April 23, 2013

The '20s, the '50s, the '80s: Persistence and revivals

Some off-hand remarks in the comments section of the post below brought up whether the Jazz Age managed to leave much of an impression on the culture of the 1980s. Or at least, whether the '50s culture enjoyed even greater resonance with the '80s.

I've been meaning to outline some of the major, defining traits of each period's zeitgeist, and to show how they've cycled over time, with the Roaring Twenties and the Go-Go Eighties representing similar phases in the cycle, and the mid-century and Millennial eras representing similar phases on the other end of the spectrum. But that kind of panoramic detail is hard to pull together and display effectively in a post (with pictures, video clips, writing excerpts, etc.). It's more suited to a rambling comment, which I left two of, and won't cut & paste here.

Briefly, though: no, during the '80s, the culture of the '50s did not enjoy a special resonance compared to that of the '20s. Just the opposite. Mid-century retro has instead begun to thrive only within the past 20 years, from the swing / big band revival, to the return of isolated characters in film noir movies, to a renewed interest in burlesque and striptease (complete with Bettie Page wannabe hairstyles), video games reviving the horror comic's staples of gory sado-masochism and voyeurism, butt-kicking babes, fast-talking dames, neo-International Style architecture and design, drive-in restaurants, and so on and so forth.

The Jazz Age may be largely forgotten in 2013, but rewind a mere 30 years and it was still hot in popular culture. Here's the iconic song and music video for Taco's synthpop cover of "Puttin' on the Ritz":


  1. Here's some news:

    "A New Jersey principal's ban on strapless dresses at a junior high school dance because they would be "distracting" to boys has enraged parents, who called on Tuesday for its reversal on the grounds it violates their daughters' constitutional rights."

    "At least one student, Claudine Nijenhuis, 14, said she planned to defy the ban and press her right to bare arms."


    What do you think? Culture getting more restrictive, or have we finally reached the breaking point?


  2. I wonder how much 80's music nostalgia is nostalgia for white guy rock and roll? I hear guys say that- 'Let's play some white boy music.'

    Though Motown sounds white now- so civilized, nobody showing their ass onstage.

  3. Nah. Black music was a lot better too. Remember Motown and then later Boyz to Men?


  4. 80s soundtrack staple Oingo Boingo were also experimenting with the Jazz Age around that time. (NSFW)

    (Taco's Puttin on the Ritz and Forbidden Zone were both criticized for using blackface as well.)


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