Friday, November 12, 2010

Back to Back to the Future

In 1981 my parents rented a video player from the Rediffusion Store.

Did you have one of these in your house? We did.

However, my Dad (a bus driver) found his pay eroded over the course of that year (that's privitisation for you), and we had to send the video player back to the shop after our 12 month contract on it ran out. I was pretty devastated. Those next few years were like something out of a Dolly Parton song. My mother still reminds me of how during one particularly cash-strapped Christmas, when we couldn't afford presents, I told everyone "Don't worry, we'll just enter into the spirit of Christmas instead." (Are you crying yet?)

It wasn't until my mother got a job 6 years later that we were able to afford another video player. The first film we watched on it was Back to The Future. And none of us noticed the irony in the title.

That film made me obsessed with time travel. I couldn't wait to grow up and get out. I would make lists of things that I wanted my life to be like in the 21st century (with its shiny enormous wallscreens and even shinier people wearing silver clothes). The future couldn't come fast enough.

I did not like the 1980s. Being northern, working-class, poor, gay and an introverted swot, the country declared war on me in numerous ways, some which I wasn't even aware of until much later on. There was very little that was produced culturally during that decade that spoke to me (The Golden Girls being an exception). And I've spent the 20 years after the 1980s trying to ensure that if the 1980s comes back, it can never get me again. I am prepared.

But I've been getting sinister glimpses of the 1980s all year. Have you? Revivals used to come in 20 year cycles, but I think they've been getting faster and faster over the last decade, so now it's like we experience every decade all at once in a wave of multi-fluctuating retrotacity (I just made that word up).

But it's the 1980s that I keep seeing, out of the corner of my eye. It's almost like that hateful decade is a villain that was vanquished at the end of a horror film, I now feel like I'm at the start of the (less ground-breaking) sequel film (The 1980s Part 2), and the 1980s has somehow found a way to come back. 1980s cultists (The Tory Party) have invoked its spirit, and it's found a way back into our dimension. Again, it's the poor and the northerners who are going to be hit the hardest. All those public sector jobs in Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester are going to be swept away. But don't think you can just sit around on benefits - they'll be taken off you also. And don't even think of going back to university, unless you fancy getting £50,000 in debt. Even yesterday's tuition fees riots felt like a rerun. And my own university has anarchists crawling out of the woodwork - they never really went away, they were just waiting, waiting for their moment.

Come to think of it, horror film sequels were a very 1980s thing anyway - so there it is again, seeping back into my consciousness, no matter how hard I try to make it go away.

Even Back to The Future is back again, celebrating its 25th anniversary. I keep seeing it everywhere.

This morning, as I turned on the car radio on the way to work, this was being played...

OK, so it was first released in 1978. But that saxophone refrain, heard so many times in the following decade, and inspiring of so many other saxophone inserts into 80s pop,
has come to represent a kind of short-hand for everything wrong about that accursed fucking decade - flashy, unironic and just plain naff.

And as it seared into my ears, I screamed, as if a serial killer had crawled into the back of the car.

Am I the only person who has a phobia of an entire decade?

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