Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New Wave Diary

I remember that time back in 1997, it was the middle of the week, myself and a bunch of officemates were at The Brewery in Glorietta. The air was cool, atmosphere was relaxed, and sound system was of high quality. The music surrounded you without overpowering your conversation. The guys who operated the place know how to set the volume at just the right level.

I forget why we were there in the first place. But I do remember the music. They played mostly 80's synthesized songs made popular by forgotten bands of that time. The playlist featured Modern English, Wang Chung, Soft Cell, The Cure, Spandau Ballet, among many others.

My table companion, Mon, interrupted our discussion and made a comment about the music that I will never forget. He said, "It doesn't get any better than this, man. What you're hearing now are sounds from the best musical era ever, 80's new wave. That was the best time."

At first I found his comment amusing because it was something my mother frequently mentioned me... except she always referred to 60's music being the best rather than the 80's. And she always wondered out loud why today's music had degraded so much since her time.

I told her my theory that there probably were a lot of lousy songs released in the 60's, we just never hear of them. Only the good stuff such as Beatles songs and a few others survive the years. It got me thinking though, if that were so, why are the 70's not as fondly remembered? Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of good 70's songs (The Eagles, Bread, and The Bee Gees were some examples of phenomenal bands during that era). It could be a fact that the decade of the 60's were a golden era, while the following decade was one of transition. Look at it this way: 60's = good, 70's = transition, 80's = good, 90's = transition, 00's = ???.

What's interesting is that although my father does appreciate the decade of the 60's, he's also into other stuff from the big band and swing era, Glenn Miller, Tony Bennet, etc. He's slightly older than my mother but not by much. And I have inherited some of his interest in big bands. I suggest you try listening to them by the way, you might like it. I guess that's one reason why we don't hear of the "glorious 1920's era of music", because most of the enthusiasts have either passed away, or stopped caring altogether.

Once in a while I'd hear a song I like, and discover it sounds very much like those 80's new wave tunes. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the song 'Selfish' by The Other Two in late '94. Then I discovered the group was a spinoff of the 80's band New Order, who themselves released one of this year's best songs, 'Krafty'. Last year, I was enthralled with Tears for Fears latest single 'Call Me Mellow', got the CD and had one of the most enjoyable listens I've had in many years (check out the track 'Everybody Loves a Happy Ending', great!!) Even my favorite band CAKE went the synthesized instrument route with their latest album, 'Pressure Chief', a fitting tribute to the 80's era.

Many of my friends are also big-time retro fans. I remember riding in Jeth's car and being bombarded with the full range of new wave. It was like entering a time machine. Another guy, Jan is one of the most hardcore Tears for Fears fan you will ever meet. I also won't forget that smile on Jimbo's face when he was telling us about Duran Duran's dramatic comeback in the mid-90's.

To fully appreciate the time, try imagining what it was like 20+ years ago. During that time, there was no internet, no blogs, no giant-sized super malls (unless you count Virra Mall, Shoemart, and Edsa Central). There were no compact discs or DVDs, you had to listen to cassette tapes on cassette players/recorders, and watch movies on Betamax. I remember installing King's Quest IV on my IBM PC XT Compatible. The game was a whopping nine 5 1/4" floppy disks, and had to played on 4-color CGA graphics. Oh, I wish I had 16-color EGA. There were no flyovers either, airconditioned buses were nonexistent unless you rode the SM Love Bus. The Edsa-Ortigas intersection was the busiest street corner in Metro Manila. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird ruled the NBA while Crispa and Toyota had their famous PBA rivalry. MacGyver was the number one show at the time, and everyone I knew acknowledged that he was a genius.

What I find disconcerting is that many of the younger people I talked to who did not grow up with the 80's new wave bands do not seem to appreciate the music of that era at all. Some aren't even aware it exists. The music they play on the radio nowadays sound more like noise. Maybe I'm becoming my parents.

The good news is that there are signs of a mini retro revolution in the works. There is always hope for an 80's retro comeback. Once in a while I'll hear some new song from Keane, ColdPlay, CAKE, Kaiser Chiefs, Fountains of Wayne, Puddle of Mudd, The Offspring, Hoobastank, Nickelback, as well returning oldies by New Order, Tears for Fears, and Duran Duran, and be reminded that the greatest era of music continues up to the present. Happy listening.

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