The Isolation Generation – Coming of Age

In “The Isolation Generation,” I site the Lunar Landing as a split within the “Space-Ager” group. Those born before July 20, 1969 are “Pre Lunars” and those on or after, “Post Lunars.”

Mostly for fun, but as part of the historic ‘record’ of our collective past, here is an offering of some of the most popular pop music from the era in which these two subsets began to reach adulthood.

Thanks to MTV and the music video, the nature of music changed again. Nearly every song in this collection has a music video to go with it. So, you might actually remember ‘watching’ these selections more than hearing them (depending on the availability of cable in your area).

The messages of these songs make the music of the Sugar Sweet Seventies seem like a meaningful 1960’s protest. Consumerism was perfected by the time we were leaving school, and in the recording industry, things were geared to make us buy. That’s the angle happening here. It wasn’t about anything except catchy tunes, great beats and the coolest images on your teevee screen.

The other changes were the arrival of the Compact Disc, which changed the landscape for music as well, and the movement of women to front and center on the rock stage.

Madonna, Mariah, Whitney, Janet, Gloria, Joan and so many others took charge as the 80’s arrived. It gave the girls in the audience something to strive for, and the boys something to lust after. It also set the stage for the more recent wave of women: Britney, Christina, Faith, Avril and groups like Destiny’s Child and Dixie Chicks.

It’s all here. So, let’s dance!

“Pre Lunar”

December ’63 (Oh What A Night) – The Four Seasons: Even the oldest Space-Ager would not have any real memories of this month, and certainly none like this. Again, we’re fed the memories of the Boomers (“you know I didn’t even/know her name/but I was never/gonna be the same/what a lady/what a night”). This is the only regular song in this collection that doesn’t have an accompanying music video, making it even older than it seems.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49787791/December+1963+(oh+what+a+night)–The+Four+Seasons–HQ

Dancing Queen – ABBA: In one sense, this song became the theme for millions of women. A great companion piece for Helen Reddy’s heroic “I Am Woman,” this song proclaimed another kind of female liberation: to go out, find and break the hearts of any man (“you’re a teaser/to turn him on/leave him burning/and then you’re/gone”). It’s a new world.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49788011/Dancing+Queen–ABBA

Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees: You can’t hear this song without thinking of John Travolta striding the Brooklyn sidewalks in “Saturday Night Fever” (“Well you can tell/by the way I use my walk/I’m a woman’s man/no time to talk”). Though not specifically written for that film, this song is a perfect fit: a guy who hates his life as it is, sees a future and, by just surviving, will make it to that dream.

(Song unavailable on blip.fm)

I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor: We’ve come a long way from “It Must Be Him!” Here, instead of crying over her fickle lover, the singer takes a rock solid stand and just as the Travolta character does in “Saturday Night Fever,” thrives (“as long as I know/how to love/I know I’ll stay alive”). It’s no wonder this song holds up even today, despite its complete disco beat. It is an incredible message of strength.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49788551/I+will+survive–Gloria+Gaynor+.

Call Me – Blondie: Baby Boomer Debbie Harry sings lead on this high-energy theme from the film “American Gigolo.” This is almost a 1960’s style Boomer song. The singer practically demands to be called (“I’ll arrive/when you’re ready/we can share the wine”). Who could refuse this offer?

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49788717/Blondie–Call+Me

Celebration – Kool And The Gang: “Celebrate good times/come on!” That’s the message of this totally danceable tune. It doesn’t matter why, or who. It’s just a party!

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49788929/Kool+and+The+Gang–Celebration

I Love Rock n’ Roll – Joan Jett And The Blackhearts: The first lady of the rock guitar, Joan asserts the power that was up until now reserved for the guys (“I could tell it wouldn’t be long/that he was with me/yeah, me”). Here, she was the one picking up the guy, and it’s about time.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49789280/I+love+Rock+N+Roll–Joan+Jett

Flashdance… What A Feeling – Irene Cara: Yet another movie theme, and yet another uplifting message (“I can have it all/now I’m dancing for/my life/take your passion/and make it happen”). People were striving to achieve their personal dreams, to that pounding dance beat.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49789520/Flashdance+What+A+Feeling–Irene+Cara+Official+Video

Like A Virgin – Madonna: Who could forget her writhing performance in a Venice gondola, or on the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards? Madonna made being sexy, sexy all over again (“didn’t know how lost I was/until I found you”). It helps to remember that she was using a simile here. The music industry wasn’t the same after her arrival. Neither was the world.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49789782/Madonna–Like+A+Virgin

The Power Of Love – Huey Lewis And The News: “Back To The Future” is the source material for this song. The Michael J. Fox vehicle (a DeLorean) was a bit of a time travel in music, too. It owes a lot to all of those songs from the 50’s where love is explained (“the power of love/is a curious thing/make a one man weep/make another man sing/change a hawk/to a little white dove/more than a feeling…”). Not quite a dance song, this is great tune to drive to, if your Flux Capacitor is working.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49789992/Huey+Lewis+the+News–The+Power+of+Love+(6+minute+ver.)

Walk Like An Egyptian – Bangles: “Slide your feet/up the street/bend your back/shift your arms/then you/pull ‘em back.” Everybody was doing this. People still do this. The four females of this group reached their pinnacle with this song, eclipsing Steve Martin’s “King Tut” as the most popular song involving anything from Egypt. What did it mean? A chance to dress like Cleopatra and dance on the banks of the Nile!

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49790443/Bangles–Walk+Like+An+Egyptian

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson: It’s amazing to think that this was the very first video by a minority artist on MTV. Another catchy hook offered by the “King of Pop,” Michael moonwalks his way through charges that he fathered a child (“she’s just a girl who/claims that I am the one/but the kid is not my son”). I think we can safely say Michael isn’t lying. It was his spectacular performance on the “Motown 25” special that shot the album “Thriller” through the roof. It’s still the best-selling original single album, ever.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49790688/billie+jean+michael+jackson–lyrics

Without Us – Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams: It’s the theme to the television series “Family Ties.” A comfort in the middle of the strangeness of the 80’s, this song was there, week after week for seven years. It pays tribute to the best elements of the family and of love (“oh, it’s like I started breathing/on the night we kissed/and I can’t remember/what I ever did before”).

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/49790940/TV+Theme–tv+themes–Family+Ties+Theme

“Post Lunar”

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) – Whitney Houston: A hot video, and an easily filled request, Whitney invites the world out for a dance, and we all go along (“still enough time to figure out/how to chase my blues away”). The real twist is, she wants to be loved by her partner. So, if you dance to the song, you have to find Whitney irresistible. Sneaky.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50225485/I+Wanna+Dance+With+Somebody–Whitney+Houston

Faith – George Michael: Well, not really. The cynicism of love is vocalized here (“but I gotta think twice/before I give my heart away/for I know all the games you play/because I play them too”). Is this song about requesting the freedom to follow any romantic lead available, or does it lament not getting commitment from the one person you want? Hard to tell, isn’t it?

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50225936/George+Michael–Faith

Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley: Quite the contrary to “Faith,” there’s plenty of desire for a real relationship here (“a full commitment’s/what I’m thinking of/you wouldn’t get this from/any other guy”). A man, happily giving his freedom up for the love of his life? It can happen.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50226162/Rick+Astley–Never+Gonna+Give+You+Up(VH1+Pop+Up+Video)

Wild, Wild West – The Escape Club: It was some criticism of 1980’s US International Diplomacy, as performed by this London based band (“gotta live it up/live it up/Ronnie’s got a new gun!”). Reagan was a big target here, and so were the apparently out of control policies being created by his administration. Star Wars was supposed to be just a movie!

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50226622/the+escape+club+wild+wild+west

She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals: A very hip clip, and stylish tune, it’s a case of obsession knowing itself (“she drives me crazy/like no one else/she drives me crazy/and I can’t help myself”). The insanity defense works again.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50226981/Fine+Young+Cannibals–She+Drives+Me+Crazy.mp4

We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel: A world history lesson taught from an American perspective with Professor Joel, it starts with the guy who dropped the A Bomb (“Harry Truman”) and goes to the confrontation with the students in Tiennamen Square (“China’s under Marshall Law”), 1945 to 1989. That’s especially appropriate, since Billy is a Boomer, too. Nearly as many historic things have happened in the years since then, so what does that say about our times?

(Song unavailable on blip.fm)

Escapade – Janet Jackson: No worries, no problems, just a girl, a guy, a pay envelope and a weekend (“well I’d like/to be with you/and you know/It’s Friday too”). A companion piece to her brother’s song “Off The Wall,” she invites you to forget your troubles and just have fun, which was becoming harder to do for the movers and shapers of the 80’s.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50227908/Janet+Jackson–Escapade

Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice: This song takes the ‘stereotypical’ elements of rap and clichés them all the way. Included are the cheap sample (Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”), the Caucasian guy turned urban hero (Robert Van Winkle), and the requisite lyrics about girls, guns, drinking, driving and drugs. And that hair in the video! Everybody do “The Running Man!”

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50228256/Vanilla+Ice–Ice+Ice+Baby

Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) – C + C Music Factory: There wasn’t much more to this than the title implies (“gonna make you sweat/’til you bleed/is that dope enough/indeed”). But, as everyone knows, dancing is just a prelude to sex, a tribal ritual we all must perform sooner or later.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50228563/C+&+C+Music+Factory+Freedom+Williams-+Gonna+Make+You+Sweat+(Everybody+Dance+Now)

Emotions – Mariah Carey: She took the name of a 70’s disco group to sing this song, which sounded like one of their hits (“Best Of My Love” by The Emotions). A cute love song and video, Mariah was trying to win you away from everybody else with her four-octave range and those tight mini dresses (“you’ve got me feeling/e-mo-o-tions/higher than the heavens above”). In many cases, it worked.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50228899/Mariah+Carey–Emotions

I’m Too Sexy – R*S*F (Right Said Fred): The ultimate boast, this song is begging to be put in its place (“I’m a model/you know what I mean/and I do my little turn/on the catwalk/yeah on the catwalk/on the catwalk yeah/I shake my little tush/ on the catwalk”). I suppose it has received its comeuppance since then. It’s been used as a jingle for a car commercial.

(Song unavailable on blip.fm)

The Words Get In The Way – Gloria Estefan And Miami Sound Machine: A sweet and tender love ballad, reflecting how we all feel sometimes around the people we care about (“I try to say ‘I love you’/but the words got in the way”). Again, trying to win back that love we’ve lost, Gloria reminds us that you have to speak your feelings to at least attempt it.

http://blip.fm/profile/penpusher/blip/50229612/Gloria+Estefan–Words+Get+In+The+Way

Conclusion

Music is meant to evoke feelings, to capture the mood of the composer and project that mood onto the listener. Our generation received a lot of different moods from the early 60’s through the 90’s.

The big questions: what does it all mean? How did this affect us? It’s impossible to say, precisely. We were designed to be more fearful, so we wouldn’t stray or cause trouble for our parents. We were more emotional, as part of that fear. We were less active than the generation before us. We were less dynamic. We were more receptive to outside influences, like television and radio. We wanted to please.

The Space-Agers have not yet made their ultimate mark on the world. The time has come.

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