Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote the words. Dusty Springfield immortalised them with a soulful and haunting voice. The song ‘Goin’ Back’ was released in 1966 - decades and lifetimes away from the world we live in now, I heard a great live version of it recently by Dublin singer Mick Dunne in the Sean Ti bar in Greencastle.
I was enjoying a night out during my summer holidays. During the same break we took a family holiday to Westport and made a stop at Drumcliffe in Sligo. It’s a stop I’ve been making roughly once a year for pretty much as long as I can remember. It is of course the area which inspired WB Yeats in his work and the poet himself is buried there. Sheltered under the majestic Ben Bulben it’s a part of the world which is both scenic and serene and well worth a visit.
But in the meantime back to ‘Goin Back’ - and Yeats.
Since this year’s stop at Drumcliffe, I’ve been reading quite a lot of Ireland’s greatest and most famous poet. Along with the likes of Damon Albarn, Kurt Cobain and Alanis Morrissette, Yeats’ words featured quite a bit during my long gone teenage years and delving into them in the last few weeks, I have - like Springfield - been on a bit of a journey back.
It’s been about reading, here and there, when I find the time.
It’s been about being away from the laptop, the phone, and even away from the world at times and escaping to an era where the world went just a fraction slower.
In the mid nineties, when I was 15, there was no such thing as a social network.
We’d never heard of hashtags and if we wanted to have a conversation we did it face to face, person to person. Conversations were usually private, one on one things. Life was pretty simple.
We didn’t change the world but we communicated about more than just communicating. We talked about our lives only to the people who cared and who needed to know. We managed to have conversations for hours without pulling phones out of our pocket to check status updates. We lived, minute by minute, hour by hour, happily disregarding whatever our ‘status’ was.
If you wanted to check your phone circa 1995, you would have had to physically go to the hall of your house and look at the device on the table near the front door.
And it was great. Those days were great. (I told you I was going back)
Seventeen years later and it feels like much longer. It feels that in the pre-Facebook era we inhabited a world as far removed as the big dresses and horse drawn carriages of the late 19th century.
Today’s teenagers gasp at the thought of not having a mobile or access to 24/7 updates on what’s going on in the world.
Of course we were teenagers ourselves then, still making mix tapes and thinking we knew it all. We didn’t, of course. But we had fun finding out that we didn’t.
I read material and listened to music that spoke to me and looking back, I enjoyed the feeling that everything wasn’t at my fingertips. If I wanted to read a book, I had to hunt it out. If we wanted to visit Drumcliffe, we got out a map and drove there. If I wanted to tell somebody something, I rang them or waited until the next time I saw them and the conversation would flow.
Social networking, unarguably, has come with its benefits but I miss the era when it was the look on someone’s face that said how they felt rather than the smiley face made using a colon from a keyboard.
My love of Yeats has taken me back to that time in recent weeks and I’ve loved the memories.
As Dusty sang in 1966: “Let everyone debate the true reality/I’d rather see the world the way it used to be/
A little bit of freedom’s all we lack/So catch me if you can, I’m goin’ back”.