Welcome the next installment of my year-long look back at the decade that was ruled by big hair and bigger egos. Every other week I’ll be covering pop culture tidbits from the 1980s, sharing memories, choking on the ridiculousness, and maybe offering an insight or two into what made the 1980s so great/bad/silly. Serving as my inspiration are two lists from Buzzfeed, and I’ll include links to the original list items in each post. So throw on your neon windbreaker, lace up your hi-tops, and adjust your Wayfarers, because this DeLorean is taking off! (Ugh. Did I really just type that? Gag me with spoon, seriously.)
List item #21 from 50 Things only ’80s Kids Can Understand
[Listening to records] on your state-of-the-art Fisher-Price record player.
If it wasn’t apparent already (and forgive me I’m repeating myself), I grew up in a household that loved music. Very specific music, that is – disco lite (a. k. a. Abba), instrumental jazz, and classical were the only forms allowed. “Adult contemporary” was okay in the car, but never on the stereo on home. I also grew up in a somewhat strict but not highly disciplined Catholic household. Church happened every Sunday no matter what, and I attended Sunday school/C. C. D. classes through high school. In my senior year of high school, I even joined our church’s choir. This confluence of religion and music highly influenced my developmental self. Though I became involved in music in public school at an early age, church was where I really learned about power of song and singing. Before I became too self-conscious for my own good, I happily sung along with the hymns and came to learn many of them by heart.
And what the heck does that have to do with a plastic record player? Lots, actually. Once I discovered the household record collection, all I wanted to do was play records on the nice stereo system with the bright, shiny turntable. That’s not what my parents wanted though, so they bought the gold and orange creation pictured above that was commonly seen in many playrooms of the day.
Problem was, grade school me didn’t have any records of my own. Okay, sure, occasionally, I begged for the cereal box with the “record” stuck on the back, only to find out that those warped, little babies didn’t do much except sound awful wobbling around on the plastic turntable. So my mom fixed that by getting me The Kids Praise Album. This was the first in a long line of very successful “Kids Praise” albums that introduced children to various Christian tunes with the help of a talking song book named Psalty.
That last sentence was all completely true by the way. Also true: hearing the songs again after so many years of not thinking about them is slightly terrifying. More truth: Seeing real-life Psalty is much worse.
But I loved the crap outta that album to the point that I readily “jumped down, turned around” and memorized every last lyric. The fact that my parents decreed that the Fisher-Price record player was only to be used in my bedroom was fine by me because I’m sure I was no virtuoso and either singer or dancing. As for “Kids Praise,” it didn’t stop at that one album. Oh, we had at least the first three, four, or maybe five albums in the series (that continues to this day!). I took great care with my plastic turntable, making sure it stayed mostly clean and always had a fresh needle whenever it was called for. And I listened, sang, listened, and sang some more, vocalizing young praises along with Psalty and his gang of merry children. (Which sounds just as questionable as it should.)
Say what you will…ye youngins who grew up with Barney.
The Fisher-Price record player certainly didn’t sound as nice as our big stereo on which only the hallowed classical and Christmas records were played, but the tinny sounds that came out of its plastic speakers were plenty good enough. And honestly, it wasn’t a horrible piece of equipment as far as kids toys went. It was pretty sturdy, played small 45s as well as full-sized LPs, and had two speeds: 33 (normal for most) and 45 (if I wanted to be funny make Psalty sound like a member of The Chipmunks.) The record player and the collection of “Kids Praise” albums were eventually handed down to my siblings. I moved onto more grown-up things like FM radio and cassette tapes, but we had that record player for many years. I know we had to have other records for it – those ones from the cereal boxes or that were included promotionally with Barbie playsets and Jem dolls – but I only really remember using it to sing along with Psalty.
It’s funny, until this Buzzfeed list, I wouldn’t have thought of this record player as something typically “80s,” but hearing the “Kids Praise” stuff sets it so very firmly in the that era. I wonder if Psalty is on iTunes…right up there with Rhianna and Arcade Fire, surely.