When I was a little girl I got to be in
the circus for one night. It was like a
dream come true because I had always
ved the excitement of the three rings.
The only thing which would have made
this experience better would have been
if I could have been the queen of the
circus. But, alas, I was not the chosen
one that night.
Something about riding around in
the little parade they had for us kids
made the circus even more magical to
me. Maybe it was seeing all those
*ngling Brothers clowns up close or
maybe I was just on a sugar high.
Back to the
By Tom Erlewine and
Future Once Again
Whatever it was gave me a special
place in my heart for the "greatest
show on earth."
. In October Ringling Brothers re-
turned to Detroit but I couldn't go see
it because I was sick with pneumonia.
This, even at age 21, made my heart
sink. I couldn't believe that Gunther
Gabel Williams, only the best animal
trainer in the world, would once again
walk around with a tiger on his shoul-
ders and I would miss it. So, when the
Moscow Circus came to the Palace a
fuple weeks ago I was ready to go.
Anticipation set in as I looked
forward to getting sticky cotton candy
all over my fingers as I watched men
and women hurl through the air. The
idea of wild animals doing stupid
tricks of the Letterman variety brought
a smile to my face. However, going to
the circus now that I am a senior in
college proved to be a lot different
then when I went as a 10 year old.
* Maybe it is all the classes I have
taken relating to gender representa-
tions throughout history or the ar-
ticles I have read about animal mis-
treatment. But, something about the
whole performance just did not sit
completely right with me.
Don't get me wrong, the circus is
still fun ... if you don't think about it
too hard. The problem for me was that
can no longer look at the women
essed in skimpy outfits without ana-
lyzing why they are dressed that way.
Now, I notice when animals mouths
are muzzled shut. And I can't help
wondering what kind of treatment
these animals receive in order to make
them do these tricks.
Obviously, it is key to just sit back
in awe of the feats which are per-
formed. An indepth analysis and
*eakdown of the reasoning behind
each stunt is clearly not necessary. I
should learn to just turn my brain off
when I go to these brainless events.
The other thing I noticed about the
Moscow circus was how adult ori-
ented it was. I mean the stunts were
good and the animals were cool, but
how long can kids stay interested in
this? The cute little girl next to me
Vrted to drift during the second.
Who could blame her? I mean the
Moscow clowns weren't nearly as goofy
and after the elephants came on, what's
left? At least she had her glitter wand
and flashing light visor to keep her
busy. (I always loved the circus para-
phernalia we would force our parents to
buy and then never use again.)
And speaking of all the little kids,
my companion and I were constantly
Ominded of our approaching elderly
status because of all the munchkins
everywhere. We realized that some-
time in the next decade we could quite
possibly be attending the circus with
kids of our own. How scary is this?
(Especially if you knew my friend
and the kind of kids he would have.)
As an alternative, we discussed pos-
sible ways ofjust renting a kid for a day.
sctualy, it was better to just observe
ur neighbor because when she got
antsy we didn't have to deal with her.
I'll hold off on the kids for awhile.
At any rate, going to the circus was
kind of a disappointment. And I must
say that the Moscow Circus is a bit
misleading because they advertise as
Maybe it's because we were all so much younger then. Maybe it's
because we just didn't know any better. Or maybe it's because we've
come to the end of our cultural rope. Any way you look at it, an '80s
revival is upon us with a vengeance.
Many say that it's way, way too early to be nostalgic for a decade
that's barely passed into the history books, a decade notorious for big
hair, big egos, big money and big shoulder pads. A grody decade
notorious for ripped jeans and bitchin' clothes, breakdancing and
Donald Trump. It's enough to make you totally gag on a spoon.
But there's nothing harmful about nostalgia - even instant nostal-
gia. It's a common thing, really. Take a look at Weezer's brilliant video
for "Buddy Holly" - a video from the '90s, nostalgic for "Happy
Days," a television show from the '70s that was nostalgic for the '50s.
Oh, the meta-irony of it all.
So, it's perfectly normal to yearn for the '80s. Or, more specifically,
the pop culture of the '80s. That's why the incessant television commer-
cials for the "Totally Eighties" and "Awesome Eighties" collections are
tempting, not annoying. That's why VH-1 has a program devoted to the
videos of the early '80s, "The Big '80s." And maybe that's why David
Hasselhoff stars in the hottest show in syndication.
While the sight of the heavily made-up Toni Basil in a cheerleader's
uniform belting out "Mickey" is a fond memory for many children of the
'80s, the image of the aging David Coverdale in leather pants singing to
Tawny Kitaen is about as attractive as "Police Academy 7." Clearly, it's
the first five years of the decade that are alluring to fans of the '80s, and
nothing conjures up memories of that time than its music - New Wave.
After all, the images and the music were so inseparably intertwined that
it seemed like the images created the music. It is impossible to think of
the Bugges' "Video Killed the Radio Star" or any of Duran Duran's
classic singles ("Rio," "Girls on Film," "Hungry Like the Wolf")
without thinking of the video.
Horrified at the thought of ignoring a fad or trend, record companies
have flooded the stores with compilations of '80s one-hit wonders. It all
started with Priority's cheap "Rock of the '80s" series, which randomly
threw ten hits onto a disc without any regard for history or accessibility.
Nevertheless, each disc had several classics and all of the discs are
compulsively listenable. EMI followed suit with the "Living in Oblivion"
line, which was fine for the first couple of volumes, but too much of the
CDs are loaded down with filler.
What really broke the doors down for the '80s revival was Razor &
Tie's excellent "Totally Eighties" collection, which had nothing but hits
from "Centerfold" to "867-5309/Jenny." The only problem was, it was
only available through a television commercial - you had to wait to get
your instant gratification.
For about a year, "Totally Eighties" was as good as '80s collections
got. Not anymore. Now, Rhino Records' mammoth 15 volume series,
"Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the '80s" is the ultimate and
definitive collection of early '80s music. Currently, only 10 volumes are
available - the final five are due this spring - but with 160 songs, those
10 discs offer a more complete, accurate and entertaining overview of
the era than anything else on the market. What makes the series so good
is how it not only includes obvious hits like "Rio." "Jeopardy." "Who
Can it Be Now" and "Come on Eileen," but also forgotten gems like
Flash & the Pan's "Hey, St. Peter," the Nails' "88 Lines About 44
Women" and Jim Carroll's "People Who Died," as well as novelties like
Tim Curry's wonderfully ill-conceived "I Do the Rock," Frank Zappa's "Valley Girl" and "Wot" a gloriously stilted
attempt at rap by the Damned's Captain Sensible.
Inevitably, some of the songs have dated very badly, but beneath those slick images, silly haircuts and cheesy
keyboards, there were some damn good songs. Some of it is good camp - "I Do the Rock" and the Gleaming Spires'
never-ending "Are You Ready for the Sex Girls" in particular - but much of it is genuinely great, as good as pop music
The compilers of "Just Can't Get Enough" had enough sense to start the series in 1979, just as punk rock was
morphing into New Wave. These were records that were too weird for the mainstream, yet too slick to really be called
punk. Every once in a while, one of the songs managed to be a genuine hit - the Knack's "My Sharona" and Blondie's
"One Way or Another" - but, more frequently, these are the songs that laid the groundwork for the college rock
underground of the '80s. Several of the songs have become period classics, particularly Plastic Bertrand's ridiculous
Beach Boys-in-France romp "Ca Plane Pour Moi," the hilariously distant Euro-disco remake of "Money (That's What
I Want)" by the Flying Lizards and the spare electronic pulse of the Normal's "Warm Leatherette." At the same time,
old pub rockers like Nick Lowe and Graham Parker were managing to update their sound for the new era.
Pretty soon, the synths and the neo-traditionalists were both labeled as New Wave. So were punk bands like the Jam
and X, ska-revivalists like the English Beat, pseudo-rockabilly bands like the Blasters, power-poppers like Tommy
Tutone, classic pop songwriters like Marshall Crenshaw, gothic rockers like Joy Division and dance bands like Soft
Cell and Kid Creole & the Coconuts.
And they all were New Wave. New Wave was an explosion of different pop styles and sounds and they all fit. Since
the fledgling MTV had no videos to run, it aired whatever it could find. Consequently, bands that never had any chance
of mainstream airplay were selling
records by the truckload. As long as
they had a video, they could get on the
Sadly it turned out to be the last
time that the mainstream had such an
explosion of one-hit wonders. After
1983. established artists learned how
See REFLEX, Page
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