Published on May 16, 2020

So, there have been these challenges going around on Facebook. You know the ones: choose ten favourite songs from the 80s or ten albums that influenced you and post them over ten consecutive days, without explanation.

I don’t usually join in with such things. But the world is a strange place at the moment and life may never be the same again. We are all perhaps searching for meaning, we are all most certainly missing loved ones, and many of us are remembering times past. The 80s challenge struck a chord (in more ways than one) so in I hopped, challenge accepted.

A defining decade

The 80s was the last decade before technology began to dominate our lives. I spent the first half at university and muddled my way (mostly cheerfully, although there were dark times) through the second half, not really knowing what I was doing, until I emerged blinking into the harshness of reality. A new decade was dawning. It was time to grow up.

Looking back now, I never want to lose that carefree, often reckless, fearless 80s me. I suspect I rather liked the thin ice on which I sometimes skated. Maybe it has become far too thick beneath my blades. I always wanted to see what was around the next bend, back when George used to wake me up before I went went. I never want to run out of curiosity or run out of bends.

Music, that most evocative of art forms, has brought it all flooding back. And the technology of which we then knew nothing has, in recent years, reunited me with some of the friends I made after crossing the Irish Sea on the night boat to Liverpool, suitcase in one hand, bin-bag-wrapped duvet in the other.

I wonder how we did it.  How did we communicate and make arrangements? How did we book tickets and travel before Bill and the Steves changed our world?

We put fifty pence pieces into payphones and used the rotary dial, that’s what we did. And we wrote letters, lots and lots of letters. I still have some of them in a shoe box at the top of my wardrobe, sleeping documents of a former life.

By 1990 we were working in proper, sensible jobs with pension plans, valuing security over spontaneity. We moved apart, lost touch, had children, started the whole work-life-marriage-parenthood juggle.

Moments in time

But back to the 80s, the decade that formed us, that perhaps still defines us. I hear The Police and I’m dancing in Tiffany’s, falling for the guy opposite me, and I’m going back to his flat and I’m waking up to the news that John Lennon has been shot. Funny how I can barely remember what I did yesterday, or last week, but I can remember those 12 hours in intimate detail.

I hear Radio Gaga and I’m at a Student Union disco thrusting my fist in the air as if my life depended on it, buoyed by the energy of the crowd, senses working overtime. I hear Girls on Film or In The Air Tonight and I’m painting my room before the start of the new academic year.  I hear 99 LuftBallons and I’m trying to sleep on someone’s floor somewhere in Northern Germany. I hear Don’t you forget about me and I’m in a bar in Madrid on a complex April night.

I could go on.

Just one more thing. Through this challenge I’ve bumped (virtually) into someone I used to know, someone who caught my eye across a crowded party one New Year’s Eve. It didn’t end well. The fault was entirely mine. He deserved better. For what it’s worth, 35 years on, and in the words of one of the songs I chose, I’m sorry. It’s nice to see him again, albeit in cyberspace.

The soundtrack of my life

I’m half-way through the album challenge now, playing by my own rules, an explanation here and there. I’ve found myself creating a chronological soundtrack of my life. My head is abuzz with memories, with people and places almost forgotten, the clarity of key moments in time belying the passing of the years.

It’s so hard to choose. In my 80s selection there was no room for Squeeze or Prefab Sprout or the Clash or the Stranglers or Bruce or Van or Cindi or Wham or Madonna or Chrissie et al. No space for Duran Duran or Queen. No place for Spandau Ballet – Chant No. 1 would have been my pick – or Stiff Little Fingers hoping for an Alternative Ulster.  So much great music. So many stories.

It’s been fun but it’s time to get back to the juggle. Over and out, for now, and thanks for the memories.

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