Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!!



An '80s New Years memory: Dick Clark rings in 1982 during his long-running New Years Rockin Eve program.

Happy New Year to all my readers, and may 2016 be blessed for us all.


And here's the countdown to 1989.

As you can see, the New York ball drop featured a "big apple" for a number of years in the '80s, before reverting back to the classic ball in the late '80s.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holiday Hope: Merry Christmas to All




It's around this time of year that we remember the ideals so many of us believe in, and the hopes for peace and a better world that are at thr root of the holiday. Here's a clip that I post almost every year: a 1977 Coke commercial I remember fondly from growing up.  All types of people, each a candle in the darkness, forming a Christmas tree. 


And here's a memorable duet from two unlikely singers: Bing Crosby and David Bowie.   Peace on Earth. A beautiful hope.  

Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Band Aid "Do They Know Its Christmas"



Here's a classic '80s Christmas song that I just have to post every year.  In 1984, Band Aid put together a large number of '80s era British musicians for a charity single to help African famine relief.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Paul McCartney "Wonderful Christmas Time"




Nice holiday song from Paul McCartney and Wings

Bob Dylan "Must Be Santa"



Here's the great Bob Dylan with his wackadoo version of this Christmas song. 

This came out just a few years ago.

Very fun, just like the season should be.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Repost: A Christmas Story


This is a re-post of a post originally appearing on December 17, 2011.  This is one that I've re-posted a few times around the holiday season, kind of like bringing out an old Christmas decoration that youve enjoyed many times before.

One of my recently acquired Christmas obsessions is the fun and enjoyable 1983 movie A Christmas Story. Based upon writer Jean Shepherd's semi-fictionalized account of a young boy, Ralphie, experiencing the Christmas holidays in 1940s Indiana with his parents, his younger brother, and his neighborhood friends. I love movies that convey a time period with great detail, and A Christmas Story clearly fits into this category. 


This movie contains one of the funniest scenes ever, where one of the young protagonist's friends gets his tongue stuck to metal pole in the cold of winter. The main story line, however, also full of funny moments, concerns Ralphie's ongoing quest to obtain a BB gun for Christmas, despite the objections ("you'll shoot your eye out, kid") of various adult figures, including his mother, his teacher, and a store Santa Claus.   


But I think the main reason I find this movie so enjoyable is that its a rather realistic, yet fun, holiday movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. It involves a rather average family doing their best to enjoy the holidays amidst
dealing with everyday life. Ultimately, this movie is about having a Merry Christmas with what you have, and with those you have around you.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

'70s Christmas Songs

I posted several '80s-era Christmas songs. Here's some from the '70s.



Elton John "Step Into Christmas"  This one's a well-remembered classic. Very catchy and inviting. It really does make one want to step into the holidays.



John Denver and The Muppets "The Twelve Days of Christmas"  This one is so wonderfully '70s, and always puts a smile on my face.


The Carpenters "Merry Christmas Darling"   A happy memory from a classic '70s duo.  Very traditional and homey, and Karen with her wonderful voice.



Slade "Merry Xmas Everyone"  A fun Christmas song from the Glam part of the '70s. This is more well known in the UK than in the US.



Greg Lake "I Believe In Father Christmas"  And from the Prog side of the '70s, this song which is an interesting combination of Christmas song and protest song. One does not have to agree with all of the lyrics to find it compelling. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

'80s Christmas Songs

Every year I always celebrate the holidays by blogging about Christmas songs, especially from the '80s. So let's start this holiday season with my latest Christmas song post.  All of these were posted before on my blog, but its become a holiday tradition on this blog, so here they are to enjoy. To all my readers:

Merry Christmas
Happy Hannukah
Happy Holidays


Billy Squire, "Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You."  This song is so cheerful, it just picks you up for the holidays.




Wham, "This Christmas." I always say that this is the most 80s-esque song and video of the season, from '80s faves Wham. Check it out and imagine youre in 1985.





U2, "Baby Please Come Home."  From '80s rockers U2, a classy yet very rock n' roll Christmas song.


John Mellencamp, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." From the same guy who gave us "Hurts So Good," and "Pink Houses." Mellencamp gets all family for Christmas.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Heavy Metal, The Movie


Back in the early '80s, an animated movie came out based on the adult comic magazine Heavy Metal.  The 1981 movie, also called Heavy Metal, ultimately would develop a cult following and become a favorite of the late night movie circuit. Heavy Metal consisted of anthology of several animated stories, all with a style clearly geared to teen males. I love it because it serves as a wonderful time capsule of the era, in particular of the rock-oriented culture of that era, and a remembrance of what was considered cool among early '80s teens, especially males.


Heavy Metal starts with an animated space sequence, with a space shuttle (a form of space transportation then new and exciting) opening its cargo bay and releasing a corvette, which slowly descends back to earth.

A space shuttle releasing a hot sports car into space... an odd sequence that seems so obviously cool in an early '80s context, which I think would appear odd to today's youth.

The initial story involves an astronaut bringing a gift from space to his young daughter: a strange glowing orb which turns out to have great power, and which serves as a central figure in all the movie's stories.


One story features a taxi driver named Harry Canyon living a very rough, distopian future version of New York City . . .a reminder that New York of the late '70s and eraly '80s was facing its own issues of crime and decay.  Canyon's story contains a pulp fiction style with a gritty story line. 


Another story involves a zombie laden account of horror encountered by a World War II bomber crew.  As with all the stories, very teen-male oriented.


My favorite story involves a nerdy teen boy who finds the glowing orb, and takes it home to run scientific experiments on it.


The boy soon finds himself transformed into a bald, muscle-bound hero, and transported to a strange mythical land where the orb is an object of worship called the Loc-Nar.  As his new self, he calls himself "Den", and embarks on a series of adventures involving the Loc-Nar and the inhabitants of the new world to which he has been brought.


The stories in Heavy Metal includes accounts taking place in space and in strange new lands, and involving odd aliens and mythical animals. Altogether an enjoyable combination, but not too deep or complicated in its content. Its practically made for late night, leisurely viewing.



As noted, there is always a reminder of the early '80s era (with lots of leftover late '70s) which produced this flick: as in the sequence featuring drug snorting aliens, and a swinging sex-addled robot. Heavy Metal is not for everyone, but if youre into science fiction told with a pulp style, mixed with early '80s teen rock n' roll sensibility, its worth a watch.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!!!




Here's a 1987 Macy's commercial featuring Snoopy. It includes a portion where it shows the shadow of the Snoopy ballon in the yearly Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, an event that was always a treasured part of thanksgiving when I was growing up, and which remains such today.  



And here's a 1988  Metlife Thanksgiving commercial also feautring the Peanuts characters. This is a re-post of this clip, which was featured on this blog a few prior Thanksgivings . . . and it's still warm reminder of the point of this holiday. 

A Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers!!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Re-Post: Captain EO

I've got several posts in the works, but unfortunately the demands of my job, among other things, have slowed their completion. Rest assure I should have them posted soon. Keep up with this blog.

In the meantime.. here's a re-post from 2012.  Disney recently announced that it would soon cease showing the Captain EO film at its Epcot them park, so my the timing of this re-post is good.



I recently visited Epcot, at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. 
Epcot is very dear to me because it opened in the '80s to much fanfare, and was the location of many a family visit... and of so many of my youthful '80s memories. Epcot, in so many ways was very '80s when it opened, and it was very much a product of its times... the hope and positive vibes and energy of the '80s . . . the visions of the future of that era.



So much has changed since the '80s... and in some ways Epcot's mission has changed as the decade of its birth fades into the past... and yet there are still so many echoes of the '80s in Epcot... in its architecture and some of the rides which have survived since then.

The big ball, above, for example, is actually called Spaceship Earth, and it houses a ride that existed when Epcot first opened... it has had a few changes here and there... but its basically the same.. a ride through the history of communication. Maybe I'll do a post about it some day.

I do still love to visit Epcot, in part for all these '80s memories, and also because it remains to this day a very positive hopeful place.



One place that has changed a lot over the years is the pavilion which, at least back in the '80s, was known as Journey Into Imagination. Although the exterior looks very much the same (thankfully! I like it), the rides and shows inside have gone through a major evolution through the years.




Which brings me to what this post is really about. Back in 1986, when Epcot was still new, at the very height of the vibrant '80s, the Journey Into Imagination pavilion featured a new 3-D sci-fi space film by George Lucas, and starring Michael Jackson, called Captain Eo.

Captain Eo premiered at the very peak of Jackson-mania, when Michael Jackson's image was full of the very hope and positivity of the '80s decade, before his later troubles, and before the world seemed to become a less optimistic and less hopeful place. At least that's how I perceive it.

Recently, after a long absence, Captain Eo was brought back to Epcot, to the very same Imagination pavilion that originally featured it... and providing a wonderful '80s flashback to those who well remember that era.


And here it is, above.

This wonderful short film showcases so much of the good of the '80s: the optimism, the wonderful sci-fi fantasy which so dominated the era, the color and vibrancy... and Micheal when his music and message was a ray of hope that couldn't help but make you smile.

I enjoyed seeing Captain Eo again at Epcot, and am grateful to Disney for bringing it back.

When the world sometimes seems to be growing darker, maybe we need a wonderful flashback like this to remind us to see things in a positive light, and to look for the best in others. Thank you Michael Jackson and thank you George Lucas, for this, and thank you Disney for first presenting this to us, and for bringing it back again just when we need it.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Alice Cooper: Teenage Frankenstein



Happy Halloween everyone! Here's something for the holiday: Alice Cooper's "Teenage Frankenstein" from his 1986 album Constrictor.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sly Fox: "Let's Go All The Way"



"Let's Go All The Way," the 1985 hit by Sly Fox.

Contrary to popular belief, this song is not about sex, but about the human condition and frustration with politics.  Listen to the lyrics.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back To The Future Day




Its finally here: October 21, 2015, the date in the "future" that Doc Brown and Marty McFly visited in Back to the Future II (1989).

Happy Back to the Future Day to all.  

FOLLOW UP:


Check out the hit song from the first Back to the Future (1985), "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News, along with some clips from that great '80s flick.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Re-Post: E.T.


This is a re-post of a post originally appearing in 2011.


I remember when my parents took me to see E.T., '80s sci-fi classic from Steven Spielberg.

The movie came out in June 1982, so this must have been mid to late late '82. I was a somewhat nerdy, awkward 12 years old loner, often in living in my own odd dreamy world. The fact that I was also an only child added to my solitary nature, I suppose. But I was quite close to my parents, although sometimes I even felt misunderstood by them as well, and this would occasionally lead to conflict in my teen years. But this memory was one of being close to them, and I treasure it now as I sit here writing about it.

We went to see the film at a small, one theater cinema in the downtown of our small home town. It was an old theater that had been there seemingly forever, and was still there in the '80s. It was in the very midst of the fan mania that developed over the film, and there was a long line that stretched around the entire front of the small theater and around the side to the parking lot out back.  

We took our place in line, and when we got inside the theater was packed to capacity, with every seat filled.  At that age, I was not yet used to going to see movies at the theater, so the whole thing was quite new to me. I remember we got some popcorn and Coke, and took our seats in the crowded theater. I also remember that in the midst of the movie, someone spilled a drink a row behind us. But I remember the experience fondly.


I remember the pleasure I got in seeing this beautiful film.  There was a tangible warmth about it, there were so many different details that seemed to shine through about the film. I remember the funny scene where E.T. inspires the young protagonist, Eliot, to come to the rescue of the frogs which were to be used during his school's science class, and he proceeds to cause havoc by freeing all of them in the midst of class. I also remember that my mother cried when E.T. briefly appeared to die, and I remember the joy that came when he miraculously revived and was alive.  


It felt like I was part of some wonderful phenomenon that all of America was participating in, and maybe beyond our borders to the world.  I somehow felt like I identified with the young protagonist Eliot, played by actor Henry Thomas. But then, didn't we all identify with young Eliot at that young age, befriending this wondrous being from another world.  





Saturday, September 19, 2015

Repost: Simon & Garfunkel's Concert in Central Park





On September 19, 1981, Simon and Garfunkel reunited in a fantastic mega concert in New York's Central Park. They went on to tour heavily.

As an '80s kid who also loved '60s music and culture, this concert was of great interest to me.  The concert film was often played on our local PBS station, and I taped it on our VHS player. I'd often play back the concert, and enjoy seeing the multi-generation crowd digging the reunion of these two "old friends." 

Music was often a multi-generation thing in the '80s, with people of many ages often together enjoying great musical artists. Time was not a boundary.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cowboy Junkies' "Sweet Jane"



Here's the excellent 1988 remake by the Cowboy Junkies of the classic 1970 Velvet Underground song "Sweet Jane."  This is just exquisite Rock music, from a time when Rock still had soul. Sit back and listen.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Repost: Does Anybody Remember Laughter? *

This is a repost of a post originally appearing in 2012.  I'm in a particularly nostalgic mood, and this seemed appropriate. 



"Everybody's talkin' about the new sound,
Funny, but its still rock n' roll to me."
-Billy Joel

One thing that makes me feel good, blessed even, about growing up when I did, was the music culture that existed when I was growing up. I was an ‘80s teen, but its not just the ‘80s that I’m talking about. I’m talking about this wonderful thing that came out of the 1950s, and evolved and grew during the 1960s. This wonderful thing called Rock Music, which by the end of the ‘60s had become the anthem and rallying cry of nonconformist youth, and continued strongly throughout the 1970s and 1980s.


I’m not sure how I would have gotten through my teen years without rock music.  Before the age of 12, I really was a rather unhip child, fairly unaware of popular music, rock or otherwise. But once I discovered rock, I grew to love it… all of it, not just the ‘80s, but wonderful stuff from the ‘70s and ‘60s and ‘50s as well.  By the time I was a teen in the ‘80s, it was something that had already been handed down by prior generations. And it was a world all its own… one that nurtured generations of nonconformists . . . rebels of all sorts . . . hippies, freaks, glam rockers, punkers, New Wavers, and others . . . music with a message . . . or with an attitude . . . with a difference . . . a music that told many an odd, strange, misfit kid (like me) that it was okay – even cool – to be odd, strange, and misfit.


I remember spending a lot of time by myself, solitary, in my room, some great record (yes, records, on a turntable, remember those?) on the stereo… it could be something great from the ‘80s.. or from earlier decades… maybe U2, maybe the Police, maybe the Beatles, or the Stones, or some Led Zep, or some Talking Heads . . . maybe something mellow, or psychedelic, or hard… but whatever it was, it had the same effect on me of immersing me into a different world - - perhaps one that was more heroic, or magical, or full of greater possibilities that encouraged an odd, freaky kid to imagine great things.



I didn’t go to my school senior prom. It fell on the same date that Pink Floyd (that’s the ‘80s Momentary Lapse of Reason version, say what you will), was having a concert in a local arena. I had wanted to see Pink Floyd in concert (even a Roger Water-less, David Gilmour dominated Pink Floyd) for ages, and when it came time to choose between going to a rock event from a seminal rock band, and going to some social event that celebrated fitting in to a place I never fit in . . . well, I chose to rock.


I remember the line for the tickets. I and a good, fellow freak friend of mine, agreed to show up at the Specs music store early on the morning of the ticket sale to get ourselves Pink Floyd tickets. I showed up early enough, I thought, but to my surprise there was an enormous line of people who had camped out and waited in line to get tickets. I thought for sure that I had messed up, and that by the time I even got inside to get my ticket, they would be sold out. I looked around for my friend, and to my surprise, there he was, almost at the front of the line, looking disheveled after having camped out there all night. He was hungry, and when a nearby Eckerd Drugs opened, I went to get him a candy bar. We stood in line and chatted with some of the other people there, fellow freaks, as if we were all old friends, or some extended freaky family.  Soon enough, Specs opened, and my friend got me a ticket.. and we rejoiced that were both going to see Pink Floyd.


On the night of the concert, I arrived at the arena and took my place among the packed crowd, but I could not find my friend. I actually was a bit concerned that he didn't make it for some reason. The concert started and there I was, enjoying a Pink Floyd concert. At one point, it started to rain, and this being an outdoor concert, we got a bit drenched. But that didn't matter, we stood there enjoying the music, all united together withstanding the elements in the name of rock n roll. The rain didn't last long, and when it stopped, the water glistening over everything, on came the song "Wish You Were Here." It just seemed poignant, and meaningful... and I thought of my friend. The concert ended, and indeed, it seemed shorter that night than I would have liked... I guess I would have wanted it to go on longer . . . but off I went with a mind full of memories. 

My friend, incidentally, did actually make the concert, and had staked out a place close to the stage to groove to Pink Floyd. I found that out when we next saw each other, both at school, and both wearing Pink Floyd concert shirts.

To me, at least, the true era of rock ended in the around the early to mid '90s. Rock continued, of course, and there were and are many good new rock bands.... but no longer would rock dominate as the voice of quirky, rebellious youth . . . and an era, and a culture, would recede into the past. How, indeed, do today's youth even manage to grow up without Rock?




*The title of my post comes from Led Zeppelin's classic 1976 concert film (of a 1973 concert) The Song Remains The Same, where during a performance of "Stairway to Heaven" Robert Plant comes to the line about "the forest will echo with laughter," and he ad libs "Does anybody remember laughter?"



Thursday, August 13, 2015

Repost: Culture Club



This is my repost of the post originally appearing June 8, 2011.

The 1980s were an era of colorful, quirky music qroups. Early in the decade, MTV went on the air, initiating the era of music videos, and exposing American culture to the quirky musical subculture called New Wave. New Wave dated to the late 1970s, with the emergence, in the wake of punk, of arty, quirky musical acts like the Talking Heads, Devo, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Blondie. But its comibation with the new media of MTV in the early '80s exposed it on a large scale to the American public, and turned it from a oddball subculture, into mainstream culture. And America ate it up.

A large number of the groups given exposure by MTV came from Britain, and thus, in 1982-83, was initiated what was called the Second British Invasion... the first being the 1964-65 invasion of British musical groups like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Hermans Hermits, and the like. The Second British invasion of 1982-83 was similarly a cultural and musical invasion and included the likes of very popular multi-hit acts like Duran Duran, the Police, Culture Club, Eurythmics, and the Human League and lesser lights such as ska revivalist Madness, catchy celtic tinged popsters Dexys Midnight Runners, and synth virtuoso Thomas Dolby.

Culture club was one of the more memorable groups to come out of this invasion. Emerging out of the Bowie-inspired theatrical New Romantic subculture, Culture Club was an easily recgnizable presence during the early '80s, due in large part to their gender bending lead signer, Boy George.




The very first big hit for Culure Club in the U.S. was 1982's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," which really hit big the following year. I still remember vividly watching this video, and just being amazed at this andogynous character singing this remarkably catchy tune. This was also around the time I started getting into music videos, itself still a new medium, and it was also when I really started getting into music in a big way. It was my early teens, and my sense of being an adolescent was growing strong. This new, shiny quirky catchy music just captured my imagination.

Culture Club would have many more hits in the '80s, all this catchy soulful pop punctuated by Boy George's rather rather appealing smooth voice. Among them, "Karma Chamelion," below, which is another wondeful example of the music video medium, and the optimistic catchy popishness of the New Romantic/New Wave era.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bye Bye Ms American Pie

A few days ago, the singer Don McClean revealed the meaning behind his enigmatic 1971 song, "American Pie."  He said, "Basically, in American Pie, things are heading in the wrong direction."  

About today's America, he has said "[i]t is becoming less idyllic. I don't know whether you consider that wrong or right but it is a morality song in a sense."

"I was around in 1970 and I am around in 2015," he continued, "[t]here is no poetry and very little romance in anything anymore, so it is really like the last phase of American Pie."



As if to prove this point, the latest saga of the Muppets supposedly has Kermit and Miss Piggy, the longtime love interests of Jim Henson's fictional brood, break up in acrimony.

OK.. lest anyone think I've totally lost my mind: Yes, I know the Muppets are fictional characters. They are the equivalent to cartoon characters and comics. They only exist due to the creativity of human beings, who are responsible for "bringing to life" the lovable puppets.

I also know that real life (the real life we all live in as real human beings) has a lot of hard and difficult and sad things that happen. Relationships break up, people suffer poverty and disease, good people struggle through all sorts of negative things.  Moreover, there are even some comics and cartoons which are, by intention, realistic, and deal with such serious issues.

But what utterly bothers me about the latest twist in the Muppets saga is that the Muppets were never like that. They were always lighthearted, and the stories surrounding the Muppets (like the hopeful story in 1979's The Muppet Movie) are ususally delightful and positive. That's what Jim Henson created when he made The Muppets. 

What exactly do the artists and creative people, no doubt good people, think they are doing by inserting such a cynical and negative plot twist into the story.  Yes, breakups happen in real life. They are happening a lot lately, in fact. 

But have we become so cynical that we are unwilling to let our fantasy life, the very thing Jim Henson contributed to when he created his delightful Muppets, take on a more positive tone?  Do we really need to have everything (as it seems to be lately) devolve into cynicism and negativity?  Are we so beyond the wonder and sweetness that existed when we first saw the Muppets so long ago, that we need them to be every bit as sad as a reality TV series?

What would Jim Henson think?


Here's the wonderful wedding scene from 1985's The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Have we lost this in our society? The capacity to hope, and dream big dreams?

UPDATE:



Since I'm referencing this great song, here's Don McClean's 1971 epic "American Pie," with a video that came out in 1989.






Saturday, August 1, 2015

Revisiting '80s Nerds


One of the things I remember most fondly about the '80s were the trend of nerd films: films like Revenge of the NerdsWeird Science, and my fave, Real Genius where oddball, brainy outsiders were the heroes.  This set the stage for the growth of Nerd and Geek culture, and the changes which made being intelligent and quirky a cool thing.

As noted in this 1998 article in the online magazine Slate:


                  But the popular understanding of nerdiness--that a nerd 
                  is an uncool person--doesn't stand the test of time. In particular, 
                  it doesn't survive the 1980s, an era the New York Times 
                  deemed was characterized by "nerd chic." By the middle of 
                  the go-go decade, fashion magazines touted the popularity 
                  of nerd couture--plaid plants, horn rims, and oxford shirts 
                  buttoned all the way to the top. Further, witness the 
                  proliferation of '80s teen movies valorizing nerds: Revenge of 
                  the Nerds, Weird Science, and Real Genius, to name a few.
                 Underlying this transformation of the nerd's image was a                                transformation of the nerd's economic status. With their 
                  entry into new high-tech industries, many nerds suddenly 
                  became millionerds.





The end sequence of Revenge of the Nerds, culminating in an inspiring speech, is a classic. Its really about misfits and oddballs and people who just don't fit in finding their place in society and standing up for who they are.  Its a message which should resonate with anyone who has ever felt different, regardless  of whether one considers oneself a "nerd" or "geek" or "freak" or any other category.





Another memorable scene was the very '80s-esque performance of the nerds during the college talent show competition. This performance is very, very '80s. Its got new wavish syth music, Devo-ish hair styles, and Michael Jackson imitators doing the Moonwalk. Admittedly, the Lamar character (in the Michael Jackson jacket doing the "rap") is a bit much, but check out the computer toting nerd dudes sporting the '80s styles!!  


This post includes revised portions of two prior posts, along with new material.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Head of The Class


In 1986, a sitcom premiered about a class of gifted, high IQ students, and their inquisitive teacher: Head of the Class.  The show lasted from '86 to 1991.


Here's the peppy, hopeful opening theme... very '80s in every way.

I've heard this show referred to as Welcome Back Kotter with nerds, making reference and comparison to a similar '70s era show about students and teachers.  Kotter, by contrast, was about under-performing students. 



Howard Hessman played the teacher Charlie Moore at the beginning of the series, and through most of the show's run. 


 To be honest, I have a bit of a selective memory about the students. There were so many of them that I seem to recall only the ones that made the strongest impression on me. I do remember how each student was a unique personality, creating a class where each one's quirks and oddness was brought out. I recall there was a sensitive, an artsy girl, and a leather jacket wearing rebel guy. 


Dennis Blunden, played by Dan Schneider, was probably most memorable to me. He was a heavyset and somewhat sloppy kid, kind of like myself at that age. He was also a computer whiz, which I was not.

It turns out that in the years after Head of the Class, Schneider has become quite successful as a producer of family oriented shows on Nickelodeon.


Arvid Engen, played by Dan Frischman, was also memorable as the stereo-typically skinny and bespectacled science nerd of the group. 

I've had friends who resembled Arvid (who, I suppose, would play nerdy teen versions of Laurel in contrast to my Hardy). 



Robin Givens played the rich girl Darlene Merriman.


Tony O'Dell portrayed Alan Pinkard, a politically conservative student who dressed in yuppie attire.

I remember an episode where the class visited the Moscow, which back in the '80s was still in the Soviet Union during the waning days of the Cold War. I recall that they had a scene where the staunchly pro-American Alan got into a debate with an equally adamant pro-Commie Soviet student. I remember thinking it was a pretty unfair comparison, as if the less conservative students wouldn't have reason to oppose Soviet totalitarianism.  In any case, just a few years later Communism would fall, which I guess showed you who really won that debate.



In 1990, toward the end of the show's run, Billy Connolly replaced Hessman, playing teacher Billy MacGregor.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Recalling Live Aid



This past week included the anniversary of the gigantic, two stadium Live Aid concert, which was held on July 13, 1985 in Philadelphia and London.

It was one of the most momentous events of the 1980s, and one that I remember vividly and quite fondly. Being the music nut that I was at the time (and still am), I listened intently to the coverage of the concerts which was being played over the radio.  At night, television coverage kicked in, and I saw that too.

Above is U2 at Live Aid, giving a the classic performance of "Bad." 
I love the atmospheric sound of this song. 



Here is the first part of a documentary I previously posted, which gives a good account of the run up to the big event. As noted in the documentary, Live Aid was part of a big effort to aid victims of a devastating famine in Ethiopia.  

One of the documentary's most satisfying parts for me is the account of Bob Geldolf, musician with the Boomtown Rats and one of the main organizers of the event, telling off the brutal dictator of Ethiopia to his face.  




Here's part 2 of the documentary.


Unfortunately, there was some controversy over whether sufficient amounts of the aid had gotten to the victims, and whether the organizers and supporters of Live Aid had acted sufficiently to end some of the brutal practices of Ethiopia's communist government.  A 1986 article in Spin magazine gives that point of view.



Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bloom County 2015




Here's something to cheer about.  A short time ago, I posted my tribute to the great '80s comic strip Bloom County.   The strip was one of the great pleasures of the eighties, running from 1980 to 1989, and caught the spirit of that odd and quirky decade.


Now, a few days ago, we received word that the comic's creator, Berkeley Breathed was bringing back the comic on an irregular basis, publishing the new strips on his facebook page.  The second installment of Bloom County 2015 just came out, with Opus pondering his status as an eighties relic. (Click each of those links and the new strips are in the articles.)

As an eighties relic myself, this is joyful news indeed!


UPDATE:

Just noted this article by Sean Nelson in The Stranger, titled "I'm Trying to Stay Excited About the Return of Bloom County."

Nelson makes some good points. He says that he has been very excited about the return of Bloom County.  But he also "can't help wondering whether maybe Bloom County was so about the ‘80s that it never should have left them." Further along, he notes: "When Breathed retired the strip in 1989 (replacing it with the conceptually distinct, ultimately indistinguishable, yet massively inferior Outland for reasons passing understanding), it marked the end of something very dear to those of us whose little sensibilities it helped shape. . . . But the ‘90s came in hard and the collective comedic sensibility morphed immediately into the assumption of bemused skepticism."

Nelson struck on something very true in his article. Bloom County came out at a very unique time, and was very much a part of its time. The eighties, for all its good and bad, had a particular sensibility . . . one that allowed for a particular, lighthearted, sometimes oddball, sometimes absurdist, comedic view of things.  Notably, the '80s featured a blossoming of the comics pages with this quirky sensibility, with the likes of Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbs, The Far Side, and the more mainstream Garfied.

For so many of us, the comics pages of the '80s brought many a joyful time. But, as they say, all good things must end. It is true that when the '90s came with its darker worldview, it swept all of that away. The end of that era really was something that many of us still feel . . . the feeling of something we knew in our youths, but now missing.

Nelson concluded with a show of support for the return of Bloom County, and this hopeful thought (which I share):

"Maybe now that we appear to have re-entered an age of piety, cant, and psychotic superciliousness, the time will be ripe for the return of Opus, Bill the Cat, Steve Dallas, Binkley, Cutter John, et al.—representatives of a time when you didn’t have to say anything too off-the-wall in order to be the good kind of shocking."


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New Horizons Visits Pluto




Okay, this has very little to do with nostalgia... but it involves one of my other fascinations: space and the space program.  Just wanted to note that I'm one of those space geeks who are excitedly watching the encounter with Pluto by NASA's New Horizon's space probe. 


This visit to Pluto completes the inventory of the major members of our solar system . . . the last such world to be visited by an earth probe.  Exciting stuff! 





Actually, it kinda brings this to mind . . . from back when Pluto "little Pluto" was "the farthest planet from our sun."  Now its considered a dwarf planet, but its the biggest member of the Kuiper Belt.