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80s Music Fandom: Confessions of an Old New Romantic

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A friend of mine recently suggested that my taste in music is getting worse as I get older. I beg to differ, but will admit to being (somewhat) stuck in the '80s, musically, at least.

Perhaps it's because of my UK heritage, but my list of favourite bands reads like a 'has been' of '80s British new wave: Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, China Crisis, ABC, Style Council, Scritti Politti, etc.

In fact, the majority of my top bands haven't had a hit this side of the Atlantic since the Reagan administration! As a result, a trip to my local record shop is often an exercise in futility and frustration, as illustrated by a recent sojourn:

Me: "Excuse me, do you have the new Scritti Politti album?"
Disinterested 18-year-old behind the counter: "Skittle Political?"
Me: (emphasizing each syllable phonetically): "No, Scrit-tee Po-lit-tee".
Counter dude: "Scripple Police?"
Me: "Never mind, I'll just look for it myself"

Over the years, my wife, Heather, has accompanied me to countless reunion and greatest hit(s) shows by many of the aforementioned artists ("Hey, I just read that (insert long-forgotten '80s band here) is reforming for the first time in 25 years -- wanna go?) and has, in fact, become a fan of many of the bands herself. I suppose a cynic would argue that it's a classic example of the Stockholm syndrome (in which the hostage begins to express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors; sometimes to the point of defending them), but I like to think I've exposed her to some quality music over the years -- receding hairlines and expanding waistlines not withstanding (bands and punters alike!),

Proving that the apple doesn't fall from the proverbial tree, my daughter, Sadie, loves to dance to Culture Club, who are tops on my new wave hit parade (for the record, no pun intended, I can't stand Karma bloody Chameleon!). Thankfully, she tends to prefer some of their lesser known tracks and eschews the ballads in favour of the more up-tempo numbers (her current favourite is "The War Song"). The other day, after a particularly spirited Culture Club dance session, Sadie breathlessly announced that she wanted to be a "Boy George Dancer" when she grows up. I suppose there are wiser career choices, but hey, I'm not going to stifle the kid's dream! (okay, maybe it's more my dream, but I digress...).

Being a former music writer, I've often been able to use a connection or two to score backstage passes. In the case of Culture Club, there was something strangely surreal about having a beer with the same guys you grew up idolizing. Over the years, I've dragged poor Heather across god's green earth to witness various Culture Club reunion shows, from New York and Detroit to London and all points in between.

During one particular stretch about a decade ago -- during Culture Club's 20th anniversary tour -- I'm pretty sure George thought we were stalking him, especially when we also ended up sitting directly behind him at a performance of his hit musical, Taboo, in London's West End. I'm not sure if I imagined it, but there seemed to be a hint of uneasiness in his voice as he greeted us in the lobby of the theatre: "Oh... hello, again".

There was also the time I decided to "bootleg" a Culture Club gig and hid a small mini-cassette recorder in my front pocket. Upon returning to the hotel and listening to my attempt, I was dismayed to discover the recording was ruined by the incessant "woo hooing" of an over-enthusiastic (and quite annoying) Culture Club fan. Heather was in hysterics when we realized that the fan was yours truly (I'd like to point out, however, that is NOT me yelling "I love you George" during the intro to "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me"!)

Not surprisingly, my friends and family often ridicule me for being such a big '80s music fan, and I'm banned from bringing any Boy George or Culture Club CDs on road trips ("If you bring any Culture Club CDs into this car, I'm throwing them out the #%&@$#% window!" ). How I ever convinced three of my best mates to travel to New York City and pony up $150 a ticket to see Culture Club, Human League and Howard Jones during their Big Rewind Tour is beyond me. Although, after many beers later that evening, my friend Mark did confess that a particularly touching ballad "made his soul weep", so maybe they're closet Culture Club fans after all!

Admittedly, given George's recent fondness for kidnapping rent boys and illicit drugs, it's hard to even admit to being a Culture Club fan. But hey, 60 million albums and 100 million singles sold is nothing to sniff at! Look for me at the next Culture Club reunion tour, I'll be the sad bastard "woo hooing" in the front row!

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