Growing Up in the 80’s
I was born in the 1970’s and spent my teen years in the 80’s, which I regard as the most revolutionary decade in music.
Living through the 80’s is very different to learning about the 80’s. Early on I was exposed to a clear divide consisting of three very different stylistic factions: those who were into the past and weren’t adventurous at all; the scene supporting UK’s punk/post-punk and NYC’s no-wave; and those who preferred progressive rock and US radio rock/hard-rock/glam.
I would give them all a chance, on the back of my youngest uncle Manuel’s love for 60’s spirited rock which influenced my early music taste. In the early 80’s, in Portugal… still oblivious to what was going on in the UK, I was delving in his records and discovering The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and David Bowie… and then, clear as today, I listened to The Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ and my world changed.
My preferences manifested from listening to these revolutionary 6 minutes of music: I was instantly attracted to a darker and more experimental side of music and I didn’t know yet but my first contact with Joy Division, a significant turning point in my life, was just around the corner.
Back in 1985 I changed schools and met a bunch of kids that were in bands and had all these new records from bands I never knew existed. By the time I first listened to Sex Pistols, Joy Division and Bauhaus – the holy trinity of my new music baptism – all of them had disbanded. Sid Vicious was dead. Ian Curtis was dead.
It was very strange… what was effectively new and exciting for me was either dead or had transformed into something else so quickly that it was difficult to grasp at the newness when so much of the ‘old’ was still so fresh and relevant for teens growing up in rural northern Portugal, of all places.
Discovering new bands and tape trading became my drug. I would spend entire nights recording my favourite tracks to tape on my father’s trusty Pioneer hi-fi separates. I remember selling my ZX Spectrum console to buy records (I was never into games), a friend of mine crashed my Yamaha trial bike into a ditch and I channeled the money my parents gave me for the repair onto records, booze and drugs.
My big issue then was to get enough new music to be worthy of consideration when trading with the other guys. Whoever got the best tapes playing on a Friday night party was the coolest, and back then you were cool for casually dressing down, having an attitude and good taste in music, not for sporting the latest iphone and dressing Balenciaga.
Looking back, this flourishing of the punk and post-punk movement, with its extraordinary influence on everything from fashion to politics had no parallel in the decades that followed and no subsequent, stubborn revivals of this phenomenon barely touched its true significance to those who lived it, then and there.
Already in my late teens I attend my first concert at the Tivoli in Porto, in December 1988. It’s Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Another magic moment in my life. I don’t remember the set list but a quick search online informs that the first song was ‘From Her to Eternity’ and the last was ‘Saint Huck’, my favourite songs from Nick at the time together with ‘The Carny’ from 1986 ‘Your Funeral… My Trial’ which they didn’t play. I have vivid memories of that day. It was July but it was raining, the small stage, Nick and Blixa antics during the show and the excitement of the crowd.
This gig was also fresh on the heels of the movie ‘Wings of Desire’ directed by German director Wim Wenders. The monochrome movie had been released early that year and had garnered cult status, no less because it shows the band playing two songs in a Berlin’s music venue basement (The Carny and From Her to Eternity). The band also makes a cameo appearance. It all aligned in a fantastic way that night. I was living the scene, ‘Wings of Desire’ style…, Nick’s slender figure, dishevelled black hair and black and white attire a reminder of how to look cool. Nick was the coolest guy in music those days (not Rick Astley) and even almost 40 years after that day, Nick still gets the love from his crowds as I witnessed a couple of years ago at the Primavera Porto festival.
Some of the most celebrated bands of the time would come to play in Portugal in the years that followed and I was lucky to experience unique performances from The Cure, P.I.L, The Sisters of Mercy, Echo & The Bunnymen and Killing Joke (opening for Pixies!) to name a few.
Public Image Limited was a highlight, as I was very much into their sound around the release of Album in 1986 and it’s a memorable moment to see a legend like John Lydon live innit?