On the shock of the old be­ing new again.

Metro Magazine NZ - - Contents -

On mu­sic and mem­ory.

Any­one of a cer­tain vin­tage re­mem­bers the mo­ment. It was 1983 and you were loung­ing in the lounge when a per­son of in­de­ter­mi­nate gen­der ex­ploded into the room cour­tesy of TV1. Or was it TV2?

Ei­ther way — and there were only two back then — you couldn’t stop star­ing at the spec­ta­cle. The braids, the makeup, the plucked eye­brows, the flat chest, the deep voice. What the …?

Is that a boy or a girl, squeaked dad, squint­ing at the screen from the depths of the re­cliner. And you didn’t know what to say, be­cause you couldn’t work it out ei­ther, and the very fact of that blew your mind.

All you knew was that some­one named Boy Ge­orge and some­thing called Cul­ture Club had very def­i­nitely ar­rived, and that the na­tion had quite pos­si­bly just drawn a sin­gle, sharp, col­lec­tive breath. Can you imag­ine, if you’re not as an­cient as me, how shock­ing and thrilling and ut­terly for­eign that was?

Bowie had al­ready blazed a gen­der-bend­ing trail of course, and then there was Prince, the poster-pop­pet for am­bi­gu­ity in his im­prob­a­bly tight and high-waisted trousers. But Boy? He was the one who first spoke to those of us who were teenagers, way back then, in 1983.

Ah, the 80s. Joy Divi­sion and Talk­ing Heads on high ro­tate on mum and dad’s turntable (and OK, if we’re hon­est, Du­ran Du­ran and Depeche Mode, too). Karyn Hay and Barry Jenkin, the voices of rea­son. This was the era of the New Ro­man­tics, though none of the guys you knew would ac­tu­ally be seen dead in lip gloss and frilly shirts.

Girls with ag­gres­sively plucked eye­brows, eyes lined us­ing a black felt-tip swiped from an older brother’s pen­cil case. Hair­styles that bring Woody Wood­pecker to mind as a style muse. Swot­ting while lis­ten­ing closely to the ra­dio — Sun­day Night Re­quests on the Tonight Show — hop­ing that some­one had sent in a shout-out, just for you.

Boy Ge­orge ma­te­ri­alised the same year Madonna was off on “Hol­i­day” and Wham were busy be­ing “Bad Boys”.

It was the year af­ter Men At Work’s “Down Un­der” and Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”; the year be­fore Cindy Lau­per’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and Dexys Mid­night Run­ners’ “Come On Eileen”.

It was the glory days of our pro­vin­cial pub cir­cuit. Of un­der­age rag­ing to The Mock­ers, The Ex­po­nents, Pek­ing Man, The Chills. It was Kahlua and milk and sticky car­pet and pub rock. It was the sound­track of pos­si­bil­ity.

It all seems like a life­time since those years, and maybe it is. But then the past rears up out of nowhere and rushes in to haunt the present.

It hap­pens through mu­sic. Boy Ge­orge and Cul­ture Club, play­ing here for the first time in De­cem­ber (page 26). The Mock­ers, re­form­ing for a tour this sum­mer. Karyn Hay as MC at the launch party for Vol­ume, the ex­hi­bi­tion span­ning six decades of Kiwi mu­sic, at Auck­land Mu­seum (page 92).

Takes you back, doesn’t it? To the per­son you were on the cusp of be­com­ing, all those decades ago.

An­other time, an­other world. The mu­sic of mem­ory.

It was Kahlua and milk and sticky car­pet and pub rock. It was the sound­track of pos­si­bil­ity.

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