PSA: This is a midly ironic article about romanticizing the hell out of the 80s punk and glam rock scene, it should not be taken seriously.
If I had a dollar for everytime I heard some young adult in a massproduced Pink Floyd tshirt say “Music just ain’t what it was, it’s all mainstream bullshit now/I was born in the wrong generation” I’d be richer than One Direction. Snobbish nostalgia is the plague of 21th century music. When I was young and naive I tried to follow the hype but quickly discovered it was a lost cause: I don’t get Black Flag (like at all, someone please explain the point of Black Flag to me please), I think the Beatles are overrated and I never managed to finish a single Led Zeppelin song. I thought I’d never get to be one of the cool blasé people. Thankfully, at the ripe old age of 18 I discovered Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: suddenly I had a true old school favourite band and could therefore indulge in all kinds of pretentious musical nonsense. What a relief.
But that’s not the point of this article. The point is, music may or may not have been better in the eighties, it’s debatable, but what is not debatable is that the lifestyle and general aesthetic of 1980s rockstars remains unequaled to this day. So that’s what this article will be about: aesthetics. And the role of aesthetics in music, because whether purists like it or not, it counts.
When you think about the 80s you might think of synthpop, horrendous hairstyles, John Travolta and disco, and you’re not wrong. But here I’m talking about the other side, the cool side, the wild side. The triumph of punk and glam rock, the rockstar tantrums, the groupies, the drugs. Trashed hotel rooms and TVs thrown into the pool, breaking guitars, boys with long hair, smoking on stage.
I know, Axl Rose is an arsehole, drugs are bad for you and smoking gives you cancer but come on, those were the glory days where health issues were overlooked and everyone could be as moody and wild as humanly possible. You know the old proverb “Nice guys finish last, bad boys 4 life” ? Well that’s how I feel about music now VS music then. Bad boys in real life are shitty and rude but in theory they’re exciting and original, same goes with old school rockstars. They came to interviews completely wasted, fought like sixteen year old drama queens, were gratuitously rude on a regular basis, wore sunglasses indoors and acted like pretentious pricks most of the time. Now you look back on it and laugh, amazed by their childish bravado but wondering how it was even possible to be allowed to act like this. Yet it was, and as much as you pity the poor people who had to deal with their shit, it’s bloody hilarious.
[Some quality example of shitty rockstar behaviour in interviews: Nick and Blixa wearing sunglasses indoors and being absolutely savage.]
Another characteristic of 80s musical culture I dearly miss is the fashion. As bizarre and overthetop as it could get, at least it was daring. Boys had long hair and make up, actually everyone had crazy hair and trashy make up, girls could look like whatever the fuck they wanted (body hair included), punks wore suits (seriously guys, bring back the bloody suits), nothing was too vulgar or too weird. Now you may look at Mötley Crüe and wonder how they got so much girls, but man they had style. Seriously how could we go from this to khaki shorts ?
They didn’t look “pretty” in the clean, general sense of the term: they had their own style and they were all insanely charismatic which is 10 times better. I have a weakness for wild girls and boys with nice cheekbones and drug addict eyes so maybe that’s why I love this so much but anyway, 80s fashion was the loveliest mess.
I could go on for ages about everything I love about the 80s punk and glam rock: all the drama, the drugs, the alcohol, the lack of morals, the insane creativity of these years, Berlin’s underground punk/industrial scene (listen to Einsturzende Neubauten, now), how weird it is see these bands now when they’re old or split up and look back on their young wild years, the influences, the anecdotes, the freedom. I could almost sigh and say I was born in the wrong generation but I won’t.
Asking Alexandria and Black Veil Brides did “try” to bring those glory rock vibes back (cough) but eh, it didn’t quite work out (though I admit I had an Asking Alexandria phase, poor sinner that I am, because I am trash for the sex drugs and rocknroll vibes). Maybe the 80s golden age is really over after all. But I still have hope for a new age where spiky hair, goth music, BDSM gear and using shopping trolleys as instruments will rule the world again. Amen.
Listen to good 1980s music here :
Words : Andy