The 80s are back! Powerhouse Museum exhibition


Last Sunday, on what was a fitfully sultry, cloudy, murky, steamy day, we ventured into the Powerhouse Museum to see the 80s exhibition. We also walked through most of the museum afterward as well. We even got to see an extraordinary piano made out of glorious Tasmanian Huon pine (see below). Most of the photos that follow are taken from my cellphone.

Needless to say it was a thrilling and exciting exhibition. The 80s are firmly entrenched in my psyche, for I was aged 10-20 throughout the span of the decade. The 90s and beyond seem more like a spin-off of the 80s to me. I guess it was the time that I was absorbing a super amount of influence, and it's stayed with me since.
Ah, the album wall! Memories abound! Notice that the "best" is tucked away in that bottom right corner of the photo there...
Sade's Diamond Life still holds a very special resonance for me.

Here I am, posing with my "lover(s)", as Sarah likes to call them (or him, sk!)
What can I say, Heyday is class!! My good friend David picked up on the album as a masterpiece as soon it became released, late in 1985. It took me a while longer to discover the album's genius, oh well! I was too much into the Beatles, Hoodoo Gurus & the Jam to really notice Heyday at the time.

Thriller & Crowded House, yeah, big albums at the time.
I quite like the first Crowded House album now, like, 23 years later!
Memories!!! Spy vs Spy! Billy Idol. Tears for fears & the curly mullets! Gawd I looked like those fellas then!
Emerald haunt in overdrive...

I bought this album as soon as it was released, along with the single 'Bittersweet', mid-1985. This album was quite good but didn't compare to 'Stoneage Romeos', the Hoodoo Gurus' debut album. I remain very fond of 'Romeos' to this day. The Gurus really broke with 'Mars needs guitars' but unfortunately attracted a rough surfy element to their gigs in the process. Before that it was strictly garage, post-punk, sixties trendwarts of the early 80s that followed 'Le Hoodoo Gurus'. They're still gigging and reforming intermittently to this day, but I'm not interested.

A typical 80s poster. They were everywhere. The 80s in Sydney were a flurry of music and activity. With the recession and the advent of poker machines in the 90s, the music scene bummed out to a large extent, and has never fully recovered to the levels enjoyed in the 70s & 80s.
This photo was taken off a random slide-show. Many photos of funky, hairdo partygoers. It was such a vibrant scene. I noticed there were a lot of posters promoting "rat parties". I paused to remember; I hadn't heard the saying 'rat party' since, omg, 1986?? They were all the rage back in the mid-eighties, but a shy schoolboy like me wasn't to be made privy to these parties, alas. Really, rat parties were something of a precursor to the more modern dance/house party. They were more eclectic, featuring a wider range of people and types, with a vaster array of music. They were very "80s".
Stay alive in 85, yep. I wondered why a Choose Life t-shirt wasn't exhibited as there were a proliferation of these in 1985. Perhaps people were too embarrassed to 'fess up to them. ;)
Oh, the Dukes of Hazard, yes...
The Boss, and Boy George & Culture Club. The Boss did a tremendous run at the Entertainment Centre in 1985. I didn't go but my brother & sister went and had a ball. They were into him more than I was, but I do enjoy a taste of the Boss occasionally. Culture Club did a 4-gig run at the Ent Cent in 1985 - amazing - but I didn't go. In 1984 all I wanted to listen to were my Beatles records, and Stoneage Romeos.
The era of AIDS-awareness and safe-sex. I like this caption, it says it all with a bit of a humorous bent to it, particularly as it stands as an exhibition piece.



There was almost an innocence to these cartoons. Humour and levity is a way of relating the seriousness of the message.
The AIDS-quilt, a memorium to many lives and talent lost, a human tragedy beyond measure.

The games we played. They were simpler then, a lot more fun too.

The giant rubiks cube. We all owned one in '84. They were a cyclone that swept over us in one crazy fix. Within three months of constant dreams of twisting this coloured square around - and having every school kid around you doing likewise - the craze ended, and the cubes were never seen again. Until today.
I was never much into games. I did like nintendo and I owned 'parachute' and the infamous 'donkey kong' which was a foldout game, like a minituare laptop. Amber/orange in colour too.


I had the book of solving the rubiks cube and could solve the thing in about 30 seconds. I wish I still had my cube and book. I've no idea how they just disappeared, and when. I suspect that, after the initial rubiks boom, aliens came down and confiscated all rubiks cubes, and we'd long forgotten about them anyway. But a quarter of a century on, they materialise as artifacts to be viewed in a contemporary museum.The lyric sheets of the late Michael Hutchence. We noticed in one of these sheets he had a list of numbered goals. Conquering the world was one of them!
I wasn't a huge fan of INXS and to this day I'm not especially interested, although I do remain fond of 'Shabooh Shoobah' & 'The Swing', the two albums that I think represented the band at their peak. I recall all those videos too, and those mullets!
The Korg, stand-up rock-guitar keyboard. Made famous by Pseudo Echo and the video of their cover of 'Funkytown'! That keyboard, and the Steinberger bass guitar (black, rectangle, with no headstock), are musical instrument eyesore nadirs of the modern era.
The films we saw and TV we watched. There were booths with TV commercials from the decade where you could watch and listen in with headphones.

A chisel t-shirt from 1982. Since splitting up in 1983, and despite the occasional reunion, Chisel have remained great Australian icons whose stature seems to magnify with the passing of time.

Colourful apparel.
Students at my work love the 80s; most of them were born in the late part of the decade and don't remember them at all. That's inconceivable to my mind, but that's the cycle of life in operation. I wasn't around for the 60s and the Beatles and the Stones and Bobby Dylan. Life is a massive circle of oneness, really, spinning unceasingly like some galacial tumble-dryer.
Brit-pop stuff. Notice the Jam's 'The Gift' album up top. I became a massive Paul Weller fan from 1985 and remain so to this day.
Bicentennial bilge.
An apple from 1984. The i-mac I'm typing on now is a vastly slicker instrument.

Compare cellphones!

Yuppie paraphernalia.And so were the 80s. Some musical memories of the decade include: adam ant & the new romantic movement -- all those hairstyles! -- discovering the beatles and becoming totally obsessed -- culture club televised live from the ent cent -- purple rain released -- the boss rocks sydney -- live aid concert televised live -- amadeus the movie released -- the shire [sic] council tour australia and my interest in paul weller is aroused -- the cure's in between days -- mtv and truckloads of music videos! -- madonna and like a virgin -- desperately seeking susan film -- choose life 1985 t-shirts -- sade diamond life -- U2 and the joshua tree -- finishing school and listening to 'under the milky way' for the first time -- seeing the church for the first time at the tivoli in december 1987 -- the modern house music era begins 1988 -- catfish 'unlimited address' & crowded house 'temple of low men' released, two great albums -- the lullaby single and the 1989 year of disintegration and the cure.

I think, when you look back, Sydney enjoyed one long party from about the mid-70s to the end of the 80s. There was a lot more creativity, artistry, egalitarianism and 'get up & go' generated by people of many varied facets of creative & social life. There was a lot of crap, too. But living in the city was easier back then, and more probably more exhilarating too.

Yet it's two American productions of the 80s, the Purple Rain film and Diamond Life album, that somehow remain etched in my psyche and heart to a greater extent than anything else from that decade.

And me, in 1985, in the photo above. I recall growing that mullet for a few months longer. It was a mullet that put tears for fears to shame!

Oh, and twenty years ago today was 1990. The 80s are gone, finished. And time marches on. The question is, to what...?

Comments

veleska1970 said…
oh, i just LOVED this blog today!!!!! it put a huge smile on my face. so many memories. i wish this exhibit would come to the united states; i'd be there in a heartbeat. i remember so many things about that decade, more than the 90s and the 2000s, if you can believe that. it was like the decade was so alive and vibrant, whereas the 90s & 2000s were more subdued. at least that's how it was for me.

the clothes made me laugh. i remember the crazy fashions we used to wear. in the 8th grade, all the boys tried to dress like don johnson, with pastel shirts, LOL. and the mullets!!! it seemed everyone had one.

and i love the fact that "heyday" is featured in this exhibit. that was the album that turned me onto the church, when i saw the video for "columbus" on MTV. and of course we know that i've been addicted to them since then. ;)

i had a rubik's cube. i never solved it, but i was able to get one side done. that was easy. and the cell phones~~my mom got one when they first came out, and i remember how big and clunky it was. and the video games~~i had an atari and i played frogger and pacman like there was no tomorrow.

love your picture. what a cutie.

stellar blog today, ross. **applause**
veleska1970 said…
oh, i forgot to mention the piano~~it was beautiful. i would have loved to play that thing.
ross b said…
Ah, the eighties have affected and influenced you as much as they have me! Did you feel the "bottom drop out" as soon as we hit 1990?? I wish I could relive some of it, even 1988 when Rain Man came out, and Kokomo!!!

There's bound to be an 80s exhibition somewhere in the States, hey, couldn't you set one up perhaps?!

That piano was extraordinary. Huon is from Tasmania and is now an restricted access species. It generates a lovely smell. European settlers loved it because it made strong boats. But that piano was almost outer-worldly.

Popular posts from this blog

Barry Long's autobiography

Article: Ringside Cold Chisel

Neil Finn: a man I love, a man I hate