Remembering John Hughes

The 80s are so over. That's what I'm realizing now that John Hughes has died. Of course, I was nostalgic for the 80s during the 80s. It's because I loved the music so much--I couldn't afford to buy the albums I wanted, so I wanted K-Tel compilations to start coming out immediately so I could properly wallow in new-wave wistfulness throughout the 90s and beyond. (Fortunately, the dollar bins at local record stores and the recent wonder of iTunes has let me build a collection in recent years. Just bought some Chaka Khan the other day!)

Circa 2006, one of my many self-imposed writing projects involved buying a pretty rubber-covered blue notebook and a fresh new black drafting pen. The crisp white pages and the stiff nib of a yet-to-be-used pen were supposed to call me to creativity. I would spend 20 minute chunks--or more! heck!--doing ex tempore writing exercises, and maybe develop some of the better ideas into articles or queries or something. This did not happen. I used exactly 3 pages before making the notebook into my WVEW playlist archive. Page 1: "Orson Welles." Page 2: "The Eighties." Page 3: "If I Had a Million Dollars." I note that my 80s essay is the only one where I used BOTH SIDES of the paper. Here's the first part:
Writing about the 80s, which is a kind of emotional or mental state depending on how old you were at the time, is like trying to describe a smell with words. People do it, and some well, but it's a lot easier to understand if you can experience it directly. The 80s is a feeling, a sensation, and is difficult to capture in any programmatic way, such as putting it into words. Also I personally went through so many phases in the 80s, from ages 8 to 18, that my own feel for the decade is tangled up in the craziness and yearning and creativity that is growing up and adolescence. What were my touchstones at least? The movies of John Hughes. Chewing gum in a sassy way. The sound of skateboarding. The absolute freedom of being able to do whatever you want and being pretty sure that someone will probably get pissed off at you for it. Being at home as a teen is like being in prison, yet I've never lived so vividly and with such hope and juice as I did when I was not yet loose... but waiting for it.
That's it--John Hughes is an 80s touchstone. One to be listed first. He was filming what I was living. He made my ridiculous teenage life seem like something legitimate, something interesting, and he gave me the language and the style to deal with what was going on. If you weren't a teen in the 80s, you might not care about John Hughes. Teens now might be getting the same feeling from Gossip Girl or something, I don't know. For us it was John Hughes, and he nailed it.

8*12*09 Beef Jerky Time dedicated to John Hughes and his excellent taste in music:
  • Don't You Forget About Me: Simple Minds (Breakfast Club)
  • Gloria: Patti Smith (16 Candles)
  • Wouldn't It Be Good: Danny Hutton Hitters (Pretty in Pink)
  • Weird Science: Oingo Boingo (Weird Science)
  • Fire in the Twilight: Wang Chung (Breakfast Club)
  • Young Americans: David Bowie (16 Candles)
  • If You Were Here: Thompson Twins (16 Candles)
  • If You Leave: OMD (Pretty in Pink)
  • We Are Not Alone: Karla DeVito (Breakfast Club)
  • Oh Yeah: Yellow (Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
  • True: Spandau Ballet (16 Candles)
  • Pretty in Pink: Psychedelic Furs (Pretty in Pink)

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