For two years, I’ve been writing an 80s music newsletter with a friend of mine. Well, not just any of buddy of mine, but my very own musical advisor and a pop guru who introduced many artists to me back in the original 1980s.
We named it after the Finnish title of St. Elmo’s Fire, the movie, and don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it. First of all, it’s in Finnish, and second of all, we’ve been very patiently waiting to get discovered, and have wanted to let that happen organically. Without marketing, that is.
And for “research” purposes, I’ve also been reading or maybe re-reading the local paper from the 1980s, practically daily. (It started when I was writing Someday Jennifer in which the main character “travels” back in time).
It’s been surprisingly uplifting.
Every day, an article will remind me that things have actually got better, too. Then I get to the sports section, and read about my idols (again) until I finally hit the funny pages and the TV listings.
That’s probably where I spend most of my time. Checking ut the movie listings and shake my head at the slim pickings on the TV front. Our two channels only broadcast between 5pm and 11pm, basically. On Mondays, Channel 2 was reserved for Swedish language programs.
Take out the children’s programming between 5 and seven, and the news and the political shows, and there’s not much left for a teenage boy to watch.
That’s why we all watched the same shows and talked about them at school the next day. And that’s why my generation has some of the same reference points as my parents’ generation.
When the movie of the night was The African Queen (1951), starring Humphrey Bogart, that’s what you watched. And if it was a John Wayne movie, then western it was. Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Elvis, Doris Day, Grace Kelly were all big stars. The Italian Don Camillo movies from the 1950 and 60s were a huge Sunday matinee hit.
And when I moved out to go to college, and my small apartment had “cable”, or Sky channel, their programming was music videos and American TV from the 60s. I’ve spent days and nights watching Hogan’s Heroes, I Dream of Jeannie, and Get Smart, and laughed at the shoe phones and the cone of silence.
Of course, when The African Queen was on TV in Finland in 1983, it was only a 32-year-old movie. It’s like watching The Silence of the Lambs today. Or Wayne’s World, the movie I probably quote the most.
But I wonder – even worry – if there’s going to be a reference gap between me and my kids. Even though The Silence of the Lambs is certainly available on some streaming service somewhere, will they even just happen to see it. Would they ever choose to watch it even though, unlike Don Camillo or Casablanca, it’s in colour, too.
That’s why Wife and I often push for movies and shows from the 80s and 90s for the kids to watch with us. It took years for Wife to convince Daughter to watch Pretty Woman with her but even Daughter would agree that it’s much more fun to go shopping, walk by a store, shake a few bags and say, “big mistake, huge!” and laugh and laugh.
Last week we watched Sliding Doors, and I can’t wait until I can persuade them to watch Wayne’s World with me.
All of a sudden, my jokes will make sense to them.