1981 – Kilimanjaro – The Teardrop Explodes

1981C - Kilimanjaro

The Teardrop Explodes managed effortlessly to combine every style of music I’d ever liked. I’d been blown away by the “Reward” single in January and went, as soon as my student grant would allow, to buy the album. On it was the classic, prog-rock Hammond organ sound, the tight guitar of Talking Heads, bass lines that went from pure Gong to pure Jam-style punk and even a soul-style brass section. And all this was crammed into songs that are mostly two to three minute long pop gems. The lyrics were trippy but down to earth, ethereal and child-like yet never wimpy – the musical equivalent of a film featuring a disturbed and eerily impassive child waiting to throw mummy down the stairs! “Wedging in corners, trapped by the door” and, “The little boys are crying and they’re saying their prayers.” Other favourite lines include, “mirror-hopping days are just a course reaction, oh it’s very hard to fight” and the classic, “Bless my cotton socks, I’m in the news!” that opens Reward. “The poppies are in the fields, don’t ask me what that means” always reminded me of my mum – I think it’s the poppies, her favourite flower.

At college I was completing the last bits of research for my thesis. I had to go out to a school in the nearby village of Marton-le-Moor to work with a group of children, studying their artwork. I didn’t have a car and everyone who did was busy, so I ended up borrowing a bike from one of the female students and cycling out there every Tuesday afternoon. The bike was, of course, a girl’s bike and even had a basket on the front! I’m sure I looked faintly ridiculous (probably like a scene from E.T.) but really wasn’t bothered about stuff like that. There were very few other students from Sheffield, and certainly no one from our end of town so I was always a bit of a curiosity anyway. My dad, a metallurgist, still called in occasionally, on his way to work at the steel works up in the North East and, much to the bemusement of my friends, always brought me a small pot of dripping that I kept out on the window ledge to have with my toast on a Sunday tea time.

Around March, the second semester was full of a new kind of activity and we all seemed to be hurtling towards the end of our college careers. We were all frantically applying for jobs. Rather than applying to a school, most people applied to teaching “pools”, the lucky ones being accepted onto an authority’s books, to be given a specific teaching post as and when one arose. Walking over to the Art Block after lunch one day, Sue, a long time friend, asked, “Are you ready to go and get a proper job?”

“No, are you?” was the immediate answer. Neither of us were.

I was luckier than most of my friends in that my thesis had by now been written and sent off to mum to be typed (she used to be a secretary) and my art work could be done more or less when I wanted, without the need for definite lecture time. Thursday was market day in Ripon when the pubs were open from ten in the morning until four in the afternoon and through April and May, I generally spent those days in either The Black Bull, if I fancied a pint of Theakston’s bitter, or The Studley Royal, if it was Tetley’s I wanted. I read the papers or chatted with locals until around midday when friends would join me for lunch. Some would then stay for the rest of the afternoon, others had to get back. Occasionally, the pub would close up around us but keep serving until they reopened at six thirty, or I would stroll up to college for tea and a bit of a lie down before going out in the evening. Even then, it felt like the calm before the storm – the dark clouds of a working life were gathering!

And then it happened. A chance comment from my girlfriend’s father to a customer who came into Turvey’s furniture shop, led to me going to meet him at the school in Rotherham he was Head teacher of and that was it. I had a teaching job lined up!

“Consequently my reaction’s getting rather strange, but I can see a course of action leading to a change…” Teardrops ready to explode?

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