They say if you can remember the seventies you weren't really there. In a sense, the eighties are the same. 1986 gave us three songs that I remember being only moderate hits, but in retrospect they say more about the social circumstances and state of the world at the time than a lot of other releases that same year.
In 1986 Australia (and the world) was in a massive bear market in its economy. Everyone seemed flushed with money and were more than glad to spend it. History shows that the money that fueled the hedonism of the period was actually funded by bank credit, thus creating a blowout in wages and sending inflation skywards. Yet there was still an insatiable demand for credit and this drove up interest rates to an untenable (for some at least) level of 17% in 1989. The credit demand was also part of the reason that the stock market crashed on October 19th, 1987, and this drove us into "the recession we had to have", so then-federal treasurer Paul Keating kept telling us.
Still, in 1986, credit and decadence were the best mates of many young adults of the period...so they tell me. In 1986 I was 10, so what would I know? Most of this I have gathered retrospectively.
Along with all this fun, of course no one saw a credit crisis looming. Those who engaged in promiscuous sex and drugs at the time could never have seen the other problem looming...AIDS.
The The - "Infected".
Given that "the big disease with a little name" as Prince once called it, was all over the news at the time, it's hard to think of this song as anything but a statement about it. I mean, the very first lyric in the song goes "Infect me with your love". What else are you going to think? Given that the disease is also transferred by intravenous drug users sharing needles the lyrics could support both lines of thought...
David and David - "Welcome To The Boomtown"
"Welcome to the Boomtown" is a more cynical eighties update of the Eagles' track "Life in the Fast Lane", but without the chugging good time music behind it. This track tells of a handful of people, their indulgences and their entitlements and the potential pitfalls. In a sense, this is a perfect song to chronicle the era. It at least documnented all the hallmarks of a boom period. I believe the use of the word "boomtown" is used ironically. Any lifestyle funded on credit for a long period of time will only end in a bust eventually...
V.Spy.V.Spy - "Don't Tear It Down"
While we're on the subject of money, property developers were using a lot of credit to buy up beautiful old city buildings, largely for their land value, demolishing them and building bland skyscrapers in their place. Admittedly some were in a state of disrepair at the time, but in hindsight the meticulous craftwork of tradesmen from years gone by was also demolished in the process. "Don't Tear it Down" was a strident protest song arguing for the heritage listing of many inner city buildings as opposed to knocking them down for the sake of urbanisation.
The 80s were clearly a lot more turbulent that people remember them to be, but at least with the aid of hindsight we can see that. Sometimes perspective is only gained once one is removed from the period being examined...