Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Apocalypse Now - Vietnam in Film


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz3Cc7wlfkI

Apocalypse Now was released in December 1979, so close enough to fit into the 1980's culture, and is perhaps one of the most famous depictions of the Vietnam War on film. Apocalypse now is significant when discussing how Vietnam is depicted in film as it perhaps one of the few and first anti-Vietnam films to be produced. One of the most famous scenes from the film which when analysed really does convey the brutality of the Vietnam war is the Ride of the Valkyries scene in which dozens of US helicopters unleash a barrage of firepower on a Vietnamese village populated visibly by innocent women and children to the sound of Flight of the Valkyries, a triumphant piece of music. This is significant as it manages at the same time to depict the atrocities which happened in the war and convey the attitude that was initially held by the US both at home and overseas. To the US this scene is a triumphant display of American military fire power, to the Vietnamese this is nothing more than a massacre of civilians and this is the reason Apocalypse now so effectively encapsulates the juxtaposing views of the US and the Vietnamese.

Furthermore Apocalypse now would go on to spark a series of films which are now under the umbrella genre of Vietnam protest theatre. However what is also important to consider is the difficulty the director, Francis Ford Coppola had producing the film, although relatively expensive to make the film received large amounts of opposition particularly from the Hollywood studios who refused to fund the film. As a result a lot of outside funding was used and attention was brought to the film as a result of this opposition and a mystique surrounded the film doing more for publicity than any Hollywood distribution funding could have, in all likelihood, achieved. As a result a lot of people saw the film further emphasising its message.

First Blood & Rambo

The legacy of Vietnam in the 80's can be examined through popular culture. Mainstream films of the decade often had undertones or references to the war and the effects of American defeat, others such as 1982's First Blood were more obvious.

The plot of first blood described: 'John J. Rambo is a former United States Special Forces soldier who fought in Vietnam and won the Congressional Medal of Honor, but his time in Vietnam still haunts him. As he came to Hope, Washington to visit a friend, he was guided out of town by the Sheriff William Teasel who insults Rambo, but what Teasel does not know that his insult angered Rambo to the point where Rambo became violent and was arrested, as he was at the county jail being cleaned, he escapes and goes on a rampage through the forest to try to escape from the sheriffs who want to kill him. Then, as Rambo's commanding officer, Colonel Samuel Trautman tries to save both the Sheriff's department and Rambo before the situation gets out of hand.'



First Blood was a post-Vietnam War psychological thriller set in America, it portrays the after-effects of the Vietnam War on the nation and specifically the difficulties faced by American veterans attempting to re-integrate into society which was not examined in subsequent Rambo films. First Blood received generally favorable reviews, Stallone in particular, received much praise for his performance.

The Vietnam War only began to be examined on through film in the late '70s. Although many films of the late 60s and early 70s embodied the bitter aftertaste of the war, the conflict itself remained strikingly absent from the screen, as Hollywood, like the country as a whole, had difficulty adjusting to the grim legacy of a lost and troubling war. During the conflict, Hollywood produced only a single film dealing with Vietnam- John Wayne's The Green Berets.

Although America's active military participation in the Vietnam War ended in 1973, the controversy engendered by the war raged on long after the firing of the last shot. Much of the controversy centered on the returning veterans. Veterans were shocked by the cold, hostile reception they received when they returned to the United States. In First Blood John Rambo captured the pain of the returning veterans:

"It wasn't my war--you asked me, I didn't ask you...and I did what I had to do to win....Then I came back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting on me, calling me a baby-killer...."

'During the 1970s and '80s, the returning Vietnam War veteran loomed large in American popular culture. He was first portrayed as a dangerous killer, a deranged ticking time bomb that could explode at any time and in any place. He was Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976), a veteran wound so tight that he seemed perpetually on the verge of snapping. Or he was Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979), who adjusted to a mad war by going mad himself.

Not until the end of the '70s did popular culture begin to treat the Vietnam War veteran as a victim of the war rather than a madman produced by the war. Coming Home (1978) and The Deer Hunter (1978) began the popular rehabilitation of the veteran, and such films as Missing in Action (1984) and Rambo: First Blood II (1985) transformed the veteran into a misunderstood hero.

Where some films, like the Rambo series, focused on the exploits of one-man armies or vigilantes armed to the teeth, who had been kept from winning the war because of government cowardice and betrayal, another group of Vietnam War films--like Platoon, Casualties of War, and Born on the Fourth of July--took quite a different view of the war. Focusing on innocent, naive "grunts"--the ground troops who actually fought the war--these movies retold the story of the Vietnam War in terms of the soldiers' loss of idealism, the breakdown of unit cohesion, and the struggle to survive and sustain a sense of humanity and integrity in the midst of war.'

James S. Olson and Randy Roberts, Coming to Terms with the Vietnam War: Distorted Images (1993)

Vietnam War In Popular Culture


During and straight after the Vietnam War, American’s did not look very favourably upon the Vietnam War, and were not very accepting of it. However during the 1980’s American’s became much more accepting of the Vietnam War, and it began to move into more popular culture. There were many films based on the events of the war such as the Rambo films, Platoon, and the Missing in Action films. There have also been a lot of artists that have been influenced by the events, that surrounded the war, but also after the war had finished.
Although by most the Vietnam War was never really looked upon in a positive light, by the 1980’s, it’s involvement in popular culture certainly meant that people sympathised with it much more and showed more acknowledgment of the events that happened.

Re-inventing the Past

America during the 1980s saw a retelling of some of its most controversial moments in political history. This was no less brought on by the desire to better a self-image that had been become tainted and in so doing regain public confidence in a blemished United States.
Through movies such as Platoon and Rambo, certain aspects of the Vietnam War were brought up in the storyline, such as actors who portrayed ex-Vietnam veterans. They were then the subject of a journey that would undoubtedly see them become victorious in some other trial that would seem to almost disregard any previous link they had had to the war. In Rambo for example, we see a veteran who has become twisted by his experiences in Vietnam, and his intense belief that he is still a part of the war goes to show just how powerful the memories of that time were psychologically, and the eventual admit that Vietnam was a defeat leads the character to feel despair. Through the cleansing of the establishement he survives in, the film seems to encourage a feeling of personal victory on their home turf, and through this portrays the veteran as a hero.
I believe that cultural memories are reinvented in this way in order to promote a desire to change the past, and recreate in the only way possible; through film.

Sybil Stockdale and The National League of P.O.W. & M.I.A. Families

http://www.pow-miafamilies.org/about-the-league/

In 1970 Sybil Stockdale, who was the wife of an American Vietnam War Navy pilot who became a prisoner of war, co-foundered the National League of Families, a non-profit organization that worked on behalf of American Vietnam soldiers M.I.A (Missing in Action) and P.O.W (Prisoner of War) Families. The aim of the National League of Families was to have M.I.A and P.O.W returned safely to their families. In 1973 “Operation Homecoming” took effect and 591 American P.O.W.s returned home although there were still more than 2,000 Americans still listed as missing. Sybil Stockdale received the U.S. Navy Department's Distinguished Public Service Award. Sybil Stockdale and her husband James Stockdale co-authored "In Love and War: the Story of a Family's Ordeal and Sacrifice During the Vietnam War".

The Nixon Administration and the Vietnamese Governments concluded that all P.O.W.s had been freed but there were some veterans and families of missing soldiers who disagreed with this and this sparked conflict between the U.S. Government and U.S. Citizens. Evidence emerged which kept hopes high that there was still soldiers alive in Vietnam because of thousands of live sightings of American soldiers in Vietnam which were reported after the war ended. In 1980, the U.S. set up a rescue mission after a report of 30 American soldiers working on a prison road crew in Laos but press leaks stopped the rescue mission before it had started.

Since the end of the war the U.S. government have led investigations and have concluded that there were no American soldiers still alive in Vietnam. Some of the Families of the M.I.A and P.O.W insisted that a soldier should only be considered dead if there was physical evidence. As a result of the families and veterans determination of not giving up on this issue, Bob Dornan, in 1996 presented to Congress a provision to the U.S. defense budget which requires that the pentagon review the status of a missing soldier every three years. The law also states that there must be evidence which proves the death of a M.I.A. soldier.

There is still an issue of M.I.A. and P.O.W. advocates demanding that more needs to be done to find records and the remains on the missing soldiers who were held captive or killed during the time of and since the Vietnam war. It seems that the issue between some advocates' and the U.S. government is that the government have seemed to have moved on and forgotten about the war but the families who had lost their loved ones and have never received confirmation of their deaths or their bodies to bury them they feel as though they're an issue of the past and everyone has moved on and forgotten about what happened.

http://www.miafacts.org/

John Pilger's 1981 Heroes



http://johnpilger.com/videos/heroes

Originally from Sydney, Australia, John Pilger has become an award winning journalist and foreign correspondent. He is arguably most well-known for his work during the Vietnam War, spending much of his time in Vietnam itself, and is still working today, with his latest work including his 2010 film ‘The War You Don’t See’.
The short documentary film I have chosen to look at for my blog this week was made by Pilger in 1981 and explores “The shabby treatment of returning combat soldiers from Vietnam” six years after the war ended. The film shows footage and images from the war, as well as interviews and documentary footage from the time. However, the main content of the film is made up of interviews with Vietnam veterans, investigating their perspectives on the war along with their treatment since the war end.
After describing the conditions he witnessed, referring to them as if it were a “constant Halloween night”, and stating that a recent (1980) poll found that 62% of Americans believed that “Vietnam veterans fought in the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and were suckers.” This opinion, which implies that it was somehow the veterans themselves who should be blamed for the highly controversial Vietnam War, seems to run throughout the documentary, with many veterans stating that they were treated in an abusive way by the American public after returning from the conflicts – Pilger himself states that unlike any other war we have seen in modern times, the veterans returned home “to a purgatory of silence, shame, indifference, or in plain wooden boxes.”
On interviewing the veterans Pilger finds out their reasoning for going to war in the first place (why did they help make up the greatest volunteer army in America’s history?). Many veterans state that they wanted to serve their country and experience war in order to become a man. In many cases they also stated how they wanted to experience war based on what they’d seen on TV and in films – suggesting that war to many young Americans, young American men in particular, was glorified. However, Pilger discovers that after longing for an opportunity to go to war all of the veterans interviewed not only wanted to forget about their service in Vietnam but also that whole period in their lives. With many veterans coming away from the war addicted to alcohol and drugs, they had suffered greatly from their experiences and expressed disgust with themselves.
Many veterans also expressed anger with politicians and the government for not taking responsibility for the war – a responsibility which veterans feel has fallen upon them, finding themselves having to explain why the war was such a disaster.
Pilger’s documentary is interesting as it sheds light not on the reactions of the majority of Americans to the war (like so many others), but the reactions of the veterans who fought in the war and are equally as important as those Americans who didn’t. Pilger also draws attention to the similarities between the Vietnam War politicians and the politicians of the early 1980s, stating that they see the world “in the same arrogant, simplistic terms, speaking of dominos as if nations are mere blocks of wood, not societies riven with their own differences and animosities”. Is Pilger suggesting then that nothing has changed? That the experience of Vietnam has taught 1980s America and its politicians nothing? From my research for this week’s blog it would seem that this is a common reaction to America after its involvement in Vietnam.

http://johnpilger.com/biography

Vietnam Veterans Memorial


http://thewall-usa.com/information.asp

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, located in the National Mall in Washington DC, spreads over 3 acres of land and has all the names of people who served and died or went missing in the Vietnam War. Jan Scruggs founded “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial”, which is its official name, in 1979, when The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund was set up to help fund the memorial. Several US Senators who helped set up the memorial supported the VVMF and saw its importance, which led to Carter signing the legislation in 1980. The wall’s intention was for people to not think about the war itself but solely about the people’s names written on the wall. Therefore the wall itself has not become something that has been criticized, however the location and meaning of the memorial do show some controversies.

The National Mall in Washington has always been the pride of America; its purposes are to provide a symbolic setting of governmental structures, to create a historic landscape with memorials, museums and national treasures. The sheer length and size of the Veteran Memorial Wall, which has names written on it inch by inch makes the memorial shocking rather than something to be proud of. However, one of the official purposes of the National Mall states “Maintain National Mall commemorative works (memorials, monuments, statues, sites, gardens) that honor presidential legacies, distinguished public figures, ideas, events, and military and civilian sacrifices and contributions”. The Vietnam War could not be stated as the result of a honourable presidential legacy, many mistakes by different leaders were made previously to the war, and the war did not result into any advantages towards the country or its economy. The memorial has a flagpole, which states: THIS FLAG REPRESENTS THE SERVICE RENDERED TO OUR COUNTRY BY THE VETERANS OF THE VIETNAM WAR. THE FLAG AFFIRMS THE PRINCIPLES OF FREEDOM FOR WHICH THEY FOUGHT AND THEIR PRIDE IN HAVING SERVED UNDER DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES. Civilian sacrifices were definitely made during the war, but mostly not by choice, men did not have the choice to serve, if they did not want to they would have to serve time in prison. The meaning of the National Mall and the meaning of the casualties during the Vietnam War are not the same, but the memorial has still managed to get 3 acres of the National Mall. The casualties are hereby put in a more favorable position for the American Government, having created the image of proud and honorable deaths, when in fact America lost more men than it could afford. The fight for freedom has been and still is one of America’s most important missions, and almost every war, in whatever way they are fought, has had the same underlying reason. The wall has been referred to as an image of “a black gash of shame”, for the fact that it shows how many of America’s own men it takes to fight for freedom. In conclusion, the placing of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial in the National Mall is the controversial side of the Memorial, as it is not something to be proud of, however has been treated more so because of it.


Vietnam in Poetry

http://www.vietnamexp.com/Vietnam%20Poetry.html

"A web site that shares the emotional and spiritual experiences of the Vietnam War through poetry, stories, and photos by combat veterans."

There are a great number of poems on this site which are about the loss of friends and the missing soldiers. One particular poem (On losing friends by William Norman Janes, Sr.) had a note beforehand stating that the poem was not created out of pride but out of grief and how they felt shame when they lost people they cared about.
Another (Rock and Roll Warriors by Dr. Jerry Komar) comments on the stress and the after effects that Vietnam had on those who managed to survive. They would often turn to "smack and Jack" because they couldn't handle the flashbacks and memories. "nightmares of fallen heroes, their time warp dance began. Living here, but being there." Dinosaur by Keith Bodine is another of many which concentrate on the difficulty of leaving Nam behind. "I am a dinosaur in a modern world, Looking for something I can’t unfurl. I’m ready to go and enter "That Door", Then maybe my mind will be at ease once more."

There was one poem which stood out more than the rest, entitled "There is one patrol still out" by Frank. J. Montoya. It comments on those who were missing in action or captured and how it wasn't even known as to why they were in this war and what they were fighting for.

A Squad on a mission to search and destroy.

A Bomber Crew making a run to Hanoi.

A Gunner on the Mekong in a gunboat of steel.

A Green Beret, a Medic, a Navy SEAL.

A Marine on a hillside at the Siege of Khe Sanh.

A Chopper Crew at a landing zone...the list goes on.

They went forth to do battle and stayed where they fell.

Or spent their last desperate days in a dark prison cell.

They were called on to serve in that strange distant land

For reasons some of them never did quite understand.


The support and respect they would need to pull through

Came too little, too late, and was expressed by too few.

It's so sad there were many like these left behind.

Although no longer with us, they are still on our mind.

Each one is a hero, every brave, valiant soul.

For these are the members of THE LAST PATROL.

Their spirits cry out in anguish: "Why can't WE return home?"

As through the jungles and highlands they restlessly roam.

They haunt the rubber plantations, the rice paddies too,

The streets of Saigon, the Delta, all those places they knew;

Like the Ton Son Nhut Airfield, R & R at Vung Tau,

The Repple Depot at Long Binh....just vague memories now.

A flag with a Silhouette honors the POW, the MIA.

And we search for them still, even up to this day.

What's the number of bracelets that many people yet wear,

Bearing names of our warriors that we left over there?

Will they ever return? No... Not likely, not now.

But their loved ones still hope that maybe, someday, somehow,

A discovery could close this sad chapter of life,

And bring peace to parents, a sibling, a child or a wife.

If as a Nation, we could say: "You did not die in vain.

We gratefully honor your sacrifice, your courage and pain".

Perhaps, then those sad souls could rest,
no more have to roam,

And our LAST PATROL, in spirit,
could finally be welcomed home.





Musical Interpretations of the Vietnam War in the 80's.



Paul Hardcastle - 19

19 was a Number 1 hit single in 1985, depicting his opinion on America's involvement in the Vietnam War, and the treatment of the Vietnam veterans by the U.S.A. Paul Hardcastle is a British composer and musician, therefore giving an outside perspective of the Vietnam War. It is clear from the song that Hardcase see's America's involvement as a negative involvement in a pointless war. There are no subliminal messages hidden within it and there's no need to read between the lines to understand its meaning as this is an out and out, in your face anti-war song.

One of the main anti-Vietnam issue's Hardcastle was trying to get across is the age of the soldiers that had no choice but to enlist into the American Army and fight in Vietnam for a cause not known but most. The song starts with quoting "In 1965 Vietnam seemed like just another foreign war,but it wasn't. It was different in many ways, as so were those that did the fighting. In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was 26... In Vietnam he was 19.In inininininin Vietnam he was 19". The lyrics are the spoken words of American TV presenter Peter Thomas taken from a television documentary about post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by Vietnam War veterans.

The second issue is realised when the song goes on to quote "Hundreds of Thousands of men who saw heavy combat in Vietnam were arrested since discharge. Their arrest rate is almost twice that of non-veterans of the same age. There are no accurate figures of how many of these men have been incarcerated.But, a Veterans Administration study concludes that the greater of Vets exposure to combat could more likely affect his chances of being arrested or convicted. This is one legacy of the Vietnam War" followed by "All those who remember the war, they won't forget what they've seen. Destruction of men in their prime whose average was 19".

Later on in the song, it says "Perhaps the most dramatic difference between World War II and Vietnam was coming home. None of them received a hero's welcome". This shows another negative reaction towards the Vietnam War. With the Vietnam War being a key area of anti-war protesting, when the veterans returned, they were not necessarily welcomed with open arms, which often, along with the other mentioned factors, started psycological problems for the veterans.This is shown when it quotes "Half of the Vietnam combat veterans suffered from what Psychiatrists call Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. Many vets complain of alienation, rage, or guilt".


All these quotes in Hardcastle's song show all the negative impacts the Vietnam War had on the veterans. The veterans that fought for America in the Vietnam War were forced to see horrific sights such as burning down Vietnamese villages and the natives, at such an early age (19 according to this song). The sights they had seen often scarred the veterans mentally for life, and when they arrived home and given the cold soldier, they were forced to cope with what the American government had thrown them into, by themselves. Being completely isolated upon their return mixed with the visions left in their head and forcing to kill for no known reason, ("Dad had no idea what he went to fight and he is now, All we want to do is come home") shows the mental 'destruction' of the veterans Hardcastle is talking about in his song.


Nonetheless, Hardcastle certainly got his point across with repeated use of the word, `destruction' and gave listeners food for thought by highlighting the on-going mental battle still being fought by many returning soldiers long after the physical war was over. The success of the hot from 1985 helped to raise and spread awareness of the conditions the Vietnam veterans were welcomed home with, showing the power and influence of media and its ability to shape public opinion.

1980's films on the Vietnam War


  The 1980's saw a number of films released about the Vietnam War, most notably the critically acclaimed Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Good Morning Vietnam. The Vietnam War was depicted in many different ways through the art of film. Good Morning Vietnam brought a comedic twist to the Vietnam War film genre whilst Platoon focused not just on the war itself but also the effect it was having on the people of America whilst showing that the real enemy of the American people was not the Vietcong but the social unjust in America itself. It showed social unjust in the military as an example of American society at the time. In Platoon the character Taylor begins to see the naivete of his views of the war, especially after a quick search for enemy troops devolves into a round of murder and rape. This can be seen as the character portraying the American public being unaware to the real tragedies of war and then being exposed to it via television.


"Platoon was the first of three high-profile films to arrive on the scene during a nine-month period. In the near wake of Stone's feature, which arrived in theaters in December 1986, were Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (in June 1987) and John Irvin's Hamburger Hill (August 1987). Both were effective movies, but neither came close to capturing the essence of what Platoon achieved. Those who were in Vietnam have described this as a "flashback." Those who have never been there get a vivid, you-are-there depiction of those things that don't make it into the history books." -  http://www.reelviews.net/movies/p/platoon.html


Good Morning Vietnam came out in 1987 around the same time period as films such as Platoon and whereby most films made about the Vietnam War were serious portrayals of the grim reality of the war, Good Morning Vietnam is however a comedy adding a bit more light heartedness to the time. This is not to say that the film does not have its moments of tragedy and blood shed but rather than focus on apsects such as those its focuses more on the relationship between the lead character with his fellow Americans and also the normal Vietnamese people. There are multiple scenes with Robin Williams character interacting with the Vietnamese people, joking around and even forming friendships and making connections with them. This shows the human side to the war and that Americans and Vietnemese are people who can co exist and get along together. There are also moments in the film where they print out news and then edit out parts which they dont want people to know about, Robin Williams character is involved in a bombing and is told to not mention it on his radio show as if nothing had ever happened eventhough this event took place just hours earlier. He later exposes truths about the events on his radio show as he cannot understand why the truth is being hidden, this can be seen to mirror the outrage of how Americans felt as they were being left out in the cold when it came to the facts of the war.






With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept



Orange Crush is a song by American Band R.E.M which was realised in 1988. Even though the song reached number 1 it was never realised commercially in the US. The song also did very well in Britain at the time being its highest chart hit, not only the song affecting Americans but British people as well. The song is about Vietnam War in reference to the use of the Chemical defoliant known as Agent Orange. The effects of the US Military use of this chemical spread cost Vietnam 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects. The frontman of the band R.E.M, Michael Stripe had said in an interview that the Orange Crush music video is about a young American football player leaving the comforts of home for the war in Vietnam that has nothing to do with the American people.

During the war of Vietnam 2.5 Million people were killed and Millions more missing. There has never been a war before that has divided the American Public like this war which had more bombs dropped than all of World War II. Americans had seen the aftermath of the war themselves through the TV and other media's alike. It had also pushed the US Economy to the limits and costing the US $167 Billion dollars a year.

Vietnam

http://www.vhpamuseum.org/defaultmenu.shtml

The site above is a website dedicated to those who fought the in the Vietnam War. Within the website there are many pictures from Vietnam children and ariel views to artifacts such as uniforms and Medal of Honours.
"The mission is not to entertain but rather to educate the viewer and provide a glimpse of day to day life for the Pilots and crewman who lived it."

This picture to the left, is just one of the pictures posted by a member of the public. It is a souvenir postcard from Fort Rucker.

"There were 2,197 helicopter pilots and 2,717 non-pilot crewmembers killed in the Vietnam War from all services including Air America."



I chose this site because I felt that you can learn alot by looking through pictures rather than just reading information. Although they have a section called The Bad Guys which is about Vietnam they are paying tribute to they history of this war. It gives Vetrans a place to remember about what they did, reconnect to the past and tell their stories for future visitors.
"There were 2,197 helicopter pilots and 2,717 non-pilot crewmembers killed in the Vietnam War from all services including Air America."
The creaters of this site encourage the public to post images of the aircraft, markings, art work, unit signs, people, places, souvenirs. insignia and sights of the war. With all these memories a story can be told.
The section that caught my eye the most was the Then And Now section where people have sent in photos of themselves or places during the war and then a picture of them today.

"Curt & Old 795 on the LZ Sally VIP Pad mid 1968. Aviation Section, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division"

"Older Curt & Good Old 795 near Atlanta mid 2000 Army Aviation Heritage Foundation. Same guy, same helicopter, same pose, maybe some new parts, but hey....!"

Image courtesy of Curt Knapp

I would advise people to click on thewebsite and listen to the link on the Home page. Vietnam's UH-1 Huey Pilots taken from a talk by Joe Galloway given at a VHPA Memorial Service at The Wall during the VHPA convention in DC. He speaks about how the sound of the Helicopter affected him then and how it still does today.

Vietnam's legacy into the 1980s

'In the mid-1980s, the U.S. and Vietnam increased the frequency of high-level policy and technical meetings to help resolve the POW/MIA issue. The U.S. government viewed this work as a humanitarian obligation. The Vietnamese slowly began to return American remains that they had previously collected and stored; eventually they permitted the U.S. to excavate a few crash sites.'



American military involvement in the Vietnam War officially ended on 15 August 1973. There were, however, ramifications and debates surrounding the conflict that either emerged in, or continued into, the 1980s. The quote above highlights the fact that there was somewhat of an "awakening" - when the conflict in Vietnam once again entered the psyche of the American influentials, and the American public. Culturally, there was a wealth of films and songs centred on, or with links to, the Vietnam war. Uncommon Valor, for instance, is just one example of a film which has its roots based in the repercussions of the Vietnam conflict. An awareness of troops whose locations were subsequently unknown, troops who were classified as "missing in action" came to the fore, and was therefore represented through film. Released in late 1983, Uncommon Valor presents a Marine officer who puts together a team to try to rescue his son, who he believes is among those still held in Laos after the Vietnam War. The film, albeit not widely well-received, is one of many which fits well into an emerging genre of films based on the domestic fallout of the conflict - Rambo I, II and III (1982, 85 and 1988) and Missing In Action (1984), for instance.

The long-lasting effects of the conflict were also evident in music of the decade. Following on from my post from last week, I feel it unavoidable to refer to a particular song which overtly presents residual sentiment - 'Goodnight Saigon,' by Billy Joel:



I have picked out some key lines from the song, with accompanying comment, below:

'And we were so gung ho to lay down our lives' - highlighting the evident level of patriotism . Indeed, the video features pronounced images of the American flag, and photos symbolising a distinct level of comradery. In the initial stages, there was (and had to be) a feeling the the war was justified and that the cause fought for was just.


'We left in plastic as numbered corpses' - alluding to the number of casualties. The chart on the left shows the number of U.S fatalities. There was a growing sentiment of Vietnam veterans not receiving the support that they were perhaps entitled to. This coupled with the shear number of war dead, and there does seem to be a semblance of "faceless-ness" - the perception that troops were betrayed by their government, with individuals eventually being reduced to being referred to as a mere troop number.

'And we would all go down together' - again, reiterating the increasing feeling of somewhat of an inevitable failure. America does, of course, have a difficult relationship with the idea of "failing" - something which perpetuated the dissatisifaction and anger which reemerged in the 1980s. The time at which this song was released (1983) signifies a point at which the US public were becoming more aware of the plight of veterans and the treatment they received from the powers that be. I, personally, cannot dub this song as a "protest song" per se, purely for the fact that it is commenting on an event which has long ended and it is not aiming to actively casue change. It does however function to comment on and critique residual aspects of the conflict in Vietnam which were beginning to re-enter public awareness.

Contextually, Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City) is the largest city in Vietnam. During the conflict in the country, Saigon was the location of many major combat operations with it being the capital of South Vietnam between 1955 and 1975. South Vietnam, an anti-communist state, fought against the communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong during the conflict in the country. Billy Joel wrote the song as a tribute to many of his friends who had served in the war, but did not serve in the armed forces himself. Therefore, Joel imagines what it must have been like to be embroiled with combat. And, to this end, Joel has been known to bring Vietnam veterans onto the stage when performing this song live, functioning to keep the memories alive, and putting faces to the statistics/anonymous accounts. Commenting on 'Goodnight Saigon,' its producer Phil Ramone said that 'we never thought it would be a hit, but we knew it meant a lot to Billy Joel and to the people we lost in Vietnam. Then later, when he does it once in a while in a show, the place just comes apart. I think that happens a lot that we don't think something will be as powerful and it turns out that it does come out powerful.' [ http://thecelebritycafe.com/interviews/phil_ramone.html ]



The precise details of each example demonstrating longstanding feeling concerning the Vietnam war, of course, have credence. But what is potentially more revealing, however, is the proliferation of said examples. If one takes the idea that "art mirrors life" as realistic, the very fact that there were numerable productions based on the events in Vietnam demonstrates somewhat of a revival in anti-Vietnam feeling.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bruce Springsteen and Green Day



Springsteen's 1984 song Born in the USA was commonly mistaken for a patriotic and nationalistic anthem, although the lyrics in reality represented a generation dissatisfied with government still recovering from the aftermath of the Vietnam war.

'Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man'

The lyrics are very political and refers in some ways to the treatment of veterans that returned to the USA after the war and the ill treatment they received:

'I'm ten years burning down the road Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go'

The music video shows a live concert mixed in with mid-1980s scenes of working-class America, emphasizing on Vietnam veterans and mixed race 'Amerasian' children- a 'product' of the Vietnam war and not only consensual relationships with, but the rape of Vietnamese women. Springsteen makes reference to Amerasian relationships in the lyrics:

'Had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there he's all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now'

The video montage also includes assembly lines, oil refineries, cemeteries, and Springsteen posing in front of an American flag.



Although it is not as contemporary as some of the other postings, I chose this song because when I think back to music that I think has really had an impact in the past decade or so this came to mind. The song heavily criticizes the state of the United States circa 2004, with lines referencing dissatisfaction with politics of the time (the George Bush administration)and 'biased media' which can be read as a critique of coverage of the war in Iraq.

'Don't wanna nation under the new media
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal mind fuck America

Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alien nation'

The song received good commercial success, readers of the popular alternative Rock/Punk magazine Kerrang! polled the album as best of the decade in 2009. I think that this song did capture the dissatisfaction that many people felt at the time and I feel it will still be relevant in thirty years to describe the decade in terms of opposition to the Bush presidency and the rise of 'propaganda' media covering events such as war.

R.E.M. - Drum and Bass



R.E.M. was an alternative rock band set up in 1980. Alternative rock is a sub genre of rock that formed in the 1980’s to categorize rock bands that had no specific style and stayed distinct from mainstream music. Many alternative bands only stayed popular around colleges and had underground concerts; eventually this style of music got the name of ‘college rock’. R.E.M. was the only alternative rock band that gained mainstream success, and many of their songs have remained popular up to the present day. Punk rock, mostly known from the 1970’s laid the groundwork for the genre of alternative rock, as a genre of independent, almost D.I.Y. bands. Alternative music therefore was never completely identifiable, until R.E.M. gained popularity for the music genre in the 1990’s after which alternative music became widely mainstream.
R.E.M. became famous for the style of music rather than the lyrics. Most of the lyrics were written with a laidback approach and were not always meant to make sense; one of the band members even called their earlier lyrics “nonsense”. In the late 1980’s, however, R.E.M. started writing political messages as lyrics and were even creating propaganda against the Soviet Union, in coalition with the CIA and organization called Radio Free Europe, which was set up in the 1950’s. One of the most famous songs as propaganda is ‘Radio Free Europe’.

“Beside defying media too fast
Instead of pushing palaces to fall
Put that, put that, put that before all
That this isn’t fortune at all.”
- R.E.M. ‘Radio Free Europe’


The general impact R.E.M. made in the 1980’s was on the birth of alternative music, which is still popular today. The representation they give of the 1980’s can be compared with the representation from ‘Less than Zero’, the ‘blank generation’. The nonsensical, meaningless, often hard to understand lyrics of R.E.M. coincide with the meaningless, and sometimes, nonsensical events described in the novel. R.E.M.’s fans, like most alternative rock bands, were mostly students at American colleges, showing their large impact on the youth culture. Their songs relate to many youth culture ideologies like freedom (from parents, religion etc) as well as happiness and love. An example of this being one of R.E.M.’s most popular songs ‘Shiny Happy People’.


At a first look, a comparison with a contemporary alternative music video would be the obvious. However, more strongly, R.E.M. and other alternative rock bands like The Pixies, were part of the revival of underground music, which originates from the 1960’s. Due to insufficient funds among colleges to have bands play, many bands performed in house parties and at communities. With minor exceptions like the rebellious underground music scenes in several states across the country, the underground music remained unknown to the mainstream music industry throughout the 80’s, which was exactly its purpose, to stay underground. However, underground music has a slightly different meaning nowadays. Today, underground is more a lifestyle rather than a group of unidentifiable genres.



Rather than having chosen a particular song, the sub genre of Drum and Bass as a whole will represent the contemporary thirty years from now. Drum and Bass has its roots in the 1980’s, relating back to Old School Jungle. A 21st century culture of an increasing nightlife made Drum and Bass mainstream rather than underground, which is the way in which R.E.M. started off. Drum and Bass, as well as many other sub genres of Electro Music, mark the start of a different music culture, which is less concerned with lyrics and more concerned with the music, and in particular the feeling the music gives you.


Even though R.E.M. and Drum and Bass are two completely different genres, in essence, R.E.M. and Drum and Bass both have the same audience (youth), and the same idea behind the music. This idea being that the music is not made to make money or to provoke a certain meaning, the music is for leisure, and therefore has remained underground before becoming mainstream.

Jackson and Beyonce



For my blog post this week I have chosen a music video from the 1980s which for me represents, and to an extent defines, the era. Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video was released on the 2nd December 1983 to U.S. audiences, premiering on the revolutionary MTV and becoming an immediate and huge hit. The nearly fourteen minute long music video directed by John Landis was made especially for the ‘new era’, MTV Generation and was an instant success, leading to more than 800,000 copies of the record being sold each week after its release. In turn the ‘Thriller’ album itself – Jackson’s sixth studio album – went on to become (and remains to this day) the best-selling album of all time.
The now infamous video begins showing Michael on a date at the movies. However, when the movie (a zombie thriller) becomes too scary for his date, they leave the cinema only to begin their own zombie filled journey home – a journey which sees the now well recognised ‘Thriller’ dance unfold. In 2009 (twenty six years after its release) Jackson’s video was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress – the first ever music video to be selected. Not only does this reflect the popularity of the video, but also shows what Jackson is most remembered for and celebrated by in the year of his death.
It’s popularity and success – both at the time of release and in the present day – is what makes Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video significant and representative of the era in which it was made. Its launch in 1983 gained MTV massive audiences, helping to create a new American youth generation, as well as bringing about fundamental changes to the world of music videos – including the so called ‘desegregation’ of MTV. Along with Michael Jackson’s other work, ‘Thriller’ enabled him to break down racial barriers through its MTV appearance. During the early years of MTV, very few black artists were given air time, with Jackson as well as many others struggling to get their videos shown. The head of Jackson’s record label, Walter Yetnikoff, claimed that there was a kind of ‘prohibition of African-American music’.
Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video therefore played an important role in the making of the MTV Generation, as well as helping to ‘desegregate’ the music industry. His huge contribution to, and impact on, the music industry is recognised by millions today who know him as ‘The King of Pop’.




The second music video which I have chosen, and which I think represents the current era is Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’. From her third studio album – ‘I Am Sasha Fierce’ – released in October 2008, Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ single sold more than 6.1 million digital copies worldwide within the first year of release, with its music video becoming as famous as, or if not more so than, the song itself. The video, directed by Jake Nava and choreographed by Frank Gatson and Jaquel Knight, the ‘Single Ladies’ music video premiered on MTV in October 2008 along with the release of the single and has since won several awards, including ‘Video of the Year’ at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
Unlike Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video which tells a story in itself, Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ video is simplistic, for instance featuring no alternative camera shots and no change in scene, as well as no changes to costume, hair and make-up. The video therefore becomes all about the choreography and how it emphasises the song’s lyrics and message.
Since its release, the video has been imitated and parodied by hundreds around the world – including other artists such as Justin Timberlake’s SNL parody and the Jonas Brothers YouTube imitation – and seems to have spawned the first ‘major dance craze’ of the internet age.
Again, I find the popularity and success of Beyonce’s video are what make it significant and representative of the era. She sings a song about the strength and independence of ‘single ladies’ and how women should embrace this rather than wait and rely on men for their happiness. This along with the powerful choreography performed in the video suggest that there is still a movement for women to become more independent and powerful in 21st century society, with artists such as Beyonce leading the way for a change in attitudes towards women, and perhaps especially African-American women.

Thriller and Telephone

Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' was the seventh single from the album of the same name, and the video made history. For the first time, an artist crossed the boundary and decided to mix film-making and music together to create this - an almost fourteen minute long short film.



The first thing to notice is that the music itself doesn't actually start until over four minutes into the video, which reflects the professional idea of the video being a film - it wasn't just about the music, but the story that went with it. It follow Michael Jackson on a date with his girlfriend, where he first of all turns into a werewolf, then later a zombie to scare her. There are breaks in the music throughout the video that develop the narrative to what was at the time and still in a mini-film.

I think the 1980's invention of MTV massively influenced the success of this video and the song itself, as artists finally had a platform in which to express themselves visually too. Because of this platform, music videos became more popular and it became more important for artists to go that extra mile to make them unforgettable. Not only was this video a huge hit at the time, but even now it was voted the most influential pop music video of all time, as it paved the way for a lot of musicians to appeal to their audiences not just musically but with their videos too. I feel like it represents the era of the 1980's not just because of the dodgy haircuts, but because of the need to make a video, because of the explosion of MTV and because of the audience's need for something more than just the song, which is arguable still the case today.



Lady Gaga, whether people like it or not, is one of the biggest and most talked about pop stars in the 21st century - it's a fact. Whether it's debate over her gender, what concoction she'll turn up in at the next awards ceremony or anticipation for her latest videos, she has come from the backstage area of songwriting, and developed into her own superstar. Not her first video but certainly one of the most talked about, is 'Telephone'. This collaboration with "Honey B", Beyonce showcased her (questionable) acting talent and the narrative of the video continues on from where her last single, 'Paparazzi', left off. Having killed her boyfriend, Gaga is sent to jail, from which she is bailed out by Beyonce. The pair then go on a Thelma and Louise style mission to kill some more, then perform a perfectly choreographed dance routine in a diner full of dead bodies (as you do). Much like 'Thriller', the music very much merges in with the dialogue and narrative, instead of the other way around. Before the video was released there was a countdown to it being played (interestingly enough on MTV) and Gaga released stills from the video on her website as a teaser for her fans. The relentless and shameless product placement in the video was reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis - either 'American Psycho' or 'Less Than Zero' - you don't have to read two pages without finding reference to a popular brand name or designer label. The fact that the video includes so many objects like Coca Cola, Polaroid and Virgin Mobile means that even if in thirty years time these brands don't exist (unlikely), they will be remembered, much like the video, in my opinion. At nine and a half minutes long, I think you'd be hard pushed to find another artist who could conjure up this kind of bizarre but brilliant concept for a video. James Montogomery from MTV said, "With 'Telephone', Gaga has entered the rarest of pop stratospheres, up there with the Madonnas and the Michael Jacksons" and I think he's right. When the video came out there was a lot of talk about how similar it was with the 'Thriller' video, with the idea of a mini film and a narrative to go along with the lyrics of the song.

What I found interesting though, was that Michael Jackson broke through the barriers of music and video to create the infamous 'Thriller' video, and won awards at the time for it, whereas Gaga did the same for this decade - tried something new - and a lot of controversy formed because of it, and she was slated by many for many different reasons. It is interesting to look at the two decades and see why change was accepted in the 1980's, but arguably not today.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

80's Rock and Contemporary Pop...



Guns N' Roses, arguably one of the biggest and most successful bands to come out of the 80's is now an iconic symbol of the time period because of several factors, all of which can be seen in the video 'Welcome to the Jungle' released in 1987. Firstly Guns N' Roses clearly represent the fashion of the 1980's with their big hair, ripped and leather trousers and assortments of unbuttoned waist coats and shirts along with other items. The fashion however is not the only component to this as the fashion is simply an accompaniment to the persona the band wishes to convey of hyper sexualised males, living a party/drug fuelled lifestyle and breaking away from the mainstream as much as possible.

The lyrics of the song also attribute to this image which is so iconic of the 80's, sex is an overt theme throughout the video/song as is violence. Several key lines from the song convey these themes and also make a significant statement about what was relevant in the 1980's. "If you got the money honey we got your disease" is a key line in the song as it is clearly referring to the purchase of illegal drugs, the drugs being the 'disease' but could also be interpreted as a comment on aids. "I wanna watch you bleed" is another key line in the song which displays the connection between sex and violence in the song as well as the simple fact that again the line can be interpreted as having an underlying sexual meaning. The line "You can have everything you want but you better not take it from me" is also interesting to analyse as it links fittingly with the movie Wall Street, another iconic symbol of the decade but is also in complete opposition of everything Guns N' Roses represent, or so it would seem. This is perhaps suggesting that the world of ruthless capitalistic gain at the expense of others is not so different from the drug fuelled world of heavy rock. Finally, in regards to the lyrics of the song, the final line "It's gonna bring you down" is significant as it reveals the self-awareness of everything that is wrong with the decade and the lifestyles of the 80's will eventually result in the downfall of the parties involved, but the care free attitude of the band suggests that they know this inevitable downfall is coming but rather than change their lifestyle they're going to enjoy it until that point.

Finally the content of the video itself is significant as it contains actuality footage of current events occurring at the time, specifically footage of wars, uprisings and police brutality. This is significant as the video is clearly as well as expressing its fondness for sex, drugs and rock n' roll also comments on what is wrong with America in this decade.



The music video i have chosen which I feel will either represent contemporary 2012 in thirty years time or still be relevant with contemporary audiences in thirty years time is Justin Bieber's song 'Baby'. This is because of an article I read suggesting that Justin Bieber is the Beatles of the 21st century as he is able to captivate with such intensity and fandom the same audience the Beatles had in the 60's. This combined with Bieber's age leads me to believe, as sad as it may be, Justin Bieber will likely be relevant and successful in thirty years time, hopefully producing better music.

However there is another element behind choosing this video, the content of the video itself is actually quite revealing in comparison to the Guns N' Roses video of 87'. This is because as i stated, Guns N' Roses had a distinct fashion sense which was centred at breaking away from the mainstream, whereas Justin Bieber in contrast is as mainstream and... branded as it is possible to get, whilst emulating another star of the 80's Michael Jackson who also had a 'unique' fashion sense. My final reason for choosing Justin Bieber is that the future will undoubtedly either bring about change and innovation in regards to the music industry in which Bieber's other talents e.g. being able to play the guitar and piano will play a bigger part in his recording than his hair style. Or the future will bring about more of the same, in which case Bieber's auto-tuned, monotonously repetitive and uninspiring rendition of 'baby' may become a timeless classic, auto tune perhaps replacing the synthesisers of the 80's. The fact that 770,000,000 people (twice the population of the US) chose to watch this video would suggest that Bieber perhaps has more longevity than is currently apparent and those 770 million people know something people above the age of 14 are missing out on.

http://www.examiner.com/tv-in-national/justin-bieber-compared-to-the-beatles-by-american-idol-mentor

Techno is a genre of music believed to have originated largely in Detroit in the mid-1980s. With influences coming from genres such as funk, disco and European house music, Detroit DJs developed the deep, repetitive and bassy sound that came to be known as techno. The song posted above is an example of "Detroit techno" by one of the earliest artists in the genre, Juan Atkins, recording under the name Model 500. Electronic music was becoming increasingly popular at the time, with synthpop bands like the Eurythmics and soft cell beginning to gain popularity through the newly created MTV. Techno and house music utilised the same new technology, drum machines and synthesisers, as the more mainstream bands, but instead creating a new underground scene.


Electronic music is today becoming more and more mainstream. House music in particular is beginning to rise in popularity in mainstream music with artists such as Duck sauce, comprised of Armen Van Helden and A-track. "Anyway" shows very clearly the influences of funk and disco in the genre. There are several contemporary examples of artists making mainstream pop-house tracks today in America and having huge success. LMFAO and Yolanda Be Cool are two other notable examples. These artists all clearly take huge influences from early house and techno music, and are taking the genre mainstream by making their music a lot more accessible to the casual listener.

With the rise of youth club culture today most mainstream artists are striving to incorporate electronic house and techno beats into their music, in order to make their tracks club friendly. Chris Brown is a good example of this, starting off his career as an RnB singer, today he is collaborating with house DJs like Benny Benassi and making music more akin to house. He is just one example of a large number of RnB and hip-hop artists cashing in on the trend. Although there are some Detroit Techno DJs around today who are still holding the torch for the genre and continuing the growth of the underground scene, most notably Theo Parrish, who still makes the kind of funk influenced techno which brought about the genre, and still keeps the genre popular among contemporary audiences.



Billy Joel and Local Natives

'We Didn't Start The Fire' - Billy Joel, 1989.

'We Didn't Start The Fire' by Billy Joel was released in September 1989 with its inspiration emerging from Joel turning forty. Retrospectively, we now know that the song was released in the final year of the Cold War Era, with the song proving to have emerged at an appropriate time. Joel acknowledges that he gained inspiration for the song by looking back at the key events which had occurred over the first forty years of his life: 'I started doing that as a mental exercise. I had turned forty. It was 1989, and I said, "Okay, what's happened in my life?"' [Bill DeMain, In Their Own Words: Songwriters Talk About the Creative Process, p.119]. The lyrics are hard to follow, but no one could fail to notice the vast amount of references to historical figures and events from the forty years up to 1989. Our interest here, of course, concerns events in the 1980s and this song's significance as a "1980s song." That said, to gain an awareness of the themes and events eluded to, and therefore the song's message, some key details are listed below:
- 1949: Harry Truman is inaugurated as U.S. president after being elected in 1948
- 1950: Studebaker, a popular car company, begins to enter financial difficulties
- 1950: Television begins to become popular, and subsequently the most effective advertising medium
- 1959: Buddy Holly dies in a plane crash, having a devastating impact on the country and youth culture
- 1963: John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas
- Mid-1960s: Birth control ("the pill") first goes on the market
- 1974: The Watergate Scandal, which eventually led to Richard Nixon's resignation
- Mid-1970s: The Punk Rock era of music began

The song is now seen by many to act as a defiant rebuttal to criticism of Joel's "Baby Boomer" generation. The "fire" in question is taken to represent conflict and social turmoil, with Joel asserting that developing problems should not be blamed on his generation alone -'we didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning,' The generation in question has been characterised as the most selfish generation in the history of the country, with them also being blamed for financial and political turmoil, through, for instance, the persistent protests, riots and what is seen to be anarchic behaviour. Matthew Paull, for instance, notes that Baby Boomers 'taught the world that much good can come from organizing groups in support of causes for the greater good. Somewhere along the way, the greater good has been ignored, while organizing for self-interest continues to have great success. The information age has made it much easier to organize, influence, and empower narrow self-interest groups' [ http://www.tnr.com/article/economy/94550/baby-boomers-selfish-social-security-welfare-capitalism?page=0,1 ]. Accompanying this, Abby W. Schnachter feels that '[t]he real problem is that these [...] selfish individuals are about to bankrupt the nation because they will be drawing on Social Security at a time when that program is nearly bankrupt, and the number of workers paying into the system is declining' [ http://www.nypost.com/p/blogs/capitol/boomers_are_still_me_me_me_after_17KAVLcqLPahLQ7VXZhkCM ].

The song, of course, also makes reference to events from, and issues arising in, the 1980s:
- Wheel of Fortune has been the highest-rated syndicated programme since 1983.
- Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter space.
- 'Heavy metal suicide': The 1980s saw several bands such as Judas Priest and Metallica being brought to court by parents who accused the musicians of hiding subliminal pro-suicide messages in their music.
- 'Homeless vets': Many Vietnam War Veterans were reportedly left homeless and not looked after, with some viewing this as continued evidence that the country still had not accepted the fact the country failed to be successful in the conflict.
- AIDS epidemic
- Crack cocaine use increased markedly in the 1980s and came to be synonymous with the decade
- 'Hypodermics on the shore': Medical waste was found washed up on beaches in New Jersey after being illegally dumped at sea, which has been cited as one of the turning points in popular opinion on environmentalism.
- 'Rock-and-roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore!': Soft drink giants Coke and Pepsi each began running high profile marketing campaigns using rock & roll stars to reach the young adult demographic.

By referencing many topical issues, the song can now been seen as something of a critique, working to make reference to events that dominated the decade. What was history to Billy Joel in 1989 is still history to us now, giving the song a distinct air of timelessness. It is still relevant today, with many references in the song still in the psyche of the American (or even Western) population today, whether they lived through all (or some) of the events, or not. It invites reflection, and can work to encourage people to ask questions about American culture, criticise it where necessary, and find out more. The last year of any decade always invites reflection. America has a new President, the Cold War era was coming to end and this song does seem to have come at the juncture between, potentially, an "old" and "new" world, symbolising a shift in mindset as the 1990s approached.

'Airplanes' - Local Natives, 2010.

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Finding a song that epitomises contemporary culture unsurprisingly proved to be difficult. I chose 'Airplanes' by Local Natives as it is a personal favourite, I can relate to the lyrics and it embodies things concerning music, which I hope shall continue to be taken forward.

Songs which we now deem to be "classics," songs which represent and speak of the era in which they were released are only fully realised retrospectively. When choosing a song, therefore, that I would like to think would be well-received in the future, I chose one from a band, potentially not overly well-known, who are writing songs purely because they enjoy writing them. In other words, the genre of music of recent times which I personally tend to favour, originates from artists who seem to remain "under the radar." There has been a resurgance in recent years of artists either not using conventional ways to diffuse their music (using YouTube to gain a fanbase, rather than sending a demo tape to a producer, for instance) or preferring to perform intimate gigs, and those who do not buy into the music industry as a corporate business. Thankfully, there does seem to have been a shift away from producing music (in certain areas of the domain) which fits a certain "ideal" to shift records and rank highly in the charts. Finding artists in a more traditional, yet modern, way is now also seen as "normal" - in other words, finding music from peers' suggestions and networking, rather than buying into generic, corporate, glossy, polished performers who have been pushed into the spotlight for financial gain is now preferred amongst a notable percentage of, especially, the younger consumers of music.

Local Natives are an indie rock band based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, with their music being described as 'glimmering Afropop-influenced guitars with hyperactive drumming and hooky three-part harmonies' [ http://pitchfork.com/news/37235-local-natives-sign-to-frenchkiss ]. A shift away from "normal," expected music genres, such as rap, pop, rock, in favour of taking inspiration from a variety of influences is notable here. Something of a "folky" sense can be heard, promting the view that genres of music that seemingly lost favour decades ago, can be reborn and open to new audiences. Local Natives were initially recognised after playing a couple of gigs at a few local festivals/county fairs and receiving positive reviews from peers and soon-to-be fans.

The songs' subject matter, also, can now be more nuancéd, subtle, or even unknown - songs which can be analysed and questioned are now okay. Songs which provoke multiple interpretations are also okay - regimented, one-dimensional songs (where the artist may not perform live, or the focus seems to be more on the "performance" and image rather than the music) now have competition. It is this positive, principle focus on the music that I hope will continue, and I feel has re-emerged over the past couple of years, thanks, in no small part, to technological advances.