How to Write As Though It’s Still the Early 1980s

With the fashion for ’80s retro-pop about to enter its third decade, it’s time to remind you youngsters of a few things. Strumming guitars, or picking out piano chords, you turn to Duran Duran for inspiration (indeed, why not the classics?) without ever having been alive during the 1980s. So, lest you stumble and spoil the perfection that is early ’80s pop, let an old man impart some wisdom.

We Did Nothing During The Day

Truly. We lived for the night. The night was alive, the night was for lovers, we rode the night down, we held the night in our hands, we partied all night, we danced into the night, we made the night last all night. Daytime? Nothing.

We Kept Our Terms Simple

A heart was a heart, love was love, and when the music played hard, it rocked. So we didn’t have “synthpop” or “collectives”. Maybe I was in a three-piece band with a drum machine, a singer and a keyboard, but we called it a “pop group” or a “rock band”. Thus, when the music rocked, and your body rocked, in time with the beat, my heart was on fire, my heart went pop, and love was on the dancefloor. Ooh, on the dancefloor.

We Played a Lot of Games

Nowadays you’d say we “sought validation”, or “had issues with intimacy”, but back then we just played games. Why are you always playing games with me? Quit playing those games. Love isn’t a game, and if you keep playing those games with me, I’ll take the night from you. On the dancefloor.

Computers and Space Were Still Interesting

Computers could solve problems, given time. Computers played games, but not with your heart. My love was there on the screen, written on the screen. Computer, tell me the answer, why won’t that girl call? And space had satellites, which were useful for beaming my love to her, or asking why my signal wasn’t getting through, through to that girl, that girl so far away, who sent me her love. Satellite, beam my love to her. Computer, give me a printout of her heart.

We Didn’t Buy That New Age Crap

You know that idea about unpleasant experiences containing a lesson, and no problem without a gift in its hands, and I had to go through it because I learned so much? Rubbish. Total rubbish. When we went through something unpleasant, it made us hard. When you hurt me that night, and you tore my heart in two, well, my heart is hard now, and you can’t hurt my hard, hard heart. So no, I don’t want to thank you for the lesson. I want you dead.

The Radio and the Phone Were Everything

When we wanted to hear a song we liked, we phoned the DJ and requested it. He (and it was a he) could make the pain go away by playing that song, that song that spoke to our hearts. But we hoped he wouldn’t play games with our hearts, leaving us hanging on the line, our hearts forever hanging on the line.

And if you wanted someone to call, you had to wait by the phone. That boy would make you wait all night, all night, playing games, leaving your heart hanging on the line, and making your heart hard.

Inevitably, there were exceptions. There was Peter Gabriel, who read books. There was Ian Dury, who used irony. These artists, and others like them, are no use to you if you seek ’80s retro-pop glory. You want The Human League, or Quarterflash, and Sharon O’Neill. Maybe late-era Scritti Politti.


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