Everybody is losing their minds over this festival. It’s the culmination of all of the 80’s worshipping that has been going on for the last ten plus years in society. The fact that PiL and Morrissey are on the bill has scared some people off of it, but there is a HUGE issue going on behind the scene that is even more heinous. Philip Anschutz, the man putting this show on, has been donating money to anti-LGBTQ causes: Alliance Defending Freedom, the National Christian Foundation, and the Family Research Council.
The Washington Post broke this story about five years ago, and the Daily Beast three years ago also wrote about it. The Daily Beast story is damning and really dives deep into the issue. When confronted Anschutz claimed that he didn’t know about his money funding those groups and that he would end it. He stated that his company was diverse and that he is for equal rights. Then a year or two after that it was found out, through his tax filings, that he had indeed stopped donating to those three anti-LGBTQ groups. However, he was now donating his money to two other equally problemic groups Dare 2 Share Ministries and Young Life, a youth ministry. On top of that he has been donating millions to conservative and libertarian groups, including ones linked to the Koch family.
I am really disappointed that some groups that I love are playing this show. I won’t stop listening to them, but it makes me wonder whether they actually do care about LGBTQ rights or not. The same thing can be said for all of the people planning to go to this. I think it’s highly hypocritical to go to this while also supporting LGBTQ rights, because they are handing a wad of cash to a man who has been proven to not give a shit about LGBTQ folks. I’m going to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this because I know that not everybody has heard about it. However, if they learn about this and still go then I will be questioning who they really are.
Within the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in anything having to do with the 80’s. Everything from endless posts about mediocre 80’s ‘post-punk’ bands to people asking questions as to how to directly copy the look of ‘trad’ goths litter the internet. Then there are the truly special individuals who constantly talk about how cool the decade was and how they wish they could have lived back then. They should never wish that. You want to know why? Because for the most part the 80’s was a hellish landscape of conservative neo-liberal politics mixed in with a highly conformist society that punished those who were in any way different.
I was a teen in the 80’s and graduated high school in 1989, so I spent pretty much the entirety of my teen years in that decade. I was very politically aware during that time and paid attention to the world events going on around me. For example, I went on a trip with some classmates to Washington DC in late 87 that was called Close Up. Teens from all over the US go every year to learn about politics. You get to meet your representatives and talk about important issues with others. We got enough free time to wander about the area exploring and one day two friends and I were walking near the Capital Building when a motorcade appeared. During that week Soviet officials were there to draw up the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty along with officials from Reagan’s cabinet which included the Secretary Of State George Shultz. I hated, and still hate, Reagan with the burning heat of a thousand suns so I was obviously not a fan of anybody serving under him. The first limos going past us had Soviet flags attached to the front, rolled down windows and Soviet guys waving at us with smiles on their faces. Seriously, it was as cool as it sounds. We smiled and waved back of course. Then the limos infested with the lice off of Reagan’s head rolled by and not one of them rolled down their windows. However, it was easy to see through the tint that one of them contained Shultz. I started yelling to him that he sucked and gave him the finger with both hands. Yes, I told a high ranking US official to basically go fuck himself. My friends were panicking telling me to stop but I wouldn’t. To this day I am still proud that at the age of 16 I had the balls to do something like that.
Now that you have learned a little bit about me I will now tell you a little bit about what it was really like to live in the 80’s.
THE COLD WAR AND THE CONSTANT FEAR OF NUCLEAR ANNIHILATION
I don’t think that younger people right now quite realize just how close we came to all being killed in a nuclear war. This fear was largely due to the constant posturing of Reagan. He would call the USSR the evil empire and threaten them on a very regular basis. Frankly I was way more afraid of Reagan back then than I was of the USSR. To the credit of the USSR back then they didn’t give in to Reagan and start a war. I honestly think the professional war mongerers who stood behind Reagan wanted an all out war with the USSR because they would have made billions from that. Both empires fought a proxy war in Afghanistan when the USSR invaded the country while the US backed and trained the rebels. By the way one of those rebels was Osama Bin Laden.
Nuclear war was such a possibility at the time that two powerful tv films were made about it happening. Threads in the UK and The Day After in the US. Since I was living in the US at the time I saw The Day After when it was first aired in 1983 when I was in the 7th grade. It freaked my friends and I out so much that we went to our vice principal and asked about whether the school had a nuclear fallout shelter. Think about that for a second. Imagine being a young teen and having that kind of fear hanging over your head on a constant basis. It sucked. A few years ago I finally saw Threads and it shows the reality of a nuclear war; people being burned alive and the unsanitized reality of what would happen after a nuclear conflagration. If I had seen it back in the 80’s I would have had full blown nightmares.
IF YOU WERE IN ANY WAY ‘DIFFERENT’ YOU GOT CONSTANTLY SHIT ON AND CONFORMITY WAS A WAY OF LIFE
I always see younger people in online goth communities say that they wished that they could have experienced an ‘alternative’ subculture back in the 80’s. With confidence I can say that the vast majority of them wouldn’t have been emotionally equipped to have handled all of the shit that they would have gotten from others. It wasn’t just the ‘normal’ people that you had to deal with back then, you also had to deal with intense pressure within the alternative community to fit in by liking the same bands and behaving the same way. Woe onto you if you actually acted happy or liked a band that wasn’t considered cool. People think that ‘gatekeeping’ is bad now? They have no idea.
There was a huge amount of pressure back then by society to fit in. Reagan constantly preached about how America was better in the good old days, which were actually not good for anybody who wasn’t wealthy and white. If you didn’t go along with his not so hidden racist agenda you were seen as unpatriotic and a traitor. I am not exaggerating. You had to hate the USSR, be scared of black people, and look just like everybody else. If you didn’t have a perm, didn’t dress in the trendiest clothes and didn’t listen to the latest pop bands you didn’t fit in so you were considered fair game to tease and even physically attack. Luckily I was never physically attacked but I know that lots of people were. Far more violence happened back then than now. However, I had things yelled at me on a constant basis, for doing such things as simply walking down a street. In high school I was even told by a teacher that I wouldn’t have as many problems if I just dressed like everybody else.
IT WAS DIFFICULT AS HELL FINDING OUT ABOUT BANDSAND SHOWS
There was no functioning internet back in the 80’s. There were some bulletin board type communities but computers were expensive as hell so most people did not have them. There were thee ways of finding out about bands back then. You could be one of those lucky people that lived near a radio station that actually played alternative and punk music. These were usually college radio stations, but sometimes pop stations would play less popular music in the the middle of the night. There was a pop station in my area that did this. So much so that by the very late 80’s they became an ‘alternative’ station. However, by that time they played more radio friendly bands than experimental ones. However, I did learn about some bands by listening to them. Another way to learn about bands was by getting mix tapes from your friends. In early 86 I got one from a guy, who then ghosted me. There was no track listing written down so it took me literally years to figure some of them out. However, I had another person introduce me to Joy Division by handing me a tape with Unknown Pleasures on one side and Closer on the other. The last way to find out about music was by cold buying it. You would see somebody cool wearing a mysterious band shirt and you kept a log of those band names in the back of your head. I actually cold bought November Coming Fire by Samhain using this method, and more times than not I had really good luck.
On top of all of this there was a code of silence that the uber goober type people would pull when you would ask them about what bands they liked. Seriously. There was some sort of strange code that some weirdos lived by that made it very uncool to share musical knowledge with anybody. It was as if they were going to be killed by an evil cabal if they dared to utter the sacred names of bands. These were the same types who would try to dictate how you behaved in clubs.
Wanted to see your favourite band play a show? Good luck! Most of the time the only way you would find out about shows was at club nights, but if you were under 18, and sometimes 21, you weren’t allowed in them. I actually went to one that let you in of you were 17 or older and another that was all ages so I was lucky when it came to that. However, that didn’t mean you would find out about all of the shows because venues were usually total shit at advertising shows unless they were some of the better known ones that also hosted metal shows. There were some ‘alternative’ weekly papers where I lived so I would find out about some of them that way, but there were two times that I accidentally saw bands because I thought it was going to be a regular club night. I saw Meat Beat Manifesto and The Call that way which looking back on it was pretty darn cool.
Well, that’s it for today. I realise that I have probably broken some hearts and crushed some dreams but the amount of misinformation about the 80’s really needs to be balanced out with a reality check. I don’t look back at that decade with rose coloured glasses, even though I lived through those years. It could be fun, but it was also really difficult. If I had the ability to go back in time to those years I wouldn’t.
Anybody who knows me on social media knows that I really love A Flock Of Seagulls. I couldn’t buy their music when it originally came out because I was poor so I have been righting that wrong over the last few years by collecting their vinyl. With all of that said I really feel that A Flock Of Seagulls were way ahead of their time, both stylistically and musically. Especially with their obvious song and video homages to the sci-fi genre.
Their video featured above, (It’s Not Me)Talking, is perhaps one of the most original music videos to come out of the 80’s. A group of scientists detect a UFO coming in to land so they call the military. When the ship lands Mike Score, the singer of the band, comes out of the spaceship resplendent in his silver jumpsuit and coiffed hair. It’s like watching a very cool 1950’s black and white sci-fi film, which happens to be one of my favourite genres. On top of all of this the song is very cool, and doesn’t actually sound dated compared to a lot of the bands from around the same time.
Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You) is a video that either takes place on a space station or spaceship. Mike Score walks around singing during much of it, looking very lonely and pensive. Of course he does, because if you were thousands of miles away from your significant other you would feel the same way. There is a scene in which he tries to create the image of a woman on a computer and a real photo pops out of the printer. So, you also get the added bonus of seeing a technology that has actually been realized. Neat!
In my opinion I Ran is one of their more ‘simple’ sci-fi themed videos. You’ve got lots of mirrors, reflective material and two women who look like they are dressed in literal black garbage bags walking around with their arms outstretched as if they are going to attack Mike Score. They are also wearing some very dramatic eye makeup which is done, I guess, to make them appear otherworldly. This was during a time in which dramatic makeup was seen as ‘other’ and not as common as it is these days. All of this actually makes sense when you realise that the song itself is about trying to run away from an alien invasion.
This video is the most simple out of the bunch. The title alone, Space Age Love Song, evokes a sort of wistful thinking as to falling in love in a sci-fi themed future. They are just performing on a stage with fog, lights, and what looks like an actual space rocket in the background. It’s one of their better songs, so the lyrics and music really set the tone for the video.
This one is definitely the strangest of the bunch. You have the band in a spaceship playing their instruments while dressed in silver clothes, as two spacemen bring a woman to some sort of tilted table that she proceeds to go to sleep on. Then there are clips of a small monkey making evil looking faces, who in the end is being held by this green alien figure that looks like one of those Easter Island statues. I’m not sure what I am supposed to think after watching this. Are space monkeys evil? Do green space aliens come from Easter Island? Are bands required to wear silver coloured costumes when they go into space? Yes, it’s a bit strange but I feel that is what makes it cool. It gives you the latitude to interpret it as you please.
This series will include songs from various decades. The only thing that they will have in common is the fact that I think they are cool as hell; goth rock, disco, deathrock, punk, darkwave, new wave, soul, rap/hip hop, folk, alternative and more will be featured. Hopefully you will find out about some songs that you have never known about, that will drive you in a quest to find out more about these bands. Questions about the music I feature? Please ask away because I love talking about this subject.
I know that worshipping everything ’80’s’ is trendy as hell right now. However, I was actually a teen in the 80’s so I have the absolute right to wax and wane over the music from that period of time.
With all of that being said this song will always remind me of my late 80’s club going days. Back in the late 80’s, before the word goth was heavily used in the SF Bay Area, clubs that played weirdo music were called ‘alternative’. The term back then mostly meant the music of bands who never got much mainstream radio play. Sometimes those kind of stations would play ‘alternative’ music past midnight so you had to stay up late to hear it and hopefully record it if your trigger finger was fast enough. In the SF Bay Area there were a few stations that would play alternative music regularly, so I was pretty lucky in that regard. Also, there was a local TV station that would air ‘alternative’ videos every afternoon and they would have guests like Adam Ant.
The day of my 17th birthday in 1988 my friend drove me to a club called One Step Beyond that was in Santa Clara California. All types of people went to that club; mods, goths, new wavers, punks,etc… That being the case they played a very wide variety of music, everything from rap/hip hop to early 80’s new wave hits. That was the night that I first heard this song. I loved it because it’s sound really gave it a sci-fi kind of vibe. You could watch Blade Runner and automatically think that this song would fit neatly into its soundtrack.
For years I didn’t know who made this song! Since this was the time before the internet that was a pretty regular occurrence. You didn’t want to seem uncool by asking who made the song! Sometimes I didn’t care and would ask anyway but for some reason I missed asking about this one. I’m not perfect! I finally found out about twenty years ago that Visage, who was an early 80’s new wave band, were the ones who made it! I remember listening to it over and over again absorbing it like a sponge. Happy in the knowledge that by golly I finally learned who wrote the song that perfectly encapsulated my late 80’s/early 90’s club going experience.
I hope you enjoy this song as much as I do because it’s very nifty.
RIP to Steve Strange, the singer and creative force of Visage who died in 2015.