Recently, Susan L.M. Goldberg posted this aforementioned list. It is a good list, don’t get me wrong, but I politely disagree that these songs typify the sound and feeling of the 1980s generation, as it is only one narrow “slice” of them (and a very “top 40 Pop” one at that). So here is an alternate list of our music for the millennial. Disclaimer – I am a member of this ’80s musical age group, so I am biased in this. Sue me, I got’s nothing.
To correct a misnomer, many people of my age-group generally do not hear Bruce Springsteen and connect with him. He is, and always was, far too generic, raspy “Pop” Rock for our tastes, background noise in a sea of great tunes. Remember, a big part of the thrust of this genre was to stake out a musical claim that was different than our recent forebears, not just copy them.
If we wanted to listen to 80s “Rock” done our way, we’d probably listen to something like this. These guys are basic and generic, yes, but they were ours -
1. The Smithereens – “Only a Memory” (1986)
Sure, you know how to write an assertive cover letter and you have a wardrobe of freshly pressed black and navy blue suits. But, just because you’re doing everything the manual tells you doesn’t mean you aren’t going to make a mistake in your job search. From my other life working in human resources, I give you the ten best mistakes applicants have made in pursuit of a job.
10. Want to include the fact that you taught an adult education course on photography on your resume? Don’t dub yourself “Adult Photography Instructor.”
Language matters. In the age of social media and Google, applicants should understand that lying on their resume isn’t an option. Just be sure you aren’t getting so creative with your wording that you make yourself sound more qualified for porn than a professional environment.
You’ve seen Thriller and heard all about Madonna, but what do you really know about the decade that ushered in the millennial generation? Think the era of scrunchies, boom boxes, pump sneakers and DeLoreans was just a fad? Think again. Some of the 1990s’ greatest pop culture trends were birthed in the millieu of Reaganomics, cable television, and a music video-loaded MTV.
15. Culture Club – “Karma Chameleon”
The ’80s was the decade of John Waters, the B-52s and all things camp coming to fruition. Decked out in eyeliner, lipstick and braids, Boy George popularized the aesthetic of this gay subculture with a poppy little tune about conflicted relationships. As for the music video, where better to set a gay guy’s love song in the ’80s than an 1870s riverboat called the “Chameleon” where a cheating gambler’s karma comes back to haunt him? Dude, it’s the ’80s: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” started here.
I was in seventh grade, and it happened at lunch. I don’t know what we were eating — chicken nuggets, most likely.
I wasn’t aware of it right away, but already there were whispers: something happened in New York City, at the Twin Towers. Was it an accident? Or was it a malevolent act?
We’d find out later. My English teacher told us that planes had struck both lead towers of the World Trade Center. Another had hit the Pentagon. Strangely, I didn’t think anyone had died. I assumed the buildings were damaged and that they would later be repaired.
At the end of the day we were called down to an assembly and we were told that the whole thing was an accident. They gave us the usual spiel: talk to your parents; we’re here if you need us; it’s okay to cry.
I went home and turned on the news and stayed glued to it. They kept replaying the crash and the carnage: the explosions, the screaming. I was horrified.
This, of course, was no accident.
Obviously, I knew that what took place was a terrorist attack. But I couldn’t decipher the motivations.
And this led to something funny, perhaps darkly so: I recognized immediately that the Twin Towers were the two tallest buildings in New York City. So instead of viewing the attack as a Huntington-esque “clash of civilizations,” I assumed al-Qaeda wanted to destroy large buildings.
Our middle school was, I thought, the tallest building in town. Were we next?
13. She has discovered a close kinship with George Costanza.
Sure, she may come off all serious in her videos, but Lana Del Rey has a seriously good sense of humor. According to Rolling Stone, Lana Del Rey ”has a George Costanza-like plan for the future.”
“I’m really specific about why I’m doing something or writing something,” she says. “But it always kind of gets translated in the opposite fashion. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve learned that everything I’m going to do is going to have the opposite reaction of what I meant. So I should do the opposite if I want a good reaction.” She’s surprised to learn that George tried this approach in an episode of Seinfeld. “Oh really? That’s awesome. Me and George Costanza! Oh my God!”
I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.
10. Joan never grew old or gave up.
At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.
15. Everything you know about the social stratosphere is wrong…
College is nothing like high school. You understand this in theory, but have never experienced the kind of social freedom you will in college. There are no cliques. There is no lunch table. Welcome to the world of being an adult. For the first couple of weeks you’ll attend pre-arranged mixers, usually orientation events or annoying team-building activities your RA spent all summer training to lead. These awkward moments are helpful for one reason: Discovering who has a car. As a freshman, be aware that the parties you crash at frat houses aren’t for making friends, they’re for getting drunk and hooking up. You’ve been warned.
Traffic was formed in 1967 by musicians Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason. All had been professionally performing already; Winwood in particular had just abruptly departed the highly successful Spencer Davis Group.
Right from the word “go,” Traffic was on the US and UK charts. Although of the three popular singles they first released (Mr Fantasy), their biggest hit wasn’t really anything like what you would think of by them. Most of the band members thought it was “silly” and not like the sound they envisioned at all. They loathed the tune, refusing to ever perform the song live; Dave Mason, who wrote it and was getting intense criticism over it, quit the band in January of 1968.
1. “Hole in my Shoe” (1967)
If you just can’t keep up with kids and their slang these days, here’s a protip: when millennials say they’re “basically like eighty years old,” what they mean is, “please, please don’t make me drink until I vomit again.” (Also a protip is a piece of advice from an expert in the field. And a millennial is . . . you know what, never mind. One step at a time.)
For twenty-somethings, it’s sort of inversely cool to call yourself old. There are blogs, articles, and adorable BuzzFeed lists about being a grandparent trapped in a grandchild’s body. We’re all adorably grumpy, we stay in on Friday nights, and is it not just precious how we have our own recipe for stew?! The internet is crawling with perky little counter-cultural curmudgeons.
I’m one of them. I’m a cranky libertarian who goes to sleep at 10pm, except on weekends when I treat myself to a single glass of scotch and promptly fall asleep face-down in a bowl of roasted cashews. I don’t hook up, I go on dates — candlelit ones to restaurants with flowers. I wear ties.
At their very beginning, the Yardbirds were first the Metropolitan Blues Quartet, then briefly the Blue Sounds, finally settling on Yardbirds in the fall of 1963. This one band was responsible for starting the careers of three of the top 100 guitarists (Clapton #2, Page #3, Beck #5). Their original sound was all “classic” blues. Regrettably, there are no recordings of them from this time, so here’s a piece by the original artist that they played frequently, in smoky, ill-lit UK clubs.
1. The Eric Clapton Era: Howlin’ Wolf – “Smokestack Lightning” (1959)
In October of ’63, the original lead guitarist, Tony “Top” Topham resigned. You see, he was all of 16 years old, and his parents objected to him hanging around in clubs at his age (the newly named “Yardbirds” having succeeded as the house band for the Crawdaddy Club, replacing the Rolling Stones); also, he was scheduled to attend art school, so away he went. Once Topham had departed, a preciously young Clapton took over as lead guitar. Clapton was also enamored of the blues, although he took the ‘Birds in a somewhat different direction than the original “pure” sound.
Also check out Leslie Loftis’ analysis of Beyonce’s performance at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards here.
10. “Bow Down/I Been On”
The Church of Bey has clearly gone to the pop goddess’s head. A critic at New Wave Feminism writes:
Aside from repeatedly yelling “bow down bitches”, the song also contains lyrics such as “I know when you were little girls / You dreamt of being in my world / Don’t forget it , don’t forget it / Respect that, bow down bitches”. Apparently, Beyoncé thought the appropriate response for young women who admired her and looked up to her was to call them misogynistic slurs and demand they genuflect in her presence.
This Bey Anthem doubles as the death knell of the sisterhood.
11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.
Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.
As a Gen-X/millennial crossover, I was fortunate enough to first meet Robin Williams as Mork from Ork on the sitcom Mork and Mindy. A comedic powerhouse, Mork’s colorful wardrobe and loud laugh were the first things I imitated as a child. As I grew up, I would look back and realize the many character lessons I learned at home were reinforced by a supremely acted alien outsider with a predilection for sitting on his head. In virtually every role he played, Robin Williams taught his audience a life lesson. As a young kid there was no one more fun to hang around with and learn from on TV than Mork from Ork.
10. Old people rule.
Mork marvels at the way the elderly are ignored and maligned on earth. On Ork, old folks are revered as the wise, experienced ones to learn from. “The Elder” is called on to remind Mork of his Orkishness. His was an early lesson in the importance of respect and reverence for the elders in your life and how very important all people are, no matter and, perhaps, especially because of their age.
Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.
10. Harry Potter
When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),
Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.
Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.
Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?
12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.
“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.
I just got back from the mammogram I don’t believe in.
In the spring, my doctor handed me an envelope decorated with a cluster of bright balloons and the words “Happy Birthday!”
Alas, this deceptively cheerful package concealed the usual tips on diet and exercise, plus requisition forms for all the annual medical tests I’d be getting from now on.
The mammogram is bad enough. I got my first one before having my doubts about the procedure confirmed, and now I’m stuck in the “Ontario Breast Screening Program” because “free” “health” “care.”
But now I also have to get blood work for cholesterol (how 1970s!), glucose and a bunch of other things, plus an ECG.
The worst part: I need to send little swabs of poo* through the mail. (Although it could be worse: it could be my job to open those envelopes. And a special shout-out to my Facebook friend for sharing her “float a Chinet dessert plate in the toilet” trick.)
It’s all part of the splendor and pageantry of turning 50.
(* As you can see from the video below, which my tax dollars helped pay for, “poo” is the actual scientific term!)
Millennials are growing up fast, but are their apartments? There’s a certain point in your life when you wake up and realize you don’t want your home to look like a college dorm anymore. But sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on exactly how to make a place look grown-up, while still retaining your unique sense of style. Having a grown-up looking place doesn’t mean you have to lose all of your own flair; there are a few general ideas that you can put your own twist on, whatever your taste. It all boils down to having an apartment where you can make people comfortable. Here are ten steps to get started.
10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…
Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.
10. Howdy Doody
I can hear you… “What? Are you nuts? How can you put a puppet on a list of the greatest influences on our nation’s largest, and presently most influential, generation?”
Well, ignoring the fact that Howdy Doody was not a” puppet” (he was a marionette), having Howdy Doody on the list makes perfect sense. The baby boomers are what sociologists call “a cohort group” — i.e., a group of people who share, and are bound together by, a common set of experiences during a defined period.
What was the first shared experience that the boomers – the cohort group born between 1946 and 1964 – uniquely had in common? Watching TV. And what was their earliest shared favorite television program? Howdy Doody. I rest my case.
10. Sullivan and Son
This working class comedy executive-produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley is fraught with all the non-PC ethnic and sexual humor you’d hear in a working class, Irish-Korean, middle-American bar like the one in the show. Created by Korean American actor/comedian Steve Byrne and Cheers writer Rob Long, the TBS sitcom reminds you that some jokes are still OK to crack. The stellar cast features Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) and comic genius Brian Doyle-Murray, along with Christine Ebersole and Owen Benjamin, who portray the drop-dead hysterical mother-son dependent duo Carol and Owen Walsh.
In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:
A) in the comments
C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email.
The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. For this week’s debates we’re going to focus on individual filmmakers with inflated reputations. Monday’s question: What Is Oliver Stone’s Worst Movie?, Tuesday’s question: Who Is Today’s Most Overrated Filmmaker?, Wednesday: What Are Stanley Kubrick’s Greatest Films?.
Also check out the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: Geeks In Love: 8 Questions To Spark Passionate Debates About Video Games and Chick Flicks, 5 Questions To Figure Out What Makes Some Adaptations Succeed and Others Fail, 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres, 5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, 5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.
Who are the most gifted filmmakers who capture the experience of the generation now starting to enter their 50s?
Is Kevin Smith overrated? Is he more his generation’s junior George Lucas – a gifted marketer – rather than a serious filmmaker? Or is there merit to his best work?
Which Richard Linklater movie is his greatest triumph? Is the third one in his Sun series worth watching?
What about Noah Baumbach? Do his recent films live up to the promise of The Squid and the Whale?
Do any of them have the potential to have a cultural impact comparable to Woody Allen, who had several of his films included in Kyle Smith’s best of the 1980s list today?
Few record albums have quite the same grasp on the soul of an aging “Baby Boomer” as does the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Ask “where were you when you first heard the album?” and their answer will be as detailed as would be the answer of a WW II veteran when asked where and how he first learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, or a younger person, “where were you when you first heard about the Twin Trade Towers?”
It thus comes as some shock to most “boomers” when they learn that among younger generations Sgt. Pepper’s is not held in universally high esteem.
This aging rocker recently confronted that fact on a forum popular with guitarists of all ages. The negative comments about the album certainly called for a response. But what response? Can an older person who came of age during the sixties make one that is fair and unbiased? I had to try. But first I had to think.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was, and is, to my generation, more than a record album or (later) CD. It was, and is, for many, the punctuation point that marked a major change in our society: the period at the end of the sentence that was the fifties.
To a younger audience this would have to be explained.
Are you a true child of the 1970s? See how many of these essential shoes you owned to find out!
10. Earth Shoes
Going from worst to first, I’m almost reluctant to name Earth Shoes to a list of “essential” anything because they were so completely unfortunate looking. The “negative heel technology” shoes represented one of those terrible moments when fashion tried to merge with health benefits. Anne Kalsø, a native of Denmark, invented the shoes in the 1950s. According to the Earth Shoes website:
Kalsø ‘s passion for yoga led her to study in Switzerland and eventually in Santos, Brazil. It was there, in 1957, that she observed the excellent posture of indigenous Brazilians, and the impressions left by their bare footprints as they walked through beach sand. She observed that the footprints laid were deeper in the heels than in the toes. This natural body position resonated with the thoughtful Kalsø. It echoed a formative yoga pose she knew well – Tadasana (the ‘Mountain’ pose). posture improved, and how her breathing passages opened. She was inspired.As she herself emulated the pose of the native Brazilians, she noticed how her own posture improved, and how her breathing passages opened. She was inspired.
Ten years later, Earth Shoes were born in Copenhagen. The company claimed that many people reported that the shoes eased chronic foot and body problems. It wasn’t until April 1st, 1970 — coinciding with the first Earth Day — that the first ”Kalsø Earth Shoes” store opened in the United States. The shoes became wildly popular, even appearing on the Tonight Show and in TIME Magazine. They’re still available, by the way, in case you’re feeling nostalgic or feel the need to have your breathing passages opened.
We’ve all heard of the horrors of Cop Rock and Manimal, but after receiving a reader tip on one of their worst TV shows of all time, I did some digging and uncovered these utterly classic samples of bad television that would make great material for Joel McHale or the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
10. Bucky and Pepito (1959)
Produced by Sam Singer, “The Ed Wood of Animation,” Bucky and Pepito was a typical story of an “ambitious” white cowboy and his “lazy” (literally, they sing about it in the theme song) Mexican buddy trolling the old west on a zero budget. According to Toonopedia, “Cartoon historian Harry McCracken once said the pair ‘set a standard for awfulness that no contemporary TV cartoon has managed to surpass. They were great at what they did, which was being bad.’” Thanks to Bucky and Pepito, cartoonists have debated creating a Sam Singer Award for truly bad animation.