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Re: The Dark Age
At 02:28 PM 12/27/2005, Rainer Thelonius Balthasar Straschill wrote:
>Could anyone please explain to me why the Eighties are often referred to
>as "the dark age"?
Funny, I read this different from most of you. I immediately thought "dark
age" in terms of aesthetic and emotional content, rather than a "period of
history where progress stopped". When I read other's responses, it really
left me thinking about this. To me, 80's music had a darkness to it that
wasn't really there in music of the several decades prior. In much 80's
music there was rage, melancholy, aggression, coldness, depression,
rebellion, hopelessness, cynicism, disillusionment, fear, nihilism. New
wave, punk, techno, rap, death metal, early goth/industrial, etc.
I'm not talking about pop music, but even superficial 80's synth pop had
something dark running underneath. To me this era was really, really
different musically from much of the 50s/60s/70s.
Where I live, this "dark 80's" theme is really popular in dance clubs
lately - it seems to be a theme many are connecting to again. Maybe that
It goes back to that context thing we discussed previously. The music of
the 80's reflected the times, as well as the life experiences of the youth
who were mostly creating and listening to it. If you can't put yourself
into that context you won't get it. Growing up in the 70's and 80's didn't
look like the "leave it to beaver" reruns we watched on TV. For us
"genXers" our formative years were filled with recessions, oil crisis, 3
mile island, nuclear annihilation threats, hostages, post
cynicism, cold war, AIDS, crack, "evil empires", iran/contra, shallow
yuppie greed, moral majority, S&L collapse, etc. The times were
and cynical and harsh, and so was the music. We didn't put flowers in our
hair; we had Slayer.
Also, our generation's culture was (still is) perpetually overshadowed by
the huge demographic glut of baby-boomer culture. That plays into it
somehow as well.
(this was the American version/perspective anyway, in other parts of the
world I think it worked out differently.)
I think the growing-up experiences of the baby-boomer generation were
really, really different from this. The 50's and 60's were times of
economic boom and prosperity in America, as well as a time of optimism and
a belief in changing the "system" for the better. Times and attitudes were
more positive and happy and idealistic. On the other hand, the good
and "times of plenty" of their formative years I think also led to a bit
self-indulgent behavior among many in that generation, a world-view of "we
want it, give it to us". A sort of spoiled child effect. (the "Me
Generation" label always struck me as fitting.) All of this I find
reflected in the music and culture of those times.
And here is where the clash comes, which I find really interesting. I
there is much more to it than "kids rebel" / "parents don't get it". I
think these two generations of people, on the level of values and
choices, really don't understand each other at all. I think most
baby-boomers, when confronted in the 80's with stuff like Slayer or the
Cure or Depeche Mode or Public Enemy or Juan Atkins' techno or whichever,
just couldn't relate to it on an emotional/aesthetic level. I think this
resulted in a lot of knee-jerk reactions; that we slackers only produced
crap and couldn't live up to the supposedly glorious era of Woodstock and
the summer of love. (it still results in that reaction, as evidenced by
this thread on this list.)
I know from my perspective, I've never been able to relate to most of the
baby-boomer era's music and culture. Or what I do connect to is not the
same elements the baby-boomers themselves wish to nostalgize endlessly in
VH1 documentaries. I can listen and appreciate easily enough, in a
historical/academic way, but the music mostly doesn't connect with me
emotionally. I know I'm not alone among genXers in this. Curiously, I've
always found it much easier to relate to and understand my grandmother's
generation, whether it was sitting down and talking to them or listening
their music. They clearly didn't understand the baby-boomers either (and
vice-versa), and I think it is because their own cultural values were
formed under such dramatically different conditions (economic depressions,
world wars), and perhaps a bit more similar to ours.
Somehow, this difference of context has a big impact on culture and music
specifically, and I think we really need to consider it carefully when
trying to judge something from one era or another.
Several times now I've had a really amusing conversation, discussing the
most influential music of the last xx years with groups of
musically/culturally knowledgeable people. Of course people tend to
overweight their own era, but it is really interesting to see what
different groups of people consider important about one specific period.
For me, being from the later genX generation, two names that immediately
jump to the top of the influential music list from the
boomer era are Black Sabbath and Kraftwerk. Both of these held huge
influence over the music of the 80's, when I was growing up. The eventual
sounds of Rap, Metal, Techno, Synth Pop, New Wave, and Industrial drew
considerably from the aesthetic and sound of these two groups. To me that
seems obvious, being an 80s kid. Certainly pop-music historians have been
citing Kraftwerk as one of the most influential groups of the last century
for some time now, as they were such a big influence on early Rap, Techno,
Industrial, and New Wave. But invariably, the baby-boomer members of these
discussions have never heard of Kraftwerk! I always find this really
surprising. How can you produce one of the most influential groups ever
not know who they were? Name recognition of Black Sabbath is usually
better, but they are mostly not on the boomer's list either.
To me this is amusing, but also illustrative of this divide in cultural
aesthetic. Black Sabbath and Kraftwerk were both reflecting a cold
in their music that the next generation was really going to respond to
during their "dark age", but most of their own generation didn't
understand. We noticed their music and ran with it. Meanwhile, from my
perspective it was really hard to look back at that era and understand
the big deal was about Jimi Hendrix or Bob Dylan or many other such
artists. It was only when I tried to understand the context of their time
that I understood it at all. But I still don't relate to it.
I also find it really interesting how we pick out musical examples from
other eras based on our own era's cultural aesthetic. How when I consider
the 60s/70s era of music, I immediately think of rather unusual groups for
their times, like Kraftwerk or Black Sabbath, because those are the bits I
understand. Or how boomers look at the 80's and mostly see examples of
music that was really a vestigal remnant of their own era, like Journey or
Def Leppard, and don't know anything about rap or techno or industrial or
new wave or metal or even punk. we miss all the interesting stuff.
Maybe that's a point I'm arriving at here. You need the context to both
understand and find what is good. We obviously miss a lot. It leaves me
wondering about what we may be missing about the present. If the life
experiences of someone born circa-1950 can be so different from those of
someone born circa-1970 as to result in such different music, what about
those born circa-1990? The context of their formative years produces...
what? Are we missing it?
Kim Flint | Looper's Delight
firstname.lastname@example.org | http://www.loopers-delight.com