It is always interesting to see nostalgic trends in music that appear at various times and that indicate within the populace a desire to go back to a simpler time that reflects some degree of unhappiness with the pace of change or with the current state of the world. One of the times where this mood was particularly evident was in the late 1980’s, and it would be interesting to see some thoughtful discussion of why it was that this particular era had such a profound nostalgic feeling attached to it, so much so that a great deal of music sought to capture the mood of an earlier time. It is worthwhile here, as sort of a preparatory work to that kind of longer thinkpiece, to comment at least a little bit on the varied ways in which a nostalgic mood could be understood during this time period.
For example, we can point to this period of time as providing a comeback for artists like the Everly Brothers, George Harrison, and Roy Orbison (the latter two also a part of the Traveling Wilburies) who had been big in previous decades and were now coming back. We can also point to entertainment that explicitly called back an earlier time, including soundtracks like “Dirty Dancing” which often contained older artists, sometimes dueting with younger artists. At still other times, we have songs that are themselves about the feeling of nostalgia, like Don Henley’s “End Of The Innocence,” Eddie Money’s album “Can’t Hold Back,” which features songs like “I Want To Go Back,” as well as “Take Me Home Tonight,” which contains backing vocals from Ronnie Spector, yet another artist from the past coming back for renewed relevance at this time, or Johnny Hates Jazz’s album “Turn Back The Clock.”
In examining the appeal of nostalgia, we can also examine how it is that the music industry–perhaps kicking and screaming, promoted older songs that had flopped but which now, years after their initial release, found appreciative audiences once again at the end of the decade. At times this included songs that had definitely failed, like Sheriff’s “When I’m With You,” but at other times this meant songs that had been popular years ago but were not popular again, such as “Into The Night.” There are times where being reminded of the past is a bad thing, but times where being reminded of the past is beautiful.
It is intriguing to note that while the 80’s themselves were a time where nostalgia was present, as we have already pointed out, they are also a time that is themselves viewed with nostalgia nowadays. We see that, for example, in a host of popular music being released nowadays that itself calls back to the 1980’s, a trend that has been going on for a while but one which is no less popular. Whether we think of Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia” album, or The Weeknd’s albums like “After Hours” and “Dawn FM,” both of which reference the synth pop sounds of the 1980’s, or the revival of songs like “Running Up That Hill,” which appears destined to hit in the top 10 of the pop charts of the United States in 2022 thanks to its inclusion in Stranger Things, which would be by far the biggest hit of Kate Bush–whose earlier release of the song in 1986 was her only top 40 hit to date in the United States, the 1980’s and its nostalgia are important points in our current age. It is profoundly interesting, and probably also melancholy, that we have a deep nostalgia for an age that was marked by a deep nostalgia itself for still earlier times.
There is no question that our current times are a continual series of crises and disasters. Our culture is a mess, our institutions are crumbling, our leaders have failed us and appear to be trying to destroy our country and even our civilization. This desire to go back is not a bad desire–the desire to repent is the first step in salvation. In order to achieve a better future, sometimes we have to turn around and cease a fruitless and worthless detour from the way that we have been sidetracked from. The question remains, though, as to whether or not we will be able to go back, in any meaningful sense, and what that would require to be done on those who wish to lead us astray into further acts of self-destruction and who have hardened themselves against their consciences and against any standard of right or wrong that would allow them to see how they have erred and inspire in them a desire to go back, to be forgiven, and restored to the good graces of God and man alike.