Did the 60s Mods propel Margaret Thatcher to power?

modbook

One of the most intriguing books about popular culture in a while went on sale last month. Richard Weight‘s Mod: A Very British Style is not a rose-tinted, nostalgic romp through the history of a movement that has had profound impact on British culture, but a serious academic (yet still very readable) study of what Mod is and was and how the 60s Mods have influenced British society.

It scope – which goes way beyond most books about Mods -has already attracted criticism from hardcore Mods who may or may not have a point that the author talks too much about the influence of German art school Bauhaus at the expense of say, how Makin Time and The Prisoners took Mod in a new direction in the 80s.

It doesn’t help Weight‘s case that there is the odd detail too that isn’t quite right. Nevertheless even if he has Blur coming from Chelmsford rather than Colchester, he still makes some fascinating observations

For me the pivotal part is Weight‘s dissection of how the 60s Mods – not the original late 50s/early  60s ones who were a different tribe altogether – changed the way Britons live, think and most of all shop.

But the one connection he only loosely makes is how the mid-60s Mods influenced British politics. Which is a shame because there is a lot of evidence to suggest when those youngsters hit adult life they became the foot soldiers of the politics we now know as Thatcherism.

The parallels really are quiet scary.

When Mod was at its mainstream peak – between 1963-66 – it was a movement that had the following traits.

1 Hierarchical – the scene was dominated by Faces – think Sting in Quadrophenia – who had the best gear, the classiest scooters etc. Mods who couldn’t match the sartorial eloquence of their superiors were known by the A List as Tickets.

2 Individualistic – although there were, for want of a better word, uniforms, for most Mods the devil was in the detail. Your suit had to tick the right boxes in say number of buttons, but choosing the right material and colour to make it your own was just as important  As Paul Smith, a tailor who was an original Mod, would become known for – Mod clothes were all about classics with a twist.

3 Conservative – Mods weren’t trying to change society in a outwardly political way. In fact according to Weight and others many Mods respected and admired their elders and parents and wanted to not just emulate them but better them.

4 Aspirational and acquisitive – Much of Weight‘s book focuses on the Mods obsession with shopping, not just for clothes but for other items too. He attributes much of the success of Habitat in the 70s and Ikea more recently to the way that style and design were passed on from the Mods to subsequent generations.

5 Southern and class-based – Mod was also more of southern England tribe than a northern one and most of its adherents came from, what in old money would be referred to as the more aspirational sector of the working class. In other words these were youngsters whose parents had manual jobs, but thanks to improving post-war educational standards they were able to take on skilled work or white collar jobs in offices.

Ultimately these were youngsters who had seen the deprivation that their parents had endured through the war years and before and wanted better.

Thatcher’s supporters

Take a look then at the demographic which propelled the Conservatives to power in 1979 and kept them there for the best part of two decades. They were young-ish, based in the south and were drawn from upper working class and lower middle class groups. They were clearly aspirational and wanted their own homes (to buy their own council houses?) yet not seeking big changes in British society. Sound familiar?

If you look too at the end of the Callaghan government – Andy Beckett’s When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies is a great re-telling of the story – Sunny Jim was largely betrayed by Union leaders whose workers were constantly pushing for more money to maintain standards of living that they had accrued in the earlier part of the decade. Just take a look at the groups who went on strike during the winter of discontent – public sector employees, nurses, train drivers – these are all arguably comprised of individuals who fit the class profile of the 60s Mods.

The irony is that while the old school union leaders unwittingly ushered in their worst nightmare – a government that would destroy much of their power base – their younger members got a government that was far more in keeping with the values that Mod had endowed in them in the 60s. It was a government that they voted for time and time again because its shared the same visions and enacted legislation like the buying of council houses – that fitted their aspirations. Bear in mind too that the unemployment that characterised much of the 80s was more prevalent in the north than the south.

One 70s Mod who said he would vote Tory in 1979 was Paul Weller. He now says it was a publicity stunt but it must have made sense at the time. And there’s a good chunk of the mid-60s Mod aristocracy who are either Conservatives – including Kenny Jones, Bill Wyman, Phil Collins and Bryan Ferry – or are largely ambivalent about politics.

Ultimately though the changes that Margaret Thatcher made to Britain were because a society had emerged which made her world view more acceptable. And I wonder if that society had been shaped by a youth culture that defined Britain a decade earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picnics by the motorway, anti-royalist rants, naked ramblers and other reasons to love England

georgeformby

There is an argument that the English are in fact the least nationalistic people on earth. While our Celtic cousins celebrate their saints days with raucous displays of invariably alcohol and food fuelled patriotism, April 23rd St George’s day generally passes by with merely a shrug of the shoulders.

We are even slightly embarrassed about our flag too, just ask Emily Thornberry.

But that only tells part of a story and doesn’t stop (some of) us loving a country which has given so much to the world over the years (and yes taken it away too).

So today I asked my Facebook pals to come up with a list of what is wonderful about England and being English. I have cut and pasted the list below.

It was simply too good not to share and is for anyone who calls England home.

So Happy St George’s Day – personally I don’t care about a Turkish dragon fancier, but I can always celebrate Orwell, Harrison and Formby!

Kinksvillagegreen550

All the English things I love: the stones, the kinks, sandwiches, shit weather, kooky fashion, our silly class system, our beautiful gardens, Kate bush, roast dinners, exmoor, Isle of purbeck.

Christ-Church-Spitalfields-credit-Joe-Dunckley

The Beatles, Smiths and Pink Floyd, Suffolk beaches, Cambridgeshire meadows, art deco lidos, our obsession with cycling, the bittersweet nature of a winter in London, Orwell, Patrick Hamilton, Powell & Pressburger, Ealing comedies, understated country Anglican churches and pubs, lots and lots of pubs, oh and the fact that most English people were foreigners at one point too

daffy-page_picnic-car

Greasy spoons, standing stones, bleak moorland, chalky downs, well dressing, cheese rolling, sitting on our coats, picnics in the car, cheering in the pub when someone breaks a glass, dance music in warehouses, beat music in cellars, mushy peas, Aloo Gobi, loving our eccentrics, the naked rambler, the seaside pier, a bag of chips, a pint of bitter, and (despite Nigel Farage) being a country with a proud history (largely hidden) of being progressive and tolerant.

nickdrake

Kate Bush definitely. Northumberland Coast is a largely unknown treasure. Rugby. Shakespeare. Nick Drake. Sand dunes, salty air etc. Panto. English Ale. And definitely the fact that most English people were foreigners at one point too

chips_n_curry_sauce

Lost gloves on walls. Trainers thrown over phone lines. Badly painted numbers on wheelie bins. Zebra crossings. Curry & chips. All items of value have been removed. Picallili. National obsession with potholes. Net curtains. The co-op. Pick n mix. Black pudding. Pantomime. “Fair to middlin’.” “Not three bad.”

gripper

Gripper Stepson, Roland Browning, Zammo on smack

Vaughan Williams

Putting the kettle on when things get stressful

CHILDREN PLAYING IN PLAYGROUND - 1950S

National parks, wooly pom pom hats, sand in your sandwiches, stewed tea in a force 5 looking at the beach, chips in paper, gingham plastic table cloths, kiddies roundabouts, parish councils, playing eye spy….

Tea

Lush green hills, valleys and parks, seriously long history, crumbling castles and city walls, being able to walk to your ‘local’, always time for tea, the changing of seasons, a myriad of regional accents, the BBC, free art galleries and museums, stunning cathedrals, Cath Kidston, proper cider, proper mayonnaise

1- pretty villages
2- cities such as Cambridge which are beautiful and historic
3- a thriving capital – London
4- freedom of speech and belief
5- a rich history
6- cricket
7- cream teas
8- tea!
9-fish and chips, shepherds pie, Sunday roasts
10- classic literature
11- rich music heritage
12- Cadbury’s chocolate
13- beautiful places like Cornwall and Lake District
14- national health system
15- educational system from primary to iconic places as Cambridge and \oxford (and i will slip in the boat race there!)

Thanks to Matt Hill, Vic Ruffy, Geoff Crawford and lots of others

Can you help make a very brave girl’s dream come true

astridmontage

Pls help, especially if you have connections with EMI, the O2 or Katy Perry’s PR.

My youngest daughter Astrid has recently finished her treatment for ALL Leukaemia. Throughout the two and half year period when she was taking chemo everyday, endless operations and hospital stays, one thing that kept her going was the music of her hero Katy Perry. We’ve got surprise tickets to see KP on Wednesday @ the O2 and it would be Astrids’ absolute dream come true to meet her. If there is anything you can do to help make this happen I (and the entire Norris clan) would be unbelievably grateful. Here are some pics of how she was then and how she is now and a video she recently shot about her hospital ward @ Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity Thanks so much for any help at all.

And here is a bit of her story

If you can help email me ashleyatshinymediadotcom

Do brands deliberately mess up on social media? Even Mastercard?

robbiewilliamsbrits

Just a thought after seeing Mastercard’s woeful attempt to get journalists going to the Brit awards to tweet in a certain way.

Either it is because they have marketers who are utterly clueless about the way the media and journalists work. This does seem to be happening a lot and some of my more cynical journalist friends believe that it is because there is a generation of marketers who understand how social media works from an operational perspective, but have come from an ad agency background and don’t understand the sensibilities of journalists. In this instance though the culprits were House PR, a well established PR company. UPDATE – apparently another agency handles the press accreditation not House!

Or maybe it is this?

Did you know that Mastercard was sponsoring the BRITS – nope me neither. You do now though. And you can bet that the hash tag #pricelesssurpises is going to be used a lot more now that it would have been had Mastercard not been so cheeky.

As a fellow journalist tweeted – How else would anyone care enough to tweet about the Brits these days?

There are examples of brands who have suffered massively because of this type of of social screw up, but not many. In the short term it might make Mastercard look silly, but when everyone from Mashable to Metro starts writing about it the brand gets a lot of free publicity…

Why do Mars get football so wrong?

Mars-Bar-UK-Wrapper-Small

Ok, so we can all breath again. Roy Hodgson’s team did the business last night and courtesy of a Rooney header and late bit of Stevie G magic I can fantasise that come summer 2014 I’ll be watching England in the World Cup final at some lovely new stadium in Rio.

There was however one thing that took my attention away from what was actually a very absorbing (for England) game and that was the rubbish advertising that Mars displayed on the boards around the pitch.

Talk about cringe-worthy! It gave the impression that it was displaying messages from real punters, presumably harvested from Twitter (I think there was hash tag there) cheering England on. Now they might have been real – but the names like Dave C!? were so generic it seemed unlikely.

Even worse was the content of the messages. They were mainly of the trite Good Luck England variety. In fact one was so bad it became etched on my memory – it said ‘Qualification is our goal.’

Quite honestly which self-respecting football fan would tweet a Mars hash tag such nonsense. It smacks of something rustled up by a Mars marketing executive who really has absolutely no understanding of football and its culture.

I thought the days of ‘dad on the dancefloor’ social media approaches from brands were at an end given that we all understand that brands need to be sincere, genuine and authentic these days. It appears not.

BT’s content marketing strategy – why it needs a bit of relevancy

Image

What’s the first rule of content marketing? Well you could argue that it is ‘keep it interesting’, or ‘don’t undermine your brand’, I do however think that there might be a case also for ‘keeping it relevant’ as being the place where brands need to start.

There ‘s a very interesting post on Mediatel today from Dominic Mills, the one time Campaign editor and now freelance journalist/media strategy guru, that highlights why relevancy is crucial. In it he takes a pop at BT for filling its BT.com website with largely irrelevant content.

Mills says that he went to the site as he moved house and needed to make amendments to his BT account, But he couldn’t easily find what he was looking for as the site was chock full of largely irrelevant content from the Press Association.

He says

What I discovered when I logged in – which they insisted on telling me about before I could get to my BT e-mail – is that this involves full-on lifestyle coverage across areas like news, entertainment, technology, fashion and beauty, TV, film, video games, family and home (and on and on and on).

Yes, dear reader, there are approximately 50 of these channels including, believe it or not, motoring and home and garden.

So the big question is: WHY? And that leads to all sorts of other questions you think BT should have asked itself first, such as: why do people go to BT.com? What do they want to achieve as a result of going there? And what makes BT a legitimate or credible provider of this sort of content?

Well I do wonder if BT has fallen into the trap of not really thinking through quite what its users really want to read about. It reminds me of the time a decade and a half ago when BT amongst others, hired hundreds of journalists in a bid to help them become media portals which would rival News International etc. It become obvious very quickly that the net benefit of creating huge amounts of news copy was largely not useful to BT’s core business and the company, and indeed many of its ISP rivals, canned their services and shifted away from content.

Now with every Internet consultant worth their salt repeating the mantra that content is king and that it is editorial which keeps consumers amused and engaged BT, among others is heading in the same direction.

It isn’t that filling a site with content per se is a bad move – I am sure it has huge SEO benefits for a start, and while you are mulling over your BT Sports subscriptions you might want to read a few football stories. It is just the unimaginative way in which BT has undertaken this. Grabbing a few store from the Press Association along with a few viral  videos, hardly makes for a compelling editorial destination. That man on a bike on the M1 story has been everywhere today. If you have looked at a news site you will know all about it.

The content needs to be more relevant too. An intriguing tech channel might be more useful to consumers, and why not get a few high profile journalists and bloggers to deliver interesting opinion pieces which will help engage the company’s business customers.

BT also has some the potential to create some compelling content of its own, Surely a look behind the scenes look to see what its boffins are up to in its Suffolk research HQ is worth a hundred celeb stories which could be read elsewhere?

Where brands have succeeded in creating engaging content portals they have done it by delivering content that it relevant to their audience. It helps cement the relationship between the brand and the customer – which really is the main reason why brand undertakes content marketing in the first place.

Maybe BT  will evolve a content strategy that is both interesting and innovative as time goes by. Here’s hoping.