Why do we miss the ’80s? Because they were the last blast of freedom before our age of eternal wokedom

Why do we miss the ’80s? Because they were the last blast of freedom before our age of eternal wokedom. By Julie Burchill.

A survey by King’s College has found a whopping two-thirds of people are nostalgic for my favourite decade, when beer cost 67p a pint, the average house price was £27,500 and the sky was the limit for every self-promoter, from Mrs Thatcher to my humble self.

The 80s were a free-for-all — not just free meaning unbridled (deregulation, privatisation) but free as in freedom of expression, to a degree which makes these days seem like the Dark Ages.

Yes, inflation and interest rates were high, but so were wages. …

‘Sexy greedy is the late 80s,’ said a character in Caryl Churchill’s play Top Girls. She said it like it was a bad thing! I always preferred the Gordon Gekko spin: ‘Greed is good.’

There was something so honest about 1980s capitalism, as opposed to the mealy-mouthed habit of modern corporations showing off their sensitivities — M&Ms banishing ‘sexualised’ female sweets, Ben & Jerry endlessly wagging their fingers in our faces with one hand while shovelling sugar into our mouths with the other and, of course, the humble Knorr stock cube boasts that they are ‘reinventing food for humanity’. …

The 80s were so unashamedly avaricious, even the Buddhists — the 80s religion of choice for media mediocrities — chanted for money.

Though I moved in a small and visible group of Soho pleasure-seekers, there was a get-up-and-go feeling in the country as a whole. I’ll never forget going home to Bristol in 1986 to find my father — an avowed Communist — showing off about having bought shares in the newly privatised British Gas …

The music! There have been no big pop bands formed since 1990. The big acts like U2 or the Rolling Stones are so old now, but nothing has arisen to replace them.

The two biggest bands were Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran: you had to choose whether you were a ‘Spandie’ or a ‘Durannie’, most girls choosing the latter due to the shockingly attractive John Taylor.

Duran Duran. Clothes and cars were more colorful in the ’80s. Look at cars now — mostly black, gray, or white.

What’s the choice now? Sam Smith or Ed Sheeran! They wouldn’t have been allowed to be roadies in the 80s.

Ed Sheeran.

When George Michael (our best songwriter) and Diana of Wales (our pop princess) got matey, we were in heaven, seeing them share a joke and apparently a hairdresser, too.

In keeping with the can-do attitude of the times, several hit films were sexed-up Cinderella stories, in which an outsider gets a makeover and conquers all — Working Girl and Dirty Dancing.

These days, naked ambition is not seen as nice — and young actresses who moan about their ‘vulnerability’ and ‘anxiety’ rather than boasting about their beauty have replaced the shoulder-padded vamps of the 80s. …

Virtue signalling was not yet a thing:

I’ve always found virtue-signalling repulsive — even before the phrase existed — and the 90s is where it began, eventually leading us to the stifling atmosphere of #BeKind OrElse witch-hunts that plague social media and the public sphere.

The 80s were brilliant from a hedonistic viewpoint, but they also gave one that sense of unbounded freedom so sorely lacking now. … Comedians feel the need to ceaselessly signal how pure-hearted they were by apologising for everything. …

Growing up as a working-class female in the 1970s, I was expected never to express myself. And after a few glorious decades of freedom, I suddenly find myself in that situation again. Like when I was a child, I’m being told what I can and can’t say, except now the scolders are younger than me. …

Though Aids was new and scary, we all knew we were on the same side: against ignorance. Women could see gay men as oppressed and sexually censured just like they were — without suffering the menace of today’s trans activists, who seek to beat us at sports and join us in our lavatories.

It was the last great decade of fun and freedom: after people realised that racist and sexist jokes were stupid but before the echo-chamber nit-picking of today. They were simpler times. We lived fully in every moment, without the distractions of social media and entertainment-streaming.

No “smart” phones, so people lived in the here and now:

When I first saw a ‘portable telephone’ — the size of a brick — I remember a group of us sitting around it, poking it with fascination, like the monkeys at the start of 2001: A Space Odyssey. …


I’m in my 60s now, living somewhat sedately on the South Coast, and never feel nostalgic for the past: I’ve had enough fun, love and money for nine lives.

But I do wish that the poor, ambitious youth of today could experience the easy sex, easy money and easy life that for me characterised the shimmering, savage 80s rather than the censorious, atomised landscape of today which is their barren playground.

The 80s was such a full-on era, it seems weird that people today remember them as a more ‘easy-going’ time. But compared to today’s culture wars, they really do seem a land of lost content.

The ’80s were before the virtuals becoming the ruling class, and before the great realignment when the left dropped the working class (the physicals) and became the party of the bureaucrat and their allies and government dependents.