise Grandpa Penhollow tell you all he knows.
First of all, don’t even think of laughing at things like leg warmers, big shoulder pads, the Moonwalk or the Safety Dance. They may seem silly on the surface, but leg warmers were originally formulated to help treat a medical condition called Thigh Gelidity.
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk was originally developed by OSHA as a method of safely evacuating manufacturing plants after chemical spills, and the Men Without Hats’ Safety Dance was written by the Federal Civil Defense Administration as a replacement for the Duck and Cover campaign in elementary schools.
As for big shoulder pads in women’s clothes, well they were just hot.
None of that stuff is true, of course, especially that thing about the shoulder pads.
My point is this: No one’s experience of a decade can be used as a template for making sweeping assumptions about everybody’s experience of that decade.
Nostalgia isn’t about what actually happened; it’s about what you hope happened.
Your nostalgia isn’t subject to approval by a dissertation committee, so feel free to feel it.
Personally, I feel free to feel nostalgic about the long-vanished sport of leather-clad shark-jumping.
Some hard-nosed people like to claim that nostalgia is for the weak, but if it forestalls the second coming of grunge, it’s plenty tough enough for me.