One of the great things about the Internet is that it makes catching up with old friends and one-time casual acquaintances easy. And, no, we’re not talking about reaching out to someone from the distant past to reconnect over coffee, dinner, or a tag-team trip to the Bella Dolls Mansion. All that typically leads to is 45 minutes of awkward conversation, where, halfway through things, you realize you’d rather be watching The Haunting of Hill House.
Who has time for real long-lost people when you can find everything there is to know about them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? The only problem being that can also be dangerous from a time-suck perspective. One minute you’re on Facebook looking up that guy who used to insist that everyone at Burnaby North call him the Colonel. The next thing you know, three hours have passed as you’ve hopped from one friends list to another, patiently scrolling along to creep the profiles of everyone you went to school with from grades 9 to 12. If only someone would do you a favour and put all that information in one easily accessible place.
That brings us to 80s Redux: Your Favorite Musicians Today.
First the traumatic news: it’s an old-fashioned book—a little bigger than a 7-inch single—which means, horror of horrors, you’re probably going to have to put down the iPhone for five minutes and focus on something other than flitting endlessly from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter.
The good news? It’s an obvious labour of love that covers half the '80s bands you loved. Seattle-based photographer Mike Hipple not only turns his camera on musicians from the decade that gave us new wave, synth-pop, and pre-Nirvana alternative rock, but fleshes things out with interviews that bring us up to date on where those musicians are today.
Hipple’s personal tastes colour the book, which is to say that if you’re looking for Pat Benatar, Angus Young, Madonna, or Huey Lewis, you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, 80s Redux: Your Favorite Musicians Today is partly devoted to breakthrough weirdos like the B-52's, Concrete Blonde, and Romeo Void—acts that somehow crashed radio and the MTV in the Me Decade despite coming directly from freaks-and-geeks lunch table in high school. The book spends just as much time catching up with acts that will be unfamiliar to all but underground obsessives, including Alice Bag of the Alice Bag Band, Kurt Neumann of the BoDeans, and Steve Mack of That Petrol Emotion.
Curious why Dave Wakeling seemed to suddenly drop off the radar after being everywhere in the ’80s with the English Beat and General Public? After having kids, he took a job with Greenpeace in his adopted city of L.A., enabling him to be home for his kids. Wakeling tells Hipple he wanted to be “Coach Dave on the soccer team or the dad who could really help with the algebra”.
Laurie Sargent of Face to Face (“10-9-8”) eventually traded the mike for organic farming and painting. And Tommy Heath—who scored a mega-hit as Tommy Tutone with “867-5309/Jenny"—hauled up stakes and moved to Nashville to write country songs, before reinventing himself as a computer programmer in the Pacific Northwest.
Interestingly, music maintains a pull on almost everyone interviewed, from legends like Wire and Robyn Hitchcock to semi-footnotes like Valerie Day and John Smith of Nu Shooz. Well aware that they’ll never again hit the heights that landed them on music television—not to mention in the pages of 80s Redux: Your Favorite Musicians Today—almost everyone still writes, makes records, and tours for audiences on the booming retro circuit.
Rather than raiding the archives for photos that have been seen a thousand times before, Hipple starts fresh for his fan project. The results are fantastic, whether it’s a funereal-looking black-and-white portrait of Rose McDowall leaning on a shotgun in the forest, or Martha Davis of the Motels being surveyed in by watchful billy goats on her Pacific Northwest farm.
No matter whether the stories in 80s Redux are coming from Gene Loves Jezebel’s Michael Aston or the Cure’s once-troubled Lol Tolhurst, they are pretty much 99 percent more interesting than anything you’ll unearth while scouring Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on people you haven’t seen for years.
Should one of those folks reach out to you, wanting to get together, tell them you’re spending time catching up with old friends. Assuming you had even a sliver of good taste back in the day, 80s Redux: Your Favorite Musicians Today is packed with them.
Mike Hipple will be signing copies of 80s Redux: Your Favorite Musicians Today at the Beatmerchant Record Store (12240 Second Avenue, Richmond) from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on November 24.