Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Soundtrack of our lives

For most of us, pop music provides the soundtrack to our lives, sometimes unwillingly. Over time many of us grow nostalgic about a particular era of music because when we associate it with a time of our lives that has special meaning for us. For me, that’s the 1980s.

The time between, say, 1980 and 1995 was important to me because it’s the time in which I established my life and then launched the arc that I’m still living to this day. I’d even go so far as to call it my adult life’s launching pad.

In 1980, I began the transition from young university student to independent adult. I wasn’t ready for that—I was still in university, after all—but my parents had both died, so I had no choice. It wasn’t an easy time at all, but I was fortunate to meet some friends who helped guide me along, because this was the time I came out, too.

The pop music I listened to at this time was, for the most part, a continuation of the late 1970s. But by 1983, I was in living in Chicago and a whole bunch of new bands were becoming popular, and it was these groups in particular that I think of from this period.

This was the period when I was a gay activist in Chicago and when I think of those adventures, the music of the 80s is often in my thoughts. Those years were, on the whole, the happiest of my adult life up until then. That figures, of course, because they were also the only years of my adult life up until that point—but they nevertheless were, for the most part, very happy years.

I put 1995 as the closing year for that period because it’s when I moved to New Zealand. Pop music remained important to me, but not necessarily the same groups.

Since then, I stopped listening to the radio. This means that I’m far less familiar with contemporary pop music (something that’s not all bad, of course). Still, I manage to keep up with quite a lot.

Recently, I was struck by a realisation. First, that the music I liked was released up to 30 years ago. That’s a long time. But then I had another realisation: In 1983, 30 years previous was 1953. In the mid-to-late 1970s there was a bit of a fad for 1950s music, only some 20 years after it was new. By the 1980s, 50s music seemed kind of old, preferred by middle-aged folks. Now I’m the middle-aged guy listening to the music of his youth 30 years earlier.

Then today I saw, “New Wave artists aging gracefully. An 80s world gone by…”, with pictures of 1980s pop artists as they look nowadays. It was sobering. In my mind, they all still look as they did in their youth. Seeing them some of them aged nearly 30 years was a bit jarring; but, then, I remember 30 years ago seeing how much performers from the 1950s (and 1940s) had aged.

Seeing the photos was a stark reminder of how much time has really passed. I still listen to 80s music because I still like it. I never felt nostalgic listening to it before, but I wonder if the reality check will change that?

I doubt it will. Age is at least partly a state of mind, so no matter the evidence to the contrary, I don’t feel like 30 years has really passed. But I do realise that my soundtrack is getting longer.


rogerogreen said...

My music was from 1964 to 1994, when I just lost interest in the new stuff. Might have been earlier, maybe in the late 1980s. I bought Prince's albums in 1987 and before, but none since. and except Nirvana and Pearl Jam, not much from the 1990s, unless it was an artist I already owned (Bruce, Pauls Simon and McCartney)

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

I don't remember much in particular about the 1990s, apart from buying stuff by artists whose stuff I already had. I know there were a few here and there, but I'd have to look it up.