Arnold Schwarzenegger is terminating his opponents, Duran Duran are prepping
a comeback tour and album and British glamour pusses the Darkness are rockin' like Dokken. What the hell is going on?
Didn't we already do the '80s revival thing a few years ago? Everywhere you
look now, though, it feels like the era of Ronald Reagan all over again. We have a Republican president in office and record budget deficits, Fountains of Wayne are paying
homage to '80s icons the Cars in the "Stacy's Mom" video (which also borrows
a scene and its look from the seminal '80s movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont
High") and Howard Stern is prepping a remake of an iconic movie from the decade of big hair and shoulder pads, "Porky's."
Eighties radio stations and theme nights at bars are old news by now, but
plenty of "Pretty in Pink"-era bands are grabbing at the brass ring one more
time, among them the reunited classic lineups of Judas Priest and Living Colour,
as well as Cyndi Lauper, poodle-haired rockers Europe, New Edition and
Tears for Fears. And if you attended September's KROQ Inland Invasion:
Flashback to the Future show in San Bernardino, California, you'd be excused for thinking you'd already stepped back into the Pac-Man-era through a time machine. The show featured sets from the Cure, Psychedelic Furs, Berlin, Violent Femmes, Dramarama, Bow Wow Wow, Marc Almond of Soft Cell, General Public, Echo & the Bunnymen, and the reunited original lineup of Duran Duran.
Even one of the era's most reviled musical genres, hair metal, is enjoying a
renaissance. As he slaps the manly drag makeup on again, Twisted Sister singer
Dee Snider doesn't care if it pisses off his peers when he says his band's
recent comeback is no more than nostalgia. "Just look at history: When I was in
high school, there was a '50s revival. In the '80s, all the kids were walking
around with Doors and Beatles jackets," he said, pointing out the 20-year
history (re)cycle. "In the '90s, it was the '70s disco. Now, it's the 2000s, and ... hair band heaven, baby."
Even '80s artists we thought were gone for good are coming on strong. With all of his public-relations troubles and the stalling of his music career, Michael Jackson is still one of the most imitated artists today. Justin Timberlake's latest
video, "I'm Lovin' It," is a direct homage to Jackson's "The Way You Make Me
Feel" clip, down to the skinny, leggy model the singer is pursuing down a city
street. Every other kid on the "Wade Robson Project" jerked their body like
an extra in the "Beat It" video and VH1 is so psyched about the decade it just
aired a sequel to its recent hit series called "I Love the '80s Strikes
As always, new bands are looking backwards for inspiration. Black Rebel
Motorcycle Club and the Raveonettes worship at the altar of '80s noise pop legends
the Jesus and Mary Chain, while Outkast's Andre 3000 and Big Boi channel the decade's
reigning ambassador of funk, Prince, on their double album, Speakerboxxx/ The
Love Below. Limp Bizkit drill deeper, sampling the Fat Boys' "Stick 'Em" on
"Head for the Barricade" from Results May Vary, and No Doubt, never
shy about their affection for the decade of their youth, cover the Talk Talk
song "It's My Life" for their upcoming greatest-hits collection.
It seems no one can resist the pull. "I'm a '70s baby, but I'm trying to step
into the '80s a little bit," Musiq recently said of his upcoming single,
"Forthenight." "It has a little bit of a nice four-on-the-floor, skating-rink kind
of feel-good vibe."
That roller-boogie groove was thick at one of the hottest '80s nights in New
York, the weekly Berliniamsburg party at Luxx in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood. Before it shut down this summer, the event often looked like a casting call for "Valley Girl," according to frequent attendees.
The decade's signature hairstyles have come back around as well. Kelly
Osbourne has single-handedly made the bi-level new wave cut cool again, while the
mullet has gone from the butt of jokes to a (somewhat) legitimate hairstyle and the subject of a UPN show, "The Mullets." Rockers Cracker even toured under the name
Ironic Mullet last year and just released an album of country covers inspired by
those dates called Countrysides.
Fashionistas are not immune to the retro fever, either. Wide, studded belts
and old-school Puma sneakers are popping up across the country and in fashion
spreads, as are a disturbing celebrity cluster of Michael Jackson-inspired
fedoras (Usher, Justin, Ashton Kutcher, Britney) and the always fly 1980s LL Cool J
staple, the Kangol hat. Paint splattered, neon-colored clothes have shown
up in two recent videos (check G-Unit's "Stunt 101" and Chingy's "Holidae In")
and the brightly colored tights Valley girls used to wear under their short,
tight acid-washed miniskirts (back also, as "distressed" denim) are coming on
Thanks to bands like the Strokes, the skinny tie, tight trousers and the T-shirt-
with-a-suit-jacket combo are coming back around. Also hitting stores are such new wave staples as pointy-toed shoes and the early hip-hop standby, the white-on-white
The movies are also being invaded by the day-glo decade. Gangsta epic
"Scarface" was recently re-issued on DVD and shown in theaters on its 20th
anniversary, and a "Fletch" remake is in the works from Kevin Smith ("Clerks"). The past
year has seen return engagements from the Terminator, slashers Jason Voorhees
and Freddy Krueger and, coming up, a Latin update of an '80s popcorn hit, "Dirty
Dancing: Havana Nights." The producers behind the film version of "Chicago"
are working on a musical remake of the 1984 Kevin Bacon film "Footloose," and
though Britney Spears was rumored to be interested in playing ultimate '80s babe
Daisy Duke in a big-screen version of "The Dukes of Hazzard," her
participation is just a rumor for now.
J. Lo got in on the retro-movie action earlier this year with her video for
"I'm Glad," which mimicked one of the decade's cultural touchstones,
"Flashdance," but the best news of all came a few weeks ago when producers announced
that a sequel to one of the era's most beloved teen movies, "Sixteen Candles," was in
the works. No word yet on whether Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall or
Michael Schoeffling (better known as MIA hunk Jake Ryan) will participate in "32
Broadway is not immune to a touch of nostalgia, as a musical based on the
life of flamboyant Culture Club leader Boy George, "Taboo," is slated to open on
the Great White Way in November.
The wayback machine has even hit the toy aisle, with those lovable, scrunchy-faced Cabbage Patch Kids recently featured in an oversized display in the
Times Square Toys 'R' Us in New York. Following the recent revivals of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Strawberry Shortcake, even the Smurfs are getting an update via such newly unveiled figurines such as Techno Smurf, Hip-Hop Smurf and Laptop
Smurf. And, among the toys making the official Toy Wishes magazine list
of hottest holiday items for this year? Care Bears and My Little Pony, the
latter discontinued in 1992 after a smash run in the '80s.
Snider isn't the only hair metal dude cashing in on the retro craze. People
may not be buying their new albums, but bands like Poison and Queensrÿche are
on top of the world every Monday night at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. "It's
out the door, it explodes every week," said bar boss Sal Jenco of the weekly
celebration of cheesy hair rock from the cover band Metal Shop.
The four-year-old theme night has gotten more and more popular over the past
few years as everyone from Kiss' Paul Stanley to Aerosmith's Steven Tyler,
Kelly Osbourne, JC Chasez and Slipknot's Corey Taylor have stopped by to jam or hang
out with the Shop. "[The people who come] are recapturing something from their
past, from happier times," said Jenco of the 400-500 patrons who make the
weekly pilgrimage. "It's people from their early 20s into their 40s. It's a lot of
fun, lot of hot chicks. People let their hair down, no pun intended, and have
a great time and aren't too concerned with the typical Hollywood attitude."
So, whether you're rockin' the Member's Only jacket, Coogi sweater or Flock of Seagulls cassette, make sure you keep that flannel shirt, Starter jacket and baby-doll dress in the closet. Because you know the '90s rehash is just around the corner.