Monday, September 20, 2010

Traveling Back to 1985 with the YouTube Time Machine

It hasn't been lost on me that a number of things I've written about here hearken back to my childhood, in one way or another. From concerts I've seen & reviewed by favorite acts since my youth--AC/DC, Rush, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith--to pieces about or involving childhood icons like Evel Knievel, Mark Fidrych and Ernie Banks to a review of a new play--The Invasion of Skokie--about late-'70s events in my hometown, I've done a good bit of looking back. My long piece on saving ticket stubs was also fueled, in part, by a sense of nostalgia.

Even beyond what I've blogged about, there have been trips down memory lane, including visiting my junior high school (Old Orchard) when it had an Open House celebrating its 50th anniversary--at which I spoke with several former teachers--and reconnecting with a number of long-lost friends and classmates on Facebook.

But while I am now less than a month from turning 42, I am not acutely aware of being in the midst of a mid-life crisis (though I guess few really are). Although I hope to soon again be working more regularly and would certainly accept some financial, romantic and physical improvements if they came with no strings attached, I don't consciously feel any particular sense of unrest, unhappiness or longing. I am grateful for what I do have, content with who I am and, all things considered, wouldn't trade places with anyone.

Yesterday, after watching the Bears' surprising victory over the Cowboys, I watched 'Hot Tub Time Machine,' a 2010 movie in which John Cusack and friends are magically transported back to 1986, with some unclear assistance from Chevy Chase. It was OK but not wonderful and even those nostalgic for the '80s would probably be better served just watching The Sure Thing, Say Anything or National Lampoon's Vacation.

But it was a bit of fun being taken back in time, with references in the film to Duran Duran, Miami Vice, Alf, Cassette Walkmans, "Where's the Beef?", leg warmers, Super Mario Bros. and "Safety Dance" (quick, name the band). I also liked the nod to Back to the Future with a bit part by Crispin Glover.

The once & future idiot, circa 1985. And no, I can't play guitar.
So largely with the help of YouTube, I set out to create my own (virtual) time machine.

As you can see at top, I set my DeLorean gauge for 1985. The following year, when I graduated high school and entered college, may have been a bit more notable, even in terms of major news events, but as a silver anniversary ago and more of a midway point of the '80s, 1985 seems more apt. Plus, '85 was the year Marty McFly went back to the future.

Now as I share some of my favorite moments & memories of 1985, I'll first note a number of things that have pretty much remained the same.

In 1985, I lived in Skokie, Illinois. Although I didn't for about 18 of the next 25 years, in 2010 I live in Skokie, Illinois. Two of my closest friends were/are Jordan and Mark. My favorite singer was/is Bruce Springsteen, with The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, U2, Tom Petty and those named above being others spanning 25 years and beyond. Sartorially speaking, I favor(ed) concert t-shirts and blue jeans. I liked eating at local joints like Poochie's and Sarkis', and still do. I wore a Casio digital watch and have never since worn a different brand (it recently dawned on me that Casio is the brand, of any kind or category, to which I've been most loyal).

And though many tastes & passions have come along since--art, theater, photography, travel, etc.--in 1985, as I do now, I liked rock music (though I wasn't yet that tuned into R.E.M., Husker Du, The Replacements, The Cure or some others I should've been), sports, movies, TV and writing (I was the Sports Editor for my high school newspaper).

As such, the videos below collect only things that I knew about and actively liked at the time, not in retrospect. And while it may seem like I'm not really broaching on major news events, even in doing a bit of research, there wasn't a whole lot of unforgettable stuff in that regard. Reagan began his second term, there were number of major plane crashes and natural disasters that killed thousands worldwide and the most famous deaths were probably those of Rock Hudson--the AIDS epidemic was just coming to the fore--and Leon Klinghoffer, an American killed aboard the hijacked cruise ship, Achille Lauro. (Orson Welles, Yul Brenner (both on the same day, October 10), Marc Chagall, Anne Baxter, Roger Maris, Ruth Gordon and Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh also died in 1985, as did an actor mentioned below.)

So fasten your seatbelts and get ready as the YouTube Time Machine takes us back to 1985.

My favorite TV show in 1985 was Cheers. Its third season was 1984-85, and sadly, Nicholas Colasanto who wonderfully played Coach, died on February 16 at age 61. The clip below is just a random one I found, but sums up Coach and Cheers pretty well. Colasanto's replacement, Woody Harrelson as Woody was great also, from fall 1985 on, but I always missed Coach.

It's not a show I ever revisited in reruns or on DVD, but the early days of Moonlighting--which debuted on March 3, 1985--were fantastic.

1985 wasn't a fantastic year in movies, but here are a couple quick clips that may spark some memories.

1985 was a very good year in sports, both locally (in Chicago) and nationally.

I saw Michael Jordan play in person for the very first time. This is a clip from the actual game, March 9, 1985 against Utah.

The NCAA Tournament ended with a huge upset I'll never forget when Villanova beat Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown (though it's a bit less famous than NC State beating Houston 2 years earlier).

This was probably the greatest round in boxing history:

On Sept. 11, 1985, Pete Rose got hit number 4,192 to break Ty Cobb's record. I was at the game 3 days earlier at Wrigley when he got hits 4,190 and 4,191, in a game that ended in a 5-5 tie.

The World Series was also noteworthy, as the Kansas City Royals beat state rival St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games, aided by a blown call in Game 6. And Dwight Gooden had what may have been the best pitching season in my lifetime (as I was born after McClain & Gibson's seasons in '68. Although Guidry, Maddux, Pedro and Clemens might provide some argument).

But the biggest sports story in 1985 were the Chicago Bears, who went 15-1 on their way to winning their only Super Bowl in January 1986, with the greatest defense--those who enjoyed the Bears victory over the Cowboys today, check this out--and best collection of personalities the NFL has ever seen. I don't think anyone around at the time will ever forget the Super Bowl Shuffle.

In the realm of music, some of my tastes from 1985 have aged better than others, with Talking Heads, John Mellencamp, Dire Straits (Money for Nothing video), Bryan Adams and The Hooters and, yes, Ratt, being among some of my favorites not already mentioned. I'm not so proud of it, but I loved this song and video:

The biggest musical event of 1985 was Live Aid. I still vividly remember watching much of it and was blown away by this performance by U2.

And I can still hear myself shrieking, "Led Zeppelin's on! Led Zeppelin's on!" when a reunited (3/4 at least) took the stage for the first time since John Bonham died in 1980.

As for concerts I attended, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Soldier Field on August 9, 1985 was by far the biggest one. I couldn't find any clips from that show, but this is pretty close:

Finally, outside any of the above areas, here's a little reminder of a great idea that didn't work out so well.

Well, thanks for reminiscing with me. Admittedly, this was a post I enjoyed more myself than I imagine many others will, but it could be fun to replicate it in your own way for whatever year may be suitable.

Time to head back to 2010, as tonight I'm going to a concert I'm really looking forward to: Roger Waters re-creating the Wall on the 30th anniversary of Pink Floyd's landmark album. Another glorious memory of childhood, and I don't even need a time machine to see it. Just some binoculars.

NOTE: A commenter let me know of a website he created that takes this idea a whole lot further. Check out to see videos that take you back to the year of your choice, all the way to 1860. A really cool site.


Justin Johnson said...

Very cool post! You should check out my site for more :)

Seth Arkin said...

Wow, is a great idea. I hope you develop and promote it further (I think it could use a little more on-site description and be a bit more user-friendly in the video selection options). But obviously, you're onto something and I'll check it out every now and then.

Your blog is also really cool.

Anonymous said...

LED ZEPPELIN!!!!!!!!!!!!
i remember that. (at least i think i remember being with you. you may know better though.) can't quite remember where we were.