The Cusper 1980s and 1990s Rocked – Stuck in the Middle

Music triggers memories.

I’m not an ’80s or ’90s music person. I’m a cusper. Stuck between two decades.

There was a MuchMusic show called “Back in,” and they’d countdown the top videos from 1980 to 1994. I’d recognize an odd video from the early ’80s. What happened in 1981? Despite some of the horrid videos, the music was awesome. However, I related better to music when there’s a distinct memory attached to the song.

Here are 12 of my music memories from the ’80s and early-90s. If I shared every song from the soundtrack of my life – so far – I’d be writing forever.

1. Boys of Summer, Don Henley, 1984
Ah, memories of summer at Hnausa Beach. Two miles from my house. The site of day camp and summer bike trips. What was a bike trip to Hnausa without stopping at Stefan’s Store? When I was older, I’d go to the beach with my friends – or alone to find solace. Whenever I hear “Boys of Summer,” I hear Hnausa Beach. Confession: I didn’t know Henley was part of the Eagles until I was 30.

2. Free Falling, Tom Petty, 1989
A friend’s mom was driving me and her two daughters Selkirk, Manitoba for the 1989 Interlake Interpretive Competition. On the way, the older daughter popped in a cassette and this was the song. At the competition, the younger daughter – who was the same age as me – won gold. She was in a different category, and she didn’t tell me until after I skated. Of course, I was happy for her. When we learned my results were posted, we raced to the bulletin board – and I won gold too. We both jumped around in a circle, chanting, “We both won gold, we both won gold.” After the medal presentation, her mom took us to Dairy Queen. That’s one of my favourite skating memories. 

3. Take on Me, a-ha, 1985
Wouldn’t this song be perfect for an air band? I was obsessed with the idea. Armed with a wild and crazy imagination, I thought I could convince my crush at the time to wear a black costume – basically a onesie cut with cutouts. Think puzzle pieces. As he’d Milli Vanilli the song, my friends and I would remove the pieces of the costume. By the end of the song, with the help of clever lighting, he’d disappear. I was nine, so A+ for concept?

4. Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone, Glass Tiger, 1986
In grade five, the same friend from figure skating and I had taken jazz dancing. The previous year, we did a duet to “Venus,” by Bananarama. The idea came about to teach four other girls to jazz dance. We choreographed a program to “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone.” Countless noon hours later, the six of performed our routine during a school assembly.

5. Can’t Stop Loving You, Van Halen, 1995
September, 1995. My first day at the University of Manitoba. When I stepped off the transit bus, this song was blaring. I was enrolled in the Faculty of Arts with the intentions of Law School – then destined to become a crown attorney – just like Olivia Novak on Street Legal. I folded after three weeks. However, I still had access to the skating rink.

6. Finally, CeCe Peniston, 1992
Gym class, 1992. I was playing badminton with a friend, and CeCe blasted over the gym speakers. The guys were playing basketball. Then, the music was shattered by a scream. Someone elbowed – and broke – my then-boyfriend’s nose as he went for the hoop. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, and at first I had no idea it was him because almost every guy wore a white t-shirt and black shorts.   

7. Africa, Toto, 1982
I loved my bachelor suite, and it’s location. Except it didn’t have 6 a.m. bus service to the Melrose Coffee Factory where I worked at the time. One of my co-workers, Ralph, offered to pick me up every morning. The next day, Ralph pulled up in a 1971 black Dodge Challenger. I know. Before he turned onto Waverley, Toto’s “Africa” was on his disc player. He blasted it, and the entire car vibrated.

8. Jump Around, House of Pain, 1992
This song was a massive hit at school dances. When I went to the Manitoba Leadership Conference at the *Sturgeon Creek Collegiate in September 1993, it ended with a dance. At the time, my school had about 140 students. Imagine 500 hyped-up, super motivated teenagers, because we’ve been told “You’re our future,” jumping around to this song. Again, I could feel the floor vibrating.

9. Circle of Life, Elton John, 1994
This song reminds me of my gym teacher, Mr. Gestur Jakobson, or “Mr. J,” as we called him. This song was released the year he died. He had a positive outlook on life, and he encouraged everyone to succeed. He saw ability in everyone. 

10. Patience, Guns N’ Roses, 1989
Did anyone think Axl did the whistling in one take? At the time, I did. So, I thought, wouldn’t that be cool for a spin. The skaters under the CFSA performed a Winter Ice Revue in March 1989. I choreographed a special program, starting with the whistling from Patience. I couldn’t hold my spin for the duration, but the attempt was there. The rest of the program was “Rag Doll” by Aerosmith and “Beds are Burning” by Midnight Oil.

11. Livin’ on a Prayer, Bon Jovi, 1986
The day before my little sister’s wedding in 2014, she was testing the music board and playing some of the songs. She’s younger than my older sister and I, but she’s an audio engineer and knows her music. She had a chunk of 1980s tunes, and she played “Livin’ on a Prayer.” I remember I screamed in her ear as my older sister’s eyes went huge. I took to the dance area, and I started to jazz dance, circa 1986, and my older sister ask me, “How do you remember that?”

12. Ironic, Alanis Morissette, 1995
Ironically, this song has nothing to do with irony. It reminds me of my best friend from high school, after we graduated. She loved this song, and she’d blast the portion, “Traffic jam/when you’re already late/a no smoking song on your cigarette break … “

I could name more songs from Def Leppard, Roxette, Heart, Pet Shop Boys, Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip, Brighten Rock, Pat Benatar, Mariah Carey, and more.

As I said, music is the soundtrack of our lives.

And the beat goes on.
*Now Sturgeon Heights Collegiate