The ’80s Pin Project: So Much Sexy

For an explanation of the 1980s Pin Project, go here.

Oh, the crosses one must bear.

Today’s random-pick-a-pin-out-of-the-box generator bemoans the difficulties of trying to cart around a burdensome amount of sexy.

Bow-chicka-wow wow.

Bow-chicka-wow wow.

You know, the funny thing is, I never really felt this way about myself, especially not when I was busy wearing pins. This would have made its way onto my jacket/purse/being in my late teens or maaaaaaybe early 20s (though, really, smart money says this was on me in my teenager-hood). During that time, I was plagued by vicious attacks of non-confidence. I felt chubby. I felt insecure. I felt like I needed external validation regarding my feminine pulchritude. (And don’t let my mother try and tell you any different!) Oy. If only I knew then what I know now.

I generally lean toward the practice of “fake it ’til you make it”; it’s what I did when I went to college (no, really, I am smart and belong here! That’s what I said, until I finally believed it). Thus it makes sense to me that I would have purchased something declaring my abundance of sexy, and worn it with a shirt that let me show off my breasts like they were trophies. It’s what happens when we begin to recognize our sexual power. And have breasts.

Now, I’m just pissed that I bought something that promotes such bad grammar and graphic design. Was that ellipsis really necessary? Right after the comma like that? Especially since the copy space couldn’t accommodate the third period in the ellipsis? And oh my word, what is up with the ridiculous porn font on the word “Sexy”? Ai, me! What was I thinking?

Clearly, in those days, my sense of taste was only in my mouth. Hooray for adulthood!

Mark my words, children: some day, you’ll get to a point where sexiness isn’t a top priority. Not that it won’t be nice, on those days when you’re feeling like you are on time and ready to rock. But in general, the day-to-day burden of sexy will be gone from your shoulders. And what a blessed relief that day will be.

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The ’80s Pin Project: The Thompson Twins

For an explanation of the 1980s Pin Project, go here.

In a weird way, for me, The Thompson Twins define what made the 1980s music scene so…outlandishly 1980s. They wrote synth-fueled, harmony-laden poppy new wave, and… They wore zany clothes! They had absolutely frigging enormous hair! They lacked eyebrows! (Well, two of them did.)

Yes, really. Eyebrows. The Thompson Twins were a trio (of course: ZANY!) of unrelated folks (two of whom eventually married) (and are now divorced) who, at one point, were painfully poor. They wanted to do *something* unexpected with their eyes, to make the band more of a visual standout, but colored contacts cost money. Shaving, however, was (practically) free, et voila! Two of the three non-family twins engaged in regular eyebrow maintenance, and the look* for a band was born.

Kooky bunch of eyebrow shavers.

Kooky bunch of eyebrow shavers.

*as long as you add giant duck-billed hats, yards of baggy satin jackets and a treasure chest’s worth of ersatz pearls to that look.

I totally loved the album Into The Gap. I still have it, it still makes its way onto my turntable every now and again. It had their biggest hits on it, most notably the song “Doctor! Doctor!”. Don’t worry. I’ll include the video for that song, soon enough, but first! We discuss the Twins.

Also, please note: I know they released other albums besides Into The Gap. But I didn’t really care about those albums, except for a select song or two. Sorry, The Thompson Twins. It’s not personal.

Everybody I knew liked The Thompson Twins (or at least, grudgingly admitted they did not hate said Twins and if you knew my friends you’d realize that NEVER happens), and owned their very own copy of Into The Gap. It was a ginormous seller. Sold a bajillion copies world-wide. Generated a Thompson Twins world tour. Heavy video rotation on MTV! Caused young men to take an inordinate interest in long, skinny rat tails! And created a side business of swanky shwag, like the very pin I have pictured above. It was GREAT! In 1984-85 The Thompson Twins were riding high and yet….

And yet, they never got away from their supremely ’80s sound, which stopped being interesting by the end of the ’80s, and the group disbanded in 1993. I still have Into The Gap on vinyl, but I could never quite make the move to get it on CD, or leapfrog over physical media and get a digital copy. I could do that, I suppose (she said, with an unconvincing attempt at enthusiasm in her voice).

But the thing is, they are SO completely 1980s, it feels almost anachronistic of me to play them in any other media, which doesn’t necessarily happen for every artist in my collection. I have no problem with Katrina and the Waves in my iPod. How else am I supposed to bop around to my own private music collection that feeds right into my earbuds? But for the Twins…I don’t know. Digitizing their music feels wrong, somehow.

Maybe if I had a cassette I could play on a Sony Walkman…maybe that would feel more authentic to me. Right on, Thompson Twins! Right? Kind of? Know what I mean? Sort of? Hang on a minute, while I switch my cassingle and adjust my awkwardly-sized, generally inconvenient and kind of sweaty mini-headphones.

Truth: This is the exact model of Walkman that I used to own.

Truth: This is the exact model of Walkman that I used to own. Image from outsidethebeltway.com

Hahahahahaha! I said “cassingle”. Moving on.

I love The Thompson Twins, but they are my 1980s music equivalent of Han Solo frozen in a block of carbonite. Kind of grandiose and almost mythical, but ultimately, stuck pretty tight in one spot.

Nope. Not going anywhere. Image from jeditemplearchives.com

Nope. Not going anywhere.
Image from jeditemplearchives.com

Nothing about them progressed. Nothing about them moved forward. Putting a Thompson Twins album on to play is a great way to get an aural photograph of the ’80s scene. But it wouldn’t work in a Zumba class. Kudos to the Twins for not slipping into the nostalgia trap and trotting their old chestnuts out for a reunion tour. Stay in the carbonite, beloved Twins, where we can worship you at a distance and bedazzle your music in the glossy, soft-focus sheen of memory.

Here’s the video for “Doctor! Doctor!” which–quite sensibly–embodies everything that was happening in the 1980s video era. Big hair, moody lighting, superimposed giant piano-playing hands, harlequin masks, raggedy clothing, purple gloves, expansive hand gestures, inexplicable shots of fringe-drenched figure skaters…I never could make heads or tails of it and yet…

And yet, this video is frigging awesome.

The ’80s Pin Project: Katrina and the Waves

For an explanation of the 1980s Pin Project, go here.

There were plenty of female, pop-oriented performers who staked a claim on the 1980s music scene. Madonna is, of course, the biggie, the trailblazer, the trendsetter. Lots of pretty, blonde-ish, mostly forgettable singers danced along in Madge’s footsteps, ones like Stacey Q and Taylor Dayne. There was the sugar-sweet teen bop of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, and infectious bubble gum from bands like The Go-Gos and The Bangles. Every one of these musicians were fun and dance-friendly, but (with the possible exception of The Bangles, and of course La Madge) suffered for the want of an individual musical fingerprint. 

I hate to sound like I’m being mean to The Go-Gos–God knows I enjoy “Our Lips Are Sealed” as much as the next guy–but they hardly broke new ground. And I feel for Debbie Gibson, because she seems like a nice person and I think she really tries in her music. But. Ahem. I digress.

In the midst of the vast array of ’80s-era, shellacked-hair and fishnets-bedecked chick pop, Katrina and the Waves came on the scene. What? Who? Driving drums? Great guitar hooks? Punchy horns? Where in the hell did this fit in?

wp_20150521_09_40_34_pro-001

RAWK!

Fronted by American-born Army brat Katrina Leskanich, Katrina and the Waves were a UK-based power pop band whose self-titled US debut album was full of well-crafted songs and Katrina’s soaringly huge voice. Was the album dance-able? Sure. But their music also flat-out rocked. Imagine if you took Joan Jett‘s energy and party-ready attitude and and stuck it in a blender with Southside Johnny, the frontman for New Jersey’s greatest rock & roll bar band ever, and then threw in some serious high-fives for good measure.

That? Hell yeah! That’s what I’m talking about.

I ~~~loved~~~ Katrina and the Waves’s first album. The fact is, I still do. I think it’s strong and holds up against time and changing musical sensibilities. And there wasn’t really anyone else doing pure, good-time rock and roll with a strong female taking the lead. At least, not like Katrina & Co., and not like the rock-pop fusion they put out on their debut album. There was Lone Justice, I suppose, though they were more country-folk-rock. The Pretenders clung to their punk roots; believe me, I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m just saying Katrina’s sound was different. As for performers like Pat Benatar…full disclosure. Pat Benatar has always been a little too strident for my liking. I wish her well, as I appreciate what she’s done, but if I never hear another Pat Benatar song again my life will be just fine.

I saw Katrina and the Waves way back in the day, opening for Don Henley at the Garden State Arts Center. (Yes, I saw an inordinate amount of shows at the GSAC. Moving on.) For those of you who know my reactionary dislike of The Eagles and might be surprised that I would go and see their drummer’s solo concert, let me explain: I had not yet worked in bars enough to have heard everything off The Eagles’ Greatest Hits, over and over again, sung loudly and off-key, late at night, by a thousand different patrons, from New Jersey to Boston, to Texas, and back again. Simply put, I hadn’t been taken to my Eagles limit. And I still stand behind Henley’s solo work. But it’s true, these days, I am like The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

It’s unfortunate that Katrina’s follow-up album bombed and the band sort of disappeared off the US music scene after that. I still have a copy of the second album–I think I kept it out of first-album loyalty–but I haven’t listened to it in years. They are not the first band ever to fall victim to the sophomore slump.

Is it possible that the song “Walking on Sunshine” has been out for thirty years? And that I’ve had this pin for thirty years? And that I’m…and yet, I remain 29, I’m not sure how that works. Good lord, time has a way of moving past a person, doesn’t it?

Anyway. Here is Katrina and the Waves, and the glorious “Walking on Sunshine”. I defy you all not to get up and dance.

See you at the next pin!

 

The ’80s Pin Project: The Alarm

For an explanation of what the Pin Project is, go here.

There was a crop of bands that sprang up in the 1980s that came to public interest because they were sort of like U2-2. Scotland’s Simple Minds was one of those bands, with a similar sort of ethereal guitar sound and moody lyrics. Midnight Oil were U2’s Aussie, equally strident counterpart. And there was Welsh band The Alarm

…oh, The Alarm…

I loved em, spiky hair and all.

I loved them so, spiky hair and all.

They were earnest and had harmonicas and found some great guitar hooks. And hey, they wrote a song about the Stephen King book The Standso they liked to read (because really, that book is enormously long) and that’s cool, dig?

Side note: I have read The Stand twice and thoroughly enjoyed it…mostly. The scene where the band of survivors escapes Manhattan Island, which has had its bridges blown and is cut off from the mainland, via the pitch black Lincoln Tunnel is one of the scariest scenes I’ve ever read. But GOD I hate how that book ends. And I digress.

The Alarm was one of those bands that were always on the edge of being The Next Big Thing. They opened for U2 (further cementing their “one of these things sounds like the other” reputation); they opened for Bob Dylan at the Garden State Arts Center (which is when I saw them). But then they sort of faded away, apparently the victim of creative struggles, lackluster support from their label, and some deeply personal misfortunes. It didn’t take long for The Alarm to end up on the “Where Are They Now?” pile. It’s sad when it happens, but unless you’re The Rolling Stones…it happens.

Note to the good people who administer The Alarm’s web archives: the Garden State Arts Center (now PNC Bank Arts Center) is in Holmdel, not Holmdale. Get on that when you can, ‘k?

Yes, mystified friends who know me, I went to a Bob Dylan concert. But The Alarm was opening! And it was such an odd double-bill that I had to go.

I have a fairly high nostalgia threshhold for The Alarm and their music, which still makes me want to fist-pump my righteous indignation, though I am afraid the music doesn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped. It feels so very…1980s. And a lot of their stuff wants for real dynamic movement. Like, The Alarm only plays at one volume, and that’s loud and ooh-ah-ah jangly. And strident. And not a little bombastic. Which can be exhausting. I mean, U2 cut their teeth on songs of political protest but even Bono and Co. manage to work in a song about a tortured relationship, every now and again.

Here’s The Alarm at their most U2-iest.

Check out those vocals! If Hogwarts [was real and] offered a class in vocally mimicking Bono, Mike Peters and The Alarm would have been at the top of the class. It’s impressive. A little unsettling, maybe, but impressive nonetheless. For reasons like this very song, The Alarm is impossible for me to discuss without invoking U2. Of course, if you’ve got reasons why I should rethink this, I’m willing to learn.

Enjoy the music! I’d love to hear any stories you’ve got about The Alarm.

See you with the next pin. XOXO

The ’80s Pin Project: Special Guest Mother’s Day Pin

For an explanation of what the Pin Project is, go here.

When I started working on the Pin Project, it jump-started a fun little conversation between me and my friends and family about pins that we had, or have, and what they may have meant to us at the time we bought them. My sister mentioned having a “Shut Up and Dance” pin (which I may also have but you know…I don’t know. Time will tell!), and a friend reminisced about how she, too, used her pins to go up one side of her purse strap and down the other. Because we’re cool like that, right? 

Then my mother–my adorable Mom-o-rama–said, “You know, I have a pin like the ones you’re posting. Your aunt sent it to me while I was in the hospital.” When I visited her recently, she’d already dug this pin out of her memento box and had it sitting front-and-center on the dining room table. Bright yellow pin, dark wood table, bright sunlight. I couldn’t have missed it even if I wanted to.

Truth.

Truth.

There’s an inescapable poignancy to this pin. Because the fact of the matter is: she has survived damn near everything.

Cancer. Survived.

Heart attack. Survived.

Broken neck (what? Really!): Survived. (That’s when this pin came on the scene.)

My father’s long, slow decline thanks to Parkinson’s disease: Survived (and, she even managed his care while healing from said broken neck).

When she was in the rehab facility, early on in her neck recovery, my mother (obviously) wasn’t allowed to smoke. And she had been a smoker for decades. After her release from the hospital, Mom continued with her campaign of not-smoking, which kind of surprised me because nothing else had deterred her before. I said, “I’m glad you quit, but why now? I mean, you had cancer, you didn’t quit smoking. You had a heart attack, you didn’t quit smoking. But a broken neck makes you quit? Why?”

Gesturing into the air, my mother shrugged her shoulders and said, “Eh…I feel like I’m using up too many of my lives.” 

Did I mention, she’s funny?

My mother is an inspiration for what to do when you feel like life is kicking you in the ass. Because what the hell else are you going to do? Give in? Or get back up and keep living?

Me and la Mom.

Me and la Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thanks for setting the standard.

XOXO

The ’80s Pin Project: Brainstorm

For an explanation of what the Pin Project is, go here.

Despite the idea that punning is the lowest form of wit (attributable to every author ever in the Western literary tradition) I apparently have a long-standing weakness for visual puns. Verbal ones, not as much, but a cartoon? I’m so there.

So my random pull from my bag-o-pins and this week’s entry in my ongoing examination of things I’ve inexplicably kept with me since my youth, is:

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

I thought it was hilarious then. I still think it’s funny now. What can I say? It’s a crap joke, but oh, how it works. The lightning! The bouncing brains! The fisherman’s cap! And kudos to the star of this pin, for his preparedness in the face of inclement weather. The slight smile shows he’s hardly phased by brains falling at his feet, either. 

I don’t know if that’s a trait that’s scary or worthy of emulating. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

What does this pin say about a person? It says: I want to be smart and glib, and I am cutting my comedy teeth. Check on me in ten years.

I never said my pins made me social.

Of course, I just remembered the 1983 movie Brainstorm, a techno-sci-fi-government-covert-ops thriller starring Natalie Wood and a creepily-laughing Christopher Walken. (Is that sentence redundant?) It was Natalie Wood’s last movie, filmed two years before her untimely and, somehow, still scandalous death.

Adding this baby to my Netflix queue. Bring on the sci-fi cheese!

BONUS! I just discovered that the artist who drew this pin is John Lamb, who is also an animator and film producer, and did the 1979 animated Tom Waits short, “Tom Waits for No One“. Check it out:

Well. There’s an unexpected yet fun fact for the day. Stay tuned! Who knows what next week’s pin will turn up?

The ’80s Pin Project: You Naughty Thing

For an explanation of what the Pin Project is, go here.

And so it continues. This week’s pin is the 1980s version of a morality play as wearable art.

You naughty beast.

You naughty beast.

I mean, not that I’m judging you or anything, but… *judging*

I’m unapologetically fascinated by sexual innuendo pins. Sexual innuendo anything is interesting, actually, because so much of it is unwritten (which kind of does imply that people are always thinking about sex which is why that’s the place towards which our minds gravitate, but I’m getting ahead of myself). This pin is one sentence long. One. And in that sentence we, the readers, inherently understand this pin isn’t implying that the mind being read is entertaining thoughts of murder (I can read your mind and I’m calling the police), or thievery (…and I’m locking up my valuables), or eating meat on a Friday during Lent (…and I’ll join you for a burger). No, no. This pin specifically implies that the mind in question is thinking long and hard–ha ha–about sex. Sexy sexy sex. It’s like a woman wearing a shirt that has “My eyes are up there” printed across the chest. Which, of course, means they have to look at her chest in the first place in order for the message to have any sort of meaning. Because I’m sexy and playful and make naughty jokes and you are a bad, bad boy. Get away from me. Tee hee. Got it?

Saucy.

It kind of reminds me of the bizarro sexual dynamic in the 21 Jump Street movie (which, BTW, I *love*) between Jenko (Channing Tatum) and his wildly inappropriate science teacher, Ms. Griggs (Ellie Kemper). Watch:

Get away from me. Slap. You’re so hot. Yep, pretty much sums it up, and it’s the part of the movie I don’t think is funny.

It could be amusing except for the way that statements like the one this pin makes perpetuate the idea that men alllllllways want sex and it’s alllllllllways shameful and it’s alllllllways up to the woman to say no, no matter how clearly the lust-stricken (and in the video, adult) Ms. Griggs may want a little action. (Slap!) In real life, Ms. Griggs would be a predator. In real life, she could face serious repercussions over her attraction to her student. In media life (and how many people saw this movie?), the audience is in on the joke that Jenko is a cop and an adult and what’s REALLY funny is that Ms. Griggs has squishy hot lady parts. She clearly wants sex. She’s scary.

The pin in the photo, “I can read your mind and you should be ashamed of yourself,” is one that was meant to be worn by females. No guy would have worn this pin, because of their own set of social pressures that include always being seen as manly and quasi-turned-on. And neither would anyone over the age of, like, 25. Could you see a 40-year-old woman wearing this pin on her business casual, office-to-happy-hour blouse? No, you can’t. This was an accessory designed for the 16-20(ish) set, women who don’t necessarily understand how to be in control of their sexuality yet, even though they’re blossoming like crazy. How do you keep someone in check that may want to explore their sexuality but lacks the savvy to do so within socially defined parameters? Shaming works, right?

I bet you’re thinking…but Terri, this pin is like a billion years old. It’s practically a piece of cultural pre-history. Surely we’ve evolved since then, right? Come along as a culture, and have a healthier view of sexual development than we did in the stone ages of the 1980s, right?

Then ask yourself why abstinence-only sex education has traction. Ask why purity rings are a real thing. Ask why slut-shaming is so easy to do. Easier and easier, in fact, thanks to the internet.

Even though, in confusing contrast, American culture is becoming more and more creepily, tween-centrically sexualized. Sexualization and the conflicts that society heaps up on it start earlier all the time. It’s not easy being a woman, and it’s really not easy developing into a woman when a perfectly normal aspect of adult womanhood is held to freakishly austere criticism.

Remember, folks, a healthy grasp of sexuality, in general, isn’t something that should be viewed as shameful. However. If you’re thinking sexual thoughts about a tween, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Way more serious than I had anticipated. So be it. But I have to end this on a positive note. Here’s Buddy Holly’s “Every Day”, possibly the happiest song in all the world. I post this to be more conscious about the messages I send.

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