“New Age” was a movement of the late 1980s characterised by an emphasis on the holistic view of body and mind, alternative (or complementary) medicines, personal growth therapies, and a loose mix of theosophy, ecology, oriental mysticism, and a belief in the dawning of an astrological age of peace and harmony (phew!).
New Age was . . . “What’s your sign?” accompanied by the words ‘rising’ and ‘moon’. It was ESP tests where a friend would hold a playing card face down and you had to correctly identify which suit it was.
New Age was also about auras; pyramid power; Primal Scream Therapy; Zero Gravity equipment; Immersion tanks; Dolphins; Esalen; Group Therapy; Encounter Groups; Astral Projection; Astral Travelling; Crystals; Sensitivity Training; Biorhythms; Vegetarians; Fruitarians; Whale songs and “Re-birthing”.
By 1985, New Age music was becoming a big-selling genre. MTV wouldn’t touch it, radio ignored it, and the rock press wrote it off as Yuppie dinner party muzak, upmarket musical wallpaper with intellectual pretensions.
In spite of such opposition, this floaty, pastoral, vaguely cosmic, meditative, grown-up’s music increasingly gained popularity.
New Age was always designed to appeal to an older, richer, more leisured audience, who were raised on but had now outgrown traditional pop and rock music (the odd Dire Straits album excepted).
California was – unsurprisingly – at the forefront of the movement and the main source of New Age music was Californian label Wyndham Hill, founded by guitarist Will Ackerman. Top sellers included Michael Hedges, Liz Storey and Japanese musician, Kitaro.
Critics of new-age thinking argued that it is so eclectic that it is incoherent. Nonetheless, new-age principles inspired many business organisations to decentralise and produce less rigid management hierarchies.
Fortunately, most of the really annoying 80s practitioners of New Age are now in their old age.
Some New Age Pastimes
PRIMAL SCREAM THERAPY
Arthur Janov’s invention, made famous by rock stars and other celebrities. The basic approach was to go into an empty room and get way depressed and then really cut loose and yell like there’s no tomorrow at your parents or whoever screwed you up most when you were a kid.
ZERO GRAVITY EQUIPMENT
There was a hanging-upside-down-by-your-ankles fad in the 80s. Richard Gere did it very sexily in American Gigolo (1980).
ASTRAL PROJECTION/ASTRAL TRAVELLING
Robert Monroe wrote a book explaining how to fly around outside your body while it’s still in bed. My mum read it and now she won’t stop!
The no-meat brigade fall under the general rubric of New Age because their driving force is arrogant superiority. Me? I’m going to become a vegetarian too. Not because I love animals, but because I hate plants!