Step Back in Time: Tracing Popular Music, Media and Memory through Kylie Minogue

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It was October 1989 and I had just turned 11. Every Friday after watching Fun House, Rude Dog and the Dweebs, and Knight I was preparing for the youth club, which was held in a local community hall, where we poorly crafted papier-mâché pots or danced to music. It was exciting to see people from school outside, and being a Friday night it gave the club so much energy and promise. To receive it for my birthday on cassette, Kyliethe second album of, Have funquickly established itself as my soundtrack to prepare for this evening, with the songs ‘Wouldn’t change a thing‘, and ‘Never too late‘ injecting some excitement. Even today, when I hear those songs, I’m transported in memories of those times and what I felt at the time – feelings that are so strongly infused in the music that they seem inseparable.

One Friday at the youth club, someone excitedly mentioned that there were newly arrived candies from the United States named M&Ms being sold in the cafe. I had seen these advertisements in Shattering Blowsand, thrilled at the thought of something from America, we reveled in buying packs of them and ate them on the dance floor, munching and dancing to Kylie’s latest chart hits, whitney houston, Richard Marx and Brothers. Kylie, Jason and Neighbors were deeply steeped in school, with break times allowing many to enthusiastically swap stickers from the popular Neighbors sticker album, and open new sticker packs bought together in stores, holding their breath in opening the packs, hoping for the elusive stickers they needed.

Fast forward to a year later and for Christmas 1990 I get Kylie’s third studio album, The rhythm of Love, on cassette as a present from my parents, and I play it while we open our presents. The songs inside, such as ‘Better the Devil You Know’, ‘Step Back in Time’, and ‘Shocked‘, gave a hard-hitting excitement to the day. Even now, this album evokes strong memories for me of that day, and I often seek it out at Christmas to play, using it as a soundtrack to evoke old memories and foster new ones.

And, of course, it always comes down to Shattering Blows. It always will be, for me. Kylie was in the magazine often, and I have vivid memories of her on the cover, with my younger self reading the interviews with titles such as ‘”Corky O’Reilly! It’s Kylie!!!” (July 27, 1988) and ‘This is…Smylie Minogue!!!’ (October 19, 1988). It was these media appearances that added other layers to the music – I was learning the lyrics to my favorite songs that they printed, feeling the pages between my fingers – pages that provided such a gateway to the music and a community with others for whom music meant just as much.

Although Kylie’s music continues to fascinate me and be important to me, her songs have been a constant presence throughout my life as it has unfolded. They buried themselves deep in each changing decade, changing as I moved through life. These reflections demonstrate the argument of C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby that “media texts and technologies help to unite cohorts, define generations and intergenerational differences, and give structure and meaning to our lives as they unfold” (2010: 431). The moving and deeply impressive recent book by Jude Rogers The sound of human being (2022) observes as beautifully as “the songs remind us of all those details of who we’ve been and where we’ve been. We live with them and in them” (p. 284). And so it is, as we unfold, so does the musician, with the music carrying us both through the decades, an invisible thread that connects us, linking music and memory across the time.

References

Harrington, C. Lee and Denise D. Bielby (2010) ‘A Life Course Perspective on Fandom’ in International Journal of Cultural Studies13.5, p. 429–450.

Rogers, J. (2022) The sound of human being. London: White Rabbit.

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