A few weeks back one of my colleagues asked me a question that shook loose some long-forgotten memories from my early days in China. "Jo," he said, "You were in China in 1985. Were you here when the British pop group WHAM! visited China?"
Before I answered his question (which suddenly made me feel very old) I queried him as to why in the world he was asking me that, out of the blue. I hadn't heard the name WHAM! (much less given them any thought) for 20+ years. He told me that he'd recently stumbled across a video online that the group had produced about their visit to China in April of 1985. They were the first western pop group to give a concert in China in the early days of the reform period, so their visit to China was quite the big deal. My colleague said that the shots of Beijing looked so different and he was wondering if it really looked like that back then. Since he knew that I've been in China for 25 years, he thought I'd be the perfect person to ask.
Well, my response surprised my colleague: "Not only was I already working in China then, "I replied. "I also happened to be in Bejiing the weekend they were giving their concert." My mom and sister were visiting me from the US and we'd come up to Beijing for the weekend from Zhengzhou, where I was teaching. And what's more, we were at the Great Wall (Badaling, of course, since Mutianyu wasn't open yet) the very same time that WHAM! was there. I told him that if there was footage of the group's trip to the Great Wall, we might even be spotted in the background somewhere!!
As you can imagine I went immediately to the online video he was telling me about. Talk about memories flooding back of China in the 1980's. Yes, folks, it really did look like that.
For my readers who are inside the Great Firewall of China, clink on this link to watch the video onYouKu:
Wham! Freedom. (I can't get the YouKu url embedded into my blog, for some reason.)
For readers outside the Great Firewall (who might not be able to access Youku), here is slightly different (and less interesting version) of the video on YouTube. China footage only goes until minute 3 or 4.
The mullets and jackets with shoulder pads are unfortunate!