Nostalgia: it ain’t what it used to be

I was born in 1973, so by the time I got to the end of the Eighties, the Seventies seemed like a strange, dirty-brown mixture of flares, funk, Floyd and three-day weeks.

I remember having a conversation about that decade in the early Nineties: I thought it was ten years of such unrepeatable coolness that I expressed a wish to have been born in the early fifties; the person I was talking to thought it was a decade of shit clothes and daft haircuts. Chacun a son gout and all that.

Anyway, it recently occurred to me that people born around the time I had that conversation would now be able to regard the Nineties from the same distance that I had then observed the Seventies.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of being older and having life speed along a little faster, but I can’t help thinking that the Nineties don’t seem as remote to us now as the Seventies did to me then. The difference between the two decades in many of their facets – politics, music, film, clothing, advertising – felt far greater than the separation of 2011 to 1991 does now. But is that really the case? I can only tell  by asking someone born in the Nineties (or thereabouts). What does the decade of your birth now feel like to you? And what do the Seventies look like? Do they seem as quaint and distant as the fifties seemed to me? Or did I feel that way because the progression from then to the Nineties included many more substantial societal changes?

To me the early Nineties feel like a riot of tasteless colour and the questionable entry of hip hop into the mainstream. Despite the emergence of rock acts such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the overall impression in my memory is summed up by videos like this:

It was all Fresh Prince and Kriss Kross – a cheery mess that took its time getting the hell out of the way so that Seattle and Britpop could take over. Obviously that recollection is particular to me, but it seemed to have a kind of pre-ironic optimism that allowed people to enjoy things without the permanent raised eyebrow of postmodernism that turned up a few years later.

So I’m curious: what are your impressions of the decades gone by? If you’re in your early twenties can you tell us what the Eighties and Nineties look like to you? And if you are a child of the Seventies, how do you look back on the last thirty years?