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The Beat goes on

The good, the bad and the ugly from the ’80s is popular again WHO: English Beat, April 8 th at Garfinkel’s WHO: Platinum Blonde and Honeymoon Suite, April 15 th at the GLC I was guilty of Aquanet abuse and was seen sporting neon socks, legw

The good, the bad and the ugly from the ’80s is popular again

WHO: English Beat, April 8 th at Garfinkel’s

WHO: Platinum Blonde and Honeymoon Suite, April 15 th at the GLC

I was guilty of Aquanet abuse and was seen sporting neon socks, legwarmers and jelly shoes. Breakfast Club was my favourite movie. My sisters were consumed with Atari and we listened to a bleached blonde named Madonna singing about virginity.

The ’80s. Some call it the worst era for fashion and entertainment. Others defend its colourful creativity and movement away from dark political and social messages. Love it or hate it, it’s back.

Style geniuses such as Donna Karan and John Galliano are gleaning inspiration from Dynasty’s ritzy bitches. Thin hipster belts and thick bracelets are being pulled out of retirement. Denim jackets and stilettos are gracing the runways. Trend-setters such as Jennifer Lopez are sporting headbands.

Musically, there’s a huge resurfacing of ’80s bands with the likes of The GoGos taking the stage on Letterman. Unlikely modern day musicians are hitting it big with ’80s verses such as Shaggy’s Angel (featuring Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning), and punk bands are covering classics by the likes of Trooper and Adam Ant. Whistler won’t be immune from the invasion, with not one, not two, but three ’80s bands – Honeymoon Suite, Platinum Blonde and English Beat – stopping in the resort in the coming week.

"When the ’80s started I remember everyone saying how crap the ’70s were," laughs Dave Wakeling, frontman of The English Beat, famous for such reggae/pop hits as Mirror in the Bathroom and I Confess. Wakeling went on to head up General Public in the ’90s, with their single, I’ll Take You There, best remembered for its use by President Bill Clinton during his re-election campaign.

"I think while you're in close proximity to a decade you see the worst of it. But once you get some time away from it, you only start seeing and hearing the best of it," Wakeling says.

That’s just one of the reasons ’80s music is now seeing such a strong resurgence on the stage and radio.

"There's good and bad from all decades," agrees Derry Grehan, songwriter/guitarist for one of Canada's premier ’80s bands, Honeymoon Suite. "Music is cyclical; what's old is new again. Each era will have its great pop songs.

"I loved the ’80s. That was our time, but outside of that, the music was very positive and melodic. The ’90s went quite dark."

Another strike against the bright and shiny artists of the ’80s who failed to make the transition to the ’90s. Music executives, seeing the dollar signs linked to MTV, were too busy turning out pretty boys and girls on the "hair band" assembly line to foresee how little substance was actually taking root.

"The visual thing for us was just public presentation. It was just a by-product," says Grehan. "If you don't have the music you just blow away like a piece of fluff. By the end of the decade some of the music was just so disgusting. I was glad to see grunge evolve."

"I think I'm just really lucky that I didn't dress up stupid like some of the other guys," laughs Wakeling.

Although both English Beat and Honeymoon Suite also failed to establish themselves into the new decade, it can be argued that only a handful of ’80s artists have really gone on to remain superstars in the new millennium: Madonna, U2, Prince, Wil Smith and Janet Jackson are a few of the elite club.

But English Beat and Honeymoon Suite are among the few that can still pack venues with their new tours. Both have recently released best-of albums and both are writing new music for upcoming albums. Wakeling is currently touring with Rick Torres of The Supreme Beings of Leisure. Torres is also producing Wakelings first solo effort.

"It's an evolution or continuation," says Wakeling. "You can call it hybriding or hodge-podge of all my influences: chippy ’60s pop, reggae and bands like the Velvet Underground. I like things that chug along and make you dance."

Wakeling is trying out his new material on his present tour, making note of crowd reactions before deciding which songs will make it on to the new CD.

Of the pending Honeymoon Suite release, Grehan says simply, "It's for all those hard core Honeymoon Suite fans out there."

In the meantime, there's no denying that the ’80s are creeping back onto the airwaves. All ’80s stations, all ’80s club nights and sampling are keeping the Platinum Blondes and Duran Durans going strong.

"I think we've come to a very important turning point in modern radio," says Wakeling. "What was called new wave is now being called classic rock. And you'll find those two huge techtonic plates rubbing each other. So you've got this classic new wave rock which is turning out to be quite a new format. And people who originally enjoyed that music are now making up one of the largest advertising demographics, so that always adds fuel to the fire."

"After the ’90s, after the grunge died, people didn't know where to turn. Our generation, who are older now, who aren't into the Backstreet Boys or 'N Sync, didn't know where to turn. So they want to go back to the music that makes them feel good," says Grehan.

"I think bands like No Doubt have some of that bubbly, pop, infectious sound in their style," adds Wakeling. "I see in lots of modern dance groups the mixing of pop music and dub music and electronica that started in the ’80s. But what's interesting now is you hear a lot of street level rap demos, and the melodies in the background are little rinky-dink ’80s DX7 synth sounds. They're now the shit again."