Monday, 19 April 2010

I've (Not!) Come Of Age

Seeing as I missed out on my short hop to Belgrade this weekend, I thought I'd put pen to paper again and announce to world+dog that this year marks an impressive 25 years since my high school matriculation. Since my high school class seems to have dispersed far and wide, any sort of major reunion party seems almost as far fetched. But hey, stranger things have happened and we still have three quarters of this year left to organise something worthy of marking a quarter century of that momentous occasion when we set out to see if anything they taught us actually makes any sense at all in The Real World(tm). Let us see then, very briefly, how I remember some of that lovely period...

I firmly believe, and I am sure a lot of my class mates may (dis)agree, that one of the defining moments of the end of our childhood was that it managed to straddle almost three most important decades in music, art, and (modern) culture in general: The Sixties, The Seventies, and last, but most certainly not least The Eighties. It is important to note here, that due to what sort of country Yugoslavia was in those thirty-odd years, despite we were all born when The Sixties were on the way out, we still got almost a full dose. Little was missing in Yugoslavia of those years with respect to what happened culturally, and most importantly musically, elsewhere. It was just that some of it arrived a bit later (but never late!), and sometimes not in the "right" order. As we neared The Eighties and beyond this improved considerably, to finally fully catch up towards the  beginning of (much less important) Nineties.

So, in our early years, towards the end of primary school when music starts to play a very important part in one's life (and not just because back then inviting a girl to "listen to some records" had a very different, albeit probably even more pleasurable meaning). In my case, the foundation was laid firmly by The Beatles, and some light exposure to (in no particular order) Doors, Led Zeppelin, and a very light sprinkling of Pink Floyd and even Jimi Hendrix. For some reasons that has never been very clear even to me, I have never really warmed towards The Rolling Stones (apart from a handful of all time classics, of course - and that genius cover of Sympathy For The Devil by Laibach), and I somehow completely missed (but happily rediscovered in the Nineties) The Kinks.

Of course, the same period saw some lighter notes, too, mostly coming from the likes of Bee Gees, Dianna Ross, and some other less well known (or at least remembered by me) purveyors of the seventies style disco music. I warmed to that particular genre (again) only very recently. It was heavily represented in Belgrade at the time, with quite a few discotheques attracting a huge following, but I somehow got into more "serious" kind of music (and The Beatles), and was then fully sucked into the eighties Punk, Post Punk, New Wave, New Romantics, and Electronica (yes, my definition is different). I am still finding it hard to get sucked out of those fabulous five. I don't even think I'd want to if I could.

It was a really strange mix of music we went for high school. On the face of it it is quite difficult to see how one can appreciate, at the same time, all those five fairly different genres. It went as far as certain people (you know who you are!) sporting a spiky hair, a few safety pins, and a few badges - all on top of otherwise strongly New Romantics outfit. On some of my favourite mix tapes (remember those!) there use to me a hodge-podge of Sex Pistols, Duran Duran, Jam, Kraftwerk, and Visage

Most importantly, the period was a true Golden Age of (ex)Yugoslav music, punk, pop, and otherwise. A beautiful sense of optimism abounded, the like of which I am yet to see, feel, or even hear about. The future looked bright at home and abroad, and we were not so much making plans how to conquer it as we revelled in the sure knowledge of how it will pan out, diplomas, jobs, families, kids, and last but certainly not the least the fun that was there to be had. 

Sadly, nothing turned out nearly as smoothly as we naively thought. Luckily, as far as I am aware, none (bar one - but I cannot talk about that here) of my class had anything truly horrible happen to them. Struggled we all (or at least most of us) did - just like the rest of ex-Yugoslavs in the past 25 years. A lot, if not most of us ended up (too) far away from where we thought we'd enjoy the rest of our lives. Some of us (me, me, me!) landed in the place where most of the music that defined them was born.

Would I go back and enjoy the same music where I originally set out from? Sure, provided it could be even remotely similar to what it was or what it was promising to become 25 years ago. Sadly, while it moves in the right direction, it does so with a truly glacial pace. Also, we all know very well that, even if it miraculously changed overnight, going back would never be the same. What has happened in the past quarter of a century cannot be undone. We are not the ones we were then, either. 

Don't get me wrong. I am not moaning or pining after any of the milk that was spilt over the last 25 years (and I will freely admit I may be responsible for some of it, too). It could have been better, yes, but overall it turned out alright - for me at least. I also still have the music to make me happy and also smile when I remember the old times. If we manage to get together this year after all I promise to bring a nice sampling of it - even if we have to play it from the new Walkman replacement!

PS
If you thought I shortchanged you here talking about just me-me-me while seeming to promise a bit more expansive treatise - you'd be wrong. I have not shortchanged you at all. This is not a memoir, and if you weren't there you probably wouldn't appreciate the story very much (or at all). If you were there, then you already know, and I have no need to tell you again. In either case, this is my blog, and it's mostly about how I feel about things. You should try it yourself - it's cathartic...

PPS
If you think I put too much emphasis on music as a background, even as a foreground, to my life - well, you'd be wrong, again. I do not put too much emphasis on it. I put just the right amount of emphasis on it. If you can't see how music can be that important, well, then I can't help you. We're just different. I'm sure I'd struggle to understand whatever makes you tick....