Friday, June 29, 2012

The California Raisins

The California Raisins were an example of the whimsical, quirky style of the '80s, as well as an example of the nostalgia for '60s music and culture which were so present back then. They were a fictional soul group made up of animated claymation raisins which were featured in commercials for... yep, California Raisins. 

Here they are performing "I Heard It Through The Grapevine."

Heres another commercial, this one courtesy of Retro TV. Same song, different commercial.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Pursuit of Cool, and other stuff

I've been surfing around the net, perusing my fellow retro bloggers, and discovered this great review of a new '80s oriented novel and interview with its author over at Kickin It Old School. KIOS is an excellent blog, especially for fans of '80s culture, often featuring some great interviews with '80s figures.

Recently, it featured a post on The Pursuit of Cool, a recently released novel about college life during the '80s. It sounds like a great flashback to that era. There is also an interview with the author, Robb Skidmore, where he talks about the '80s, and his memories of them. There is a great quote from him in the interview, which is just so "spot on" about the '80s:

The 80s was a charmed era and a truly great time to be young. The Cold War had 
stalled into a nonevent and it was a period of peace and prosperity. With no wars to 
fight, young people had lots of spare time. In 1981, MTV appeared on cable television 
converters and everybody watched it, constantly. The vibe of the videos, like the 80s 
in general, was generally happy and celebratory. But the 80s also had a very 
purposeful, ambitious edge as well. There was a career chic that made achievement 
and wealth a popular thing.

I just can't help but agree with this description. He talks about his own experience with the '80s, with John Hughes movies, with '80s music, and other elements of '80s culture. Commenting about '80s music, he says: "I still love 80s music and listen to it. The range and quality and originality of music produced in that era I don't think has been surpassed." I just wanted to recommend checking out the interview and the book as well. 

Also check out my own list of recommended '80s books in this Christmas post.

Looking around the retro-blogosphere for '80s subjects:

Fourth Grade Nothing recently had a post on another of my fave '80s flicks, the cult classic The Last Starfighter.

Totally Radical Awesome 80s had a post on the charity recording, USA for Africa, which included the '80s classic "We Are The Word." The song collected funds for famine relief in Africa.

And finishing up my recent string of Eurythmics videos, here's a song and video I remember well from 1985: "There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart."

Annie Lennox truly had a voice for all seasons.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Eurythmics- Who's That Girl

Still with the Eurythmics...

I always thought that Annie Lennox had a wonderful, expressive voice that could be so many things depending on the song: lighthearted, soulful, intense, etc.  

Here's a Eurythmics song and video that showcase both Lennox's voice, and the striking visual imagery the group was known for back in the '80s. 

The year: 1983.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams

One of the most truly vibrant and creative music groups of the '80s was the synth pop duo Eurythmics.  I've decided to dedicate a series of posts to this great '80s musical act.

Eurythmics crashed onto the shores of America in 1983 as part of the Second British Invasion of music, adding their visually and musically bracing style to the colorful lineup of musical acts which were then breaking through. This was a time when music videos were new and novel, and often featured a New Wave style of music which was often steeped in unconventionality and heavy in synthesizers. The Eurythmics were perfectly made for the era. 

Annie Lennox probably was the more distinct member of the duo, her arty theatrical style reflected the androgyny that often characterized the era. 

Eurythmic's breakthrough hit was 1983's "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", a catchy synth song with ominous lyrics which became gigantically popular on both sides of the Atlantic. The video for the song was very memorable . . . and well remembered by many of those who grew up in the era.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bright Lights Big City

We are all familiar with the "brat pack" of '80s movie actors, but did you know there was also a literary brat pack as well?

Back in the mid '80s, a several young writers became associated with being the new faces of literature. Among them, Jay McInerney (Bright Lights, Big City), Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero), and Tama Janowitz (Slaves of New York). The term "literary brat pack" soon began to be applied to this group, as well as certain other writers similarly associated. The works of these writers often involved the realities of modern life in the '80s, and were usually written in a minimalist, stripped down style.

I've always had a fondness for McInerney's first breakthrough work, Bright Lights, Big City. The novel, which came out in 1984, was unique in that it was told entirely in second person singular. It detailed the life of a young writer in '80s New York, who was working in the fact-checking department of a major magazine. The main character went through the process of disappointment with his profession, the difficulties of the break up of his relationship, and his ultimate disillusionment with the fast-paced Yuppie lifestyle which he had fallen into. 

When I first read the novel, I was in college in the mid '90s, and already having major nostalgia for the '80s. I picked up Bright Lights, Big City, and was immediately drawn into this world of '80s upwardly mobile aspirations. The main character proved worthy of sympathy as he searched for himself amidst the chaos of his personal life and the fast moving urban world where he lived.

Here's a brief snippet from the novel that I always find myself returning to, I guess because I myself sometimes feel as the character here is described to feel. This excerpt is told, as is the novel, in second person singular: 

Once upon a time, you assumed you were very likable. That you had an attractive 
wife and a fairly interesting job seemed only your due. You were a good guy. You 
deserved some of the world's booty. After you met Amanda and came to New York, you 
began to feel that you were no longer on the outside looking in. When you were 
growing up you suspected that everyone else had been let in on some fundamental secret 
which was kept from you. Others seemed to know what they were doing. This conviction 
grew with each new school you attended. Your father's annual job transfers made you 
the perennial new kid. Every year there was a new body of lore to be mastered. The 
color of your bike, your socks, was always wrong. If you ever go into psychoanalysis, 
you will insist that the primal scene is not the encounter of parents in coitus: it takes 
the shape of a ring of schoolchildren, like Indians surrounding a wagon train, laughing 
with malice, pointing their vicious little fingers to insist upon your otherness. The 
scene repeated itself in schoolyards across the country. Not until you reached 
college, where everyone started fresh, did you begin to pick up the tricks of winning
 friends and influencing people. Although you became adept, you also felt that you were 
exercising an acquired skill,  something that came naturally to others. You succeeded 
in faking everyone out, and never quite lost the fear that you would eventually be 
discovered a fraud, an impostor in the social circle. Which is just about how you feel 
these days. Even now, as you puff yourself up with tales of high adventure in 
magazine publishing, you can see Elaine's eyes wandering out over the room, 
leaving you behind. She's drinking champagne. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Random '80s Song: I Want A New Drug

I've got a few posts in the works, but they're not quite ready yet. So, how about if I fill up some blog space with some '80s music.

How about some good ole catchy '80s rock n' roll with Huey Lewis and the News.

The Song: "I Want a New Drug" from 1984.