Back In The 80’s

80s Boombox Color Illustration Watercolor

For Day 17 of #WorldWatercolorMonth and our prompt of “Music,” my mind drifted back to the 80’s and the amazing music listening contraptions that existed then. In short, the boombox which was a marvel of music technology and came in frighteningly large versions. The handle let you know that despite its incredible weight and girth it was indeed meant to be somehow portable. My own version is based on an actual Sharp boombox that came out at the very beginning of the 80’s and one that I coveted but never received. So, I’ve painted it with the popular hues of the decade to make it a bit more festive, and had there been one in these colors I would probably have found a way to acquire it, most likely putting in on layaway. Not surprisingly my everyday palette is already filled with colors that easily evoke days gone by. The very fact that I chose pink over purple for my set of secondary colors is no doubt because I was a teenager in the 80’s. This was a decade where guys could suddenly wear pink and it was considered cool. I happily wore pink, but was still never considered cool. I didn’t mind. I think it’s always good when you’re not exactly like everyone else. Granted, I tend to veer off in a very different direction in the things I create and ideas I come up with, but for me, that makes the journey much more fun!

The 80’s had so many memorable music hits, it’s quite impossible to list them all. I loved listening to the music and did actually have my own boombox even though it wasn’t as fancy as the one depicted here. The thing about the music is that it was all catchy and memorable. You could hear a song once and immediately be walking around singing it the next day. Indeed, there are many of those songs that we can still sing, if only in the shower these days. What was most notable was that all of the people singing those hits let their hair grow out. For a time, it seemed like you couldn’t possibly make the top of the charts unless your hair came down over your ears. If you didn’t have the sort of hair that would lay nicely, there was an iconic perm waiting for you to fix that. I didn’t have that sort of naturally thick and wavy hair, so I once tried a perm back then. It was hideous and looked like a feral poodle had curled up and died on my head. I only vaguely remember the reactions from my friends during this unfortunate hair experiment, but most, as I recall, were tinged with a bit of shock mixed with genuine loving concern.

Perhaps that’s why I really enjoyed watching Stranger Things on Netflix. It was fun to go back to an era that held so many memories. Not all of them were awesome, mind you, as I was a teenager, and those years are filled with plenty of tragedies that only I could properly understand. But, when I look back, it was actually a rather glorious time, even with all of the confusion and heartaches that I was quite sure only I had ever experienced. Now that I’m older, I know that everyone on the planet experiences a rather similar thing during this time. Yet, when you’re in this pivotal moment, everything seems like it’s only happening to you. That’s why, I think, that decade when we were teenagers, whatever that might be for you, is always a rather magical one. It’s filled with all of the decisions and foibles that will ultimately set a course that becomes the life we are living right now. Sure, there may be regrets, but mostly those memories have become something happy and golden. For me, I only regret what I didn’t DO, never what I tried and failed at doing. That’s just how I learned to take a different path. But even today, when I close my eyes, I still hear that music and experience that thrill of infinite possibility. The insanely optimistic hope I had for the future that I might create, when I was still just learning how to become something more like an adult, back in the 80’s.

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80s Boombox Color Illustration Sketchbook Detail
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35 Comments
  1. Sharon Nolfi 5 months ago

    Crazy-cool boom box! I sure remember having one.

  2. Karen Fortier 5 months ago

    I love you boom box. It transported me back to the late sixties when I had a portable record player/radio that would play 45s. We would take it to the beach likely in my preteen to early teens. Simpler times, mixed memories. Tough years for most of us but the good memories outweigh the bad.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      Thanks so much, Karen! 😃💕Love those memories! Yeah… the good always outweighs the bad… that’s the perfect beauty of memories!

  3. Sandra Strait 5 months ago

    Now that is what I call a boom box! I would have done layaway for that one for sure. I’m surprised the boombox hasn’t made a comeback, because … cool. If vinyl can do then the boombox is surely next!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      Thanks, Sandra! 😃💕I started to paint it realistically, and then thought… it’s the 80’s! COLOR! lol Glad you’re put it on layaway! hehe Actually, they DO make boomboxes again now… hehe… I kept getting the modern ones when trying to find references to my teenager version!

  4. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 5 months ago

    sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet boom box!!! This post excited me so much. This 80’s gal is happy dancing lol. Lots of fun times. I feel really proud to say ya i love the time i grew up in. Life is the best in anytime ways new things to enjoy. I hope you guys are staying cool! 🙂

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      Thanks so much, Lisa! 😃💕 Yay to the 80’s! hehe… it was fun to grow up in a time where technology was advancing so rapidly and we could actually notice it! lol We’re staying cool here… hiding inside with the air conditioning. 😉

  5. Lisa 5 months ago

    I was a 70s teen! 😁 We had disco! Yay! But preteen was my very favorite little transistor radio. I could put it on my pillow and go to sleep with music in my ear. Plus, it had th e little oblong battery in it and if you touched both poles to your tongue, you got a little buzzy shock, that was both pleasure and pain.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      hehe! Yay, Lisa! 😃💕Yeah, I think I was born in the wrong decade… I love the 70’s most! So cool! And the battery buzz! I have actually done that… who could resist? lol

  6. Robert J. Coleman 5 months ago

    That is an awesome boombox, more like a blaster! I like the portable tv screen and the cassette player; noting the VU meters on the upper right and the red ‘record’ button below the cassette slot, it probably recorded on blank cassettes too! Almost a home entertainment center. All the things that made us cool. But cool is just a state of mind, like the music that influenced us in those formative years. Each of us has a special time of music’s history that means so much. It stays with us and as you said, when we recall those days we are washed over with the warm glow of reverie.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      Thanks, Bob! 😃💕 Yay! So thrilled you actually saw those details, since detail is more of an illusion with my sketches. hehe And what beautiful words! I love the idea of music washing us “over with the warm glow of reverie”!

  7. June Hadaway 5 months ago

    All the details and colors are wonderful on your boombox. They were actually around for a long time. Memories of kids carrying them on their shoulders stands out for me.. Some were huge and really did make a booming sound. Feral poodle…..ha ha. So funny!!!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      Thanks, June! 😃💕 Glad you enjoyed this one! hehe…. yeah, boomboxes seemed to be around for ages and I always thought they were so cool!

  8. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 5 months ago

    Poor feral poodle – but a very funny story. Remember those boom boxes the size of a refrigerator, and guys would heft them up to their shoulders and walk around blasting their music? I didn’t like that, they looked and behaved like idiots. But I really like your turquoise and pink boom box.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      Thanks, Sharon! 😃💕 For the record, I was too skinny to heft a boombox on my shoulder. I barely had shoulders. But I loved technology and these were just so cool!

  9. Mary Roff 5 months ago

    Love your boom box but your “feral poodle” story has me laughing out loud. I grew up in the age of the “Toni Home Perm” and how I hated those things. Somehow they always appeared just before the annual school photo was taken …. ugh…feral poodle is the perfect description! 🙂

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      Thanks so much, Mary! 😃💕 Oh my goodness… I’m SO thankful social media didn’t exist in those days. Nobody need to see the Charlie with a feral poodle on his head pic! 😊lol

  10. LoriCtoo 5 months ago

    Layaway! Oh how I forgot about that convenient way of shopping. (I worked in Cust. Service at Nordstrom for a few sales…..layway was such a pain for us. Lol) Boomboxes had so many buttons and functions on them. All I remember is being able to record songs off the radio, which took some fast reactions. Hoping to get most of the song. And packing it with us to the beach. Funny how now I get annoyed when people are playing music on the beach. Hahaha!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      haha!! Yeah, layaway was the best! 😃💕 I also got a pair of roller blades that way. I sucked at using them, but was so proud I managed to actually get them! lol And yay to music on the beach!

  11. LoriCtoo 5 months ago

    Oh! I love your colorful versio of the boombox, makes it look like it was a piece of art.

  12. Sharon Mann 5 months ago

    I’m so glad there ear buds now for listening, and a very cool Boom Box.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      Thanks, Sharon! 😃💕hehe… yeah, I have to admit that earbuds are far better. As cool as these contraptions were, they were just too gigantic!

  13. Fatima Chamkha 5 months ago

    Cool boom box you paint!

  14. Linda 5 months ago

    Dear sir, this made me giggle out loud!

  15. aFATheroFlies 5 months ago

    Loved it!

  16. Monica Sturdivant 5 months ago

    I love this!!! All of my World Watercolor Month illustrations have been about the 1980s so far and I almost drew a boom box. Also, your bright washes of color look amazing.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 months ago

      Thanks so much, Monica! 😃💕And yay for the 80’s! It was such a fun time! Glad you liked my boombox!

  17. Sunshine 3 months ago

    It was great reading it 😉😊

  18. knowledgeofabsolute 3 months ago

    Thanks for the trip back down to the eighties memory lane

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