30 May 2005

1984 - Band Aid, Trivial Pursuit, Computer Mouse, Moon Boots, V, Spitting Image, Agadoo, Madonna, Growing Shoulder Pads, Mrs Antrobus In Ambridge...

1984 saw us moving into the Yuppie era. For many, the financial hard times were over. They had been grinding on since the early 1970s, and suddenly people seemed to be going a bit money mad.

But it wasn't all jam. The miners' strike began in protest at their latest pay offer and planned pit closures. A long and bitter time lay ahead for them and their families. Over the next few years, we also heard a lot about the "North/South Divide". Whilst the South of England boomed, things in the North of this country, and in Wales and Scotland were not nearly so good.

The North/South Divide was nothing new, but traditional industries in some parts of the UK had been declining for years, and the policies of the Thatcher government were doing nothing to alleviate the situation.

It wasn't all bad news, at least for those not living in England: public spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was higher than in England, and had been for several years, via a system called the Barnett Formula.

Back in 1984 I was suffering from Thatcher phobia and couldn't even bear to hear her voice on the TV or radio. The merest sight or sound of her was enough to send me diving for the "off" button.


1984 saw the blossoming of the openly gay pop star era in England. Paul Rutherford and Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, the brilliant Bronski Beat and Boy George (who had declared himself "bisexual" and a "poof with muscles" in an interview with Titbits magazine in late 1983), all showed the way forward.

I remember back in the summer of 1980, reading in a Sunday tabloid that a well-known male pop star was bisexual. I recall my mother's shocked expression and my stepfather's angry growls at the news. A few years later, they bought my little sister a Boy George doll and were allowing her to display posters of openly gay pop stars on her bedroom wall.

And this during the era of "AIDS - the gay plague" in certain tacky newspapers. The 1980s really were a multi-faceted time. Looking back, the decade often seems chaotic and exhausting.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood stormed the charts with Relax. Banned by the BBC for its saucy gay references, the song went to No 1. But that wasn't the only reason - it's a brilliant piece of dance music. On the back of Frankie's success, "Frankie Say Relax" T-shirts flew into the shops.

"Sell him your soul, sell him your soul - never look back!" Propaganda, the totally brilliant German electro-pop group, gave us the absolutely awesome Dr Mabuse. Loved it. Still do.

Of course, this was 1984, and the Eurythmics' Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty Four) drove me completely barmy on the dance floor. Music was getting faster. Harder. We were in the era of what I call "80s clatter pop", and I was head-over-heels for it.

But let's come back down to earth, shall we? All together now: "Aga doo doo doo..." This song, with its attendant silly dance, drove us all potty. However, I hold my hand up to dancing to it, doing all the movements, and enjoying it on more than one occasion after a few pints. Blush, blush.

Shoulder pads, 1984-style, were getting beyond a joke. Slowly growing since around 1982, they hadn't quite reached critical mass yet, but Chaka Khan, Alexis and Krystle were certainly looking a little burdened.
Miami Vice began in America and the Don Johnson look became a trend - linen jackets with shoulder pads, the outline of the pads clearly defined through the thin material, so men were not left out.

Shoulder pads were part of the "Power Dressing" image. The phrase was first recorded in 1980, according to the Twentieth Century Book of Words by John Ayto (Oxford, 1999). Back then, it meant a smart, efficient look for executive women. But as the 80s continued the shoulders grew and grew.

Colourful Moon Boots were another fashion sensation of 1984.

Mullets were starting to move into the Yuppie era by becoming big and bouffant, though it would be a few years before they reached maxi-size. The name "mullet" for this popular hairstyle would not come into use until the 1990s.

The aforementioned combinations of bright and drab colours - like yellow and grey - were becoming more and more popular in decor and clothing. Lycra was being worn more and more outside of gym, aerobics or Yoga sessions. The new lycra dresses showed off the "fit for business" figure of the mid-80s woman.

Computers took a great leap forward in 1984 - the Apple Macintosh came with its own "mouse".

In Russia, then still very much "behind the Iron Curtain", Tetris was invented.

Did you pursue the trivial in 1984? Many people did as the British edition of Trivial Pursuit
made its debut in January.

We bid farewell to Sale of the Century this year. Never "hip", even at the start, it was, none the less, preferable to the American style gameshow The Price Is Right. Hosted by Leslie Crowther, the hysterical contestants and audience drove many to the "off" button.

And then there was 60s singer Cilla Black and Surprise, Surprise. Cilla had become a TV presenter when her singing career folded, and her TV career continued throughout the 70s and 80s (and 90s). On Surprise, Surprise, she sat on the "Cilla sofa" seeking to reunite long lost loved ones and bring the odd bit of light into people's lives by popping up in filmed sequences with a song. Lovely.

Spitting Image was brilliant, savage satire. If only there were programmes like it nowadays...

The skies over England are usually full of rain clouds, but was that an alien mother ship I saw in 1984? Diana and the V invasion on ITV made a pleasant alternative (for some) to the Olympics coverage on the Beeb.

In the BBC Radio 4 serial The Archers, Mrs Marjorie Antrobus (Margot Boyd) put in her first appearance, giving a talk on "The Colourful World Of The Afghan Hound" to the Ambridge Women's Institute.

The charity record Do They Know It's Christmas? was, of course, Christmas Number One. It was the brainchild of one Bob Geldof, formerly of the Boomtown Rats. Bob had been deeply moved by TV news footage of famine stricken people in the Third World, and enlisted the help of Midge Ure to put the song together. They then assembled the great and the good of the pop scene to sing it - "Band Aid", they called it. Boy George arrived late, but the record was on shop shelves in time for Christmas.