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POP CULTURE Say goodbye to the '80s for good



Published: Wed, June 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Motley Crue, 'The Breakfast Club' and 'Top Gun'-era band Anthrax have all entered this fading spotlight.

By JOE NEUMAIER and JIM FARBER

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Hang up those skinny ties and stop quoting John Hughes movies: The beginning of the end of '80s nostalgia is upon us.

What's the drop-off point? "Hit Me Baby One More Time," NBC's take-off on a British show that spotlights has-been musical acts of the Reagan years all competing against each other for cash prizes, to go to a charity of the winner's choice.

There's more:

UVH1's "inside(OUT)" documentary recently reunited the formerly warring members of Motley Crue.

UThis week, the cast of "The Breakfast Club" will make a group appearance at the MTV Movie Awards.

U"Top Gun"-era metalheads Anthrax are making public-service announcements, advising military personnel against taking an anthrax vaccine.

The first "Hit Me Baby" featured the bands Loverboy, A Flock of Seagulls, and Arrested Development and singers Tiffany and Cece Peniston, all playing old hits and new songs. There are plans for three summer episodes, each featuring five different acts of usta-be's.

I love the '80s?

After several years in which all things from the Yuppie Decade were retro-chic, it may not be long until "I Love the '80s" becomes "I'll Stop the '80s (And Melt With You)."

"It could be a lot of fun because it's basically humiliation for these artists," says Doug Brod, executive editor of Spin magazine. "There's a cheesy element to a lot of the decade, thanks to the fashion and the hair, the recordings that often sounded terrible, and all the cheesy videos. Unlike '70s culture, which now just seems naive, there's an artificiality to '80s culture, a guilty-pleasure quality, and that's why it's popular.

"But once you have a battle of the '80s bands, where else are you going to go?"

Paul Levinson, a Fordham University media studies professor, suggests this kind of "remaking pop culture -- or 're-mocking,' in this case -- is a facet of something becoming even more a part of the establishment. And even when we're mocking the music, it's with a kind of affection, as often happens with old TV shows.

"I think 'Hit Me Baby' will lead to laughing again at this music, but with affection this time, not derision, as when it was first heard," Levinson says. "Separated from its original context, it's now just looked at as a joke."

"Culture is moving at such a rapid pace now that we're at this point where we reminisce about last week," says Brod. "It's human nature. Something that triggers a comfortable memory is what people want."

Sandler started it

Nostalgic Gen-Xers have taken comfort in their coming-of-age era at least since 1998, when "The Wedding Singer," Adam Sandler's love letter to 1985, helped start the fire. Since then, VH1's "We Love the '80s" and "Bands Reunited" helped influence current bands like the Bravery, Arcade Fire and the Killers -- who helped create a demand for "classic" acts that hadn't been popular since the end of the Cold War, like Duran Duran, Motley Crue and Morrissey.

"The Bravery have become a hit by precisely re-creating the sound of the band Dead or Alive. Who thought that was possible?" says Joe Levy, assistant managing editor at Rolling Stone.

"Along with that, we have Def Leppard, Guns N' Roses, and Bryan Adams on tour, and Billy Idol and Billy Corgan have new records out," Levy adds. "It's like 1985 was a two-decade-long year. And it's mixed into the DNA of our entire culture, not just the need for nostalgia."




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