1984 was a GREAT album. I listened to it a great many times when I was a kid, but I never had a copy. Not even a badly-recorded cassette ripped from a friend’s copy of a friend’s copy. Because in 1984, I was NOT cool. But I had a brother who was (and still is, by the way.)
That’s him, with the ice cream. I’m the string bean in the plaid shirt behind him. From my perspective, Ronnie was effortlessly cool as a teenager. He’s almost two years older than I am, and where we grew up, there were a bunch of kids that divided pretty neatly into older siblings and younger siblings. We all spent a certain amount of time hanging out together, but the older set had definite advantages.
Anyway, it was Ronnie who had the record player and the good albums. I heard “Night at the Opera” for the first time as it floated down the hallway from his room. At one time I could sing along to almost any “Marillion” song, but I couldn’t tell you the names, because duh, I didn’t ever SEE the albums. 1984 got a decent amount of airtime on Radio Ronnie too.
When I heard the news about Eddie Van Halen today, I thought of 1984, and “Jump” in particular. The internet being what it is, I bought a copy online during my lunchbreak, and played it in the car all the way home.
It sounds just like I remember, and I found myself singing along to songs I thought I had forgotten. The synthesizer is right in your face, day-glo orange and yellow, and as plastic as the toys and fashions of the 80’s, and I did not care at all. I remember the miseries of teenage, and I remember the fear and anger of the 80’s with the threat of nuclear war, the miners’ strikes, Thatcher, unemployment….and yet this music is unashamedly optimistic. It bounces. Sometimes, yes, it sounds like the horny teenage boys of the eighties too, with too much confidence and not enough respect, but set against the endless funerial drumbeat of “Covid…Trump…Covid…Trump” it was a welcome breath of fresh air.
Now that we all have a world wide soapbox to air our grievances on, you often hear people complaining that this or that has “ruined their childhood”. Playing 1984 today showed me that it’s not that hard to recapture some of the great feelings from yesterday, and that nothing speaks to the soul like music.
Thank you, Eddie Van Halen.