“Pictures of You”
The Cure
1989

“Space Age Love Song”
A Flock of Seagulls
1982

I coach a chess club at a local school, grades 3-8. My toughest challenges are not explaining how to castle or how the knights move. It’s not the 4th-grade belching contests or the two 5th-grade boys I had to separate because they were fighting over the good-behavior trophy. The real problems are the 12- and 13-year-old girls.

One year, Madison, a 6th-grade girl, came to the club in a torn denim jacket and a Led Zeppelin T-shirt. Trying to bond with her, I said that I’d seen Led Zep in concert. Madison rolled her eyes and I suddenly saw myself as she saw me: an old man, claiming to know something about her music! The following year she showed up with black hair, black lipstick, black fingernail polish, and a Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me Cure T-shirt. I could’ve told her that I’d seen The Cure, too, but I’m a nice guy. I didn’t want to ruin another band for her.

The Cure have been around long enough to draw pensions. They (“they” meaning Robert Smith) are best known for being gloomy. Right up my alley! I’ve already written about my favorite Cure song, “Pictures of You,” a ballad of lost love that is 278 words long. That’s like a Dickens novel in rock ’n’ roll years.

Let’s instead move on to A Flock of Seagulls (affectionately known as A Flock of Haircuts). Loyal Reader Julius questions their existence. My apologies, Loyal Reader. No ’80s dance party would be complete without their two biggest hits, “I Ran (So Far Away)” and “Space Age Love Song.”

There’s not much to say about “I Ran (So Far Away)” that the song doesn’t say itself:

And I raaaaaaan.
I ran so far away.
I just raaaaaaan.
I ran all night and day.
I couldn’t get away.

“Space Age Love Song” is a simply structured number that moves from start to finish in an unvarying line. Sort of like an object in space. It was in constant rotation on MTV in 1982. As Springsteen put it, “57 Channels (and Nothing On).” It is exactly 73 words long, of which 15 are “I was falling in love” and 12 are “Falling in love.” Pithy. “I saw your eyes/and you made me smile,” the Haircuts sing in stanza 1, which is sweet, but the next line is “For a little while,” which is ungrateful. What have you done for me lately, person with eyes? In stanza 2, the narrator sees the eyes again, and this time “you touched my mind.” Cool. Telepathy. No wonder you fell in love.

Don’t take my word for it. Here are A Flock of Haircuts at the height of their powers.

A few years ago in chess club we had a boy who loved Culture Club. When I made the mistake of telling him that I didn’t, he started singing “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.” By the end of the school year my answer was yes. Music from the 1980s can heal us – or it can be weaponized. Madison understood this when she adopted The Cure as a lifestyle. I’m sure it was her defense against the world and her rebellion against her parents. In the early ’70s I did the same thing to my parents with The Doors (minus the drugs, alcohol, and multiple sex partners).

You wouldn’t think these issues would arise in a roomful of kids playing chess, but they do. Adult themes play out in miniature, just as we play this miniature substitute for war. All you can do with these children is be patient, try to put yourself in their place, and don’t let on that you know anything about their music. Kids need to rebel, and The Cure are a good ally in a rebellion. Or The Doors. But not A Flock of Seagulls.

Comments
  1. Barb says:

    Gang of Four earworms all week, thanks, Steve! For tender love lyrics, how about their Damaged Goods: “Your kiss so sweet, your sweat so sour. Sometimes I’m thinking that I love you, but then I know it’s only lust.”

  2. Number 9 says:

    It won’t surprise you to hear that the only 80s dance parties I attended were at the home of Special D and yourself, so perhaps I grooved to Space Age Love Song – it may even have changed my life. I watched the video and enjoyed the hair and the smoke machine.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      If I could’ve moussed my hair into something resembling the mops on those guys (or on Ian McCulloch of Echo & The Bunnymen or Robert Smith of The Cure or anybody in Spandau Ballet), I would’ve done it. Thanks for faithfully attending our parties, including the one where you wore your grass hula skirt. Special D won’t allow A Flock of Seagulls within her area code, so you didn’t hear that song at our place. If you did, I’m sorry!

      • Barb says:

        We had the Psychedelic Furs “Wedding Song,” as well as Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” and The Who’s “My Wife.” Jon slipped “Submission” by the Sex Pistols into our mix, but I don’t know what he was thinking. A political commentary on marriage? Maybe. A dream about his new wife? Hardly! 🙂

  3. That makes us think of Space Age Whiz Kids. Have you considered unleashing your considerable talents on Joe Walsh? His work in the 80s was … interesting. Eye of the Confessor, for example.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      My dear Cowboy and Vampire: You completely stumped me with these references. I had never heard of Joe Walsh’s “Space Age Whiz Kids” or his album ‘The Confessor.’ The only things I knew about Mr. Walsh before this evening is that he’d played guitar in The James Gang and The Eagles. I like “Walk Away” and “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” so I was willing to give him a go. Sadly, “Space Age Whiz Kids” turns to dust and blows away when matched against “Space Age Love Song.” I lasted almost 10 minutes with ‘The Confessor.’ Allmusic.com’s reviewer said, “Joe Walsh just hasn’t been able to produce a complete album of great material, and The Confessor is no exception. The first half is dreck….Worthwhile for the title track alone.” The title track only interested me around the 3-minute mark, where it threatened for a few seconds to break into The Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye.” The rest of the song is Black Sabbath set on slow. Thanks for writing in. Now let’s all go floss our brains with Bananarama.

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