I remember the early February days back in 1986. Last half of the last year of highschool had just begun. Walking home from the bus station after having gone through another day of school. Probably thinking of some movie I had seen – or some book I was reading. Hearing the sound of some song in my head. Softly singing the words to myself. Might have been some tune off of Jackson Browne‘s album Lives In The Balance but it may also have been one from Steve Winwood, John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen. The full catastrophe of our prime minister being shot dead in the street while on his way home from a cinema had yet to hit the nation. Things were pretty good and as normal as normal can be.
Why do I think of this now ? I was watching music video clips on YouTube today and suddenly had some flashbacks from when I first heard the songs.
In those days I was often thinking of some story to write. Settings, characters and themes, bits and pieces of dialogue were floating through my mind while I walked the 2ooo meters back home. Also I was most likely thinking of a certain blonde girl in my class whom I happened to have a big crush on at the time. I had just begun to communicate with her through old-school hand-written letters sent by postal mail. That’s what people did back then. They actually sat down with a pen and paper and wrote letters, folded the paper, put it in an envelope and mailed it. Then they waited a few days for the receiver to read and respond to the letter. It wasn’t all instant like today’s email, chat, twitter and Facebook. Anyway, I had probably just gotten a letter or just sent one and had to think about what would happen next or what the response ought to be. It would still be more than a month before I would get the letter that would shatter my hopes and dreams but for the time being I was happy to have the connection I had.
What else was I thinking about? Probably politics. I had just recently begun to take an interest in political matters and my freshly formed and rather shallow political views were decidedly left-wing. That was one reason why I bought Jackson Browne’s album. Also I had begun to pick up on some political currents in the music of Springsteen and Mellencamp.
Sweden back in those days had a political climate dominated by the ruling Social Democratic Party (Arbetarepartiet Socialdemokraterna) and the mood of the society has since been described as rather dull and bland. However , I liked living in Sweden back in those days. Unemployment was almost zero, taxes were high but the standard of living was also at the absolute top among the nations of the world. Things worked back then. Life was safe and secure and you didn’t have to worry as much as today. Sure there were only two channels of national public service television available and not too many radio channels. But it worked. It was stable. The future looked bright as a job would not be too hard to find once school was finished.
While being a rather dull and bland society, Sweden was and is heavily influenced by American popular culture. To the degree that some critics were saying even back then that Sweden ought to be the 51st state of the United States of America.
We have most of the fast-food franchises (not as many then as there are today), are influenced by American cuisine, we listen to American music, read American books and magazines, follow American sports, watch American TV-shows and of course lots of American movies. We wear clothes influenced by American fashion and we are generally skilled at speaking English.
Being a teenager in Sweden was hence not much different from being a teenager in the United States. At least that was what many of us believed since not many had actually visited the United States or had any real knowledge of what it actually is like to live in the American society. Our image of American life was formed by TV, music and movies and while not entirely false it was by no means realistic. It was a dream or perhaps a kind of illusion we all willingly indulged in. Even those of us who were opposed to the American influence upon the rest of the world.
I’m not sure where I am going with this post so I might aswell end it before I digress further. At least it is a sort of glimpse of a time long gone. Perhaps. Maybe only a lot of words.