27 April 2013

Smash Hits: Always Read The Black Type First...

Howard Jones and a lovely brolly (£2-99 - a snip!) star on a 1985 "Smash Hits" cover...

Lovely freebies...
Mid-1980s "Smash Hits" hilarity...

Black Type was essential reading for me in the 1980s. The Smash Hits letters pages were loaded with the drollest of droll wit and irony and I'd beg a look at my younger sister's copy of that worthy mag every time I visited my parents' house. Once I even wrote in and had a letter published myself.

To me, the 1980s were a fabulous time for music. I loved the polished pop, the synth era, the evolvement of rap into the Hip Hop scene, the beginnings of House music, Acid House, and the Dance and Rave scenes.

But I certainly had no desire to drool over pop stars and booster their (often) already massive egos. In the 1970s, we kids got into pop young and I had a cousin who subjected the whole family to her dreadful fixations with the likes of Donny Osmond, the Bay City Rollers and John Travolta.

"Oh, Andy, Woody writes to his Mum every week - isn't he sweet!" (or some such tosh) she'd squawk as she clutched the latest "must-have" fan mag. And it really got on my nerves.

So, I developed a healthy cynicism about pop stars and pop music at an early age. My cousin didn't. As a young married mum in the mid-1980s, she was squawking: "Ooh, Jon Bon Jovi! Did you know that's all his own hair?! He's sooo lovely..." etc, etc, etc.

But my tongue was firmly in my cheek when it came to the pop scene (although I adored a lot of the music) and the Smash Hits letters pages were heaven for me as they often left the subject of pop far behind (how do you spell achtuwarly?).

Black Type, the mysterious letters page editor, who seemed like a bit of a wally, would often wax lyrical about his latest obsession (who would it be this week? Una Stubbs? Bonnie Langford?) and there were enthralling exchanges about Harpic Bleachmatic Duo ads. Amongst other things.

In fact, the whole tone of Smash Hits back then was just sooo droll (remember ' "pop" "star" Simon Le Bon'?), nothing could ever compete. Ever. And on top of all that the mag had Neil Tennant (pre-Pet Shop Boys fame) on its journalistic staff.