Friday, June 10, 2016

A Dram of Glam and Duran Duran

This is fun. I'm a bit older then Noisms, but younger than the "dark metal" crowd. I got into D&D with Moldvay/Cook, Christmas of '81. So the musical background to my D&D was 80's pop laced with a dose of glam and disco. It was urbane, smooth, stylish, but also unearthly, inhuman, and fey.

And style was very much part of the substance. David Bowie as the Goblin King, Sting and Billy Idol as Sting and Billy Idol. Madonna doing her thing. There was a smooth, glossy finish to everything; even the percussively blue-collar Phil Collins crooned and powered our revenge fantasies with the slick style of "In the Air Tonight." Michael Jackson, magical and aristocratic in his so-right-for-the-times "Smooth Criminal." Everyone wanted a fedora, aviator sunglasses, and shiny silk suits, but none of us could pull it off, and we all knew we'd look like dorks in costumes.

Historical accuracy took a distant back-seat to style and fashion. We chaffed at the universal need for armor on our characters. The ultimate fighter was Rutger Hauer in his black quilted jerkin, pauldrons, and gauntlets with his too-damned-cool double-barrelled crossbow. The ultimate magic-user was Nicol Williamson as Merlin in Excalibur. The ultimate thief was Indiana Jones, with his quick mind, a friend in every town, and swift whip.

Grunge wasn't a thing yet. Urban decay was an artifact of the Carter years, distant, the stuff of fairy tales. Our Shadowrun characters dressed like punks in black snythleather and spikes chromed with neon shades. Our sci-fi characters wore mandarin-collared suits made from glittering, reflective materials, or futuristic camo in zig-zags and overlapping dots. Everyone had a trenchcoat with a huge collar, bike jacket, or a magic sword with wing-shaped crossguard and a giant gem set in the forte. We cruised through our imaginary metropoli in (air)cars that bore more than a passing resemblance to the DeLorean while listening to the hissing smooth tunes of Duran Duran and Pet Shop Boys.

Nobody was surprised when Kiefer Sutherland played a vampire who looked like a Billy Idol wannabe. And nobody was terribly surprised when '80s pop morphed into goth, and the whole melange birthed Vampire: the Masquerade. Again, style was very much part of the substance.

Grunge came as a surprise, though it was a perfectly predictable backlash to the all-synth, all-neon, all-chrome of 80's pop. I ignored it. The '90s were an era of retrenchment for me. I had no interest in Green Day, Nirvana, or Lilith Fair. I was getting into Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails.

But before that, the music was glossy, smooth, upbeat, and aristocratic. It was sharp suits, hot cars, tight skirts, stiletto heels, and dark glasses. It was impossible hair, neon jewelry, and highly chromed. Win or lose, the important thing was to look good while you were doing it.


JB said...

You and me both, man...though there was a slight metal revival mid-80s (Def Lepard, Quiet Riot) that had an influence on my own gaming, in addition to Duran Duran.

Film-wise, I'm definitely in your corner.

trollsmyth said...

JB: I couldn't fine a way to link Twisted Sister's We're Not Gonna Take It into this, but I couldn't in a way that didn't feel completely forced. That and the theme to "Ghostbusters" battled to be the anthem of my summer of '84.