Page last updated at 08:01 GMT, Monday, 24 August 2009 09:01 UK

The 80s are still top of the pops


Fans and famous acts reveal why they love music from the 80s

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Billed as the largest gathering of 1980s artists since Live Aid, the Rewind Festival in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, attracted 30,000 fans to watch 25 pop veterans at the weekend.

Celebrating all things 80s, the inaugural event is a sign of the growing desire to relive the decade that many remember as pop's golden age.

For most music festivals, filling a line-up with acts whose glory days are 20 years behind them would be madness.

But at Rewind, that was the whole point.

And the glory days suddenly seemed a bit less distant as the crowd gave former heartthrobs and one-time superstars screams that made it almost - almost - just like old times.

Carol Decker from T'Pau on why the 80s are still hip

The bill was packed with Top of the Pops veterans like Bananarama, Paul Young, ABC, T'Pau, Belinda Carlisle, Billy Ocean, Kim Wilde and Rick Astley - all sliding into middle age, but whose music stands the test of time.

The 25 acts had almost 100 UK top 10 hits between them, and it was those feelgood classics that the fans came to sing and sway to.

The vast majority in the crowd were aged 30-plus, eager for a nostalgia trip to a younger, more innocent time, and an escape from the mid-life, credit-crunched grind.

If the fans were trying to cling on to their youth, then the bands were more than happy to oblige by taking the chance to cling on to their stardom, and pay the mortgage in the process.

These Smash Hits survivors were forced to get used to life out of the spotlight at the end of the 80s, but now they are getting used to big crowds again on the retro trail.

The revival started around 2001, when the Here & Now 1980s package tours began.

The shows, which wheel out around seven classic acts a night, now regularly visit arenas, racecourses, stately homes and corporate functions across the UK and the world.

We all had a few dodgy passport pictures - you look back and you smile
Limahl (centre)

Meanwhile, The Human League headlined a series of Back To The 80s gigs this summer and drew an unashamedly enthusiastic crowd at the V Festival on Sunday.

And many of the same acts will do it all again at another 80s festival, Retrofest, in Ayrshire next weekend.

"The demand for the 80s is a very pleasant surprise and welcome after having had such a fantastically big career," says T'Pau singer Carol Decker, who spent five weeks at number one with China In Your Hand in 1987.

"When that faded away, I did miss it I must admit. So now to be back in front of thousands and thousands of people is just wonderful because my ego is still only 25 and still wants to do it."

Billy Ocean, who sang hits including When the Going Gets Tough The Tough Gets Going and Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, believes 80s music endures because the songs made a strong connection.

"These people grew up with that," he says. "I meet people who say 'Our daughter got married to Suddenly', or 'We had kids to Caribbean Queen'.

"That makes me feel as though I've contributed something to somebody's life."

Fans at the Rewind festival
I think the words they sung in the 80s actually meant something, but now it's a load of old dross
Music fans Pen and Ali

Kajagoogoo are starting a reunion tour next month, and frontman Limahl says fans do not mind seeing their former pin-ups become more suited to the cover of Saga magazine than Smash Hits.

"I think the audience who were there the first time around want to see that you've evolved with them, that you've perhaps got a few wrinkles as well.

"We all had a few dodgy passport pictures. You look back and you smile - we've all come along that little life journey together."

With soft rock mullets and bright spiky wigs poking above the crowds, many fans at Rewind made an effort to recapture the 80s look.

Dayglo ankle warmers, gloves and vests were also in abundance, while Darth Vader, Wonder Woman and Ghostbusters mingled with the audience.

The slogan "I party'd in the 80s" adorned one side of vests made by pop fans Pen and Ali for the event, with their names on the other. For them, modern music just does not make the grade.

"No way," says Pen. "I think the words they sung in the 80s actually meant something, but now it's a load of old dross."

That view was echoed by Kate George, 34, from Reading, sporting a bright red barnet. Well, it was acceptable in the 80s.

Little Boots
It's got that right distance from now - it's retro enough to be cool again
Little Boots

"I really made an effort to come to this one and spend the whole weekend here," she says.

"It's a brilliant era. I love the clothes, I love the music. It's what I grew up to.

"We don't produce proper music now. It's nowhere near as good. There's no feeling in the words any more, whereas the 80s was great, it made me feel alive, I loved it."

Among younger fans, though, some were there for the music, while others had been dragged by parents or were there by mistake.

"We thought it was going to be Grease and Dirty Dancing, which we love," says Gemma Fernandez, 25, from London.

"But we're having a good time anyway and we're enjoying the music, even though we don't know it."

Her verdict on 80s pop? "Some of it's really good fun and you can dance to it, and some of it's not very good. Really cheesy."

A string of young stars are under the spell of the 80s, though, with acts like La Roux, Lady GaGa and Little Boots borrowing bits from the era of colourful electro pop.

"Moving on, I think it will become a bigger reference point," says Little Boots, who was born in 1984. "It's got that right distance from now. It's retro enough to be cool again."

Carol Decker jokingly describes the current crop of followers as "little copycats".

"It's a compliment to all of us, isn't it, that Little Boots and Lady GaGa are bringing in those keyboard sounds," she says.

"It's obviously just a fun time, a creative time, that people are drawing on now. So it must have been good."

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