THE WAY I SEE IT
Last weekend, I went back to the Eighties. Ah, the Eighties – that decade of chronic recession, emigration and punitive personal taxation. Identical, in fact, to the times we now live in, only with better music. And that, as it happens, was what last weekend was all about. You may have heard of Rewind, a festival that takes place in Henley- on-Thames in the south of England every year and features only acts from the decade in which many of us reached maturity. Nostalgia is a potent draw, and Rewind now also visits Scone in Scotland, and Capesthorne Hall in the north of England, and even has spread to Australia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
This was my first time attending. I have a cousin who lives in Henley and somehow she shoehorned seven adults and four children into her house. We woke on Saturday and Sunday to the smell of bacon and sausages and, after eating, we ambled through town, stopping for a pint at a riverside pub before taking a water taxi to the festival itself. And what a revelation it proved to be. For starters, almost everyone was the same age, so there were none of those murderous looks you often get at gigs from teenagers annoyed that their music is being hijacked by grannies and granddads.
A lot of people dress up as icons of the Eighties and over the weekend, I came across yellowcoats from Hi De Hi!; lots of Gooses, Mavericks and Icemen from Top Gun; the motorcycle cops from CHiPs; multiple Beetlejuices; various Ghostbusters and Baywatchers; the Blues Brothers; Richard Gere wannabes in the Navy whites of officers and gentlemen; and even people dressed as Rubik cubes.
Usually, I loathe fancy dress but it was great fun checking off all those Eighties clichés, nearly all of which brought back very happy memories – but, of course, a few things were different. For starters, we brought foldable chairs with us; standing around all day in a field might have been fun at 20 but it doesn’t do much good for a 51-year-old spine. Nor did we have to smuggle in a few drinks now that we can afford to pay rip- off festival prices
A few things were different; standing around in a field might be fun at 20 but it doesn’t do much good for a 51-year-old spine
(though at a fiver sterling for a 50cl bottle of cider, strapping a hip flask to my thigh with gaffer tape looked an increasingly attractive option as the hours passed).
And then the memories came flooding in a torrent – Howard Jones and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, who I first saw in Dublin’s St Francis Xavier Hall (they renamed it the SFX to make it sound vaguely hip, but we all knew what it really was); Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, whose first-ever live gig I saw at the Royal Court in Liverpool in 1984; and Johnny Hates Jazz, Level 42, Hazel O’Connor, Bonnie Tyler, Rick Astley, Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet, even Wang Chung, for heaven’s sake.
So far, so jolly. Then The Boomtown Rats played and when Bob Geldof reached the I Don’t Like Mondays line: ‘And the lesson today is how to die…’, he welled up and, I swear, everyone there welled up with him, mindful of the tragedy he suffered in April.
Then something extraordinary happened. Literally everyone in the crowd cheered their lungs out, willing him to continue, sending all the love and sympathy and empathy that being fiftysomething bestows on you, washing towards the stage.
Everywhere I looked, people were in tears. I wasn’t exactly emotionally stable myself, but somehow we all got through it together. It was a lovely, spine-tingling moment that reminded us that while getting older is an inconvenience, it is not a tragedy. Dying young is.
Buoyed by the realisation, we returned to partying. If there had been a roof, Jimmy Somerville of Bronski Beat and Communards fame would have lifted it when he sang Don’t Leave Me This Way. At the close, fireworks lit up the sky. We danced to Wham!’s Wake Me Up Before You Go Go on the river taxi home.
And that’s exactly what we all should continue to do until the back, the legs or the heart finally give up on us. The kids all say YOLO and they’re right – you really do only live once, and you might as well make the most of it. At least, that’s the way I see it.