I turned 15 in 1990, so my “coming of age” technically belongs to the early years of that decade. But even though many of the things that were cool then are coming around again (think ankle booties, high-waisted jeans and 90210), to me the early ’90s will never have much flavor. Sure, I still have love in my heart for Boyz II Men and laughed my arse off when the gang from “It’s Always Sunny” busted out “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” just as my friends and I did in Mindy Fanucci’s Toyota Camry back in the day. But outside of a few hip-hop classics, bare midriffs that included the space between the bottom of the bra and the top of the belly button and the aforementioned 90210, I hold the pop culture of the early ’90s in the same esteem as watching Orlando Bloom act in a movie: mildly exciting at the time, but in the end, wholly forgettable.
So it’s the ’80s that I really call my pop culture home. I wasn’t old enough to be riding around in cars with boys — or even girls, for that matter — when bands like The Go-Go’s were first making it big, but that didn’t stop me from doing it about 10 years after the fact. Many of the big bands from the ’80s were still quite relevant in the early ’90s, and thanks to my older sister, they were very influential in my musical education. When we earned our freedom with our driver’s licenses, my best friend Michelle and I became amateur DJs with our tape decks. Our love for those “goth” bands of the ’90s like The Cure and Depeche Mode led us to pore over their earlier work, and subsequently their ’80s contemporaries. But it was one specific pop culture epiphany that opened our ears to a whole host of face-painted, spiky-haired, oversize-duster wearing ’80s new wavers. “Valley Girl”.
I know I watched this movie way before I had any business watching this movie. But it wasn’t until I saw it again in high school that I realize the magnitude of it’s total awesomeness. I loved the adorably wry Nicholas Cage (sadly, the second-to-last time I could say that about him) and the cute-as-a-button girl who played the lead Julie (and sort of faded into obscurity afterward). I committed the over-the-top Valley dialogue to memory. But I obsessed over the soundtrack. The movie is filled with poppy synth from the likes of Josie Cotton and Modern English and hard rockin’ beats from the Plimsouls and Pat Travers, and I could not get enough of any of it. I searched high and low for a soundtrack. I didn’t have the luxury of Wikipedia to know that a full-length soundtrack was never released due to royalty conflicts with many of the artists. So it wasn’t until months after my search began that I saw the album cover, beaming like a beacon of light from high on the wall at Rockaway Records in Mesa. I was nearly hyperventilating as I asked the woman behind the counter if it was for sale. Yes, she informed me, for something insane like $300 (the exact amount escapes me now). No wonder I had never seen it before.
Long, long story short: Rhino Records must have felt my pain, because it released “Valley Girl: Music From the Soundtrack” in 1994. I wore out my CD and many of those songs remain on regular rotation on my iPod.
Here are some of my favorites: