Posts Tagged ‘80’s music’

[July, 1993] Breathing Underwater, U2 and Boys

October 7, 2010 1 comment

Sunday, July 26, 1993

Dear Journal,
I’ve been back a week now. Let me tell you about the rest of the cruise before I talk about other things.

In St. Thomas I went scuba diving. It was really great. I felt like I was in another world. I had been snorkeling before but there I was actually down 20ft under the water and breathing. I’d love to do it again. Nothing happened w/Jack. Too young and too immature (besides, he has a girlfriend).

[Blah blah, breathing underwater, blah. As if mermaids don’t do it all the time. Okay, so it was pretty exhilarating and a little bit scary, not knowing if there might be a creature that could sting or bite around the corner, depending on a clunky tank of oxygen not to drown, etc. As much as I loved it, I don’t think the mermaid life is for me. Oh, and Jack? Yeah, as if his immaturity had anything to do with it and I wouldn’t have sucked face with him at the slightest chance. There just wasn’t one on the cruise. Just a rumored girlfriend. Bah.]

"she's gonna dream of the world she wants to live in/she's gonna dream out loud"

Anyway on to other things. Before I went on the cruise I spent almost a week at my cousin Jenna’s house in Connecticut. That’s where I got the new U2 tape (“Zooropa.” It’s the best. No “Achtung Baby” is the best. It’s my favorite tape. But “Zooropa” is really good.). When I was there I got a letter. That is not very amazing because I get letters all the time. But not from Leon Lehman.

[Before we go on about boys (and get comfortable, because we will go on. And on. Take a load off, make some tea) a few words on U2. The budding interest I started taking in this Irish foursome around the time of my last birthday had by this point mutated into a full-on obsession (all the way). Achtung Baby was my album of the decade and Larry Mullen Jr, U2’s drummer, my (hopefully) future husband despite the fact that Mom thought he had “a nose like a potato.”]

I don’t know if I ever mentioned him before. He was on my bus the past 2 years and I’ve gone from fighting with him to flirting with him (I didn’t like him, I just liked flirting with him. It was fun) to being good friends with him. Before I left for Connecticut I wrote to him and when he wrote back I was surprised but very pleased. And the letter was really funny (I read it at least 3 times). I sent him a postcard when I was on the cruise and then I called him when I got back. I had a good excuse but we ended up staying on for more than an hour.  The next day I wrote and mailed him a letter.

[Actually, I did mention Leon before in an entry where I said pretty much the same thing about liking to flirt with him. Which goes to show how repetitive consistent I can be. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever heavily flirted with someone who I wasn’t at least mildly attracted to. Though while I found Leon empirically attractive, and while we had a rapport, I’m not sure that it was a romantic one.]

Anyway, the point is I’ve been thinking a lot about him and how I want to be really good friends with him. We have almost identical tastes in music (except for my little, okay humugous almost out-of-control obsession with U2) and both love those great 80’s songs. It’s almost like (don’t laugh ‘cause what I am about to write is kind of corny) he is my soul mate. I think he is such a wonderful person but I don’t want to do anything too sudden or dramatic for fear of losing what tentative friendship we have. See, when school starts again Leon will only be taking the bus in the morning so I don’t want that to be the only time I can talk to him.

[I think it’s rare to want a platonic relationship with someone you flirt with, but in Leon’s case, it was true, not a matter of immaturity or having a girlfriend or some other excuse. Up to that point in my life, all my close friends were girls, so developing a friendship with a boy was new to me. Boys were for crushes, not friendships; my brain could not compute this new programming. And music was a big part of it. While Leon wasn’t a U2 nut, he was a big fan of 80’s music and we often talked of the songs we heard on retro stations, from Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” to Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight.”]

A lot of this was sparked by some things he wrote in my yearbook. He said he thought that we had become great friends. He also said I was more human than some of the stuck-up snobs he knows, that we made each other laugh and that I was very pretty (Aw! Tell me this isn’t like the perfect, sweetest, most sensitive guy in the entire world). I wrote nice stuff in his yearbook too, by the way.

Now I’m not saying that I’m in love or even in “like” with him but I have been thinking incessantly about him. I want us to be really close (best?) friends.

Larry Mullen Jr (insert banging/drum innuendo here)

[I guess what it came down to was that while Leon and I had a lot in common, could make each other laugh, and all that good stuff, I just didn’t feel that same sort of spark that I did toward Mark or Jack or even Larry Mullen (but then, Larry was in a class of his own). Leon had all the qualities I wanted in a guy, but I wasn’t sure that x-factor was there. I wasn’t sure it was missing, or just hadn’t developed.]

And if I’m not thinking about Leon, it’s U2. Today I went to a mall and bunch of flea markets with Didi and her parents and I ended up buying a video (“Achtung Baby: The Videos, the Cameos, and a whole lot of interference from Zoo T.V.) and two U2 shirts. I also wrote a letter to Larry Mullen Jr, through Island Records which I don’t expect to get any response. I would give anything to meet them but my next goal is to see a concert.

I’m both deeply regretful and deeply relieved that I don’t have a copy of that letter to fan letter to Larry.

I feel kind of bad for Didi, who bore the brunt of much of my U2 mania back then. She told me years later that I pretty much ruined the band for her with my over-zealousness. How bad was it? So bad that nobody could even utter the words “you too” without me immediately perking up and asking, “U2? Where?” Sorry, Didi.

As for Leon, he is still in my life today and I can safely say he is not my romantic soul mate, though he is a good friend. If and when he reads this post, he may get quite a chuckle out of it.

Lehman, this one’s for you.


[December, 1992] U2, The Gap, Swatches, Doc Martens…


one of my favorite U2 albums to this day

Monday, December 21, 1992

Dear Journal,

My birthday is tomorrow and I am very excited. Yesterday my mom and I went to Manhattan and it was great. We went to the “Gap” first and I got a whole bunch of new stuff. Then we went to A&S where I got a tape for myself (U2, “Boy”) and one as a present (Genesis, “ABACAB”). I also got a book there. Then we went to Macy’s where I got a new watch (it is a really pretty Swatch). Also my starter jacket and Doc Martens were part of my birthday/Hanukka presents. I love all the stuff I got. Oh yeah. My parents also got me “Poison” (it’s a perfume by Christian Dior and it smells really good).

[After many, many, many instances of exhibiting what some might consider questionable music taste, I finally got to fulfill somebody else’s sonic guilty pleasure. Whether Genesis surpasses Samantha Fox in cheesiness is up for debate, but I vote hell-to-the-yes. I’d rather listen to “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)” over Phil Collins any day.

As for The Gap, starter jackets, Swatch watches and Doc Martens, welcome to the 1990’s, where plaid shirts, combat boots, puffy sport-related outerwear and colorful plastic timepieces reign supreme. It was the year I was a slave to the trends, though I still kept a bright palate. Despite never seeing a basketball game in my life, I selected a jacket for the Charlotte Hornets, simply because it was teal and purple and I found it pretty. (Full disclosure: I even had to double check that the Hornets were in fact a basketball team. Just now. True story.)


Oh cassette tape, how much impractical nostalgia I have for you...

I got some of my presents already from my friends. I got a U2 tape (“The Joshua Tree”) from Linda. In case you haven’t noticed, I am really into the group U2 right now.

[Though clearly I still hadn’t noticed that my diary was an object incapable of observation, not being a living thing and all.]

At the moment, they are my favorite. I also got some jewelry from Renee and Erica (both on the bus). Last but absolutely, posotively not least Didi gave me a Swatch too! I was expecting a plaid shirt and was really surprised. It is really pretty, pinkish purple with anchors and square knots all over it. That is just the beginning. I am going to get even more presents tomorrow and the day after that.

Well, I really should try to get some sleep for tomorrow because not only is it my birthday, but we also have a big science test. I don’t think I’m gonna do well. Oh well. ~See ya!

So let’s review. I was 14-going-on-15, my fashion philosophy could best be described as “Technicolor lumberjack,” and I was become increasingly obsessed with U2. I guess it could be worse.

Considering my girly-pop musical track record, it still surprises me that the first band that would form the backbone of my musical evolution would be a straight up rock band like U2. The best way I can describe it is like falling in love. You might have a type, you might have inclinations, but you can never predict what will capture your heart. Something about Bono’s earnest and feverish voice, The Edge’s soaring guitar riffs, Larry Mullen’s brooding handsomeness and adorable eyelashes drumming really captivated me (Adam Clayton was okay, too, I guess). Never before in my life had I found so much passion in music.

And while we’re on the topic of music and passion, here’s something else I was stubbornly fervent about: cassettes. I was building up quite the tape collection, despite a supposedly superior music format that was becoming increasingly popular. I resisted the “compact disc” hype, refused to pay more money for CDs (“we’ll see how long they last…” I’d scoff and roll my eyes) and swore loyalty to my cassettes. Because surely they would be around forever…

[July, 1992] The Walkman: In Memoriam

Monday, July 27, 1992

Dear Journal,

As I am writing this, we are on our way to Boston.

Right now I am sitting next to Anita. She is really nice (& cool) and I like hanging out with her. Didi is acting nice toward me.

I am feeling pretty restless and a little bored. In the front of the bus the councelors are playing Donna Summer songs and Anita knows the words to almost all of the songs because her mother listens to her a lot. Anyway, I am very bored. I don’t know what I should do next. I’ll probably listen to my walkman. I can’t wait until we arrive at our destination. I’ll write more later. See ya!

How we listened to music in the (not so) olden days.

A moment of silence for the walkman.

Before it was possible to carry hours, days, weeks worth of music in a portable device the size of your palm, there were cassettes, boomboxes, and walkmans (according to Sony, they prefer the device be pluralized as Walkman Personal Stereos, but I prefer saying “walkmans” or “korvalappustereot” which is how they say it in Finnish. Those wacky Finns).

Back in the early 1990’s, CDs were starting to appear on the scene, but the cassette tape was still my preferred music medium. Not only were tapes less expensive, but you could buy blank ones and fill them with songs taped off the radio.

I was around nine when I discovered this clever and elusive way to capture music, except that I had a stereo that only had one tape deck and no record functionality. However my parents did have a clunky tape recorder, which I was able to hold up to the radio to capture two-thirds of Europe’s “Carrie” (not the most auspicious musical beginning perhaps, but I’ve always had a soft spot for power ballads.

George Michael: did not fool Mom's gaydar.

Luckily, my parents noticed my emerging passion for music and started buying me tapes, and eventually a stereo with two tape decks. The first piece of music I ever owned was George Michael’s Faith (followed by Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors). I remember one awkward summer day listening to “I Want Your Sex” with my mother; she grew thoughtful and said “I think he [George Michael] is light blue,” in Russian. She then explained “light blue” in our native language meant “gay.” I didn’t know what to think of such a statement at the time, considering that back then I associated homosexual men with the flamboyance of someone like Liberace or Elton John. I also developed something of a crush on the tight-jeaned, 5 o’clock shadowed, aviator-shade-wearing George Michael of 1987, and was completely under his hetero-spell. Who knew Mom had such dead-on gaydar?

In addition to the tape player, my parents bought me several walkmans (take that, Sony!) over the years, and much of my allowance was spent on cassettes. For the next five years, my music tastes grew but remained limited to pop selections from the Top 40, and often the cheesier end of the spectrum (though I did stop after one Paula Abdul album, so a little credit for that, right? No? Okay). The later models of the walkman I owned had fancy features like Auto Reverse, which would start playing the second side of the tape without the need to manually remove and flip the tape. Back then this was considered pretty high tech.

A happy MTV moment any time they played the video for "With or Without You".

The summer of 1992 expanded my musical horizons beyond Donna Summer (who was fun for bus trips, but not anyone whose albums I sought out). I remember the counselors also played a lot of Billy Joel and Meat Loaf (Anita couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” before), neither of which I was crazy about. It wasn’t until Anita let me borrow her cassette copy of The Joshua Tree that I started to understand how intriguing and captivating music could be. “With or Without You” was the song that hooked me, more than any other song had in my life. Compared to the more straightforward catchy tunes I was used to, I found this song haunting, ambiguous, and deliciously tortured. I didn’t bother listening to the rest of the album, just that one song, over and over again, recording it onto a blank tape repeatedly until it filled up all of Side A. I was slowly discovering music that made me think and feel on a level I never had before and was on the cusp of a music revolution, one that would help me survive some dark days ahead.

Later on, “With or Without You” would the first piece of music I owned on CD, when someone gave me the CD single as a gift. However I was so stubborn about remaining true to my walkman and growing collection of cassette tapes, it would be a while before I had anything to play it on. The discman would not be part of my reality for a few years yet…

[September, 1989] Great, Cute, and Fabulous

November 4, 2009 1 comment


Dear Journal,

School’s great and me and Elaine are starting the cool group.

Also, Mitchell is cute.

Also, Mrs. Angelo (our music teacher) is doing this play thingie that I’m auditioning for.  I’m dying to get a solo.

Also Friday I went to a Debbie Gibson concert and it was fabulous!

Well I guess that wraps it up. —Bye—

Debbie-Gibson live

I wanted this entire outfit in 1989. Instead, I just got the hat.

What more does an 11-year-old in 1989 need to be happy? Cool group in progress? Check. Cute boy in class? Check. Audition for a musical (or “play thingie”) in which I might get a solo? Check. Debbie Gibson concert? Double check!

I didn’t write about the concert at length (probably to save blank pages for mooning over crushes and ranting about friends who done me wrong), but I loved the show. My parents took me to see her in Madison Square Garden, and I couldn’t believe how many thousands (!) of people came to the show. Our seats were pretty far back, but as soon as the music started I forgot the distance between the three of us and the stage. Debbie’s silhouette appeared behind a white screen and the crowd went wild (seven years later, when seeing Nine Inch Nails live, I would be reminded of this concert when Trent Reznor did the same thing, only tore through the screen).

Considering that Debbie Gibson released only two albums at that point, I’m pretty sure she played all my favorite songs. When she finished the last song, my parents and I got up to leave and were surprised when the music started up again a few minutes later. Both my parents had been professional musicians, but it took Debbie Gibson to teach us how to do a proper encore.

The most surprising thing about that night was how much my brooding and difficult-to-please father enjoyed the concert. Despite being critical of much of the music I listened to (especially from the teen years onward), he found Gibson to be a talented singer and was impressed with her live performance. He spoke of that Debbie Gibson show well into his later life and every time he did, a look of surprised wonder always came over him.

[August, 1989] Electric Youth

October 29, 2009 18 comments



electric youth perfume

zappin’ it to ya


Dear Journal,

You will never bielive where I am going 9/22/89!

I am going to go to a Debbie Gibson concert!!!

I am so happy!!!!!

Actually I am kind of looking forward to school.

With a Debbie Gibson concert on the books, I probably would have looked forward to the Spanish Inquisition.

As I mentioned before, I was a major fan of Ms. Gibson. At that point in time, there was no singer I loved more than Debbie. I loved her music, her hats, her upbeat attitude, and her perfume, which shared the same name as her second album, Electric Youth.

I know I’m not the only one who had that perfume, either. There were two main versions of the packaging, the bottle with the coil (pictured) and the bottle with the lightning bolt. I went through a lot of that perfume in the late 80’s/early 90’s, and owned both versions of the bottle. For some reason I greatly preferred the one with the pink coil. There was just  something more aesthetically pleasing about the way it wrapped around the plastic tube of the atomizer.

I wish I still had a sample of the Electric Youth fruity scent, just for nostalgia’s sake. I bet a single whiff would bring back lots of memories. It was my favorite perfume at the time, followed closely by Exclamation (with the excellent tag line of “Make a Statement Without Saying a Word!”). Yeah, I wonder what kind of recollections smelling these again would bring…

[April, 1989] New Tapes: The Bangles and Samantha Fox


Dear Journal,

I got another song for Jonas. It is called “Eternal Flame.” It is from one of my new tapes. The Bangles. I also got Samantha Fox.

my favorite girl band from the 80's

my favorite girl band from the 80’s

The musical miseducation continues…

Actually, I still listen to The Bangles once every so often. Music is a powerful thing, and was especially so for me as an eleven-year-old nursing a hardcore unrequited crush on someone she hadn’t spoken to in years. At the time, I thought Susanna Hoffs knew my heart better than I did. When I heard “Eternal Flame” in the late 80’s, I was blown away by the vulnerability and wistfulness of the song. I marveled at lyrics like “Say my name, the sun shines through the rain/A whole life so lonely, and then you come and ease the pain.” Nevermind that the song implied a real relationship, whereas the few times Jonas actually said my name, it was to get me to stop talking during assembly.

Some bands from the 80’s fade away and are worth being forgotten, but I think The Bangles were a talented group with some solid tuned and I stand by my appreciation of them. And while I don’t have them in the same heavy rotation I did 20 years ago, I do still get a kick out of “Walk Like an Egyptian” when I play Dance Dance Revolution (in case you had any doubt that I am still dorky today).


naughty girls got too much love, that was their problem

As for Samantha Fox… yeah, I’ll take that shame.  The only thing I can say in my defense is that I didn’t really have anyone around with edgy music knowledge to guide me, only what was on Casey’s Top 40. Though even if there was someone, I don’t know how far they would have gotten considering my soft spot for bubblegum pop back then.

The Samantha Fox song that really hooked me was “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too),” which I didn’t realize until much later was something of a slutty girl anthem. I also didn’t know right away that she was a topless model in England, which I found mildly scandalous but not all that surprising considering her first hit in America was called “Touch Me (I Want Your Body).” Fox’s overt sexuality was something I found intimidating and unappealing, but oddly intriguing. I couldn’t relate to her the way I could to someone like Debbie Gibson, and I didn’t idolize her style the way I did Cyndi Lauper’s. I liked her, but I didn’t love her. And at such a young age, listening to her suggestive lyrics was kind of like the musical equivalent of reading V.C. Andrews. It was ultimately harmless, but it made me feel like I was getting away with something at the time.

[January, 1989] Tiffany vs Debbie Gibson: The Ultimate Showdown

September 24, 2009 10 comments


Dear Journal,

I went to Pennsilvania and it was fun. There was a boy my age there named Wallace who gave me a tape. Tiffany.

Tomorrow night I am going to sleep over Rose’s and stay at her house for Thursday and Friday. I am not really mad at Rose but we get along pretty well.

Today we are going on a trip to prospect park. I am going to be partners with Nisa and Jessica.

I am glad things are working out well for me.

tiffany DoA

Art by DoA

I still remember that cassette, covered with green and blue marker squiggles to the point where you could barely make out the song titles. That weekend, I played that Tiffany tape so many times, I think by the end of my stay Wallace was happy for me to take it off his hands. I wouldn’t be surprised if to this day he shudders every time he hears “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

There have been numerous pop culture debates over the years. Coke vs Pepsi. PC vs Mac. In terms of music there’s been The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones and Blur vs Oasis. In the late 1980s there was a media imposed rivalry among two teen pop sensations: Debbie Gibson vs Tiffany.

Back then, numerous teenybopper magazines had charts comparing the blonde from Long Island and the redhead who got her start singing in shopping malls. As if we had to choose. While I discovered Debbie Gibson first, I wore out my copy of Out of the Blue and was thrilled to find another singer in the same vein. Back then, my main source for discovering music was Casey’s Top 40, which could be tedious considering all the commercials, the hit songs I wasn’t crazy about, and all those request letters Casey Kasem read on the air. Being handed a tape that contained songs I instantly loved was like magic.

While I have a tendency to be pretty damn gullible, I saw the Debbie Gibson versus Tiffany debate for the marketing ploy that it was. Why did one have to be better than the other? Why did we have to choose between them? Yes, Gibson wrote her own songs and had more Top 10 hits, but Tiffany had a bit of an edgy rasp to her voice and wasn’t afraid to sing her guts out to make “Could’ve Been” the heart-wrenching ballad that it was. Tiffany also gets bonus points for doing a cover of U2’s “New Year’s Day” with Front Line Assembly in the late 199o’s.

In the end, Debbie Gibson may have had more career longevity, but both she and Tiffany have a special place in my childhood and musical history. So let’s call it a tie.