The Eighties in retrospect

The Eighties can seem inconsequential in retrospect. My memories of the decade of bad taste are condensed into a montage of boldly stripy shirts, the Rubik’s cubes and late night trolley fights with our rickety chariots stolen from the Tesco’s parking lot after a night of drinking vodka.

But I only need to set one foot on Inconsequential Street to get lost in sentimentality down Memory Lane. The Eighties spawned The Smiths for goodness sake. But the lyrics that keep going round my head are from Tears for Fears, whose version of Mad World was inevitably better than the more well known cover by Gary Jules.

“All around me are familiar faces, worn out places.”

And it’s true in these last few days of journalism as I contemplate my descent into the morality free world of marketing, that the words of Tears for Fears ring true. There are corridors here with photographs of early 20th century war ships that have changed little in decades. There are people who walk and talk and function but they do it out of habit. They are living by reflex – and the reflex is an only child. He’s waiting by the park.

Perhaps this is not just our threadbare industry but life in general. We walk and talk and say things in a certain way and manner because we have always done so. We are without direction because nobody has given us one.

And if you encounter somebody who tells you they know what direction they are going because God has given them one, cross the road fast.

The video for Mad World isn’t very clever and does no justice to the track. Curt looks unhappily out of a window while Roland dances awkwardly in the garden. The video is poor quality and some kid from New York who has hacked Mad World for a school project in which he stalks a girl, hasachieved almost 2 million hits, far more than Curt and Roland achieved themselves.

Incidentally Americans have sought to wean me off the use of the word garden. But I prefer it to yard and have singularly failed to give it up. I always liked the line “I will walk and talk in gardens all wet with rain” which I thought was Yeats but turns out to be Van Morrison.

There is a place for gardens and a time and a place for the Eighties. In these years of winding down it may be now. The Iron Lady is playing at the movies and while I hated her while I lived through her and mounted the barricades, I feel a tad sentimental about her in retrospect. Perhaps it was that time I was talking to a man in the tea room and I turned to the next table where a frail old woman was talking in tones that caught and scraped on something familiar in my consciousness. It took me a moment to realize it was her – Margaret Thatcher - and while her bearing was weak there was still a steeliness in her glance.

There is much to be said for the Eighties in retrospect, not least the fact that Fade to Grey still sounds freaking awsome.


  1. I wish I lived that decade, if only for the music.

  2. I graduated college in 1980, got married in 1985 and had my first son in 1989. It was a decade full of changes for me. I never did figure out the Rubik's cube! It drove me nuts. I remember a lot of weird hairstyles from that time. :-) A lot of the music from then is a blur for me because I was busy working and such and didn't have as much time to listen to new music like I did when I was younger. I do remember Tears for Fears. And yes, that song does sound pretty awesome.

  3. I always think of the 80s as the "me" decade. In retrospect it seems a time of naivete and silly self aggrandizement.

    And btw, please continue to refer to "yards" as gardens. It is so much more pleasing to the ear!

    Julie Magers Soulen Photography

  4. My fondest memories of the 80s include My Little Ponies and Care Bears. Yes, I was but a youngin' back then (though it seems these toys have recently come back in favor - I was ahead of my time!). Really, I wished I'd been born earlier and lived my teens in the 80s - seems like it was a freer time - before we all started worrying about everything - drugs, sex, bullying, internet predators, etc. Maybe it's just a "grass is always greener" thing.

  5. I could never give up on the word garden, it's sounds so much prettier then yard to me. As for the 80s I loved the music, crazy clothes and films as I spent most of my time being a teenager in it. Good to see it from you point of view as well.

  6. Yes it had a certain nostalgia Starla. yep Daisy - I indeed owned a funny hair style back then

  7. well put Julie - but it seemedd great at the time. Well I remember a lot of social problems then too Valley Writer but it did seem more fun

  8. yep totally agree Abi and maybe we are always attached to the era we live through as a teenager


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