Top critical review
10 people found this helpful
on 29 June 2003
"If you can remember the 80's, you were probably there" opens this book, and for those of us who grew up arguing over whether Duran Duran or Wham were best, and hearing our dads exclaim 'is that a man or a woman?' when Boy George appeared on Top of the Pops, this encyclopaedia provides a nostalgic look into the music of our childhoods.
Blythe states from the start that this is not meant to be a serious tome, and his sense of humour generally makes the book a very enjoyable read. He also admits to leaving out musical giants such as Queen whose music spans the 80's but was not confined to it; but I don't think this is such a bad thing, as it leaves more room for obscure acts such as Nu Shooz - now I thought my memory was good, but this book has certainly revived a few dusty corners of my mind. It's well researched too; Blythe has included interesting facts, quotes and relevant websites in some of the sections.
After all this, why only 3 stars? Well, for me anyway there is one big problem with the book - it's clearly aimed at men, as it is peppered with laddish comments and observations about the physical appearance of some of the female stars of the 80's. From my recollection, about 50% of us growing up in the 80's was female, and although the popular stereotype that encyclopaedic-type books appeal more to men may sometimes be true, I do think that this book alienates some of its potential audience. It certainly did me; I got tired with all the 'phwooar' type references, as I do feel that way too much emphasis is placed on looks in Western society; after all, we get our looks from a random combination of genes; having fashionable ones does not make us any better than those who do not.
But OK then, maybe having crushes on pop stars was part of growing up in the 80's and maybe the author was trying to recreate this. But where are the references to the male pin-ups? My own teenage crush, the smouldering Morten Harket of A-ha, barely gets a mention. And as for Duran Duran, Blythe disparagingly describes them as 'slightly porky with bleach blond hair and a foppish name'... but then he still manages to get in a positive reference to female appearance even though the band were all blokes!
Maybe, though, this does say something. In my opinion the talents of bands like Duran Duran and A-ha went far beyond their appearance, and I think much of the music they produced was excellent and is still listenable to today. However in the section on Vanessa Paradis, the author can only manage a few words about her music and spends the rest of the time twittering on about her appearance and how nubile she is. Says it all really...