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.