The Great Radio Documentaries -“You’ll Never Be Sixteen Again” – Episode 7 (1980-1983)

The 80s – The MTV Years – Glam meets the Edwardians and androgyny rules for a while.

“You’ll Never Be Sixteen Again” – Episode 7 – “Best Years Of Our Lives” – Narrated by John Peel – 1983 – BBC Radio 1.

The last episode of this critically acclaimed series, ending in 1983, dubbed “Best Years Of Our Lives”. Since the future hadn’t happened yet, there was much speculation on what the 90s and beyond were going to be like. Two things that seemed to be considered constants; outrage and drugs.

The 80s, or at least the musical influences were probably more in sync between the US and the UK than at any other time since the 1960s, mostly due to MTV and most videos being produced in England during the early 80s where there was already an established forum to run them.

Through MTV the music became more about the presentation than the actual songs themselves – and American teenagers were quick to pick up on those styles that were as far away from Punk as it was possible.

Hair got very big – anyone who owned stock in hair products, particularly holding spray, would be fabulously wealthy almost overnight.

Clothes became important again and were all part of the calculated “look” to influence the audience of eager record buyers. Androgyny made a big return, although not to the extent it did in the UK, that was something happening in most large cities around the U.S.

Needless to say, return of the fashion favor came in the form of Prince, The Bangles, The GoGos and many other American groups. Although America never took Blitz Fashion to heart, there was enough influence coming from the other side of the Atlantic to keep the 80s interesting for a good long time, especially when Adam Ant arrived.

But this series doesn’t spend a lot of its final hour on the music itself, but rather the social climate at the time that surrounded it. And that was something that was very different that what was going on in the States. Britain’s Youth was becoming fractured and divided – there were the have’s versus the have-nots. The surge in membership in The National Front, a political organization with its feet firmly planted in racism and White Privilege was noticeable. The issue of immigration into Britain became a mantra – the old “they’re taking our jobs” rhetoric we got to hear a few decades later on this side of the Atlantic.

Basically, because the series ends not even at the mid-point of the 80s, it leaves on a pessimistic note, or one that leaves the future hanging in mid-air. Interesting to consider it was 39 years ago that the continuing story of adolescents ended and that by 1983 there was an air of wistful nostalgia for the 50s and 60s. It would be fascinating if such wistful nostalgia exists today. Because this final episode is dubbed “Best Years Of Our Lives” it doesn’t necessarily imply the 80s were the only decade of “best years” – Best Years applies to any point in time where you came of age – that vague and schizo period between 13 and 16 where life exists in the realm of the absolutes and lays the most impressions on you. Whether that was in the 1940s, 1950s, 60’s or 70’s – or even 90s or 2000’s. It’s the timeframe of the human experience and it will be different for everybody – and that’s a good thing.

But there you have it and now it’s over. Since we’re doing Documentaries all month it’s only fair I run one from this side of the Atlantic tomorrow. It’ll be a good one, trust me.

Until then, enjoy.

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