FEATURE: Born Under a Good Sign: Growing Up During a Perfect Time for Music




Born Under a Good Sign


PHOTO CREDIT: @rexcuando 

Growing Up During a Perfect Time for Music


MAYBE I have talked about this before

but I have been revisiting some of the songs I grew up around. One such song is Sub Sub’s Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use) with the brilliant Melanie Williams on vocal lead. That song was released in 1993 and I would have been ten at the time. It is one of those tracks that, regardless of whether you hear it now for the first time or discovered it when it was first released, it has that instant impact. I was born in 1983 and, in that year, so much was happening in music. I was blind and too young to absorb everything happening but music television was being revitalised and popularised by Michael Jackson; the first Now That’s What I Call Music! came out and brought together all the chart hits of the day. Pop was flourishing and Madonna was starting her career; the sale of cassettes was battling vinyl and there was this great feeling in the air. The fact that I was too young to remember 1983 did not mean I missed out on that music. From an early age, cassettes and vinyl were part of my life; chart music was common and popular and I was being introduced to my parents’ collection. I often think that there was this golden period from the late-1980s through the 1990s. Being born in the early-ish-1980s, I was missing that music first time around, but it was soon being fed into my ears through my parents.

The music they loved growing up was being played – The Beatles and The Who etc. – and I was open to this incredible world. The Beatles were a big fixture when I was a child and it was wonderful digesting these epic and genius sounds. Maybe I have brought this to the fore before but, being born in 1983, I was in primary school when that rush of brilliant Hip-Hop and Dance was unfolding. The former was a more a U.S. movement: icons such as The Beastie Boys, De La Soul and N.W.A. were laying down peerless albums and changing a genre. Full of samples, layers and incredible moments, the golden years of Hip-Hop, maybe, started in 1986 and ran through to the early-‘90s. The genre has changed now but I think it was at its strongest back in the 1980s. Also, circling back to the song I mentioned at the top, there was a different movement shaping up in the U.K. There was this swell of love and togetherness that produced some of the most uplifting music we have ever seen. Sub Sub produced their standout hit in 1993 but, in the late-1980s, House and Trance music was really hitting its stride. Madchester and Dance would carry into the 1990s and, from the purer songs that were joining clubbers and ravers together to the chart songs of the day, it was a brilliant time.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Beastie Boys/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

By the time I was in middle-school (around 1990), there was this brilliant scene that housed the likes of Deee-Lite and Soul II Soul. If all of that wasn’t enough, just consider all the stunning albums released in the first half of the 1990s. From Nirvana and Primal Scream to Beastie Boys and Janet Jackson, it was a glorious time to be alive. That might sound a little dramatic but there was a definite explosion. I know I have discussed my favourite memories of childhood involving music but the physical nature of music formats is a reason why it sunk in. From the Walkman and DiscMan to vinyl, I was literally carrying music around me. Whether it was new albums from Prince and Madonna or some of the stuff I got from home, I feel very lucky I was born when I was. Everyone will say things were best when they were young but I was provided the luxury of hearing the best from the 1960s and 1970s; the variation of the 1980s and the golden albums from the 1990s. My high-school years arrived right when music hit its peak. I love all the Dance and Hip-Hop of the late-1980s and early-1990s but, from 1994 and 1999, everything changed. From the Britpop movement and the exciting Pop of the time through to Grunge, Trip-Hop and a new breed of Dance champions, it meant music was a huge part of my day.

Rather than write this as a bit of a boast or nostalgic piece, I wanted to ask whether there is such thing as a ‘perfect’ era of music. Older music lovers might claim the 1960s was best; others might say the 1970s was king whereas those growing up now feel music is at its most eclectic and promising. I am very grateful that I was being raised around some mighty music and was being exposed to the music my parents listened to. I do wonder whether there is the same motivation and dedication for today’s children. Maybe the parents of today are keeping the likes of Joni Mitchell and The Beatles close to their hearts but are there houses full of vinyl? Do children have the same appreciation for physical music formats and are they are curious as they should be? I do have the worry that, when it comes to the music I grew up around, a lot of that might get missed. I am not saying today’s music lacks the same happiness, excitement and impact as the stuff from the 1980s and 1990s but I feel I was very fortunate arriving in the world when I did. I have seen technologies come and go; these huge movements and pivotal albums. I lived through that and, as that music still gives me so much joy and comfort, how important is it we ensure that gets into the ears of this generation?


 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I know they do not have the same memories as I do and will not attach the same importance. So much new music is coming out and it can be difficult going back and balancing the two worlds. I see a lot of different playlists on streaming services that take in decades, genres and scenes like House/Madchester. That is pretty cool but are these playlists mostly being discovered by those who remember that music and want to be reminded? Those born, say, later than the early-1990s would have heard some great music growing up but there is a lot they missed. I know I didn’t grow up the same time The Beatles arrived but I was fed their great music from a young age. It gave me such a rich world of sounds but I do wonder whether that same legacy and sense of handing down music exists. There are fewer cassettes in the world; maybe vinyl is being kept back and less popular than digital music in a lot of houses. I think we live in a great time for music right now. 2019 has been truly exceptional and I know that will continue for a long while yet. Kids going through school have a world of music at their fingertips but, unless they have pretty cool parents, they are listening to what is fresh and trending. I could do a playlist that brings together all the music I grew up around but that would take a long time.

Instead, I will encourage people to dig what was happening from the middle of the 1980s through to the end of the 1990s. Maybe I champion this time too much but I feel it transformed my life and got me obsessed with music. There were some dodgy artists and tunes but, hey, no time period is musically perfect! From the portable music technologies of the day through to the excitement of the Dance scene; the interesting and addictive Pop right along to the fantastic music lying around the house, it was a supremely rich and wonderful time. I have not even dug beneath the surface but, to me, there are far worse times to have been born than 1983 – even if the New Romantic artists were hanging around! From The Bangles and Sheryl Crow to the Grunge bands and one-off Dance hits that made us all feel giddy and alive…it was a very special time. Rather than drown in escapism and nostalgia, I recommend those who want to feel boosted and get away from the horrors of the world – who doesn’t right now?! – check out those years (from, roughly, 1983 to 1999). Music T.V. was still a think; we had the Walkman and there was genuine excitement regarding the weekly charts. With that missing, yeah, I do feel a bit sad and nostalgic. Music is a healthy and brilliant state right now but, when thinking of the best time to grow up (in music terms), you can’t beat the experiences…

ME and my friends enjoyed.