Sunday, June 14, 2009

Getting Real Retro....

Now here's a song both my hubby and I totally related to back in the same era as "Gotta Wear Shades" (see last post)

This is "Every Little Kiss" by Bruce Hornsby..who actually is from our area. Yep, the area does look like this, just a little off the tourist tracks. His relatives live up the road. They're good folks.

The weird thing about the big 80's was that it was all over the media how great the economy was doing but these economic wonders were pretty much absent in most small towns we knew. Big box stores were still coming in and by then they were starting to put a real hurt on the Mom & Pop biz. Industry, what was left of it, concentrated in the cities. Virginia's economy, on the whole, wasn't hurting too badly in the late 80's but people still felt very competitive for what was 'left' in their home towns. Some were real ugly about it, and looked for ways to disqualify rivals in the same community. Old 'battle lines' tend to show up when benefits or good jobs are believed to be in limited supply. The most recent scars always strain first in the human body, singular or collective.

This area was & still is "Watertown" - with plenty of port cities, seafood, construction, and tourism - but a lot of the regular jobs but didn't pay that well outside the one big shipyard or higher levels with the Navy. Obviously, being a Navy family means a lot of deployments, but even merchant marine sailors, truck drivers, & union guys often get trained here and then have to look for a break in one of those well-paid, well-protected circles....or work elsewhere ...if they can. Construction will do that to you too, since that industry is dependent on all the others. Working out of town to get ahead has long been the norm for a lot of guys all over the country. We haven't been exempt.

Another song from Hornsby that more closely represents that era, as we knew it.
"Just The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby and the Range

Hornsby is advocating change in the song. His point is that people tend to excuse bad, selfish ways and prejudicial habits as established policy, or as so ingrained in that huge social construct we call civilization that its useless to fight. "But don't you believe them!"

Hornsby had another huge hit back then called "Mandolin Rain." Its a sad ballad but its just ssooo beautiful. I was very surprised that so few outside our country said they had heard Hornsby's songs. They've been off the top charts long enough a lot of US teens haven't heard them either. This is a serious shame, because he's a lot more than a local hero. Bruce Hornsby was & is a real artist worth remembering.

The economy was better for most people in the 80's. Reagonomics did seem to work when companies didn't ship too many local jobs overseas. BUT life was only spectacularly good for relatively few. I mostly remember people going from worrying about nuclear holocaust (apocalypse films, Mad Max et al- were also an 80's thing) to worrying about getting and holding a reasonable job. Manic Monday, Money For Nothing, Fast Car, Another Day in Paradise, She Works Hard For the Money -and a number of similar 80's songs made the same point.

After all that serious reflection I need a lighter, escapist note ~ so here's the only vaguely related 80's hit "Down Under" from the band Men At Work

& "Tarzan Boy" A truly silly, cheery one-hit-wonder from the same its original cheesy music video. I'd not actually seen the video before looking it up today. Man, if this guy were any more obvious he'd be doing the time warp again... :D

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gotta Wear Shades...

Channel surfing the other night I happened to catch that late 80's hit "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades" on Pop-Up video. I remembered the song, though I hadn't thought about it in literally years.

I had thought of it as an 'upbeat' song that nevertheless tended to depress people - especially since it was still hugely in play when the economy went south a year or two after it went gold. No - this was the OTHER Wall Street failure, kids..the S & L embezzlement scheme in the late 80's that nearly bankrupted the world....billions were suddenly lost overnight. Countries were still tottering years later from its domino effects.... Still the song reminded me of old hopes, and a time when the economy was doing better - for other people, grant you, but still...

VH1 Pop-Up Video was able to remind me of a lot of things I'd forgotten about that how the movie 'Shades' went with- Real Genius had been the kiss of death for Val Kilmer's career. (All the younger ones are now saying "Val who?") Seriously, kids, he'd been very famous until that bomb of a movie. To this day, I don't know WHY it bombed. It was actually a decent enough flick, and Val was good in it. was interesting to read the pop-up notations that also mentioned that:

1. The ground the music video was shot on turned out to be Sacred, and adjacent to Burial Grounds for a tribe of Native Americans (the pop-up version points out the specific rocks of the Indian Burial Ground behind the band). There's usually a curse associated with fooling with those.

2. The Shuttle Challenger referenced in the video, blew up not that long afterward...

3. A decades-old beauty contest referenced in the video was permanently canceled right afterward...

4. and the song itself did not lead to anything lasting for the band themselves. As talented as they were said to be, this remained their One Hit Wonder.

5. Even the donkey used in the video died right afterward - admittedly, he was an elderly donkey. He'd been most famous for his appearances as the booby prize in Let's Make a Deal, the old game show.

..and I think I mentioned already that the economy went into a recession not long after, which, yes, slashed the budgets for the sort of high-paying entry level research jobs the song celebrated.

My Mom thinks even the trailer in the video was a recalled model....

You might just get the idea the song & projects associated with it WEREN'T "heavenly blessed & worldly wise," but the imagery in it has remained popular, especially with techies. A classy-looking MMO used similar imagery in its beginning to the music video and had slew of problems getting off the ground, far more than expected technical bugs, publisher support, funding issues, you name it. I couldn't help but wonder if the shades-wearing techies making that game had ever seen the Pop-Up Video version of the song? I'm guessing not...

Its interesting to me that everyone still remembers 'Shades' as a winners' song, and a reasonable way to encourage new and upcoming graduates with the tasty potential fruits of their labors. Others tend to remember it as a song to sing when they win big or whatever.

So - what do you think? Was it just really unlucky timing? If the music IS it just because the band accidentally crossed an ancient shaman?

How many people thought this song was pretty innocent? Did you?

Do you think that because many people have gotten good opportunities for earthly success, everyone less blessed has only themselves to blame (unless they are rapidly dying of cancer or something)?

We talked it over and filtered it through the lens of our memories. What came back was how much the song had depressed most people we knew in the late 80's & early 90's. It highlighted the disparity in opportunities for those not in the favored programs/ colleges/ departments. I can recall the bitterness of grads with Master's & PHDs in less valued fields on hearing that song. Not everyone is an engineer or a computer person, you know? One Political Science grad we knew ended up shift manager at a local convenience store for awhile. It paid better than his other options! A Liberal Arts Master ended up flipping burgers to keep going, but eventually was able to switch to tutoring students & a banking job. (He is a wonderful actor, but that is such a competitive field.) A doctorate in Marine Biology ended up as a secretary in the early 90's. She'd have loved to have gotten that shift manager's job. She later died young of an unexpected brain disease. Out of maybe a couple of hundred people we've known with really GOOD educational credentials, exactly one had the sort of opportunities mentioned in the song. We haven't seen him in a few years.

..and yes, he liked sunglasses. He probably liked the song too, though we never asked him. Now I don't begrudge the guy his blessing, but it sure highlighted to me what is wrong with saying that everyone could be a worldly success, if they just tried hard enough. Not all talents are valued by companies (or society) equally.

(and here you thought I was going to discuss the hard-working millions of working class who couldn't go to college for whatever reason, or go for very long, and still heard "Future's So Bright" pushed on the radio day after day - right? right... I did think of mentioning the millions who are lucky to see even a whole meal from one day to the next, and all those 'basic' undervalued talents for say, growing the food we all depend on, but..nah...)

I always had ambivalent feelings about the song myself. Its perky sounding, but my life has been not been that easy. Seemed like hearing it kinda rubbed on old sore spots as I continued to struggle with finances and faith. As I grew in faith & saw God answer my prayers over the years it bothered me less and less to hear it. I believe it is good to rejoice with other people's blessings. I count on God for mine and hope others will praise God with me for what He gives me. I don't identify with a view of success as a high-paying job that 'buys a lot of beer' - so it got easier and easier to put the song out of memory when it wasn't on the radio. & Since I quit listening to the radio long ago, that limited possible exposure to this song to 80's retrospectives (lumped in with songs I liked better). Like I said, I hadn't thought about it in years. Now I am REAL glad I didn't identify with it more. I really do think it marked a turning point for American history somehow.

We talked about it here for awhile and came to the conclusion that its the theme itself, with its focus on worldly success & partying that wasn't likely to have pleased God. "Shades" tempted the abundantly blessed to pride and selfish attitudes, and those less blessed were tempted to envy or despair on hearing it. It probably wasn't so much the cause of the things that broke right afterward but a reflection of attitudes that already annoyed the Lord who loves those who humble themselves and brings down the haughty.

So - by now you are wanting to see the Macbeth of music videos for yourself, yes?

As it happens, even if it wasn't giving me the heebie jeebies, I couldn't play the song for you. The VH1 page was having technical issues when I tried to access it, and Youtube has been asked not to allow embedding elsewhere. I leave you the Youtube link to "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades" on this paragraph only.

On an equally weird note, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was meant to be sarcastic, according to Bobby McFerrin - instead it genuinely cheered up a lot of people who heard it, helping them cope with the rough times it referenced. After seeing the other video, you might want to treat yourself. Just clickee this paragraph :)