“Yeah, just sitting back, trying to recapture a little of the glory of,
well time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister,
but boring stories of glory days”
–Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days”
What better way to escape a dull present than to reminisce about a glorious past? Interesting idea, but being I was only three when The Boss released his 1984 single, “Glory Days,” these lyrics made no sense. Forget the lyrics; at that age, I probably had difficulty pronouncing Springsteen’s name beyond something that sounded lispy (“Mommy, what’s a Thpringthteen?”) It wasn’t until I was able to eat solid foods that I developed an obsession for this song and what I consider the Golden Age of music.
Just so I’m Crystal Pepsi clear: I love ’80s pop. Always have, always will. Hair metal, dance, hip hop, new wave–I’ve rocked them all. If you ever catch me wearing earbuds, chances are there’s an ’80s song playing. And it’s hard picking favorites. Making me choose between Gary Numan’s “Cars” and Wham’s “Everything She Wants” is like asking me to select my favorite child (if I had any). Cheesy as many of these songs might seem, I respect the cheese. And, in my opinion, the cheese has aged deliciously.
Too young to appreciate the totally tubular sounds of the decade, I spent my teenage years brushing up. Why was I obsessing over a bygone decade while the rest of my peers were glued to grunge? It might have something to do with how ’80s music made me feel. While I love it now, ’90s alternative at the time seemed moody, dark, depressing. Since I had been teased relentlessly for my skinniness (“Look how thin he is!” exclaimed a stranger while I was casually waiting at my supermarket deli counter), I didn’t need Kurt K. and Eddie (Vedder, not Van Halen) souring my mood any further. There was something so freeing and carefree about the ’80s. (I guess most things are freeing and carefree when you’re barely 10.) Maybe the music brought me back to a simpler time. Whatever the reason, these tunes had the power to lift me out of any funk, and still do. Cue up “Footloose” in my presence and watch what it does to me.
Lately, though, merely listening to the music hasn’t been doing the trick. I’m noting cynicism setting in. The original title of this blog, “The Eternal Optimist,” , didn’t seem quite right, since I’d preach positivity online yet feel pessimistic about the state of our world IRL. Suffering through a mudslinging, divisive U.S. presidential election–and its aftermath– hasn’t helped matters. I’m having trouble seeing the silver lining, yet I know it’s out there amid the storm clouds that blanket my country.
Self-improvement has also been waning. Writing in this forum gave me the outlet to try new experiences, but since I found it hard to find inspiration, the experiences stopped. I need to mention that I’m in no way a depressed or unhappy person, so no need to forward me your therapist’s phone number. With a little effort, Howard Jones might have been onto something when he said things can only get better.
Since ’80s music has been my catalyst for joy over the years, is it crazy to think that these songs hold the key to a happier, more enriched life? Do they have the power to boost my optimism to new heights? Can these songs help me ward off cynicism as “time slips away,” per Bruce? Can they inspire me to self-improve?
So begins my personal experiment. Rather than relive my “glory days” as a means to produce a temporary glimmer of happiness, I’m attempting something more substantial. Each month, I’ll be taking on some of my favorite songs and living out the themes and/or actual lyrics within them. Think of it as crafting my own ’80s mixtape to the next chapter of my life. My writings here will highlight the experience. Sometimes I’ll act out the literal meaning of the song, other times just actions related to the song. For instance, expect me to conduct something physically challenging, or “physical,” popularized by Olivia Newton-John, but don’t expect to read something related to the lyric “you gotta know that you’re bringing out the animal in me.” Expect posts to be equal parts ’80s nostalgia, self-improvement, and (hopefully) entertaining.
To make this experiment work, I’ll need your help. Please follow this blog; knowing I have supporters will help me stay on task. Moreover, send any song titles/ideas my way by replying directly to these posts or shooting me an email. I’m not only encouraging song selections, I’m begging for them. Don’t be afraid to tell me which ’80s songs bring out your best memories. Or tweet them to me @VivaLa80s.
So begins a musical journey back to the heyday of the ’80s, but with a twist. Please join me as I create a new batch of glory days, and hopefully help you inspire your own.