Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Sheepish Musical Pleasures: Billy Idol, "Eyes Without a Face"
There's a certain kind of mid-1980s pop music that I think of as "Y music" because I used to hear it when I went to the YMCA to go swimming or play basketball. They played the local hits station over the PA, and since the complex was completed in 1981 with a light brown and powder blue color scheme, it was totally 80s-tastic to begin with, and reached new levels of awesomeness when "Abracadabra" by Steve Miller filled the air. (There's one summer where I swear I heard that song in the locker room after my swimming lessons each and every day.)
Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" always brings me back to the summer of 1984 at the Y. It's a song tailor made for the YMCA experience: the shimmery synths fit well with the play of light on the water in the pool, and the relaxed vibe with a place that always seemed to exist outside of time for me.
The effects laden guitar reminiscent of Robert Fripp that comes stomping in halfway through was also one of the first things I ever heard approximating punk rock. Idol had fallen far from his days as a punker in Generation X, losing the DIY ethos but retaining the sneer, spiky hairdo, and other surface accouterments of a once great musical genre. Back in the height of the Reagan-era, the surface tokens of the former counterculture were as close as a kid in a rural town could get to the real thing.
There's nothing like those summers before I had to start working during my months off in junior high. Childhood summer floated by with the kind of leisurely ease that I only get to experience today for an hour or two at a time, rather than for three months straight. As lame as this song might sound today, committing the mortal 80s sin of overproduction, I get a warm feeling remembering those wide-open days of pure delight.