One Thousand Words on Are the Eighties Oldies?

I heard a song from the eighties on the radio tonight.

It was Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend.” It’s not a great song, even by eighties standards, but it brought back memories because when I was in high school the local pop station used to play it every Friday afternoon at 5 pm.

The overpowering sense of nostalgia made me crank up the radio and sing along.

I was right in the middle of belting out “You want a piece of my heart. You better start from start. You wanna be in the show. Come on baby lets go” when it hit me. Prior to this flashback moment, I had been listening to the oldies station. Yes, oldies. Where they play old music.

I glanced down at the radio to see if somehow the station had been change. It said 104.3 in bright green. I was still listening to the oldies station.

My first impulse was to call up the deejay and complain. “Hi. I just wanted to let you know that you’re confused. You’re playing a song from the eighties, but you’re an oldies station. It’s just not appropriate for an oldies station to play eighties music. Why? Because I was in high school in the eighties and it really wasn’t that long ago.”

But then I stopped drafting my complaint in my head and did a little math.

I figured I was eleven or twelve when the song came out, so that would make it 1981 or 1982. (I just checked online. It was recorded in 1981 and was on the charts in 1982. Do I know my Loverboy trivia or what?)

1981 was thirty years ago. As much as I hate to admit it, that kind of qualifies it as oldies music.

My youth is now ancient history and the deejay would have laughed at me.

It doesn’t seem possible. I still remember the first time I saw Boy George on Solid Gold. And yes, I realize that I have dated myself not just once, but twice in my previous sentence.

He was singing Karma Chameleon and I had an argument with my friends about whether he was a girl or a boy. Unfortunately I was arguing that he was a girl and the name Boy George was ironic. I guess I lost that one.

I also remember legwarmers. Mine were purple and I wore them to school every day. I wonder if all my clothes were purple or if I just didn’t match sometimes. I was really into purple, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the only color I wore back then.

And then there was the Valley Girl craze. In seventh or eighth grade, my friend Amy came to school with a Valley Girls handbook of sorts. It told us all the Valley Girl phrases to use (Oh my God! Gag me with a spoon!), which names were proper Valley Girl names (Anything ending in a y, although Heather made the list too, which thrilled me to no end) and gave Valley Girl fashion tips (Big earrings and headbands were always good choices.)

My friends and I used to argue about who was the most Valley Girl-esque.

A brief aside… I googled Valley Girls. Just for fun. There is a Wikipedia entry (of course) and one of the subheadings is literature. It lists literary references of Valley Girls.

Number three was “Jessica Wakefield for Sweet Valley High.” I read all those Sweet Valley High books when I was a kid and, sorry to sound judgmental, there is no way they should be labeled “literature” even on Wikipedia.

But I am excited to let everyone know that the Sweet Valley High Wikipedia page says that Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later was released in April. I just might have to read that, bad writing or not.

Along with Sweet Valley High, I was quite taken by the 1950’s when I was a preteen. I blame it on seeing Grease and watching Happy Days when I was growing up.

I used to listen to the fifties music on the oldies station on Saturday nights. I knew all the words to “Johnny Angel” and “It’s My Party.” The songs seemed like they were from so long ago. They were romantic. I never once thought, “This music shouldn’t be called oldies. It’s only thirty years old.”

My mother probably did, though.

Because my only frames of reference were television and movies, I assumed everyone in the fifties went to the drive in or sock hops and hula hooped in the driveway.

I’d ask my mom if she was more like Sandy or Rizzo or if my father was more like Richie or The Fonz. She’s always say, “It wasn’t exactly like that.” (For the record, the answers are Sandy and Ralph Malph.)

Thinking back on the fashion, music and culture of the eighties, it probably seems every bit as exotic, strange and corny to the today’s generations as the fifties did to me back then.

If a young girl was to ask me about my teenage years with only a movie or the television for reference, she might ask if I was more like Molly Ringwald or Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club or if we all ditched school like in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

I’d have to answer, “It wasn’t exactly like that.” (Again for the record, neither but I leaned toward Ally Sheedy and I certainly didn’t.)

Maybe when teenagers can only identify the culture of your youth through Hollywood, it’s time to admit that you’re ready for the oldies station.

So while I am still a bit disturbed to hear Working for the Weekend, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and 99 Luftballons on the oldies station, I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and sing along as loudly as I can to mask the complaints in my head.

But if I start hearing Sweet Child of Mine or Every Rose Has It’s Thorn, I’m picking up the phone!


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