Surveillance clichés (I): The 1980s

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The 1980s were an exceptional moment for popular concern with surveillance, but not all intersections between such concerns and popular music were lucky. In 1980, the widow of George Orwell, who during two decades had been very reluctant to accept any new version of his late husband novel Nineteen EightyFour, died. In 1981 was produced 1984‘, a record by Anthony Phillips, a former Genesis member who was never afraid of 1984 and devoted a whole instrumental record to illustrate such a feeling, with a drumbox and plenty of synth. Also in 1981 saw the light another record with the same title, ‘1984by Rick Wakeman, an English keyboardist who authored this almost conceptual album about Orwell’s novel before describing his opus, many years later, as ‘the wrong album at the wrong time’ (here). In 1984 itself was composed ‘1984 (For the Love of Big Brother)‘, a soundtrack for Michael Radford’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ film by the duo Eurythmics; they had been asked to write the music for the film by somebody from their record company, who got perhaps the idea while watching their video for the song ‘Sweet dreams (are made of this)’ but did not think about obtaining the previous agreement of the film’s director, and so after the record was delivered they realised he who was not happy at all with the idea, nor with the result. Meanwhile, in France, a pop singer who had had one hit song the year before gave it another try, this time with a Europop mid-tempo full of 80s imagery, i.e. flashes, caviar, eau de parfum Guerlain, and a typewriter writing je t’aime: Bibi Flash was her (appropriate) name, and ‘Vie privée‘ the name of her song, which went however relatively unnoticed. In 1987, again in France, a singer called Mercedes Herman published a 12″ with the techno-pop gem ‘Une vie privée publique‘: playing lyrically with the terms ‘private/public life’ and ‘public woman’, it contained the fabulous chorus ‘Suis pas pour une vie privée publique!’.  Apparently nobody heard of her again.


For more music on privacy and surveillance, see also here and here, and Surveillance clichés (II): Heavy metal. For films on privacy and surveillance, see here.