Monday, November 22, 2004


Walk into the Home Depot of your choice, and the in-store music has been set at 1974-76 and 1983-87. Nothing inbetween. Like the Guess Who? You will be appeased. If you can't get enough of Billy Joel's 'Uptown Girl' (and really, who can?), it's waiting for you as you cruise the aisles looking for le tool juste.

I've spent a few weekends helping a friend with a clean-air initiative at some of the GTA's finest Home Depots, and the demographic aim is frighteningly true. Let's assume that the 80's hits are for the 30 somethings who are just handling their first home, and the 70's are for the greyer (and more financially viable crowd) whose kids are old enough that they can turn that back bedroom into that study they always wanted. Somebody did the math and figured out that these people will respond best to this music at this time.


None of this is rocket science. Noel Coward quipped about "the potency of cheap music" decades ago in Private Lives. But standing around the Home Depot outlets scared the hell out of me in sort of an espresso shot of nostalgia. It reminded me that pop music is a cheeseburger with fries, best new and not left sitting around to congeal. It also reminded me that, damn, I not only remember when the songs were new, I remember when they were relevant.

Resonant, even. I remember when the Thompson Twins' 'Hold Me Now' was associated deeply with a few girlfriends (capricious youth). I remember where I was the first time I saw 'The Boys of Summer' video. Depeche Mode's 'The Policy of Truth' struck me as a fairly valid life philosophy for years (and yes, one should always tell the truth, but when doing so in an uncomfortable situation, I no longer hear synth and drum tracks). I know a large contingent of people who weep openly at a chorus of Alphaville's 'Forever Young', something I'd like to avoid.

I gave up on most pop due to the fact I have lousy taste in same. This explains the rush of 1984 summer heat when I heard Dan Hartman's 'I Can Dream About You' alongside the Java firelogs. I remember the basement of the departed (and collapsed) Uptown theatre, the frozen, dark interior contrasting the muggy, solid heat of the outside as we filed out into the alley.


'Streets of Fire' is sort of 'Blade Runner' by way of...hard to say...add the name of the 50's good-girl-bad-boy flick of your choice. 'High School Confidential' will do just fine. It's set someplace that's not quite the past and definately not any definable now- imagine if the 50's and early 80's had collided on a Chicago backlot. It's vaguely a musical, more like an excuse to shoot a lot of neon in the rain. And the music...produced by Jim Steinmann of 'Meatloaf' fame, is operatic and generic at the same time.

But at 15 or so, I loved it. Unlike anything else I'd ever seen. It has a small, weirdly loyal cult- I saw it a few years ago at a midnight show during a blizzard (my excuse- my wife was out of town and I was already downtown and couldn't sleep). For a bad mid-80's movie to garner a 500 plus crowd during a blizzard is one thing. And the way everyone rose to join the last chorus of 'Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young' was either sweet or deeply creepy. I voted for the latter and snuck out early.

It might be the rush of nostalgia or just the general weirdness of midnight movie people. I saw Jaws once, and heard a sell out crowd quietly murmuring "Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies..." as Robert Shaw sang to himself onscreen. Good times.


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