I was a teenager in the 1980s and I played guitar.
That sentence alone should tell you that there was plenty of big hair going around in my youth, most notably in my CD collection. There was a Swedish connection, too, with Yngwie Malmsteen taking pride of place amongst the other big hair rockers and shredders of the time.
I saw something that took me back to that time and caught me totally off guard today. It was a kid, around 18 years old, walking around in a pristine, brand new Whitesnake T-shirt. I couldn’t help but wonder how this kid had a) heard about them and b) got hold of a new Whitesnake T-shirt.
Whitesnake were already old by the late 1980s, but they had a bit of a renaissance with songs like In the Still of the Night and Is This Love. People familiar with the band will know this as the Tawny Kitaen era.
Time hasn’t treated Tawny too well, and I can’t imagine it’s done the band any favours either. I could hardly believe they might still be around, but a commenter at the Youtube link says she saw them last year with her Dad, and they rocked (she was 15). Sure enough, there’s a Whitesnake webpage and it seems the band are still flogging their legacy to whoever will hand over some cash for it. And good on them.
Some of their music still sounds good to me partly because it brings back some good memories, and partly because once or twice they wrote a melody that was actually half-decent. Some of Guns n Roses’ work still sounds good, too, but no advance in loudspeaker technology will ever be big enough to make Poison, Ratt or Cinderalla sound good.
Where am I going with all this? I’m glad you asked.
This year, more than any other, has taught me that times pass. People pass. They become unfashionable and they get old. The smart ones are able to evolve and continue to ply their trade for a while longer. But for most, time passes them by and they should be content to remain a pleasant memory (or an unpleasant one, as the case may be).
In a similar manner, cars are a physical snapshot that can take you back instantly to the time they were made. And if they’re well designed, well made and properly maintained, you’ll still enjoy the experience every bit as much tomorrow as you did yesterday.
How many car designs have made perfect sense for just a brief moment in time only to look absolutely rediculous just a few years later? And how many have looked strangely unfashionable at times and yet maintained their design integrity and held their aesthetic and utilitarian value over a long period?
That’d be Saab.
So a little word, if I may, for the guys and girls working on the Saab 9-1 that we’ll all see and get fairly excited about in a few years from now. They say it’ll be iconic, highly stylised and a car that Saab will truly be proud of. These are bold words given Saab’s distinct heritage when it comes to design.
So to those designers I’d say the following: Don’t heed to high fashion. Don’t look at what others in the market are likely to be doing in 2010. Ask yourself what a Saab needs to be and put your answers, your gut feelings and pure instincts down on the page. Design a car that will look as good in 2025 as it does on release in 2010 or thereabouts.
And make it a Saab.
Some songs still appeal, regardless of how silly they might sound now, because of an association we make between them and a particular time in our lives. Some still sound great because they’re just. great. songs.
Some cars are just great cars. The 96 was one. The 99 Turbo was one. The 900 Aero was one, as is every Saab that’s worn the Aero badge.
Make the Saab 9-1 one of these great cars too. Please.