teaching unplugged – in brief

How soon was then?

There’s something stirring at onefortywords, and it’s not just the effect of spring, prince of seasons, on the heart. I’m used to that and I think I can cope.

It’s something more unexpected: a faint sense of nostalgia for the 1980s. I know, I know. I’m not really one for nostalgia. I get it when Steely Dan sing ‘I’m never going back to my old school’. The handful of trips I’ve taken back to my university town have left me feeling even more disassociated than when I was there. And you’d have to bribe me with something pretty special to get me to an 80s night. It was bad enough listening to Duran Duran first time round.

I turned 15 in 1980 with my head in 1965. I thought that if I listened hard enough to Mr Tambourine Man, Rubber Soul and Aftermath, it might actually turn into 1965 and a summer of love would be just round the corner. And yep, I ordered little rectangular rose-tinted specs from the back of the NME to match.

But, like my half-baked mop-top, the conditions weren’t right. Punk had been vital but divisive, leaving you constantly questioning your loyalty to this or that band, and the same was true of hip hop later in the decade – an edgy vibe, not the kind of shared experience I imagined the 60s to have been. The Pogues offered a kind of ersatz shared experience, if your perfect gig was in fact a football match, and The Smiths saved our lives for a season – but I never went to see them. The idea of waving gladioli at Morrissey seemed to negate all the gorgeous isolation he swayed for.

‘What do I get?’ asked the Buzzcocks, as the battery in the fuzz box that powered punk began to run down: ‘Howard Jones,’ replied the 80’s, ‘and in case that isn’t bad enough, T’Pau.’ By the time the second summer of love actually did come around, I’d given up.

And yet. Sharing music online with travellers of a similar vintage, it’s clear the early 80’s was a shared experience of sorts, even if the fragmentation of pop culture left all of us feeling like the odd one out at the time. I’m wondering if the need to navigate a world of rotten rock and occasional ornery genius didn’t toughen our souls a little. I’m still amazed that Ghost Town got to number one when it did, even if the furious hope it crystallised faded with the end of the miners’ strike. Come on Eileen felt like a victory at the time. And I can’t imagine a better accompaniment than Perfect Circle to those shaky days when love could go through a whole life cycle in a night.

Our horizons did expand. They had to – world music in the 70s meant Una Paloma Blanca. The rarity of must-have releases left us to free to explore the back pages of rock, soul and gospel. And we haven’t been burdened by the thought that things will never be as good again!

Is my nostalgia the invention of a May morning, a condition brought on by Sunday’s grey rain falling steady in the new green of spring? Well, it looks like at least some minds are thinking along the same lines. As I write this, Mark Andrews has read my thoughts by tweeting Laura Ponting: ‘If it’s not love then it’s the blog, the blog, the blog that will bring us together…’  So I’m asking, is 2.0 the shared experience we were hoping for all those years ago? Is this our Woodstock?



  Ken Wilson wrote @

The problem with having been around in the 60s, albeit at school, then a student, is trying to remember (a) did it seem special at the time? and (b) was it all that it’s cracked up to be – ie a caring, sharing love-fest?

What I do remember is this – the Beatles arrived like a thunderbolt, if you were lucky enough to hear them. You have to remember that in 1963, there were hardly any outlets for pop music of any kind on radio and TV, so the revolution was blowing outside the window for most of us.

As for caring, sharing love-fest, the answer is probably yes, if you were a student and no if you were living in a small town somewhere.

The ‘advantage’ of the subsequent music breakthrough moments, particularly punk, was the exposure they got. I think the Pistols appearance on the Bill Grundy show in 1976 was a much bigger shock to the system than the anodyne performances of the Stones on TOTP in the 60s.

Not sure this advances the arguments at all, but if you’ve never seen Grundy and the Pistols, here it is:

  lukemeddings wrote @

Thanks for this Ken-I do remember the the aftermath of Grundygate as it was discussed on TV,but I wouldn’t claim to have seen it live.I think some felt Grundy had rather encouraged the Pistols.. I like his louche ‘good heavens’ when Rotten swears (although interestingly that first use of the s-word is idiomatic rather than confrontational).

  Javec Marsen wrote @

What A Well Written Post, Thank You For This.

  Laura Ponting wrote @

Tweet up at the cemetery gates…indeed! Never forget pilgrimage to Oscar Wilde’s grave and seeing it covered with pictures of Morrissey…very moving tribute to OW!?

  Shelly wrote @

What a beautiful post! I love sharing music on Twitter. I think I love it, dare I say, more than sharing edtech links! LOL! Music is more intimate and personal. It is a shared experience. When I hear a song dedicated on the #nightshift or elsewhere it takes me back to a concert, a struggle, an age, a moment, and an era. Sometimes, it is new music I discover and still it’s magical.

I love the 80s, too! I loved the movies and the music! The movies were fun, the music was crazy and beautiful, and the musicians just dressed so fantastically and made every performance and video a show! 🙂

  lukemeddings wrote @

Dare it Shelly, say it! Well of course the videos changed everything, though I’m always surprised how many vids pre-date MTV. I was thinking this morning of a great video moment from that time – when Run DMC bust through the walls to walk that way with Aerosmith!

  Laura Ponting wrote @

I have to admit to finding it all very unusual, but kind of warm and fuzzy, coming across folk, like yourself, with similar music tastes. I was so busy being miserable in the 1980s and hating them with a passion, that I never actually spoke to anyone much at school -or since- about music! I was always the token indie kid in town!
No-one ever seemed to like the same stuff as me in smalltown England, Wales, Greece, Korea or Vietnam… and now what’s happened? At least four of my PLN have similar music tastes… and I like it! A lot.

But why have I come across you folk now? Were we always ‘odd’? Is that why we’re not sitting ‘at home’ in our native country reading The Observer or Sunday shopping in Sainsbury’s right now but instead, in far-flung countries meeting on Twitter?

  lukemeddings wrote @

Hi Laura,I guess this is what I mean about a kind of nostalgia I wasn’t expecting.It isn’t exactly nostalgia,but it turns out some of us have a shared memory of a time we couldn’t share.It makes me feel a bit more accepting about the past!And yes,I was also thinking about a link between ‘oddness’ and ELT,about feeling at home in a profession that takes you miles from home geographically, or culturally, or both.But that would have turned into a much longer and more confessional sort of blog!

  mark andrews wrote @

Beautifully written Luke and yeah, then was very soon and still is. Engaging in that little tweet exchange with Laura was well… tweet by her side, such a pleasant way to tweet. Music is the soundtrack of our lives and a intertwined net of shared meanings which is not captured by dismissing it as mere nostalgia. Sharing our musical passions over time and cyberspace is big on the twitter niteshift and playing around with the words of songs we know so well and not doing it on your own is great fun. As a postscript I saw both the Smiths last ever concert at Brixton Academy in December 1986 and queued up on the pavement for 20 hours to see Morrissey’s first ever solo concert at Wolverhampton Civic Hall in December 1988. A lot was made of the Smiths but Luke… was really nothing.

  lukemeddings wrote @

Ha, thanks Mark.Your phrase about a net of shared meanings makes me think about a longer piece on inter-textuality, prompted partly by your own blog, that I want to write.But it was easier to get my head round this!When you say it was really nothing-I’m hoping those shows were good?Of course the Headmaster Ritual is one of the great anti-school songs.Same old suit since 1962!

  mark andrews wrote @

Those shows were electric Luke. I think I put both of them down on Ken’s post of the 10 most memorable concerts I’ve been too. The Smiths triggered off Marmite type emotions of massive proportions. and yeah the Headmaster Ritual….belligerent ghouls run (insert your town of choice) schools. Spineless swines, cemented minds.

Steven sure wore his thoughts on his sleeve as well as gladioli out of his back pocket. What difference did they make?
They made a lot, but now they’ve gone and we’re all a little bit older tonight.

  lukemeddings wrote @

Oh, I’m glad the shows were good. I must have missed that thread about greatest shows. Mine from that era would be REM at the Marquee in ’84. Ended up in a gentle stage invasion and with my arm around Mike Mills neck!Mustn’t forget the great Johnny Marr either.Took something to make those strange words rock.Tweet-up at the cemetery gates anyone?

  Karenne Sylvester wrote @

Oh man, u r so like feeling the luv, dude… the sphere is getting to ya, sniff, puff


  lukemeddings wrote @

I’ll have what you’re having Karenne!

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