Tuesday, 25 August 2009

How Cool Were The 80's?

The 80’s made me the man I am today, which some of you may think is a bad thing.

I entered the decade as a spotty little 17 year old with wild hair, no common sense, romantically inept, naïve in the extreme and woefully immature. That decade turned me into a man and it was the most exciting period of my life.

I am fiercely nostalgic for those times. I have so many fond memories that I am moved almost to tears when I think about what I achieved and how I developed.

Why am I mentioning the 80’s? Well, today I read an article about a music festival that happened over the weekend in Henley-on-Thames where 30,000 people were whisked back in time to see 25 music stars of the 80’s belt out a bunch of classic songs from that decade. It would appear that there is a little bit of an 80’s comeback and I for one welcome it with open arms.

I’m not a child of the 80’s at all; I grew up in the 70’s. Nevertheless, after leaving school and spending three years at university, getting married, finding a good job and travelling, the 80’s laid the foundation for everything I am today.

So many things changed:


I know I go on about my hair a lot but bear with me on this. In 1980 my hair was long, fuzzy and totally unmanageable. I looked like a mad scientist. When I started university in 1981, with hormones belting around my body I decided that I needed to do something. So I became a New Romantic. That’s right, for a couple of years my hair was short but looked pretty stupid. After university in 1984, I embraced rock music and grew a Joe Elliott mullet. In 1988 I got married and a vicious evil hairdresser hacked off my locks making my hair short and, I suppose, manageable. I haven’t really changed that hairstyle since.


When I started university I flipped between two styles: the pseudo rocker, complete with denim jacket, black T shirt and jeans and, at night in the clubs, I blossomed into a member of Spandau Ballet complete with stupid shirt, stupid jacket and stupid pointed shoes that crippled my feet. Many guys my age wore make-up on these occasions – you would never catch me doing that (he says trying to draw your attention away from the Kiss make-up to your right).

I considered myself to be the best dancer at every night club and I would even embarrass myself by trying to "moonwalk" to "Billy Jean". I was no Michael Jackson and I imagine that I looked like a total buffoon.

I grew out of that stupidity (thank heavens) and became more of a metalhead, wearing a leather jacket and jeans. Bizarrely I still have an 80’s leather jacket today – Mrs PM is desperate for me to get rid of it but I refuse.


I loved the electronic music of the early 80’s and made a complete arse of myself dancing in night clubs to bands like Tears For Fears, Adam Ant, Depeche Mode, Blancmange and The Human League. By the mid 80’s I had grown tired of pop music, mainly because the charts were being filled by utter bilge, so I embraced heavy metal once more. I loved the cheesy rock groups like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Europe. The 80’s was the decade I discovered Rush – I have never looked back.


At the beginning of the 80’s I had barely left Walsall. By 1984 I had been on two three to four week tours of Europe, by 1988 I had worked in Amsterdam and Trinidad and in 1989 I spent four week touring the United States. I wouldn’t say that I was bitten by the travel bug that decade – I was savaged by it. If I won the lottery I would give up everything to travel the world – that’s how much the travel bug mauled me in the 80’s.


When I think back to the 80’s and the women in my life at that time, I recall the pleasure and pain of relationships. Pleasure because that was the decade I lost my cherry but pain because of failed relationships, making a complete arse of myself and learning how and how not to deal with the fairer sex. To be fair I still haven’t learned much about women but I do know that, at university, one woman broke my heart into bits. It was the first time I had actually sobbed over a girl (and probably the last time if I think about). Do you know the worst thing about it? She didn’t even know the profound effect she had on me. I made a complete fool of myself in front of a bunch of mates, as this girl refused to dance with me, choosing her best mate instead. I stood there at the edge of the dance floor, my heart torn to shreds, humiliated beyond belief as the two girls made a huge show of making me look like a complete arse. My mates laughed and mocked me mercilessly. I went back to my room and cried my eyes out for two hours.

Ironically, in Manchester in 1985 (two years after the event), I happened to bump into this girl’s best mate in a pub, you know – the one she had chosen to dance with instead of me. She was with her boyfriend who was a friend of a friend. I didn’t recognise her and she didn’t recognise me, but somehow we got talking. When we discovered that we both went to Liverpool University, I asked what course she did. When she told me, I told her that I had had a major crush on a girl who studied the same degree. At that moment a deep hidden subconscious memory began to surface and as it rose through the ether I suddenly recognised the woman I was talking to. I was horrified as her features became clear in my mind. I saw the sarcastic smile on the two girls’ faces as my life crumbled on the edge of the dance floor.

I was amazed that she didn’t recognise me. I had to get out of there before a similar memory bubbled up in her mind. As I started to leave, she grabbed my arm and pulled me back down next to her and said:

“Tell me this girl’s name.”

I simply couldn’t bring myself to do it; I was still in pain. And do you know what she said to me?

“It’s a real shame. I probably know her, you know. You’re a really nice guy and I think you’d make a great boyfriend.”

That cut me like a knife. I felt as if my heart had been torn from my chest and jumped on by a thousand devilish imps in front of my disbelieving face, while a thousand more poured salt into the gaping bloody hole in my chest.

I was devastated and had to leave the pub. I’ve never seen either of the girls since.

Happily, I found myself a girlfriend shortly afterwards; she was a mate at university and we kind of hooked up. She became my wife in 1988. Sadly things didn’t work out but I certainly learned a few things.


In 1980 I was an innocent, pizza-faced little pillock, driven by hormones, clueless, directionless and unsure what life held for me. I left Walsall and after three years in Liverpool, settled in Manchester where I have lived ever since. Through a series of embarrassing and educational incidents, I somehow managed to find a path and stick to it. The blurred uncertain world of that spotty adolescent clarified over the ten years and I suddenly saw potential and possibility in a life that I thought was hopeless. My father died in 1981, one month before I started university. I came from a working class background and nobody from my family had ever dreamed of going to university. Thankfully, he found out before he died and he was so happy; I’m glad that happened. I still think about him today and how proud he would have been. The 80’s built the foundation for the man I am today – this arse whose blog you are reading. I still have ambitions but they are the fruits of embryonic dreams I had in the 80’s – and I aim to fulfil them.

If somebody came up to me and said

“Hey, Plastic Mancunian! I have a device that can return you to any day in your life so that you can live that life again. Where do you want to go?”

I would immediately go back to my 18th birthday on October 8th 1980. I would relive my life from that point onwards.

Finally, being a huge fan of the music of that decade, I would like to list some of my favourite songs of that era:

First, pop music from the early 80’s. The following songs have special significance to me and I love them to bits:

(1) The Human League – The Sound Of The Crowd
(2) Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling
(3) Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes
(4) Godley & Creme – Under Your Thumb
(5) Tears For Fears – Change
(6) Spandau Ballet – Instinction
(7) Adam and the Ants – Ant Music
(8) A-ha – The Sun Always Shines On TV
(9) Talk Talk – It’s My Life
(10) Visage – Visage

Remember all those? How about these 80’s metal hits?

(1) Whitesnake – Still Of The Night
(2) Yngwie J Malmsteen – Heaven Tonight
(3) Bon Jovi – Bad Medicine
(4) Van Halen – Hot For Teacher
(5) Def Leppard – Animal
(6) Lita Ford – Kiss Me Deadly (I had such a crush on Lita Ford!!!!!)
(7) Europe – Halfway To Heaven
(8) Kiss – Reason To Live
(9) Rush – The Big Money (Well I had to put a Rush video in there!!!)
(10) Ozzy Osbourne – Bark At The Moon

If anybody ever tells you that the 80’s weren’t cool, just ignore them. I’ve been on this planet for the best part of five decades and I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that the 80’s were the best.

I could go on for pages about the 80's but I'll stop here (for now): Frankie says: “no more”.


bingkee said...

I love the 80's and everything about it ---mainly because I was a teenager then too. I was 12 when the decade came. (1980)
My hair was not the pouffy type but ala- Patti Smith of Scandal, and the pouffy hair was when I was in college.
The songs you mentioned, I love them too. But I was more into Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and The Smith.

Well...driven by hormones? Which hormone?

Kath Lockett said...

They were cool. For me it was turning 13 in 1981, so the music, fashion and attitudes formed my growing up years.

Spiral permed hair, acid wash jeans and jackets, baby pink sneakers and skinny ties, eyeliner and frosted lipstick....

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Bingkee,

My sisters were both huge Duran Duran fans; my youngest sister covered her bedroom walls with posters of them. I never liked The Smiths - I just never got them (though I have met the drummer).

Which hormones? The ones that made me think about women to the exclusion of everything else; the ones that made my face look like a Pizza Hut meat feast. This is one of the reasons why I think life can be so difficult for young people; your body is urging you to do stuff, yet your face mutates into something alien.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Kath,

Yes I wore skinny ties too (none of the other things you mentioned though :0) ) - and the tightness of the jeans in the 80s brings tear to my eyes when I think about them.

People say the fashion of the 80s was awful - I reckon the 70s was far worse.




Lidian said...

I would also like to go back to the 80s, minus the shoulder pads and the big hair. I started college (university to you in the UK) in 1980, and spent most of the decade as a student (undergrad and then grad) which was (mostly) quite enjoyable. You know, except for Old English class and its, er, ilk.

I would go back to 1983-84 in a time machine, with my 46 year old brain. Absolutely! Have some good ideas about what I'd get up to, too :)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Lidian,

You're the same age as me so I know exactly what you mean.