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Re: The Dark Age
Being a now-forty-something child of Generation X myself, I couldn't
agree more with both Todd and Kim.
Let me further expound (read: beat into the ground) on a point that
Kim made earlier. If you were a youth in America during the 80's,
you felt as if you'd paid your cover charge and were handed a death
sentence at the door.
While I am being metaphorical (not to mention somewhat cryptic) I'm
not really exaggerating. Think about it: In the 80's, the
Presidency of one of the world's major superpowers was occupied by a
psychotic puppet (Reagan), who seemed to be hell-bent on committing
suicide by pissing off the head of one of the world's other major
superpowers, which was at that time run by another string of
blustering lunatics (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko) that were only
too eager to meet him toe-to-toe. On top of that, you've got China
(we could never figure out exactly *what* the hell China was up to,
but we sure didn't trust whatever it was) as well as all the smaller
countries with nuclear arms and a grudge (Pakistan/India, N/S Korea,
In the 80's, myself and everybody my age knew it for a fact that we
were never going to see old age. Instead, we all expected that at
any given moment, without warning, there could be a brief flash and a
fireball that would quickly but painfully vaporize us. If we weren't
"lucky" enough to be within 100 miles of an urban area, we could look
forward to the inescapable pleasure of radiation sickness from the
fallout -- a few painful weeks of lesions and internal hemorrhaging
before we expired, liquefied from the inside out like an Ebola victim.
We had been well-raised and indoctrinated with MAD. Another
generational touchstone here: To the generation before us, those
initials are the name of a satirical magazine. Say them aloud to the
generation after, and they're likely to associate them with Mothers
Against Drunk Driving. To us they will always be Mutually Assured
Destruction. In other words, we all die together -- horribly.
Bill Burroughs summed it up well: "Look at the prison you are in, we
are all in. This is a penal colony that is now a Death Camp."
So, is it any surprise that much of the music -- the expressions of
art in general -- were so dark during the 80's? I'm still surprised
(and, to tell you the truth, in somewhat a state of paranoid
disbelief) that I made it past 30.
Yes, there were happy times and moments of light during that decade.
But underlying it always was a tension, a subconscious tugging that
at any moment the gravity would fail, the airlocks would blow, and
everything would go up, fly away in a hail of flame and ash.
Dark arts for a dark time...
At 9:04 PM -0700 12/30/05, Todd Howell wrote:
>This is really well articulated. You have viewed these particular
>moments in culture with the keen eye of an anthropologist. I don't
>completely agree with every observation you've made here, but I
>admire the way you've thought this out.
>I particularly find the sixties vexing. Being a pre-schooler during
>that time, my difficulty with the time period is based on foggy
>memories and observations from popular culture. Yes, I believe alot
>of brilliant, groundbreaking cultural and musical moments occurred
>during this time, I do however have a real problem with the whole
>flower-power/summer of love/hippie utopianism of the time versus the
>reality of "hippies" harassing returned Vietnam Veterans (who were
>usually poor whites or minorities). I have a problem with all of the
>Spock-weened baby boomers and their endless "you weren't there
>man.....the sixties were a time of revolution" clap-trap, making it
>seem like it was the only time worth being alive. Perhaps a time of
>I realize relating to the nihlist punk era of the seventies exposes
>me to a whole other set of criticisms. It seemed a whole lot more
>realistic from my point of view.
>Now in my forties, I realize that there is brilliance and utter
>bull-sh*t in every era of music and pop culture and no single epoch
>has a singular hold on innovation or genius. It is what you take
>away from an era that gives it value, perhaps not what actually
>Other opinions and rebukes?
>Greetings From Colorado
>>From: Kim Flint <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>Sent: Dec 30, 2005 6:14 PM
>>Subject: 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
>>age" in terms of aesthetic and emotional content, rather than a "period
>>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
>>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
>>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
>>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
>>a belief in changing the "system" for the better. Times and attitudes
>>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
>>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
>>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
>>for some time now, as they were such a big influence on early Rap,
>>Industrial, and New Wave. But invariably, the baby-boomer members of
>>discussions have never heard of Kraftwerk! I always find this really
> >surprising. How can you produce one of the most influential groups
>>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
>>their times, like Kraftwerk or Black Sabbath, because those are the bits
>>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
>>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
>>email@example.com | http://www.loopers-delight.com