In 1982 the Commodore 64 computer was introduced, Ronald Reagan survived being shot, the Falkland War started and ended, Michael Jackson released Thriller, Canada repatriated its Constitution, and the first compact disc was sold in Germany. And that’s not all. Over the course of 1982, I blossomed from a naïve 14 year-old trying to fit in with the cool kids to something much more: A naïve, eyeliner-wearing 15 year-old trying to fit in with the cool kids.
So writes Jian Ghomeshi in this, his first book, 1982. It is a memoir told across ten intertwined stories of the songs and musical moments that changed his life. Obsessed with David Bowie ("I wanted to be Bowie,” he recalls), the adolescent Ghomeshi embarks on a Nick Hornbyesque journey to make music the centre of his life. Acceptance meant being cool, and being cool meant being Bowie. And being Bowie meant pointy black boots, eyeliner, and hair gel. Add to that the essential all-black wardrobe and you have two very confused Iranian parents, busy themselves with gaining acceptance in Canada against the backdrop of the revolution in Iran.
It is a bittersweet, heartfelt book that recalls awkward moments such as Ghomeshi’s performance as the “Ivory” in a school production of Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s Ebony and Ivory; a stakeout where Rush was rehearsing for its world tour; and a memorable day at the Police picnic of 1982. Music is the jumping-off place for Ghomeshi to discuss young love, young heartache, conformity, and the nature of cool. At the same time, 1982 is an entertaining cultural history of a crazy era of glam, glitter, and gender-bending fads and fashions. And it is definitely the first rock memoir by a Persian-Canadian new waver.
n 1982, I lived in Thornhill. That was part of the problem.
Don’t get me wrong. Life was quite reasonable in Thornhill.
At least, for most people it was. It was nice. It was straight.
It was normal. But David Bowie never chose to hang out in
Thornhill. And it wasn’t just because he was too busy being an
inspirational androgynous musical genius rock star.
You see, in 1982, Bowie couldn’t appear in Thornhill for more profound reasons than simple scheduling. It would have been impossible for Bowie to reside in Thornhill, even though he was white and English and financially secure, like many of its denizens. If Bowie were ever seen in Thornhill, and most especially if he’d fancied it, he wouldn’t be Bowie. He would be a fake. He would be just another victim of homogeneity. And there would be headlines in trendy magazines calling him out. NME would do a front-page exposé: “Place Oddity: Thin White Duke Seen Hanging Out in Canadian Suburb! Bowie a Fake!”
But Bowie wasn’t a fake. He was unique. He was Bowie. So he wouldn’t be seen in Thornhill in 1982. He would never have fit in, for all the right reasons. And that’s why Thornhill was a problem.
Let me be clear. I am not a Thornhill detractor. I was not a self-hating Thornhiller. I had many fine experiences growing up in the suburbs. I met my first real girlfriend, Dana Verner, in Grade 5 in Thornhill. We kissed. Twice. I think. Then she broke up with me. Years later, she told me she would’ve stayed with me had she known I’d one day meet John Cusack. I count that as a win. But anyway, Dana Verner was one of the most desirable girls in my Grade 5 class. And I would never have had the chance to kiss her if I’d not been in Thornhill.
Also, I once scored seven goals in a hockey game in Thornhill. Okay, maybe it was just road hockey. And maybe there were only six kids playing, and one of them, Little Charles, was wearing a cast on his arm and couldn’t hold his stick properly. Little Charles had earned his name at Henderson Avenue Public School because he was small. And unrelated to that, he broke his...
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“1982 is a funny and compelling read ... a nostalgic love letter to the 1980s ... examining the meaning of cool, and the role music plays in who we become and who we love.”
— The Globe And Mail
“A truly great read.”
— Toronto Star
“ is equal parts an exercise in Generation X nostalgia ... romantic comedy and coming-of-age tale.”
— National Post
"Heartfelt and well told tales of Lolas and Golden Star burgers and escaping the suburbs with one's dreams intact.”