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World Culture

A Toast To Skinny Ties And Shoulder Pads

Today, we kicked off our summer reading series by interviewing Colson Whitehead, who is the author of Sag Harbor. The novel is set in the mid-1980s and mines the pop culture junkyard of that era.

The impassioned discussions in the book about early hip-hop artists Afrika Bambaataa, Kraftwerk and U.T.F.O ring true to memories of my own mid-1980s adolescence. Same with the anguish, anxiety and bafflement produced by the by the New Coke fiasco. The latter is hilariously parodied by Whitehead.

I wonder, though, if the references make sense if you are not one of Colson Whitehead's post-Boomer/pre-Internet contemporaries. For those who were mercifully too young in the 1980s to sport skinny ties or shoulder pads, I've compiled a brief video compilation of a few pop culture figures featured in Sag Harbor:

'Roxanne, Roxanne' by U.T.F.O. (Warning: this song contains some profanity. Listener discretion is advised.)

'Head to Toe' by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam

'The Message' by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five

A CBC News Report About The Launch of 'New Coke'

The theme song for TV's iconic 'Land of the Lost'

'Trans Europe Express' by Kraftwerk

Not mentioned in Whitehead's book is a hit by the band Alphaville. For my money, "Big in Japan" qualifies as the single most excruciating music video from the 1980s.