Catch­ing up with 1980s icons

The Georgia Straight - - MUSIC - By

OMike Usinger

ne of the great things about the In­ter­net is that it makes catch­ing up with old friends and one­time ca­sual ac­quain­tances easy. And, no, we’re not talk­ing about reach­ing out to some­one from the dis­tant past to re­con­nect over cof­fee, din­ner, or a tag-team trip to the Bella Dolls Man­sion. All that typ­i­cally leads to is 45 min­utes of awk­ward con­ver­sa­tion where, half­way through things, you re­al­ize you’d rather be watch­ing The Haunt­ing of Hill House.

Who has time for real long-lost peo­ple when you can find ev­ery­thing there is to know about them on Face­book, In­sta­gram, and Twit­ter? The only prob­lem be­ing that can also be dan­ger­ous from a time-suck per­spec­tive. One minute you’re on Face­book look­ing up that guy who used to in­sist that ev­ery­one at Burn­aby North call him the Colonel. The next thing you know, three hours have passed as you’ve hopped from one friends list to an­other, pa­tiently scrolling along to creep the pro­files of ev­ery­one you went to school with from grades 9 to 12. If only some­one would do you a favour and put all that in­for­ma­tion in one eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble place.

That brings us to 80s Redux: Your Fa­vorite Mu­si­cians To­day.

First the trau­matic news: it’s an old­fash­ioned book—a lit­tle big­ger than a 7-inch sin­gle—which means, hor­ror of hor­rors, you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to have to put down the iphone for five min­utes and fo­cus on some­thing other than flit­ting end­lessly from In­sta­gram to Face­book to Twit­ter.

The good news? It’s an ob­vi­ous labour of love that cov­ers half the ’80s bands you loved. Seat­tle-based pho­tog­ra­pher Mike Hip­ple not only turns his cam­era on mu­si­cians from the decade that gave us new wave, synth-pop, and pre-nir­vana al­ter­na­tive rock, but fleshes things out with in­ter­views that bring us up-to-date on where those mu­si­cians are to­day.

Hip­ple’s per­sonal tastes colour the book, which is to say that if you’re look­ing for Pat Be­natar, An­gus Young, Madonna, or Huey Lewis, you’re go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed. In­stead, 80s Redux: Your Fa­vorite Mu­si­cians To­day is partly de­voted to break­through weirdos like the B-52’s, Con­crete Blonde, and Romeo Void—acts that some­how crashed ra­dio and MTV in the Me Decade de­spite com­ing di­rectly from the freaks-and-geeks lunch ta­ble in high school. The book spends just as much time catch­ing up with acts that will be un­fa­mil­iar to all but un­der­ground ob­ses­sives, in­clud­ing Al­ice Bag of the Al­ice Bag Band, Kurt Neu­mann of the Bodeans, and Steve Mack of That Petrol Emo­tion.

Cu­ri­ous why Dave Wake­l­ing seemed to sud­denly drop off the radar af­ter be­ing ev­ery­where in the ’80s with the English Beat and Gen­eral Pub­lic? Af­ter hav­ing kids, he took a job with Green­peace in his adopted city of L.A., en­abling him to be home for his kids. Wake­l­ing tells Hip­ple he wanted to be “Coach Dave on the soc­cer team or the dad who could re­ally help with the al­ge­bra”.

Lau­rie Sar­gent of Face to Face (“10-9-8”) even­tu­ally traded the mike for or­ganic farm­ing and paint­ing. And Tommy Heath—who scored a megahit as Tommy Tu­tone with “867-5309/Jenny”—hauled up stakes and moved to Nashville to write coun­try songs, be­fore rein­vent­ing him­self as a com­puter pro­gram­mer in the Pa­cific North­west.

In­ter­est­ingly, mu­sic main­tains a pull on al­most ev­ery­one in­ter­viewed, from leg­ends like Wire and Robyn Hitch­cock to semi­foot­notes like Va­lerie Day and John Smith of Nu Shooz. Well aware that they’ll

80s Redux.

never again hit the heights that landed them on mu­sic tele­vi­sion—not to men­tion in the pages of 80s Redux: Your Fa­vorite Mu­si­cians To­day—al­most ev­ery­one still writes, makes records, and tours for au­di­ences on the boom­ing retro cir­cuit.

Rather than raid­ing the archives for pho­tos that have been seen a thou­sand times be­fore, Hip­ple starts fresh for his fan project. The re­sults are fan­tas­tic, whether it’s a fu­ne­real-look­ing black-and-white por­trait of Rose Mc­dowall lean­ing on a shot­gun in the for­est, or Martha Davis of the Mo­tels be­ing sur­veyed by watch­ful billy goats on her Pa­cific North­west farm.

No mat­ter whether the sto­ries in 80s Redux are com­ing from Gene Loves Jezebel’s Michael As­ton or the Cure’s once-trou­bled Lol Tol­hurst, they are pretty much 99 per­cent more in­ter­est­ing than any­thing you’ll un­earth while scour­ing Face­book, Twit­ter, and In­sta­gram for up­dates on peo­ple you haven’t seen for years.

Should one of those folks reach out to you, want­ing to get to­gether, tell them you’re spend­ing time catch­ing up with old friends. As­sum­ing you had even a sliver of good taste back in the day, 80s Redux: Your Fa­vorite Mu­si­cians To­day is packed with them.

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