Recently I was group-texting with two of the great loves of my life, guys I’ve known since I was a teenager. As a trio, and as separate duos, we’ve had a whole lot of fun, some of which we actually remember…and some of which involved the cops. Thirty years of loving your sorry asses! I wrote, to which one of them replied, Please God, can we go back thirty years and have fun again?
Ah, if only.
The older we get, the less time there seems to be for fun — and the more we actually need it. Kids are encouraged to to go out and have fun all the time, but why?! They’re not the ones worrying about careers and paying bills and watching their friends battle cancer. They’re not the ones who haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since 1995, who can’t get off the kneeler in church without assistance, and who are on the verge of giving up the battle against grey hair…or have lost the fight entirely and are now wondering how to transplant what’s in their ears back onto their bald heads. It’s adults who need to have fun.
Dialing back 30 years puts us in 1986, a glorious era of parachute pants, asymmetrical haircuts, neon, velcro, rubber bracelets, synthesizers, and the Strategic Defense Initiative. What a time to be alive! The top movies of 1986 were gems such as Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Top Gun, Aliens, and Stand By Me — all of which, to some degree or another, have attained “cult” status in the decades since — but a quick look at the Billboard Top 100 informs us that the top five songs were That’s What Friends are For by Dionne and Friends (those were, ostensibly, just regular friends, not psychic friends), Say You, Say Me by Lionel Richie, I Miss You by Klymaxx (who? what?), On My Own by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald, and the horrifying Broken Wings by the loathsome Mr. Mister. Yikes.
I just did some research on your behalf and YouTubed Klymaxx, and as it turns out, I do know the song I Miss You, which features some pterodactyl-esque screeching, a zebra stapled to a wall, and a pair of gold shoes. The next song listed in the Klymaxx treasure trove is Meeting in the Ladies Room, an ode to group excursions to the crapper, featuring a seated break dancer who seems entirely unable to stop himself from making duck lips as he pops and locks in a red tank top. Having done this research for you, you may now spare yourself these horrors. You’re welcome.
The song I remember from 1986 isn’t from Dionne or Klymaxx; it’s this one: The Outfield, Your Love. Although Billboard records it as only having reached #62 on the Top 100, this song, for me and pretty much everyone else my age, is an anthem. I officiated at a wedding a few years ago, and was all the way on the other end of the reception area chatting with the groom when the DJ put this song on. At the opening chord, the groom and I, who are the same age, didn’t say a word; we just looked at each other and took off running for the dance floor…such is the power of The Outfield.
It’s funny how music can send you right back to a specific moment in time — how indelibly a piece of musical pop culture can be written on the collective psyche of a specific age group. The music and musicians are, for a moment in time, everywhere — on MTV (you may have forgotten that MTV used to feature music videos), the radio, magazine covers, posters, t-shirts …and then? Where do they go? What happened, for instance, to the guys from Tommy Tutone, who ruined poor Jenny’s life by making her phone number into a song? Did the guys from Men Without Hats ever procure any type of millinery, or are they still Safety Dancing around Canada with bare heads? What about the guys from Toto? Are they still thinking about the rains in Africa, and pining for Rosanna Arquette? And where, for the love of God, is Billy Squier?
If you loved music, the 80’s were a fantastic time to be a teenager, because bands toured relentlessly, and concert tickets were fairly affordable. We went to big stadiums for U2, Clapton, Pink Floyd, Springsteen, David Bowie, and to smaller concerts in the clubs – Modern English, Love and Rockets, The Cure, Madonna – all on minimum wage salaries. It was a good time to be alive.
I regret mightily never seeing a few bands that I loved, like Boston, Journey, The Allman Brothers, CCR. Some of these bands are still touring, of course — some of them phoning it in (I’m talking directly to you, Bon Jovi), and others still killing it. I saw Eric Clapton two or three years ago and was close enough to the stage that when he and Doyle Bramhall II opened up on Crossroads, the wall of sound blew my hair back and temporarily short-circuited my brain. It was as close to a religious experience as I’ve ever come.
For a lot of bands, ongoing touring is a way to replace all the money that went up their noses or to alimony or rehab or penicillin or hairspray when they were topping the charts, and the passion is gone and it’s obvious. (I’m still talking to you, Jon Bon Jovi; you and Richie Sambora.) And some of the bands have joined together to sell tickets — Eddie Money and Rick Springfield, Styx and .38 Special — which seems like a good way to manage overhead and maximize profits. But some of the bands are touring WITHOUT THE MOST IMPORTANT MEMBER, and that brings me to one of the most egregious violations of the sacred covenant between Lead Singer and Music known to man: the current incarnation of Journey.
Yes, friends, Journey – the band we all love, whose hits we still belt out in the car, thirty years after dancing to them in the school gym – is now an abomination unto the Lord, touring with a cheap imitation of Steve Perry. That would be Steve Perry, who not only fronted the band for over a decade with his incredible vocals, but also co-wrote virtually all of the band’s greatest hits.
Everyone’s heard the story about how some Filipino dude put videos up on YouTube, and his voice — eerily like Steve Perry’s but in fact NOT Steve Perry’s — got the attention of someone or other, and long story short, he now tours with the band. I don’t hold it against him; I blame the band.
[Editorial note: the amount of musical talent in the Philippines is flat-out ridiculous. Unbelievable. Walk into any hotel in Makati and there will be a singer in the bar who will blow your mind. Seriously.]
I know you are as offended by this as I am. To soothe you, I am giving you this: Steve Perry, singing with thousands of fans at an SF Giants game a few years ago. Pure joy. Steve Perry, Giants game
I don’t miss the 80s, but I do miss having fun. And that is why we are launching the Quest for Fun in 2016, which begins right meow. Let’s pick a Journey song as our anthem, and let the games begin!