Instant Retro

I imagine that any day now I should start seeing flyers for retro-mid-90’s-rave nights at the local clubs. Maybe nostalgia nights featuring early episodes of “Friends” or special showings of “The Crow”? Or maybe the ultimate in retro: a web site which is completely compliant with Netscape 1.2?

What’s with this idea that a certain period in time becomes “retro kitsch” before some people have even finished experiencing it? This seems to be a pretty recent thing. Somehow, I don’t think that my mom was fantasizing about the mid 1950’s when she was my age (in 1963).

No, the whole “retro” thing seems to be more or less a product of the 80’s and 90’s. Before the decade was even over there were “New Wave Nights” featuring oldies from about 1981 or so at clubs in bigger cities.

Of course, in many ways New Wave itself was a bit of a “retro” phenomenon — a backward glance at the girl groups, garage rock, and bubblegum of the 60’s. But at least a few decades passed before this particular appropriation of the past took place.

Why are we (post-boomers) such a nostalgic generation? And why are we so nostalgic for things which didn’t really happen very long ago? A Love and Rockets record from ten years ago is not exactly the stuff history is made of, after all. A Nirvana song from 1991 doesn’t even come close.

Are we crying out to the world “our generation DOES have an identity”? Or is our creativity just so thoroughly stifled that we can’t come up with anything new? Maybe our grasp of history is so limited that we just don’t realize that five or ten years is not a tremendously long time in the overall scheme of things. Is our collective attention span THAT short?

Perhaps it’s more of the Peter Pan syndrome; by repeatedly listening to music or watching TV shows from a few years back, we can continue to pretend we never grew up.

Maybe it’s just because so much of the media seems so incredibly bland in the corporate era in which we now live. But that’s a cop-out; there was a lot of crap in the eras we’re now romanticizing too. Break out those Survivor and MC Hammer records and you’ll remember.

Could be it’s just a vengeful reaction to the fact that all through the 80’s, we were forced to listen to crappy retread “classic rock” from the 70’s, because commercial radio by and large ignored anything new. Hmmm…maybe this “instant retro” thing DIDN’T start with us…

My parents listened to several decades worth of music before deciding what to get nostalgic about. They didn’t think of five-year-old songs as particularly nostalgic; they were just part of the repertoire. Kind of a nice perspective, don’t you think?

So how soon do the Spice Girls become “retro”? I’m just not hearing nearly enough of them lately…