Monday, June 26, 2023

Stuck in the 1980s

This video, released in 2004 by American band Bowling For Soup, is a risqué comedy-rock send-up of a whole collection of 1980s music clichés. This was the era when MTV made the imagery of music just as important as the sound - Robert Palmer, breakdancing, RUN DMC, George Michael, Motley Crue and Whitesnake - images burned into the memory of a generation.

In 2017 I had a business encounter with a man who was, in a different way, also very much stuck in a 1980s mentality. He was the owner of a large private sector company in NI who I was invited to meet, with a view to me doing a brand refresh with them. He was a little older than me, and during a group meeting he went off on an incensed rant about one of his London customers who had that day invited him to a Chelsea FC match, corporate hospitality package and all. He spun off into a great diatribe about Chelsea fans being racists and how outraged he was to be asked, and how he would never darken the door of Stamford Bridge and how he might stop supplying that particular customer in future.

In the 1980s these accusations were true, and the attitudes weren't limited to fringe fans groups, but according to former players were evident within the club itself. Other football clubs in England were similar.

But this was a company boardroom in 2017. He knew very little, but had outdated yet vehement opinions. I was pretty shocked, as I've been following Chelsea since the 1986-87 season (Northern Ireland international striker Kevin Wilson joined the next season) and I knew that all of that stuff was long-gone.

By the time of this 2017 outburst a huge number of black players had been Chelsea heroes. I was at Stamford Bridge in August 1996 for black Dutch icon Ruud Gullit's first match as manager – Gullit became the first black manager in top-flight football in England, and at the end of that season he was the first black manager to win a trophy in England when he guided Chelsea to victory in the FA Cup in May 1997, beating Middlesborough 2-0, with one of Chelsea's black players, Eddie Newton, scoring the second goal. 

The explosion of the mass media in the 1980s created images and forged enduring memories. But the world has moved on.

Never mind the music and the football – Northern Ireland is nothing like what it was in the 1980s, but many people seem to still be stuck there. Look around. Everything is different now. The way people think, the values they have, the way they receive information, the outlooks they have. All different. As W.B. Yeats wrote in 'Easter 1916' (with another Motley Crue inference):

Being certain that they and I   
But lived where motley is worn:   
All changed, changed utterly: