I went dancin’ last night at the Atomic evening at the San Francisco Bath House. Atomic is centred around music from the 1980s, but certainly not what has come to be considered ’80s Music.
That is to say, it’s not about those “retro” “classics” like “Come on Eileen” or “Venus” or “Karma Chameleon” or “I’m So Excited” or “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. Those were the kind of songs that I listened to and enjoyed when I was a child in the ’80s.
Atomic’s about the sort of music that I didn’t enjoy when I was a girl, usually because it dealt with adult themes and wasn’t cheerful and upbeat.
Case in point – New Order’s “Blue Monday” was a massive hit in New Zealand in 1983, but as an 8-year-old, I wasn’t having any of it. “I see a shit in the harbour” – is that how it went? Wot a dumb lyric. And why did “Ready to Roll” have to keep playing it all the time?
Nowadays, however, I get “Blue Monday”. “Tell me how does it feel when your heart grows cold”. Yeah, I get that.
Just as well, I reckon. I mean, it would have been somewhat weird for me, aged 5, to be enjoying “Fade To Grey” instead of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”.
But the DJ at Atomic did throw in a few of those songs I listened to in the ’80s – “Tainted Love”, “99 Luftballons”, “White Wedding” – and I couldn’t really enjoy them. It was like the music equivalent of playing with dolls or eating fairy bread. It’s something that I associate so strongly with my childhood that I can’t enjoy it as an adult.
If I’m having a kanikani on the dancefloor, I don’t want to keep being transported back to the 1980s, to primary school and awkwardness and Matangi and two TV channels and mind-numbing boredom. But I could understand that for some people, the past is infinitely preferable to the present or the future, so they would probably want to be reminded of their warm, safe childhood in the ’80s.
It’s really enjoyable exploring old music that I’ve only discovered recently. It doesn’t come with feelings of nostalgia or longing for some distant, rose-tinted memory. As cheesy as “Temptation” is, it is dealing with universal human themes (you know, being tempted) that didn’t expire in the ’80s.
The ’90s, however, oh, that’s a whole different post.