David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 282: Thompson Twins (Lay Your Hands On Me)

September 10, 2023

This week I returned to the classroom for the first time in 4 years and only the second time in 20 years. I offered to teach a section of SMC's Educational Exploration course, a one-credit, seven-week course for new students.

I first stepped in the classroom back in 1985, when I was 23 and my students were 18. I could converse easily with them about all matters of music, television and movies. This semester I don't know where to begin to weave current pop culture into the fabric of the class. Since I can't even talk knowledgeably about "Breaking Bad," I am the last of us to have anything to say about "The Last of Us." Music-wise, I may intuitively get the Taylor Swift phenomenon, but can't speak at all to her music. There's 43 years of musical movements, hits and stars between me and my students. In a world where trends change hourly, that's an abyss between us.

Even at 23, if I am being honest with myself, I was more of a dinosaur than a current-saur. Some bands (REM, The Cars) bridged the 5-6 year gap between me and my students, but others especially in these early days of MTV were far less fascinating to me: ABC, Paul Young, Thompson Twins, the artifacts of a new visual movement moment in music that would leave me behind. Still, I watched enough MTV that I could talk about these artists, if nothing else during the small talk before or after class.

Thompson Twins dominated a lot of conversation. Not only were they very popular between 1983 and 1986, they were also still "not big" enough to stop in Morgantown on a concert tour. Some good classroom discussions could be had about the band's diversity: 2 males, 1 female; 2 whites, 1 black; non-traditional rock instruments at the forefront. By this point, "Hold Me Now," "Doctor! Doctor!," and "Lay Your Hands On Me" were huge Top 10 Hits. "Lay Your Hands On Me" was particularly lush, especially with the insertion of gospel choir. The song's lushness was made all the more so by the extravagant performance footage provided through its MTV staple of a video, bright colors abounding both through hair and dress. It's a less catchy song than "Hold Me Now" or "Doctor! Doctor!" but nonetheless a persistent radio hit.

Lyrically, too, "Lay Your Hands On Me" offered some intellectual chew, the merging of religious iconography with sexual innuendo. You would think I would have loved, in classes dedicated to teaching writing and loving language, to encourage classroom discussion of that topic. 

The problem is "Lay Your Hands On Me" brought me great guilt whenever I heard it, or any other Thompson Twins' song, or any reference to them. In the build-up to their concert in Morgantown, I went to a party hosted by someone I vaguely knew (I am sensing a trend with Day 274), and brought along a friend (at the time) who didn't know the hosts. The night was mostly forgettable for me,  but the next day when I talked to the guy who tagged along, he boasted that when he went to the bathroom he saw Thompson Twins' concert tickets on the bedroom dresser and took them.

Not what we meant by laying hands on them, dude!

I was truly horrified. I begged and pleaded with him to give them back but he didn't. Out of my own guilt at being an accessory, I put the cash equivalent of the tickets in an envelope and slid it under the door of the party hosts when they were at class. No name. No identification (outside, I guess, of my fingerprints on the bills).

So, you can imagine my discomfort with any future Thompson Twins' discussions in class. "What do you think of that new Thompson Twins' song, Mr. Fleming?" "Uh, well, I can identify with those lines about feeling "cold and tired," "sad and uninspired," not being able to add, "but, damn, I wish I could have stopped someone from laying his hands on their concert tickets." 

"Anyway, that's enough talk about pop music all. Let's stay focused. We're here to talk thesis statements!"

I probably needed to learn quickly the importance of distance between instructor and students anyway. This separation went beyond the "laying of hands," which across English departments all over the world has inherently inappropriate meaning (the liaisons between faculty and students, even if "former" students, hardly raise an eyebrow within many liberal arts courses), which always struck me as much more than just immorally wrong.

Even rather innocent moments can lead to awkward moments. My first year teaching, I took a few students up on an offer to meet at a local restaurant after the semester was concluded. These guys, and they were all guys, proceeded to gift me a bottle of brandy, under the table. At first, I was just generally confused, then remembered that early in the semester I had joked that a bottle of bourbon could get a student an "A."

"Bourbon, you idiots," I whispered, "not brandy. And your grades stand!"

Kids! They can be so impressionable. I guess at 61, I should take comfort that there is an abyss between me and these EDUC 120 students. I no longer need to worry about blurred lines between them and me. Heck, "Blurred Lines" is now ten years old.

Thompson Twins. "Lay Your Hands On Me." Here's To Future Days. Arista, 1985. Link here.

Day 281: Edwyn Collins "A Girl Like You"

Day 283: The Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1"

See complete list here.