The Eighties: A Bitchen Time To Be a Teenager! by Tom Harvey

I’m a sucker for all things eighties and although I wasn’t a teenager for the whole decade (I was for more than half of it), it was a decade of milestones, memories, excellent music and very bad hair. So obviously, when I came across Tom Harvey’s memoir, The Eighties: A Bitchen Time To Be a Teenager!, I couldn’t resist.

Tom is an ordinary bloke who has written a memoir (just in case you were racking your brain to remember if Tom Harvey was a celebrity in the eighties). His experiences were ordinary (except for the time he was an extra in a movie which included the then unknown Brad Pitt); his progression through school and university followed the normal path; and his home-life was pretty much standard. So you may be wondering why you would bother to read this memoir. Well, it’s fun to read someone else’s take on INXS, Animal House and Cabbage Patch Kids, particularly as his memories spark your own.

Without over-thinking it, I jotted down ten of my own memories from the eighties – these were first things that popped into my head when I thought about my life between the ages of 8 and 17.

  • Our family friends (the guy worked in advertising which, in the eighties, meant loads of cash) got a CD player. We’d never seen such a thing. He held the CD aloft and said “See this? You can’t scratch it. You could eat dinner off it and it would be fine.”
  • It’s 1983, I see a film clip for Total Eclipse of the Heart on Countdown and it’s the first time I became completely enthralled in the narrative of a film clip.
  • Australia wins the America’s Cup (1983) and the whole nation stops. My dad wakes me up in the middle of the night to watch. The Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, makes one of the most famous speeches in Australian political history.
  • It’s 1984, I travel overseas for an extended holiday with my family to America and ‘the Continent’ (that’s what we called Europe in the eighties). I bring back a Sony Walkman and some fashion items – a windcheater version of Lady Di’s sheep jumper and fluro socks (fashionably mismatched – one pink, one yellow). My brother gets cross because my parents won’t let him spend his entire holiday budget on a single white sequined glove (a la Michael Jackson).
Same but different (I'm the one on the right)

Same but different (I’m the one on the right)

  • I get my first job in 1987 – I’m selling $15 crinkle-cotton, elastic-waisted pants at Katies, all the while wishing I was down the mall at Sportsgirl or Portmans. With my pay, I save up for my first bottle of ‘real’ perfume – YSL’s Paris.
  • The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
  • My nana takes us to see The God’s Must Be Crazy. My brother and I are cross because we wanted to see Ferris.
  • My first school dance is in 1985. I wore my hair like ONJ in Xanadu (a plait and ribbony arrangement). My first formal is in 1988 – my dress had a black velvet bodice and a red taffeta skirt. My shoes were black patent leather and had bows on the front. I don’t need to supply a picture because you know exactly the look I was rockin’.
  • It’s not the eighties without mention of a particular boy that took up far too much of my thinking time… And I carved his name on my pencil-box #subtle
  • I was supposed to be using my free classes to study chemistry but instead we played Pass the Pigs – my titrations suffered but I still remember the Double Leaning Jowler I scored off the school library window.

This pic is about as eighties-teenage-me as I could find. I think I was 15 or 16. The hair…. very Knot’s Landing…. And you can’t really see but I was wearing aquamarine mascara… eek!


2.5/5 So to the book – it started strongly, finished strongly but flagged a little in the middle.

Fairly certain that Tom was not drinking Midori and lemonade in the eighties, but I was (only at the very, very end of course)!


12 responses

  1. I’m forced to correct: “Animal House” was released in 1978, when I was still in college; at the time, my fraternity brothers thought that the movie was a serious documentary about post-Vietnam campus life in America.

    The 1980’s was a wonderful time to be in your 20’s!

    1980 is when I crossed the river, and started working in New York City…what a great decade to be experiencing Manhattan. I bought my first tuxedo in the early 80’s, when I was “required” to attend black-tie events for my client, Absolut Vodka, which was an American marketing phenomena during that decade. “The vodka took off in the U.S. thanks to its presence in New York’s Studio 54 back in the ’80s. There, the now-iconic bottle caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who created the first of many commissioned Absolut artworks in 1986.”

    I still remember Donald Trump greeting people at the entrance of a ballroom of the famed Plaza Hotel, which he owned at the time…now, he’s a 21st Century nightmare; a potential POTUS!

    Kate…great hair!

  2. Great sweater picture! I had a close friend who was obsessed with Princess Di, and kept a scrapbook of everything about her. I wonder if she still has it… I’m pretty sure she’d be jealous of your sweater. πŸ™‚

    • I think we all had black velvet bodices and the choice was the colour of the skirt! My nan made my dress and used the pattern four times over for my cousins.

  3. I love everything about this post πŸ˜€

    I’m guessing Countdown was some sort of pop chart show? Here in the UK Countdown is a numbers and word quiz, primary audience: pensioners and stoned students. I was a bit confused there for a minute!

    The Total Eclipse video is completely brilliant, but even after all these years I’m utterly baffled by it – what is going on with the American footballers…? And everything else that happens?

    • Although I probably couldn’t stomach Midori and lemonade now (too sweet), I don’t say no to a Japanese Slipper (Midori and lemon juice) πŸ™‚

      Have searched for my Pass the Pigs game – can’t find it but feel I must get a new set for my kids.

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