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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Forward to the Past

"Nostalgia isn't what it used to be," it's been said, but I find that to be a misleading comment. A couple of weeks ago, I commented on the nostalgia craze on the Billboard Dance/Club Chart, for example.  But it is far from the sole example of people being positively aghast at the past.

Walking through the trendy Bloomingdale's Belt in Bloomberg's bountiful borough of Manhattan today, I have to admit the streets were loaded with fashion, hair and make-up styled with an eye towards the '60s and '70s. Both from people old enough to relive the era and the younger crowds. Yes, the styles have been adjusted slightly and, for the mature crowd, tailoring has been let out a little, but the patterns and basic "look" is distinctly based in the '60s & '70s.

Susan Sontag wrote that the camera is addictive, promoting nostalgia while evoking "the sense of the unattainable in the industrialized world." Certainly, our current cultural imagery reveals that, through ad images and on the runway, we are celebrating hand-me-down fashion. Trash with flash! Pictured here is Ronnie Spector, Sixties styling on a 2012 runway in France! (For those who love the '60s girl group music, please check out  .)

There was, it seems, no post-War nostalgia. Eyes were mostly set upon the future; the rebuilding; the new world order of the era.  In the '60s, the inception of our modern concept of Nostalgia began. The faux-Depression fashions of Bonnie & Clyde, then imitated by a public hungry for something old that was could be made new again. The romantic longing for 19th-Century Lord Byron-like long hair; the return of sideburns; the embracing of the past and rejection of the modern by beatnik and hippie culture.

The '70s was a big time for nostalgia of the '30, '40s, '50s and '60s, spearheaded by Bette Midler. As she said at one of her performances at the Continental Baths in the early '70s: "The '60s were a decade. It's gone, right? We are none of us just 10-years-old, are we?" The '60s were swiftly reborn.

The new nostalgia isn't so much about the '30s through the '50s. It's about baby boomer memories and how they've been reinvented by younger generations. And it's a growing craze. The new and re-newed interest in '70s disco music was already on the rise, then grew even greater since the death of Donna Summer last year.  The current desire for melodic songs is what has supported contemporary artists like Adele and the late Amy Winehouse.

Nostalgia may not be here to stay. It never is. It comes and goes with the times, often emerging when the economy is weak. But for now, it's where it's at musically, fashion-wise and in our pop culture. Can you dig it?

Below, Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" by Harper's Bizarre (a hit recorded in '67; this performance from '68, and used as the theme song for the movie The Boys in the Band). Nostalgia for nostalgia for nostalgia....

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