How Presidents help “Hammer the Sky”: 2014 WEBN Fireworks make an impact

I am certainly not one of those people who look back into the past and declare that those were the best days of my life.  I enjoy every day as much as possible and can typically dig fun out of a dry rock. However, I felt the enthusiasm clearly at this year’s WEBN 2014 fireworks when for the first time they produced a soundtrack to the show that was exclusively dedicated to the optimistic music of the 1980’s.  Every generation believes that their music was the best—but this is in belief only.  The explosion of fresh music that followed the dog days of communism, socialism—Watergate and Jimmy Carter were an unbelievable period of American optimism established by the former movie actor and GE spokesman for capitalism—Ronald Reagan.  Reagan told America that capitalism was alright, so the guilt of the past that hangs over the heads of typical Democrats was thrown off and this attitude was reflected in the art produced by American society during the period of the so-called 80s.  I should know, because I came to age during the 80’s and they were a unique period of unmitigated optimism and American success.  Those who have come to age since, or before have not had such an opportunity as those who saw America as young uncorrupted teenagers during the 1980’s.  I am very much a product of that time when WEBN put together their soundtrack featuring a range of music from E.T., Ghostbusters, and Rocky III to Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart.”  The Ohio River between Newport, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio was absolutely rocking by hammering the sky with fireworks to an incredible soundtrack.

Even young people who are teenagers now were dancing openly to the songs as the crowd roared with an unmitigated lack of constraint while fireworks filled the air closing out a summer that I won’t soon forget.   There didn’t appear to be a lax soul among the half million viewers as the music poured from virtually everywhere.  The riverside condos and boats filling the river contained people in my age group who had thrown off their constraints and let the music overtake them leaving the question to be answered—what happened to that kind of optimism in our art?

Even for a product of the 80’s which was pretty hard-core American—I was a radicalized example.  I didn’t drink or smoke anything and I was never what anybody would term a “partier” but the soundtrack from WEBN sounded like it came directly off my mix tape from that age stolen from an old car that still sits in my garage.  I was an unmitigated reckless individual and unapologetic capitalist during the 1980’s.  I remember like it was yesterday storming through the streets of Hamilton racing a rival from the West Side across the Great Miami River with a parade of cop cars behind us—my radio blaring Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head.”  I passed the courthouse at over 100 MPH and won the race by beating a train the old-fashioned way—barely scooting in front of it while the other guy just a bit behind me threw on the brakes.  Miles to the east all the cops finally caught up to me as every Butler County police officer in the area was radioed to my location.  Pulled over with my Confederate Flag license plates and tires still smelling like burnt rubber and guns trained on me as I tossed my drivers licenses across the hood of my car, I felt no fear.  The cops knowing me from other antics and tired of my court appearances were not sure what to do with me until I called in a favor from one of the police car’s primitive cell phone to a judge who supported me from Sharonville.  That judge talked the cops away from prosecution for maybe the fifth time in a two month period.

I have thought often of writing a series of stories from that period as I lived it gloriously.  The closest I’ve come was my novel Tail of the Dragon—but those weren’t the best days of my life.  They appeared to be for the American nation.  I knew at the time what I was doing and the rest of the nation appeared to be riding along joyously.  Back in the 80’s our military used to play some of those songs to terrify our enemies in Russia, El Salvador and Cuba.  Capitalism was on full display and Americans during that decade from 1980 to 1990 didn’t feel guilty about it. This gave filmmakers and music producers an open template for creation—which is what I think is behind the joy of hearing that music to this day.  It is why many young people love those old songs even though they were not born until two decades later.

George Bush senior started the downward trend which accelerated under Bill Clinton as president by letting America feel less than exceptional on the world stage.  Both men were globalists and the arts in America took shape around their national outlook—unfortunately.  The situation became much worse under George W. Bush and eventually the communist leaning Barack Obama.  American culture has declined proportionally since and young people are aware of it.  Much thought isn’t given to these kinds of things until the music is put on from that period in such a mass gathering like what happened at the 2014 fireworks display—and the restraints come off—intellectually.

Most people thought I would be dead before I hit my 17th birthday.  The grim reaper was often trailing me everywhere I went.  I remember another story from the time when I had to drop off a friend to his West Chester home and we were in downtown Cincinnati during the summer of 1985.  He had strict parents who demanded he be home before his curfew.  I dropped him off with 30 seconds to spare after leaving the St. Bernard area with just 10 minutes to spare.  It was one of the fastest times I had ever driven dodging in and out of traffic at such a pace that I was moving sometimes two times the speed of the highway traffic up I-75.  Some of the songs blaring from my car radio were some of the same ones played at the 2014 Fireworks.  But I survived and really haven’t tempered off.  Over time I was able to apply that recklessness to focused directions instead of just outwardly rebellious behavior—but it is still very much there.  Like the music and movies of the time, I didn’t feel I needed to apologize for anything in America.  Alan Greenspan—a member of Ayn Rand’s elite inner circle was running the Fed, money was being made in America and Ronald Reagan was using that unprecedented productivity to destroy communism throughout the world.  University professors and old hippies didn’t like Reagan or the music which made me want to turn it up even louder

America wants to feel that way about itself again and as the show closed I can see it coming.  I remember how the situation was set up before and it can happen again—the nation is primed for it.  In so many ways America is worse now by far than it was transferring from 1979 to 1980.  Our current president is far worse than Jimmy Carter was and the repressed emotions so voluminous during the 60’s and 70’s are today exacerbated.  I knew what I was rebelling against in the 80’s.  I was a Reagan Republican and very proud of it.   I had no sympathy then as I don’t currently for radical old hippies from the past—from the folk songs of the Charlie Manson sex communes filled with marijuana smoke and communist rhetoric.  For the parents of the kids I called friends who used to be those loser hippies and the school teachers and college professors who thought Ronald Reagan was the devil himself for his unmitigated support of capitalism—I sought to rub it in their faces at every chance and the reason the 80’s were so much fun was that the rest of society was on board with that.  In the 90’s and the period from 2000 to 2010 America went back to feeling guilty for its Excepetionalism and people are sick of it.  They want to feel good about themselves once again which is evident in the superhero movies that are dominating the box-office at the moment.  Guardians of the Galaxy is not only the box office champ of the summer; it is also the top-selling soundtrack directly having an impact on the music industry.  2015 will be a mother load of positive films that may very well look like 1977 all over again when a string of movies starting with Jaws in 1975 to Close Encounters, Smokey and the Bandit, Saturday Night Fever and Star Wars knocked the rust off American consciousness and created the optimism of the 80’s nearly singlehandedly.  Coming up in 2015 is Jurassic World, Mad Max 4, The Avengers 2 and of course Star Wars—among many other titles that will be surprises the way Guardians of the Galaxy is this summer.  People are poised to admit that Obama was a joke, they are tired of not having money, and they are sick of the rest of the world thumbing their noses at America.  They are ready to reflect these emotions in their art and we may be seeing a period like the 80’s coming soon.  Very soon.

Send this video to ISIS, forget the air raids. 

That is fine with me, I still drive fast and am every bit as rebellious as I was then and am ready to do my part.  I expected to be melancholy as I normally am at the WEBN fireworks because I love summer, and typically Labor Day weekend is the close of that glorious time culturally in America.  But not this year—the music and people’s reaction to it was a light of hope where there wasn’t any before for me.  It’s not the reflection down memory lane so much as it’s the hunger for rebellion that was even present on Tricia Macke’s Channel 19 broadcast.  It’s more than buying cloths at the Merry-Go-Round at Kenwood Mall, or Michael Jackson songs—the 1980’s were a decade of not feeling guilty for America’s love of capitalism—and our culture prospered.  It can again if only it had a president who no longer allowed America to feel that guilt letting the arts of the period reflect that sentiment.  By the reaction of the audience at this year’s fireworks—society is primed and ready.

Rich Hoffman