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80s music: taking the good with the bad

Despite the fact I can’t carry a tune in a high-tech bucket or play an instrument, music has always played a huge role in my life.

My mom has two sisters, Connie and Toni, who are five and three years older than I am, the perfect teenagers to introduce me to The Monkees and The Beatles in the mid-1960s. Whatever change I could get my grubby little hands on went to buy 45 RPM vinyl records. I also enjoyed many musical selections in the basement of my grandma Edna Wingfield’s home in St. Louis.

One of my fondest memories of Grandma was one time when she ventured downstairs to see what we were doing and she suddenly began doing the Twist. It was hysterical to me who was too young to put into perspective that she was not just my grandma but the mother of two teenage girls.

I always had a turntable, records and albums. I had posters all over my walls of my favorite singers.

When I was about 13, I discovered Elton John, and his music and images took the place of everything else. He is still my absolute favorite artist. I saw him earlier this year in concert in Macon and plan to see him again at Philips in November. One of my prized possessions is a guitar autographed by him.

As time went on, records were replaced by cassettes, which were replaced by CDs, which have been replaced by digitized music on not only my iPod but iPad, iPhone and MacBook Pro. Both my vehicles have satellite radio so I can listen to the same station no matter where I roam.

Remember on road trips, listening to one station until it phased into static and having to tune in another one? It was agony to find yourself in south Georgia and only being able to find either country music or some backwoods preacher spitting fire and brimstone over the airwaves.

If you were lucky, you had a tape deck in your car and solved that problem by popping in a cassette. Whew, what a relief. Talk about being saved.

As everyone knows, with the ’80s came MTV. Yeah, I remember back when MTV was good, when programming was simply hour after hour of the best videos ever made. Peter Gabriel with “Sledgehammer,” Cars with “You Might Think,” anything by Van Halen (with David Lee Roth, of course), Prince or Michael Jackson created the faceplate of the decade.

After watching a “Pop-Up Video” marathon on VH-1 last weekend, I tuned into Sirius channel ’80s on 8 and left it there. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing through the music, some of which will always be classics, others I haven’t heard in years, still others that just need to be eradicated from the music vaults — phew.

The experience also has me wondering how memory works. I spent a good 15 minutes the other day looking for my keys, which is unusual for me. But 1986’s “Rhythm of the Night” by Debarge came on the radio and I knew every word like I’ve sang it every day for 27 years.

As I said, there are some real stinkers from the ’80s and I realized something. You gotta suffer through a slice of Bananarama to get a couple of Bangles, endure a bit of Rockwell (despite the assist from Michael and Jermaine Jackson) to enjoy the inimitable Robert Palmer, and pay a visit to Europe to take in the sights of Chicago.

John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Hall and Oates, Huey Lewis and the News, Aerosmith, Queen, Billy Joel, Blondie, David Bowie, Eurythmics, Stevie Wonder, Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, Simple Minds, Dire Straits, Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, George Michael, Olivia Newton-John, Tina Turner, among others, all provided the soundtrack of my 20s.

Now, as then, hearing the music and lyrics fills me with peace and calm, makes me smile and remember that the ’80s was one of my favorite decades for so many reasons. In fact, the older I get, the more I find myself enjoying songs I wrote off for one reason or another 30 years ago.

However, I don’t think it’s possible to get old enough to ever appreciate Debbie Gibson, Tiffany or the musical value of “We Built This City,” voted the worst song of the ’80s in a Rolling Stone magazine poll.