1980s

The Music Behind the Corcoran's Pump Me Up Exhibit

Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, Rare Essence, Minor Threat, SOA.

If you lived in DC in the 1980s, you probably recognize these as local Go-Go and hardcore bands. If that's the case, the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s exhibit, Pump Me Up, is sure to invoke nostalgia. For those who have come here more recently, the exhibit offers a rare opportunity to see how much DC has changed in the last thirty years. (You definitely get a different image of the 80s than at a Legwarmers concert at the State Theatre!) Either way, it's worth a visit.

To put it mildly, the 1980s was a tumultuous period for the District of Columbia. There was a lot going on and homegrown music was right at the center of the city's experience.

Two Tragedies in One Day

It was snowing on the 14th Street Bridge and traffic had ground to a standstill as thousands of federal workers and other rush-hour commuters tried to get home ahead of a major storm. With an awful metallic crack, a blue-and-white jet swept out of the swirling snow at 4 p.m., smacked against one of the bridge's spans, sheared through five cars like a machete, ripped through 50 feet of guard rail and plunged nose first into the frozen Potomac River.

Moments later in a crowded subway car underneath the National Mall:

The train reversed direction.... with a loud popping and crunching sound and a sudden showering of sparks and electrical arcing.... Dozens of people of both sexes screamed. Slowly, surrealistically, the concrete abutment grew larger, closer and actually pressed the left center-rear of the car. The side and roof slowly caved in, almost as a foot crushes a tin can. More screaming, arcing, then silence.

It sounds like a scene in a Hollywood movie right before the hero or heroine springs into action. Tragically, however, this was no movie. It was real life in Washington on January 13, 1982.

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