1980s

Those long lost places, playing on the airwaves


It is often said that Croatia is a timeless place. By this, I assume most people are referring to the fact that the middle of Split consists of a Roman palace, there is a Roman colosseum in Pula and a bunch of other really old stuff, well... everywhere! When I SAY that Croatia is a timeless place I am referring to the fact that music on the radio is ancient (or at least from the 1980s and early 1990s).

Before coming to Croatia I thought Roxette had HAD one hit song: Joy Ride. Turns out, over here they have several hits. I say HAVE because you can still hear Roxette in heavy rotation on the radio. Joy Ride, It Must Have Been Love, Listen to Your Heart and Fading Like a Flower were the soundtrack to my summer in Split IN 2011! Now you might be thinking that I was grooving on the only station that plays the 80’s hits, and you would be wrong because EVERY station plays 80’s hits, and then some.

Listening to the radio in Croatia is like opening a box of chocolates that fell behind the secret gift cupboard sometime before 1989: you never know what you're going to get. Last week my drive to work was synchronized with What a Feeling from the film Flash Dance. FLA-SH DA-NCE! The radio play list today was filled with early Madonna, Sting (from his first solo album), R.E.M., Mike and the Mechanics, and... ROXETTE!

Don’t get me wrong, I love cruising to Wild Boys (windows cranked down, hair blowing in the sea breeze) just as much as the next guy.

There is a special weight that comes with living abroad and hearing music from that bygone ME decade. When you live away from home you become removed from the time stream and the space in which it exists. Your whole being is constantly grasping for the familiar: that street you drove down day-after-day: gone. The familiar silhouette of your hometown’s skyline: a mirage. The scent of a lost love: just a dream. Those map-like sidewalk cracks, the shrieking squeak of your backyard gate, each infinitesimal piece of the mundane that made you who you are is now slowly being replaced by new streets, sounds, and sights. So when I hear a song from the 1980s it is more than just a happy piece of nostalgia. It is a Proustian trigger to those spaces and places slowly slipping from my mind. It awakens long dormant images: a lamp on a hall table casting the light just so. Random, but no less revealing. Images and pieces of the past that carry with them some salvation in that they remind you, just fleetingly, of where you come from and who you are.

I have to wonder if that’s why the 1980s live on in Croatia. Are all these listeners and players hearing the music from the fading memories of a lost time in another country? Is Roxette also the sound of lunchtime, trips to Trieste, Cocta, and gondola lamps?

OR is it just because Roxette, earlier Madonna, Sting, R.E.M., Bronski Beat, New Order, Duran Duran, Queen, GNR, and the soundtrack to the Warriors can kick the crap out of everyone on the radio today?