Family room, New Year’s Day, January 1987
As midnight struck, I stepped onto the patio and breathed in 1987. The tiles were still warm beneath my fourteen-year-old feet, but the New Year’s air had the simmering cool of night after a hot summer’s day. Lungs still full, I stepped back into the family room, where my brother was watching TV. Deep, ominous synth notes were ringing out, and the screen was cutting between a moving shot over water and a band I recognised as the Models. The first guitar chords began, and I sank onto the couch to watch the video of Hold On for the very first time.
Listening to your favourite tracks wasn’t easy for a teenager in the ‘80s. In the era before iTunes, I would have had to buy an entire Models album to get a copy of Hold On. I had very little money and close to no access to music shops, so I resorted to my usual trick: listening to the Top 40 with fingers poised on the Play and Record buttons, waiting for the DJ to play the songs I wanted. After a night of impatience and hand cramps, I secured a recording which started halfway through the first deep synth note and ended with the Take 40 Australia jingle. Like all the best songs, I played it with my door shut and lights out so the music filled the room.
I never saw the 1980s acts I loved in their heyday. A more streetwise teenager might have gone to gigs, but I contented myself with Countdown and illegal recordings off the radio. In my twenties, I started seeing bands I’d loved in the ‘80s: by then their gigs were cheaper and less crowded. By my thirties I’d seen Howard Jones, the Eurythmics, and Duran Duran, but I’d still never seen the band that played my favourite song.
The opportunity to see the Models live finally came up in September 2009, when I was six months’ pregnant with my first child. I heard they were playing at the Prince of Wales in St Kilda, and decided I was going, baby or no baby. Stomach bulging in black camisole and maternity denim skirt, I put on my boots and installed myself near the stage. The Models were on last. I’d heard rumours that James Freud had fallen apart and become an alcoholic, but that night the band was tight and energetic and both he and Sean Kelly were looking good. I danced along to their upbeat tracks, with my mobile primed to record. When those familiar deep bass notes rang out, I took out my phone to score a bootleg copy, just like old times by the stereo.
Fourteen months later, I turned on my computer to the news that James Freud had killed himself. I Googled, and found out that his real name was Colin McGlinchey, that he’d styled himself as Australia’s David Bowie, that he’d written two memoirs about his drinking and drug habits. Online, the band’s long-term fans were grieving, and quoting the chorus of Hold On: When the morning comes, I won’t be around. As I read about his death I put the song on repeat, and wondered if it would be played at his funeral
©Fiona Price. Fiona never recovered from her love of 1980s pop. She has also written a Stereo Story about She Bop.