The “Happy Nostalgia” of rediscovered musical taste!

Memory is a funny thing isn’t it? I have an ability to recall things and recount their details (an enjoyable movie scene or who said what in a conversation for example), that a friend of mine referred to as semi-eidetic memory. However, my wife and I can pull up outside our local grocery store, she’ll ask me to go inside and grab a few things, and I’ll forget one or more of them! Similarly, nostalgia. Recalling things from times gone by very fondly…yet I don’t recall liking them at the time! Case in point – music.

Embarrass your kids!

There are a few bands whose hits could be deemed signature songs from the 1980s, the decade of my teenage years. A couple of those bands, Level 42 and Tears for Fears, I thought were “ok” at the time, but I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to buy their albums etc. I have rediscovered them both with real enthusiasm of late however!

A mate of mine at school was a big Level 42 fan – I remember him decorating his schoolbag with their logo. Two or three of their songs I quite liked, but they wouldn’t have bumped other bands that were favourites of mine at the time out of my Sony Walkman. Last year, whilst on the way to my mum’s house, I discovered an “80’s classics” station on the car radio. On came a Level 42 track, and after a couple of minutes my wife and I were singing along (ignoring our children looking at us aghast from the back seat). Remembering other songs of theirs I’d liked, later that day I hunted down some of their tracks on iTunes and ended up buying the greatest hits album, lots of which became regular features on a couple of my playlists and still is.

Everyone knows them…

Tears for Fears are a band whose songs everyone knows. As a schoolboy, I associated them with the earlier period of the 1980s, the time I first started really taking an interest in chart music. One big early 80s hit, back a couple of years later with an album that spawned several chart classics, then they faded into the background of “early 80’s bands whose songs I heard as a young teen”.  Briefly back in 89/90 with another popular album, I remember taking a vague interest and thinking “Oh, them again…but the other bloke seems to be doing more of the singing now”. Then they faded away again. Like Level 42, I liked a few tracks, but Tears for Fears didn’t wrestle their way into my regular listening.

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Of course, in those pre-internet days without an iTunes or Spotify in sight, music collections were limited to whatever tapes, vinyl or CDs you owned; and people listened to (and recorded from!) the radio. Shuffle play on the move would have involved carrying a suitcase of cassettes around.

How I listen to music at home hasn’t really changed – it’s just become easier to do! Whilst I did occasionally, and still do, listen to an album from start to finish, I’ve always liked hopping around from track to track. Making a “mix tape” was something many people my age spent happy hours doing as a teenager. These days, the way we can change what and who we’re listening to at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse would have been tailor-made for the way I used to listen to music at home as a kid.

I’ve always had quite an eclectic taste in music, but as a young adult I stuck to a handful of long-held favourites and a particular genre or two I liked to go clubbing to. Not for me the “dressed up smart” Saturday night out on the town; give me a dingy club playing some early 90s indie or some grungy rock with a student-centric atmosphere and I would have been happy.

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But back to Tears for Fears. Over the years, several of their tracks became anthems or associated with events, and there’s been some great cover versions. Also, given how well known and successful they were in the first place, they’d clearly subliminally infiltrated my taste pantheon. With age comes maturity (allegedly!) in many senses…including musical taste and the ability to appreciate songs and musicians with an understanding of, and admiration for, the creative effort. Of course, taste and enjoyment is not set in stone, and the “meh, they’re ok” of my youth has given way to “shit, this is awesome!”

Much as a percieved increase in maturity makes me think that these days I’d make a better job of English Literature A-Level than 18 year old me did, I think simply that my musical taste has just evolved and mature. I’m rediscovering the gems of my youth…which were clearly wasted on the young me!

Nostalgia or maturity? You decide!

A final word..and a song?

As a final “word”, here’s a video of Tear’s for Fears’ Curt Smith and his daughter with an acoustic version of their first big hit “Mad World” from 1982 (also famously covered by Gary Jules). Filmed early in 2020’s Coronavirus lockdown, it goes to show class never dies…and proved a viral worldwide hit!

Lastly, here’s a review from the UK’s Guardian newspaper of a gig Tears for Fears performed last year. Classics never die indeed! https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/feb/03/tears-for-fears-review-liverpool-arena