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Re: The Dark Age
" 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."
I appreciate your thoughts and feelings about this but
a little historical perspective is important:
Children (or teenagers) of the 80's aren't the only ones who experienced
dark and fearful times. We had some doozies in the 60's, too.
I spent several days in elementary school practising diving under our
over and over;
watching the skies and listening with utter fear to every plane that flew
overhead during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
That was 1962 when the world came closer than it ever had to be blown
We lived in San Jose
and military intelligence knew that that the Russians had Intercontinental
Ballistic missiles aimed directly
where we lived. I've never been so scared in my life. I was 9.
I remember being stunned to learn that John F. Kennedy had been
right as he
had starting to talk about pulling out of Vietnam and putting the reins on
the Military Industrial Complex
(ironically, probably not even the reason he was assasinated) and having
pull us into a full scale war not 9 months later. I was 10.
I remember how scary it was for 6 days when Watts was burned down in the
Race Riots in 1965. I was 12.
I remember very well, being clubbed and maced by tactical squads during
Anti-War riots and watching
whole groups of my friends having the living shit beat out of them by San
Jose Police units and then seeing nothing
about it in the papers even though there were press and photographers
present. I was 15-17
I remember watching FBI agents taking down our license plate
numbers.............it was really dissillusioning
and there was a very, very dark feel of 'Big Brother' in the air in 1968
when two of the people who were really trying to change things
were gunned down (Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.) I was 15.
I remember being terrified that I was going to have to go and possibly die
in Vietnam in a War that I, personally, thought was
immoral. I was 17 when I got assigned number 125 in the draft and they
said they were gonna take
everyone up to number 150..................I made my mother promise me
, in exchange for registering (which I did not want to do),that
she would drive me to Canada in the trunk of our car so that I wouldn't
to go. Thinking that there was a huge chance that
I might never see my family again (unless they visited me in Canda) was
frightening. I'd never even left home by then.
That was some dark shit, let me tell you. I was 17-18.
It is true we did not live with the threat of AIDS but the 'glow' and
optimism of the hippy era that Kim and others have talked about lasted a
depressingly short couple of years before the shit hit the fan.
10 Hippy volunteers came down to do a benefit for the Haight Ashbury
Clinic that I was a volunter security for.
3 years later, every single one of them had died of meth overdoses or
drug related causes. There was a very dark
side to the liberal use of drugs at that time.
So, I really do not mean to minimize the fears that people legitimately
during the 80's but this
Sweet, naive painting of the 50's and 60's is just not accurate.
I truly don't think that the 60's was better than the 80's. I actually
think that they were both the most fertile decades in terms of
musical innovation and really large changes in musical style that effected
the whole culture.
I just think that we react to dark things differently at different ages.
There was a lot of darkness in the 80's to be sure but
I was in my late 20's and early 30's during that decade and I was in my
years in the 60's. I felt fear a lot more
in the 60's than the 80's.
Shit, the potential Bird Flu pandemic is really frightening to me, but
in my 50's and I realize that even if worse comes to worse that most
will survive such a thing. God, to be 12 years old right now?
yours, respectfully, Rick
(a Baby Boomer who really likes all the Dark music that began in the
the way.................lol, I only saw one other person my age at the
recent Nine Inch Nails concert in Santa Cruz)
ps And, by the way, we never considered the 'Long Hairs' who spat on
returning Vietnam Vets to be 'Hippies'.
A true Hippy would not have done that. The original Hippy movement
a very short time before mainstream culture began
to accept long hair as anything but being 'Freaky'. Early on we called
each other 'Freaks' not Hippies, anyway.
I did a lot of work with the Vietnam Vets and we did many benefit concerts
for them and always was cognizant of how racist
and classist the system was that had mostly poor, undeducated black,
and whites populating the ranks of the 'grunts'
who were forced to fight that war.
----- Original Message -----
From: "mech" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, December 30, 2005 9:30 PM
Subject: Re: The Dark Age
> Being a now-forty-something child of Generation X myself, I couldn't
> 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
> if you'd paid your cover charge and were handed a death sentence at the
> 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
> of the world's major superpowers was occupied by a psychotic puppet
> (Reagan), who seemed to be hell-bent on committing suicide by pissing
> the head of one of the world's other major superpowers, which was at
> 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
> China was up to, but we sure didn't trust whatever it was) as well as
> the smaller countries with nuclear arms and a grudge (Pakistan/India,
> Korea, Israel).
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
> we expired, liquefied from the inside out like an Ebola victim.
> We had been well-raised and indoctrinated with MAD. Another
> touchstone here: To the generation before us, those initials are the
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
>>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
>>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 revolutionary self-involvement.
>>I realize relating to the nihlist punk era of the seventies exposes me
>>a whole other set of criticisms. It seemed a whole lot more realistic
>>my point of view.
>>Now in my forties, I realize that there is brilliance and utter
>>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 happened.
>>Other opinions and rebukes?
>>Greetings From Colorado
>>>From: Kim Flint <email@example.com>
>>>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
>>>>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
>>>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
>>>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
>>>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
>>>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
>>>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
>>>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
>>>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
>> >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
>>>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
>>>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
>>>sounds of Rap, Metal, Techno, Synth Pop, New Wave, and Industrial drew
>>>considerably from the aesthetic and sound of these two groups. To me
>>>seems obvious, being an 80s kid. Certainly pop-music historians have
>>>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
>>>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
>>>the 60s/70s era of music, I immediately think of rather unusual groups
>>>their times, like Kraftwerk or Black Sabbath, because those are the
>>>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
>>>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