The ’80s Pin Project: Mother Warned You

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

This week’s pin is a statement pin. A lot of pins that were worn in the 1980s had nothing to do with music and everything to do with giving the world your, like, totally bad attitude, for sure, y’know? Today’s random, hand-in-the-bag-eyes-closed-tight pin selection is exactly that.

*cue ominous organ music*

*cue ominous organ music*

Ooh, Mamas all over the world worry about someone like you, right? Because you’re hard, yeah? You’re tough, right? You’re so full of edge you’d even cut yourself. Watch out! Somebody in the room is…merciful Heaven…quelle méchanceténo?

Please note: the real people your mother warned you about? Don’t wear badges informing you who they are.

So this was the sort of pin that was worn by girls like me. We were nice(ish) girls from the suburbs who worked in malls and pretended to be grittier than we really were. It was a pin that was worn by guys with long, unkempt, kind of stringy hair, who wore jean vests over leather jackets and had wallets that attached by a chain to their belt loops. It was worn by kids who wanted to feel bad but would grow up to become working-stiff restaurant managers or mechanics or gym teachers. Or writers. Legitimate bad-asses let their actions speak for them. Me? I was just a kid from New Jersey trying to hang tough. I’m retroactively slightly embarrassed for my 16-year-old self.

That’s about it for this pin. I’m going to leave you with the song that epitomizes everything behind this pin–the faux badassery, the inherent drudgery, the in-your-face “I am a walking cartoon party” vibe that seemed to inhabit so much ’80s culture. Presenting Poison‘s “Nothing But a Good Time”.

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The ’80s Pin Project: Hooters, #1

If you’re wondering what in the heck this “Pin Project” thing is, please go here, then meet me back at this blog. ‘kay? ‘kay!

The pin that I pulled out of my little box of treasures (dumped into a bag, reaching in blind….”You certainly are being random, aren’t you?” asked George), was a pin–first in what will surely be a series–for the band The Hooters.

Oh my word, how I loved The Hooters.

hooters1

Not to be confused with a certain wings-and-boobs-centric “family” restaurant.

What wasn’t to love? The Hooters of the 1980s were a five-piece power pop band out of Philadelphia. They were cute! They were dance-y! They were color-coded!

Cute, and harmless. What's not to love? Image from the80sman.com

Cute, and harmless.
Image from the80sman.com

The boys were all razor-cheeked and hairsprayed, and appropriately collared and slouchy. They made (make, actually, as they’re still together) music that fuses pop, ska, folk, and reggae. In the early-to-mid-1980s, this meant they created a decidedly different sound that stood out from the pop-synth ’80s electronic boom. Often their songs were flavored with unexpected instruments. They made a lot of use of the mandolin, which at the time was generally used by art-rock bands like Jethro Tull, or easy-breezy twee-folk like that given unto us by Seals and Crofts. The other instrument that set The Hooters apart from the ’80s power-pop pack was…

A melodica.

A what?

firemel

A melodica. Image from buttonbox.com

 

A melodica. Maybe you know it better by its nickname.

A hooter.

(Side note to Hooters fans who call themselves “Melodicans”. Stop that. You are not “Melodicans”, and you need to get over yourselves. You are Hooter Heads. Deal with it.)

Indeed, The Hooters named themselves after an oversized harmonica and took early-1980s Philadelphia by storm. They broke nationally in 1985, after signing with Columbia Records and producing the album Nervous Night. It’s a well-constructed album full of pop hooks and great harmonies. It’s an album I will stand behind to this day. Mostly. With one caveat.

It is entirely true that on every Hooters album, there is one song that I find unilaterally unlistenable. Dreadful. I find myself asking if their producers were on crack when they let this song through, or maybe their producer has some kind of terrible secret about the band and makes them perform one abysmal song per album, one that is atonal and completely lacking in style, or hook, or musical sensibilities. On Nervous Night it’s their cover of Love’s “She Comes In Colors” (note: watch the Love video at your own risk; NSFW or kids). I love all the rest of the album, but that song, their cover? It makes me want to burst my own eardrums. We can talk about their other albums’ misery songs, “Hard Rockin’ Summer” and “Mr. Big Baboon”, another time. And I digress.

One of the highlights of my misspent youth was an invitation I received from a friend to accompany him to a listening party, celebrating the 1989 release of The Hooters’ album Zig Zag. Swoon! Do I want to go listen to the new Hooters album and meet the band in the process? Swoon! HELL YES! Here’s a little photographic evidence of me and swoony blond Rob, hooter-playing Hooter and scalawag, who asked the friend I went there with if I was single.

Please note: my suspenders? Are paisley.

Please note: we had matching poofy hair volume.

Eagle-eyed readers: yes, my suspenders were paisley. I blush at the sight of that acid-washed jacket. And I wish I’d known my collar was turning upward. But I digress.

As I was not single at the time, that ended my potential for dating said Hooter. In one of the least-expected coincidences I can imagine, I discovered that two different women I have become friends with over the last bunch of years were also hit on by swoony Rob. I will say this for him: I know these ladies. He’s got good taste.

Ahhh. The Hooters. Everyone I know, knows who they are. Most people have disavowed fandom of them; they’re not cool any more, they’re not color-coded, they haven’t really changed their hair and that’s kind of weird. (OK, I’ll grant that retaining ’80s hair is an unwise business decision in terms of staying pop-relevant.) It’s too bad, because their music is still fun. 1980s nostalgia isn’t always a bad thing. Not when the music is great. Imma leave you with “And We Danced”. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be be-bopping at the union hall.

The ’80s Pin Project: Worried About the Beav

This past weekend, in two entirely unrelated events, I stepped into the Wayback Machine, Destination: 1980s. At my gym, we held an ’80s-themed Zumba/Sh’Bam dance party–to rousing success (if I do say so myself). The songs were great fun and our participants all dressed the part, though I haven’t been around that many sets of legwarmers in a long time.

After the dance party, I came home, showered, put on my party clothes, and drove to my old hometown so I could go to the birthday party of a woman I’ve known since I was two years old. Party theme: 1980s.

I was immersed in 1980s nostalgia. And there’s a lot about that decade that…OK, was flawed and hateful (the Cold War, the PMRC)…but there’s a lot about that decade that was fun. Exuberant! Nostalgia-worthy. The music. The sunglasses. The neon. The pins.

Oh, the pins.

Pins fell out of fashion by the end of the ’80s and morphed into “flair” (brilliantly skewered in the movie Office Space) but for a while, pins ruled. The 1980s were all about wearing your opinions out in the open (think of the ubiquitous “Frankie Say: Relax” shirt) and pins were interchangeable and portable. They were like the mood rings of the ’80s. You want to know how I feel? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you, and everyone around you. We wore pins on jackets, on vests, on sassy berets. Girls decorated their purse straps with pins, up one end and down the other. And they covered a whole range of pop culture references, from images of favorite bands to TV icons to bizarrely aggressive/pithy/sexually loaded phrases. And so on, and so on. I worked in a record store that sold pins. I bought a ton of ’em.

I still have all my pins.

Now that I think of it, I still have all my notes that one group of friends passed to me in the hallways of my high school, too, but I’m not positive I have to go public with them. Yet I have them. It’s not hoarding if it’s cool, right?

Anyway, back to my little treasure chest, my storage box filled with these weird little mementos of my overly-adorned youth.

WHAT'S IN THE BOX?

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

My objective is to document them. Pick a pin, at random, out of my funny little jewel box of memories, and write about it. I think the inaugural pin I picked is a winner.

Oh, Ward.

Oh, Ward.

There was a resurgence in the popularity of the 1950s-era sitcom Leave It To Beaver in the 1980s, largely thanks to the emergence of cable, and superstations, and an increased need for programming. WGN, a superstation that broadcasts (still!) out of Chicago, began re-running LITB episodes in the early ’80s that renewed interest in The Beav. Suddenly Ward and June Cleaver and their lovable troublemaker kids Wally and–of course–the Beaver, were back in the public eye, and why not? They combined wholesome family fun with a saucy catchphrase jam-packed with double-entendre-y goodness. Because really, at some point? Don’t we all get a little worried about the beav? 

As a side note: who gives their child a nickname that is a euphemism for vagina? And, could you discuss, straight-faced, your beaver concerns with stately dad Ward Cleaver (a/k/a Hugh Beaumont)?

Can you sexytime this face? Really? Image from findagrave.com

Can you sexytalk this face? Really?
Image from findagrave.com

I just found out that in real life, Hugh Beaumont was also a minister. This makes the vagina jokes even more perverse, especially coming from a surly teen behind the cash register at a record store, implicitly winking at everyone who gets the joke on my saucy pin.

Don’t think for a moment that I wasn’t surly, but this was a pin slated for days when I was feeling a little edgy, a little flirty. This wasn’t a warning pin. This pin was nothing but a good time.

Pins ruled. Stay tuned for more!

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