Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Twenty-First Century Man

I think I've talked about my parent's album collection and how I used to raid it as a child. As well as the Ronco Classical Music series (my parents were aspirant working class and thought that Mozart and Beethoven would provide the key to turning their children into happy citizens of social class demographic A/B - actually they were kind of right), there was also a lot of MOR stuff - The Carpenters, Cliff Richard, Diana Ross, Abba, Simon and Garfunkel, Western Movie Theme Tunes - all these and more played their part in my continuing love of bad music.

Around about 1986, bored of The Supremes, I started listening to my Dad's ELO collection. And one album in particular, Time, blew my teenage mind.

The mid-late 1980s were not a good time for young Lubin - adolescence rarely is, is it? And I spent most of my free time in some form or other of geek escapism from the mundanity and occasional horror of real life - "programming" my Spectrum 48K, playing Dungeons and Dragons, the Mogadon of watching endless sitcoms on tv, reading Stephen King novels. I was becoming increasingly obsessed with "The Future" - particularly the 21st century, which I wished I was in - I was so impatient to grow up, leave home, get a job and a boyfriend and leave the vileness of my homophobic, anti-intellectual, boring 1980s council estate far far behind.

I had bought a book called "The Third Millenium" by Brian Stableford and David Langford which was a "history" of the years 2000-3000, written from the perspective of fictional 31st century historians (who were aged 200+). It predicted all sorts of amazing things for the next 1000 years - space travel, genetic engineering of humans to create sea-people and space-people who could function in zero-gravity and had 4 arms and no legs, encounters with aliens, nuclear wars and killer viruses. At the time I didn't realise it, but the author's own preoccupations and biases with events of the time worked their way into the book - for example, it details how Buenos Aires is destroyed in a nuclear war between Brazil and Argentina (punishment perhaps for Argentina daring to got to war with the UK in the 1980s?) My more fashionable friend Ian, who had "tipped" hair and cared only for Top of the Pops, thought the book was the most boring thing in the world. But that book, along with ELO's Time Album were two things that got me through the 1980s. With its weird electropop songs like Ticket to the Moon, From the End of the World and 21st Century Man, I spent ages trying to decipher the lyrics that sounded alternatively deep then meaningless. One in particular stuck in my mind: "You can do most anything, now you're a 21st century man." I couldn't wait for it to be true.

Of course, the 21st century came along, and I got a lot of the things I'd wanted, even before it had arrived. I haven't heard Time for 20 years, but thanks to the magic of Itunes, there it is again. And it's just as crazy and silly and magical as I remember it. I'm not so desperate to live in the Future any more - it actually strikes me as an increasingly scary place to want to be. But I wish I could get a message to my 14 year old self, just to say "hang in there, generally, it will get better. Oh - and while you're at it - to save you the time, here follows a list of people you'll have absolutely no chance with..."


Rob7534 said...

There was a time in my life that I was obsessed with all things techy and future promises of a utopian world. But I can't say I ever got into D&D! =)

I find it hard to believe that there were people who you had absolutely no chance with!

comatose said...

this is weird. I love that album too (though I only heard it for the first time 2 years ago) and wish I could go back and tell my teenage self to hang in there until I'm old enough to escape.