Saying music had a major impact upon the 1980s (and vice-versa) would be, like, a totally epic understatement. Whether you were into New Wave, Punk, Ska, Pop, Soul, Country, Rock, Metal, or any number of sub-genres, if you grew up in the 80s you likely have very fond memories tied to your favorite songs.
We went everywhere with our music, made so much easier with the latest technology options of a boom box, Walkman or Discman. We waited with great anticipation to hear Casey Kasem’s Top 40 (often to record new favorites on a cassette recorder). MTV launched in 1981, so we could watch music videos 24 hours a day! Our favorite bands toured regularly, we read about them in dozens of teen and music magazines, and we heard their music in TV shows and movies. If we were lucky, our faves would even make a cameo on TV (though never commercials, that would be a sell-out…except Madonna and the Save A Prayer scandal, but that’s another post entirely). You could tell what music we liked by the way we dressed, with telltale pieces down to our very choice of gloves (florescent fingerless netted, single sequinned, black leather driving, spiked, etc.). We styled our hair while blasting music, permeating every crimped, permed, French-braided, spiked, moussed, feathered, rat-tailed, or pony-tailed strand. Music saturated every atom of our lives.
So, when I started writing my novel, I always knew I would include song titles to introduce each chapter. Actually doing so took quite a bit of work, as it had to be just the right song – popular at the time of each chapter’s setting and somehow related to that portion of the story. Needless to say, this was the very last step in the creation of “Punk Charming”, after all the chapters were written, edited and re-edited. My agent had already begun sending out my manuscript to publishers before the song-title process was complete, but I wanted to make sure they were perfect.
Apparently, they were. I chuckled when I read the following sentence in a review of Punk Charming today:
“’80s culture is reflected in the “song-of-the-year” chapter titles. These songs give the sections their own unique feel, even though sometimes it feels like the chapters are reaching to adhere to the theme of the song rather than the other way around.”
After my initial pride at so brilliantly matching titles to chapters that it made the reviewer think it was done in reverse, I realized it was actually something else at play. So brilliantly did music impact the 1980s, both influencing and emulating the times, that it truly was the soundtrack of our lives (even the fictional ones). And that’s the power of 1980s music!