Learning about others’ experiences, thoughts, and quirks is something I don’t take for granted in this life. Truly. I love getting to know people, especially their strange or unique bodies of knowledge. For instance, one of my friends from my early twenties was in FFA in high school and her specialty was agrostology, the study of grass. She probably doesn’t know that I remember that about her, but every time I’m getting my Walt Whitman on or thinking about how I wish the whole world was covered in Bermuda grass, I wonder what she’d have to say.
As for me, I’m an 80s music video savant. Yep, I’m a well of useful knowledge, aren’t I? Before moving to Germany in the late 80s, my father—Mr. EverReady, prepared for our life abroad by recording hours upon hours of MTV, VH1, and HBO on dozens of VHS tapes. Back then Americans had the misfortune of having only one TV channel in English. And even that channel was interrupted every night by an hour-long special called Gasthaus which gave us expats post news/happenings and, eventually, Gulf War updates. Thank goodness for my father’s foresight cause those VHS tapes continued nourishing my love for music and film and helped me stay connected to my U.S. roots. In short, I left Germany unscathed. And by unscathed I mean I never became a David Hasselhoff fan.
The tapes were always on in my house. I’d watch all the horror movies and skip over the comedies and dramas. Among my favorites were Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Fright Night. But my go-to was always the wonderful world of 80s music videos, with its big hair, awful CGs, and overuse of sheer curtain panels billowing in the wind. Ever the 80s kid, I had some typical favorites. Yes, I had a crush on Billy Idol and his bad boy snarl and I totally wanted to grow up and be as cool as Madonna. Did I practice moonwalking in my socks on the kitchen linoleum? Only every day. But if you know me you know I was especially drawn to some of the more creepier music videos. These are among the most memorable:
Land of Confusion – Genesis
Thriller – Michael Jackson
Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2 – Pink Floyd
Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel
Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
Like a Prayer – Madonna
White Wedding – Billy Idol
Sunglasses at Night – Corey Hart
In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins
Owner of a Lonely Heart – YES
I think most writers drawn to horror are innately so; or, they were influenced at a young age, whether their early life was horrific in the real sense or they experienced something supernatural. Then the rest of the cards fall that way. Horror becomes comfort through catharsis, or we search there for answers or the validation of our experiences. It’s a fire kept alive by the kindlings of literature, music, film, art of all sorts. I realize now how those 80s videos (among other things) influence the imagery and emotion I try to evoke when I’m writing a story.
I mean, name something spookier than caricature puppets of The Reagan’s in bed with an ape or stop-motion vegetables forming into Peter Gabriel. Hmm?