Step back in time.

1982. We shall never speak of this again.

I was scrolling through Facebook today when I saw a school friend had posted her favourite U2 song. “With Or Without You”. (Bono – you Irish hunk of spunk). She remarked the song has always resonated with her, and had been rather a theme tune of her adult years. She remembered going to see the band in the mid 80’s and how fabulous that moment was. I hit ‘play’, and I too immediately shot back to my memories of that song. We’re the same era, so it makes sense. It seems the pop tunes of our youth form part of the soundtrack of our future lives. They remain with us. Sounds of early years have a powerful memory trigger, and most of us tend to experience the phenomenon. It got me thinking about my own memories and why this is so.

Research indicates that music from our formative years is linked to brand new emotions and feelings of independence. This link tends to be from the early teenage years until the late 20’s. It follows then that as we age, the music from each decade that passes becomes less memorable. The links to life events blur unless they are particularly cataclysmic. Finally, you become your father sitting in the car saying, “God, I hate all that modern rubbish they play” when the top ten is blaring.

For me the significant year was 1982, and I had a VERY special look underway. Princess Di fringe with quite long hair. Unmentionably daggy clothes. I was so invested in rediscovering the memory, I foraged and exhumed an image of my 1982 self. You’ve now seen it. People improve with time and I was a late bloomer. That’s my excuse anyway.

My childhood home was strict and pop music was not played. ABC’s ‘Countdown’ was forbidden. The cool kids at school listened to all kinds of stuff. I didn’t fit in with that demographic. #poorlittlenerd #iblamethefringe. Those factors aside, in 1982 I was on a lawn outside a school building and somehow or other “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode was played. MAJOR REVELATION. I thought this was the most amazing thing EVER. For a moment I had a mild sensation of being cool. That song went round and round in my head for days. That is the sound of 1982.

Memory works on a number of levels, which is a concept we easily grasp. Conscious memory is the deliberate retrieval of the past. You might say to yourself…. “What was I doing in 1984?”. Implicit memory is the mechanism where the songs of our youth come into play. It is a reactive, unconscious form of recall. Psychologists have labelled our visceral response to these kinds of stimuli the ‘Reminiscence Bump’. Here’s a good explanation of such a fancy term….. (Wikipedia).

As you’ve stuck it out thus far, I think it’s time for another dreadful photo. Mustn’t disappoint. I give you…… Reminiscence Bump 1986. First year University. Actually, the hair is worse than it was in 1982 if that’s possible. I was still in the family home where fun went to die; but I now had a WALKMAN. A Walkman and blue eyeshadow. The strains of “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister and “We Built This City” by Starship propelled me through that year. All that, and I caught the bus to town each day all on my own. Heady times.

1986. Fake pearls and hairspray for days.

I think the music and memories thing is rather wonderful. Like some form of highly pleasurable rewind mechanism.

At my last school reunion they played the songs of our era. It was an important part of the event.

*Disclaimer. School reunions are weird. You get all nervous, turn up, don’t remember people who remember you and vice versa.*
That aside, it was a great night. Not all of the memories were good, but they were very defining. The sound track of those school years seemed part of the glue that held us together under such an odd, once a decade circumstance. When we assemble again in 2025 we won’t remember what’s on the charts now; but we’ll know all the words to Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”. (I still won’t look anything less than a nerd if I attempt to dance to it).

“Identity is an internalised life story” (Dan McAdams, 2001). The music of our youth is part of that story. Sometimes it’s just magical to crank up ‘Culture Club’ and revisit an era where you didn’t need eye cream, you wore a big lace bow in your hair and you hadn’t made too many huge life screw ups just yet. The songs of that life soundtrack were still to come.

Here’s to the sounds of 1982. Boogie around that quadrangle in your school uniform.
Take it away 80’s dudes.

Reminiscence Bump

With Or Without You

Just Can’t Get Enough

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