20 December 2010


My wife recently bought this 1986 work of fiction in a charity shop, thinking it might bring back a few memories of the mid-'80s era to me.

Diary Of A Yuppie is about a yuppie who likes making money, and having boardroom meetings, and eating lots of posh food, and wearing lots of posh clothes.

At least I assume it is. The first few pages certainly indicate it is.

In 1986, I was having the time of my life, dancing to the Pet Shop Boys and Nu Shooz, and wearing shoulder-padded jackets over cerise mesh vests. And I didn't wear socks - it was Miami Vice trendy not to (stupid fool - I wore canvas shoes and they rubbed nearly all the skin off my feet).

I was also trying to grow designer stubble (it simply made me look dog rough), glutting on hair gel and mousse, and fancying myself with blonde streaks. On top of all that, I was boozing and bedding like there was no tomorrow.

But I wasn't a yuppie. I was working like a dog at... I'll call it Primrose Cottage, a Social Services home for the elderly, so the experiences related in the book don't meld with my own, arouse no nostalgia, and so I've stopped reading after page four.

Also, it's American and I'm English. Bog standard, financially poor-as-can-be English at that.

The book's cover makes an interesting "sign of the times" for the blog, though!

20th Century Words by John Ayto, traces the yuppie name back to 1982 and defines a yuppie thus:

a member of a socio-economic group comprising young professional people working in cities of a type thought of as typifying the ethos of the 1980s: ambitious, go-getting, newly affluent, young, class-free, owing no debt to the past. Originally US; a hybrid word coined probably by grafting an acronym based on "Young Urban Professional" (or "Young Upwardly mobile Professional") on to a basic model suggested by hippie.

Some people, of course, spell it "yuppy".

I have read on-line that the yuppie word was first coined in 1981, whilst 20th Century Words, as seen above, traces it to 1982.

The yuppie acronym probably comes from Chicago. An article by Dan Rottenberg in a May 1980 Chicago magazine called "About that urban renaissance.... there'll be a slight delay" (which I've seen on-line, not in original print), is the first ever found to mention "yuppies" - however the name was simply applied to the upwardly mobile set, gentrifying certain areas, and the associated problems, not the Reagan/Thatcher adoring huge money makers of later in the decade. Those type of yuppies, the ones the tag are now associated with, were prevalent in the mid-to-late decade, and the yuppie tag "took off" during the early Reagan years - the US President was elected in November 1980 and inaugurated in January 1981.

In the UK, I think we started to move into our "yuppie era" around 1984. I remember 1980, 1981 and 1982 as being financially-poor-as-church-mice years. In 1983, things perhaps began to alter a little... and I think 1984 was getting distinctly upwardly mobile. Funnily enough, although people now like to categorise the entire 1980s as being "excess unlimited", I only remember the years 1984 to 1987 as being truly like that. Black Monday in 1987 sent out huge shock waves throughout the financial world, and in 1988 Acid House was distorting the 1980s' "stylish" image more than somewhat.

And '80s "stylish" garb (which I loved) and yuppies were far from being the full story from 1984 to 1987, either. Who could ever forget the Miners' Strike? The Left were very vocal, and environmental concerns were on the rise. I always recall the 1980s as being uproar. And that includes the "height of yuppiedom" years.

I've been having a little delve into the world of yuppiedom, and discovered that as well as plain and simple yuppies there were buppies (black yuppies), Juppies (Japanese yuppies), guppies (gay yuppies), green yuppies (environmentally concerned yuppies - tree hugging dosh chasers - amazing!) and "yuppie puppies" - (upwardly mobile kids, under twenty or the offspring of yuppies).

A yuppie with a yuppie toy in the 1980s - a brick mobile phone. Yuppies also liked filofaxes and wine bars. Oh, yes, I almost forgot - and money.

"Hello, darling, it's me. Listen, I've got a meeting with the chairman of the board in twenty minutes, and my shoulder pads have gone all funny..."

18 December 2010

CB Radio

Legal Citizens Band radio? The "Daily Mirror", 8/5/1980. Cockney model and actress Lorraine Chase is also on the front page as she had just begun work on "The Other 'Arf", a new sitcom.

In 1980, CB radio, invented by American Al Gross in the 1940s and in use in the USA since the 1950s, was illegal in England. Illegal CB usage had been known in a very small way here since the mid-1960s according to information in one of my early 1980s CB magazines, but 1980 saw the number of breakers swell enormously.
The Daily Mirror article brought hopeful news:
Good news for Rubber Duck and his two-way chats


Britain's outlawed Citizens' Band radio fans got a welcome message last night.
Home Secretary William Whitelaw announced that the Government is in favour of introducing a legal two-way radio system.
If plans go ahead, motorists and lorry drivers using call signs like Rubber Duck could be chatting on an approved system called Open Channel some time next year.
Mr Whitelaw made it plain to MPs that although the Government backs CB radio in principle, technical problems will have to be overcome.
He also wants to sound out public opinion before taking a final decision.
CB radio is already widely used in the United States and on the Continent.
Lorries and many private cars are fitted with special transceivers so that their drivers can chat over the air.
Using their own slang, drivers can warn that Smokey Bear (the police) has got black ice (a radar trap) ahead.
They have peculiar call signs like Snowman, woodpecker - and Rubber Duck, made famous by the hit record and film "Convoy".
CB radio fans who have been campaigning in Britain for five years claim that between 30,000 and 70,000 sets are already on the air here.
Their operators risk a £400 fine or six months in jail.
Critics object to CB because it operates on a frequency which could lead to interference with emergency services and aircraft.

Food for thought for William Whitelaw from MP Clement Freud in July 1980. 

Remember good old Sheila Tracy on BBC Radio Two's You and The Night and The Music? Sheila provided music and chat for "all you night owls out there", and was a lovely presence on night time radio.
In 1980, she began a slot for truckers' messages and requests and was soon riding the crest of the early '80s CB radio wave.

As mentioned elsewhere in this post, CB was up-and-running in the USA in the 1950s, but in England it was illegal. 
Nevethertheless, small numbers of people had been flirting with it here since the 1960s, and a couple of films (remember Convoy?!) and hit records (remember Convoy the song?!) created a more general interest in CB jargon (and truckers!) in the late 1970s.

Around 1979 a very small number of people were using illegally imported CB radios in this country. In 1980 the number of breakers rose sharply. Legalisation was now in the air, although this did not actually happen until 2 November 1981.

One of the things many people forget - or simply don't know - about the '80s CB radio craze is that it wasn't until the 1980s that even 50% of the UK population had a land-line phone (no mobiles until 1985 - the first 'bricks'). Being able to chat to people in your front room who weren't actually there with you was novel and exciting to many.

In March 1981, CB jargon (and illegal CB!) was going great guns with enthusiasts in this country, not least truckers, and Sheila Tracy was their heroine...

From the Sun, March 17, 1981:

The voice has those soothing "Family Favourite" tones that you expect to hear asking Bill Crozier what the weather is like in Cologne.

It brings to mind twin-sets, pearls and sensible shoes.

But the vocabulary comes straight from the American freeways.

"This is Tiger Tim, how am I hittin' you good buddies - wall-to-wall and tree-top-tall I hope."

Sheila Tracy, Britain's first and least likely truckers' deejay is on the air again. And all over the country night-drivers tune in to the ten-four and smokey-bear jargon that is sweeping Britain.

Once there was wireless and long-distance lorry drivers. Now, following American fashion of course, we have Citizens' Band radio and truckers. And Sheila. Just over a year ago, she started including a truckers' hour in her once-a-week, all-night record programme on Radio Two.

It has become such a runaway success that the BBC are now going to put it out five nights a week. And Sheila is frantically studying her CB dictionary.

As Tiger Tim - her handle as they call nicknames in the CB world - she plays truckin' songs, Country and western music and relays messages to the night traffic.

A driver who thumbed a lift and left his atlas behind. Wives sending love to their travelling husbands.

Drivers with names like Clog Dancer and Little Fat Man send cheerful and occasionally cheeky messages via Sheila.

"Tell Short Arms to get his hand in his pocket and buy the teas," she repeats faithfully.

And in transport cafes all over the country the drivers whoop with laughter.

It is not just lorry drivers either. Groups of schoolboys take it in turns to sit up and tape her show...

It has all left Sheila rather breathless. She is 46 and has been a BBC personality for years.

She was a television announcer for some time then moved to radio and was the first woman to read the radio news.

Before that she was a trombonist with the Ivy Benson All Girls' Band and worked as a variety artist in an act called the Tracy Sisters.

But none of this showbusiness pedigree prepared her for the impenetrable language of the truckers.

She first heard a truckers' programme in America, run by Big John Trimble, the truckers' deejay. And she decided to try a slot in her programme, "You, The Night And The Music".

A lorry driver sent her a copy of an American dictionary of CB truckers' language and now she speaks it like a native, even if she is not always sure what she is saying.

"Seventy-three and eighty-eight," she says, "and ten-ten till we do it again."

Whatever does it mean?

"I think it means love and kisses," she says, uncertainly, and has to check her dictionary to make sure.

Some of her fans have made her up an American-style number plate with the title "Tiger Tim - The Truckers' Friend," emblazoned on it. And she proudly displays it in the rear window of her car.

"But I haven't had a flash yet," she says.

Good heavens, I should think NOT.

No, Sheila explains patiently, a flash means a headlamp signal.

She has been caught out once or twice herself, though.

"Some of the blighters send me rude messages and I've read them out without realising," she says.

Several drivers sent messages to friends they described as bar-stewards. And it was only when she tried saying it quickly that she realised what they meant...

One of the fears about widespread use of CB, which had deterred previous attempts to legalise it, was the notion that it might interfere with other communications systems or electronic equipment. And not just remote controlled model aircraft. There certainly were times, as illegal CB usage rocketed in 1981, when those concerns appeared to be justified...

Sun, 12/8/1981
Citizen band radio users were warned last night that their broadcasts can interfere with heart monitoring machines in hospitals.

The disturbing discovery was made by Torbay Hospital in South Devon, who said that electrocardiograph machines cut out when CBs are used nearby.

Hospital administrator Ken Dainton said: "We are particularly prone to it here because enthusiasts use their sets to warn others about holiday traffic jams on the Torquay road.

"So far only monitoring machines are affected. But it could be devastating if these broadcasts affect other electronic machinery."

Mr Dainton said local CB clubs had observed a radio silence within a mile of the hospital.

Another CB danger was revealed yesterday by fire chiefs in Greater Manchester.

They are trying to track down a chatterbox housewife whose broadcasts are blocking the wavebands of emergency services.

The woman's equipment is faulty and her chats about dogs, cats and birds "fan" out into the frequency used if there was a major train or air disaster.

Other reports of CB complications had a delicious touch of comedy as the illegal CB craze went into overdrive in the run-up to legalisation...  


Daily Mirror, 5/10/1981

Citizens Band fans are being received loud and clear on the Rev. Roger Hall's church microphone. One voice even broke in while Mr Hall was conducting his daughter Beverley's wedding.

As the couple took their solemn vows, it said: "OK - time for a tea break." Mr Hall, of Coventry, said: "It was just like the voice of the Almighty."

From the Sun, October 23, 1981:

Citizens' Band radio fans who break the new laws on their two-way sets could rapidly find Smokey Bear on their trail, they were warned yesterday.

Smokey - CB slang for the police - will crack down on people using unauthorised wavelengths when the craze becomes legal on November 2. Licenses will cost £10.

Home Office Minister Timothy Raison said there will be heavy fines for illegal operators.

Newspaper article from November 2, 1981.

2 November 1981 duly arrived and shops immediately sold out of the first British models as the public went CB crazy. As seen in the newspaper article reproduced above, CB's inventor, American Al Gross, made the first legal CB call in England from a Rolls Royce parked in Trafalgar Square - his "handle" was "CB'er No 1".

Do you remember these CB slang phrases?
Brown bottles = beer

Reading the mail = listening

Home 20 = CB'er's home town

Negatory = no

Handle = CB'er's slang name

In a short = soon

Wrapper = colour of car

Wall to wall = strong signal
Smokey = the police
Flip-flop = return trip

Eyeball = meet face to face

Remember the Rumbelows - "We save you money and serve you right"? The advertisement above is from the Daily Mirror, 16/12/1981. With CB radio now legal, many people could look forward to a very CB Christmas.

There had been some moans and organised protests about the allotted frequencies for legal Citizens Band radio and one or two other quibbles, but on the whole CB fans were pleased by legalisation...

The editor of What CB wrote:
There's little in the Home Office Legal CB announcement to give existing users much cause for celebration. Unless they convert their rigs to FM - or, of course, buy a new legal specification set - they stay outside the law. There will be no amnesty, nor a period of grace, which was probably only to be expected. But no one should forget that without the widespread use of illegal AM equipment, it is highly unlikely that a legal CB system would have been introduced.

Apart from this, however, it's tremendously exciting that CB can now be used without the fear of the knock on the door or the flashing blue light in the rear view mirror. As well as the vast number of breakers using the illegal frequencies (probably one-and-a-half million), there are just as many who have been waiting for a legal system to arrive. From November 2nd, a legal rig, a legal aerial and, of course, that £10 licence means you can natter away to your heart's content. 
One of the first British CB rigs, the 1981 Amstrad 901. All together now: "Breaker, break!" "Fancy an eyeball?" etc, etc...

Two more 1981 magazines for CB fans - "CB Radio" ("The first, the original, the most informative and the most copied") and "Breaker".

A specimen CB radio licence as featured in "Breaker" magazine.

Above and below: "Breaker" magazine, November 1981 - a CB rig guide.

"The CB market is going to make sliced bread look silly..."

It was all happening in the world of CB in 1981... 

Get kitted out here!

Early '80s sew-on patches. Now, how about that eyeball? 
Customised pottery from Devon featuring a CB flash, plus your "handle" on tankards and mugs if required.

"The Big Dummy's Guide To British C.B Radio" - essential for learning the lingo and getting started. 
Nobody had any excuse not to get turned on. To the world of CB radio. 

"The model M2.40 Channel-27 FM. - to meet full U.K. Government Specifications."

CB radio Smurf, dated 1981.   

The CB craze peaked in 1982 and 1983 - even becoming the subject of story-lines in popular telly shows Terry and June and Coronation Street in '82. In the former, Terry joined the craze and ended up stuck in his car in the back of a lorry; in the latter, Eddie Yeats (handle: "Slim Jim") met the love of his life, Marion Willis (handle: "Stardust Lil"), over the airwaves. Even Eddie's landlady, Hilda Ogden, was doing the "breaker, break" (well, briefly!) as "Shady Lady"!

The craze also influenced children's television with the introduction of a new magazine show on ITV called CB-TV. The idea behind this was that the presenters had commandeered the airwaves and the show was citizens band TV. Nonsense, of course, but a fun scenario. 

The highest number of CB radio UK licence holders was recorded in 1983 - 300,000.  

By 1984, enthusiasm for CB radio had waned a little, but it was still hugely popular. My mate Pete had a rig in his car and a speaker under the bonnet. "Kill that cat. Would you please kill that cat?" we requested over this brilliant PA system, and nearly wet ourselves laughing as puzzled pedestrians tried to locate the source of the message.

CB was fun, could be used for making pals and even meeting prospective partners, but there could be aggro. One evening, Pete was chatting to a breaker who became increasingly hostile.

Not known for backing down from confrontations (despite the white legwarmers he often wore), Pete got pretty steamed up, too. "Yeah? Well come on, I'm in the car park opposite St George's Church. Get down 'ere - I'll take you on!"

Mr Not-So-Good-Buddy assured us, in no uncertain terms, that he was on his way. By the sound of him, he wouldn't stop at an eyeball - he'd tear us limb from limb. 

Oower, Missis! 

Pete sat silently behind the steering wheel, face grim and set, staring at the entrance to the car park.

"See you, Pete!" I firmly believed (and still do) that discretion is the better part of valour, and prepared to get out of the car.

Pete grinned at me, delighted that he'd made me sweat: "Where'd ya think you're goin'? You didn't think I was serious, did you?" and he started the car and away we went. Phew! Curious though I was to see if the breaker was as fierce as his voice, I could live with it!

Despite this (and knuckle-dragging CB idiots were few and far between in my experience), I remember CB radio very fondly. With all the changes since - the World Wide Web and so on - it seems like a lifetime ago... good times...
My local branch of Tandy was offering the Realistic TRC 1001 hand held 40 channel 4 watt C.B, introduced by Tandy on November 26 1981 at a price of £119.95, for the bargain price of £69.95 in August 1982. 

"One-Nine For Santa"... a treat for Christmas 1981 from "Tiswas" star Fogwell Flax and the Ankle Biters from Freehold Junior School.
Breaking with Terry - "Terry and June", 1982.

Listen to Sheila Tracy and the first instalment of her five-nights-a-week BBC Radio 2 Truckers' Hour from May 1981 here.

Power Showers....

Power, darling - don't you just love the idea? And Power Dressing, didn't you just love that, too?

20th Century Words by John Ayto - published in 1999 - defines Power Dressing thus:

noun (1980) a style of dressing for work and business intended to convey an impression of efficiency and confidence. Applied particularly to clothing adopted by some women to fit in with the ruthless business ethic of the 1980s, characterised by the use of shoulder-pads to create a more masculine-looking outline.

Of course, looking back at the 1980s from our current vantage point, we can see that the shoulder-padded look was also part of lots of 1980s fun fashion - and that many men employed it, too.

I did. I thought it so stylish. And the choice of colours for jackets back then, together with the patterned material inside that you could roll up your sleeves to reveal and contrast, was a wow.

Power dressing was followed by a range of "power" prefixes - you could have a power walk, power nap, power breakfast, power washes and, of course, a power shower...

There's nothing like a Power Shower - to pamper, to soothe, to invigorate, to leave you tingling-fresh.

And now they start at an even better price.

For less than £300 inc. VAT, you can have, installed - a shower with an adjustable head that puts you in control, to choose the spray that suits your mood.

A shower with a powerful pump which, when added to your gas central heating, keeps the luxurious water flow constant, and maintains the temperature you choose.

And a shower that can still cost less to take than a bath. Even more of a bargain when you remember that heating your water by gas is your cheapest option - 24 hrs a day.

The Power Shower. Saving you money all-round.

See them and other energy saving gas appliances at British Gas showrooms now.


I do love the black tiles with red grouting effect featured in the ad photograph. Very '80s indeed!

08 December 2010

Coronation Street 1980s - Part 4

Coronation Street is celebrating its 50th anniversary - half a century on-screen - and as a salute to the show, we've been taking a look at the Street in the 1980s, with a little help from our sister Blog, Back On The Street.

This week, we take a look at some of the events of 1987, when quite a lot of the drama centred around Corner Shop keeper Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley). I was saddened by the demolition of the shop, the setting for the show's very first scene in 1960, during the 50th anniversary tram crash story-line. When I was a kid, I fantasised about owning the Corner Shop! Anyway, the shop survived the 1980s, and 1987 in Weatherfield saw no structural damage whatsoever!

Let's take a little trip back...

1987! This was the climactic year when the 1980s sealed their fate as being a one Prime Minister decade by electing Margaret Thatcher for a third term, and in Coronation Street the subject of women in politics was also on the agenda...

Ken Barlow (William Roache) had hoped to stand for the local council, but his position on The Weatherfield Recorder put paid to that when his boss raised objections. Ken contemplated chucking the job in and going ahead anyway, but decided he must back down, being a man with responsibilities.

Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride) had already fallen out with Alf Roberts, the existing local Independent councillor, and her boss at the Corner Shop, over matters political. This had resulted in her walking out on the job as Alf's assistant at the shop, which she had held since 1980.

And the idea was then born... if Ken couldn't stand for the local council, why shouldn't Deirdre?

And so she did.

Enlisting the help of Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire), Sally Webster (Sally Dynevor) and Susan Baldwin (Wendy Jane Walker), Deirdre sallied boldly forth.

Sally dropped out when she stepped into Deirdre's shoes at the Corner Shop. She couldn't very well campaign against her new boss. Deirdre totally approved.

Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) complimented Sally on her approach to work at the shop, and Sally was thrilled.

Having heard there was a flat above the shop, Sally asked Alf if she and Kevin (Michael Le Vell) could rent it, but Alf said no - it was being used as a store room.

Sally sought the aid of her current landlady, Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander), asking her to tell Alf that she and Kevin would shortly be moving away from the district. Alf, dreading finding a replacement during his busy campaigning period, gave in - and Kev and Sal moved into the shop flat.

When a local youngster was run over at a local accident black spot, where Deirdre was campaigning for a pedestrian crossing, her election campaign really took off. Ken used The Recorder to report the story, complete with a photograph of Deirdre and the unlucky youngster.

Deirdre won the election.

She celebrated her victory with a party at The Rovers, where she was hoisted by Ken and Pete Jackson (Ian Mercer) and paraded around the pub, whilst her supporters sang She's A Lassie From Lancashire around the piano.

Alf and Audrey (Sue Nicholls) had attended the party, at Audrey's insistence - she didn't want the neighbours thinking they were hiding away, crushed by defeat.

Alf, feeling unwell, left early.

And, alone at No 11, he collapsed with a heart attack.

Audrey found him on the floor when she returned from the party.

She was terrified. As Alf was stretchered into the ambulance, she said: "Please God let him be all right... just let him be all right..."

A crowd of onlookers had gathered in the dark street. Hilda was there, of course.

"What's happened?" asked Sally Webster.

"It's Alf Roberts," Hilda sucked in her breath. "It doesn't look good to me!"

"That's it, 'ilda, let's all look on the bright side, eh?!" said Betty Turpin (Betty Driver), scathingly.

Deidre was devastated - blaming herself for Alf's condition. If only she hadn't stood against him in the election.

With some changes to his diet and a decrease in stress levels, Alf was expected to make a full recovery, but Audrey still let Deirdre have it, both barrels, when she called at the Corner Shop to see if there was anything she could do to help:

"Getting 'im out so you could go in! Well, all I can say, lovey, is enjoy it while you can, because do you know life has a very funny way of comin' round - and one of these days somebody might just come along and do the same to you!"

When Audrey returned to the Street with Alf in a taxi, Deirdre was just leaving on her first official council function.

She greeted Alf warmly, and Alf returned the warmth, telling her he felt fine.

"You want to get 'im inside, he looks worn out!" said Percy Sugden (Bill Waddington) to Audrey.

Nobody could be more insensitive than well-meaning Percy, who then said of Deirdre and Ken:

"They're off to the mayor making, you know, where they elect the new mayor, then they decide who's going to be on various committees. Then they 'ave a slap-up lunch."

Talk about rubbing Alf's nose in it!

Alf's smile faded: "Yeah, well, I do know what a mayor making is. I've been to one or two in me time, Percy!"

Being at home at No 11, recuperating, got on Alf's nerves, particularly as Percy elected himself chief visitor. Deirdre also visited, and although Audrey was still frosty, Alf gave her advice about her position on the council and seemed to have accepted the situation.

But he wanted to get back to the Corner Shop. How he longed to get back to the Corner Shop! Audrey told him to stop worrying about the place, he'd be back there soon enough and anyway it would be there long after they'd both departed this mortal coil.

30 November 2010

1983: Return Of The Jedi With Some Brand New Merchandising...

Star Wars toys really rose into the stratosphere in 1980, with the release of the second film, The Empire Strikes Back. Kids were by then aware that the saga was no one-off flash-in-the-pan, and with news of a third film in the offing, everybody wanted to get their hands on a Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader - or even an R2 D2 or C3PO.

In 1983 came Return Of The Jedi, comically retitled Not The Bloody Jedi Again! by the BBC's Three Of A Kind team. And with the film, of course, came more merchandising. Feast your eyes on this selection from the autumn/winter 1983 John Myers Home Shopping Catalogue. The AT-AT vehicle was £33.50 - not cheap in those days! And probably not now, either, with the Credit Crunch in effect.

Some consider the 1980s a time of merchandising overkill, when kids were first exploited as consumers. But I say piffle and bunk. Anybody who remembers the absolute flood of Magic Roundabout merchandising in the 1960s and 1970s will support my view. As a tiny wee boy, I was desperate for a Corgi Magic Roundabout Garden, but my hard-pressed parents could not afford it. How I hankered!

If you were a Star Wars fan, I hope you were luckier than I, and that The Force was with you when it came to getting your grubby little mits on the merchandising!

26 November 2010

Coronation Street 1980s: Part 3: Mark Eden - Wally Randle, 1981/Alan Bradley, 1986

Alan Bradley (Mark Eden) was the most chilling Coronation Street character of the 1980s. Slowly but surely, we saw the facade of an ordinary, decent man drop away to reveal something horribly cold and calculating. Worse still, our Rita (Barbara Knox) was taken in by him, and almost lost her life, smothered by a cushion in 1989, because of it.

The story-line played out slowly from 1986-1989, and is remembered as one of Coronation Street's finest, ending only when Alan was killed by a Blackpool tram.

The story-line was also groundbreaking in that it was the first time The Street had featured such a slow burning, psychological drama.

But did you know that Mark Eden, so mind blowing as evil Alan, once played a very different role in Corrie?

Tis true!

When Elsie Tanner (Patricia Phoenix) started work at Jim Sedgewick's new transport cafe on Rosamund Street in 1980, she was bound to meet fellas.

And, of course, she did.

In February 1981, she met one Wally Randle and was attracted to him. She invited him to stay at No 11 Coronation Street with her, but sadly Wally saw it only as a friendly arrangement, and fled when Elsie made her feelings plain.

And guess who played nice lorry driver Wally? Yep, top prize is yours, Mark Eden!

Mr Eden's stint as Wally Randle lasted only from February to April 1981, and when Alan Bradley turned up in 1986, none of us remembered Wally.

In fact, if it was not for Alan Bradley and the Mark Eden link between the two characters, I'm not sure I'd even be recalling Wally now!

1989: The fatal tram - Alan Bradley has met his end, and Rita's wits are completely scattered. Another tram is apparently to feature in Coronation Street's 50th anniversary story-line!

24 November 2010

The '80s Actual Christmas Competition!

As the festive season approaches, we thought we'd give you some fun and possibly something to celebrate with our 1980s Pop Lyrics competition. The prize is an original, sealed 1980 Rubik's Cube, like the one pictured above. As we all know, the Hungarian Magic Cube made its international debut at the toy fairs of London, Paris, Nuremberg and New York in January and February 1980, with Erno Rubik demonstrating his own creation. The Cube was then re-manufactured to bring it in line with western world safety and packaging standards, and renamed "Rubik's Cube".

And then, after a massive shortage of Cubes which stretched on into 1981, the craze took off and entranced just about everybody!

To win your very own sealed Rubik's Cube, actually manufactured in 1980, simply look at the ten 1980s song lyrics listed below. These are from some of my very favourite songs. Tell me the title and the band/singer via the "Comments" section here - or e-mail your answers to - and the first name drawn from our '80s economy size Superdrug Hair Gel container on 10 December wins the Cube!

Here are those lyrics:

1) Walking in the pouring rain, walking with Jesus and Jane...

2) I heard it in the House of Commons, everything's for sale...

3) Pretending not to see his gun, I said "Let's go out and have some fun"...

4) Get your booty on the floor tonight - make my day...

5) It's not my sense of emptiness you fill with your desire...

6) Take a chance and put your money down, we will race you high above the ground...

7) Concerned and caring, help the helpless, but always remain ultimately selfish...

8) I saw you look like a Japanese baby. In an instant, I remembered everything...

9) Live out your fantasies here with me. Just let the music set you free...

10) Take a girl like that and put her in a natural setting, like a café for example...

23 November 2010

One Foot In The Grave - One Foot In The 1980s...

"I don't believe it! The 1980s? That's all we bloody well need!" says Victor Meldrew (Richard Wilson) seen here with his wife, Margaret (Annette Crosbie).

What's Victor Meldrew got to to do with the 1980s?

Well, did you know that the first series of this brilliant David Renwick sitcom, complete with sublimely tasty additives such as black comedy, tragedy and some very surreal moments indeed, was actually produced in 1989? Yes, 1989!

The series aired on BBC 1 from 4 January to 8 February 1990, and introduced us to Victor, Margaret, and Mrs Warboys (Doreen Mantle) - and the beginning of Victor's existence as a man put out to grass.

Sheer brilliance.

Believe it!

21 November 2010

Su Pollard, Some Donkeys, A Nice Cuppa And A Funny '80s TV Ad...

The 1980s were a fabulous time for TV ads - and who better than Su Pollard, then riding high as Peggy in Hi-De-Hi!, to illustrate that fact in this little gem from the mid-decade? And, of course, you only get an 'OO' with Typhoo!

Ah, those '80s TV ad memories...

I so fondly recall...

The famous Shake n' Vac all singing and dancing ad, the Weetabix Gang (OK?!"), Bernard Matthews and some "bootiful" Norfolk nosh, JR Hartley on a book search, the video age being ushered in with an unforgettable ditty, Ada and Cissie enjoying some fresh cream cakes, Beattie and her "ology", the oh-so-catchy "Lotta Bottle", the sublime "Ullo Tosh, Gotta Toshiba?", some hover bovver in the garden, the celebrity Wispa chocolate bar series, and simply squillions more great ads which made us not to want to leave the room to make a cuppa when they were on!

20 November 2010

Post Bag - Shiny Suits, '80s Naughty Mags, Snoods And The Pet Shop Boys...

Thank heavens this wall isn't slithery!

Some lovely e-mails which made me smile!

Tangie writes:

Do you remember those really shiny, light grey suits? The sort that caused you to slither down the wall at the disco after a few too many in the late '80s?

I do indeed. Stella Artois. Yum. Reassuringly expensive. Whoops, here I go...

Dan says:

I read your post on "Why Do I Do This?" (the blog) and I'm glad you do. The '70s revival was silly, because nicking things from other decades, particularly the 1980s, was daft. I don't know if I should mention this, but there is a retro porn magazine site which is always touting '80s porn as '70s. It's so daft, because the fashions speak for themselves - you can watch them evolving over the years from the '70s to the '80s - and I remember some of the mags from when I was a grubby school teenage boy back in the mid-to-late 1980s!

LOL! You wouldn't think there'd be much fashion in porn, would you? Feel free to write what you like - many of us remember being "grubby school teenage boys" and those sort of mags. And what you write doesn't actually surprise me - the people behind it either genuinely believe the '70s myth - or simply that conning prospective punters into thinking that '80s stuff is '70s will sell more.

Sheila writes:

Call yourself an '80s blog? Where are the snoods?

So much to cover, so little time. I haven't done jelly shoes yet, either.

Chris writes:

Can we have an article on the Pet Shop Boys, please? These lads single handedly picked up '80s music and flung it forward, creating sheer brilliance - the sort of stuff that still makes my deelyboppers tingle today.

I love the Pet Shop Boys and was utterly thrilled by their sounds in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s. I've been planning an article for a while but haven't got round to it. I must do it soon!

18 November 2010

Coronation Street 1980s - Part 2

Continuing our series of articles geared towards celebrating Corrie in the 1980s, as the show heads towards its 50th anniversary on 9 December this year.

From our sister blog, Back On The Street:

In October 1989, Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy) - "Norman" to Mrs Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire) - landed himself a job at the local Bettabuys supermarket. He was assistant manager (trainee) to Mr Reg Holdsworth (Ken Morley), manager.

It was a slightly complicated set-up as Curly's landlady, Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn), worked at the supermarket, and Curly was her line manager.

When Mr Holdsworth asked Mr Watts to make written assessments of the staff, Mr Watts did so. And the reports were as sweet as Mr Watts' nature.

Not good enough, said Mr Holdsworth - he wanted to convince Head Office just how lousy the staff were, and just what a great job management was doing in keeping the ship afloat.

Mr Watts rewrote the assessments, including a few choice criticisms of Vera - particularly regarding her time-keeping.

And then Mr Holdsworth sprang it on Mr Watts:

The assessments were to be used to assist the management in decision making - six staff members were to made redundant early in the new year.

And, thanks to Curly, Vera, his esteemed landlady, figured high on the list of those to be given the boot.

Curly managed to sort things out so that Vera kept her job, but Vera got wind of what he'd done initially (pointing out her bad time-keeping to Mr Holdsworth) and she and Jack (Bill Tarmey) sent him to Coventry.

They had loud conversations in Curly's presence, designed to make him feel uncomfortable:

Vera: "Do you know what really upsets me, Jack? This person lives with us."

Jack: "Eats our vittles."

Vera: "Watches Home And Away with us!!"

Jack: "Do you know, it is like suddenly finding a rattlesnake in yer cornflakes!"

Poor old Curly. Things never worked out for him.

And the way he applied his hair gel did him no favours, either.

14 November 2010

Materialism/Conspicuous Consumption In The 1980s - A Working Class Perspective

'80s moments - what do you remember?

Much is said and written about the "Greed Is Good" 1980s.

But what were they really like for your average working class geezer? And who was and is trilling "conspicuous consumption" and "materialism" regarding that decade?

Firstly, there is no doubt that the 1980s boomed - yuppies arrived and flaunted dosh hideously, Dynasty transformed the American night time soaps - including Dallas - with glitzy, OTT hugely expensive clothing, and many real, everyday people consumed more. There were more things first available or affordable for a start - think mobile phones, compact discs, personal computers, microwave ovens and VCRs.

My family started the decade as they had lived through the previous decade - with a wonky black and white TV and no phone, in a council house which had no central heating, wooden sash windows (which iced over on the inside in the winter and rattled and let in the draughts something awful!) and a kitchen and toilet prefab attached to the back of the house. The prefab had actually been condemned since 1971, and there was a slight gap between it and the house which had developed over the years, where the wind blew through.

And we certainly couldn't take three square meals a day for granted.

I left home in 1983, but my family ended the decade with a VCR, a phone, colour TV with remote control, and microwave oven. Their council house had been extensively modernised in 1987, the prefab removed and a new brick kitchen added, together with new windows and central heating. They now had an upstairs as well as a downstairs loo. The family was eating better food - at least three times a day - and viewing with great interest the blossoming mobile phone and personal computer markets and satellite television.

These things became part of their lives in the 1990s.

By the late 1980s, the cry had gone up from the great and the good: what a greedy decade it had been; we'd been too obsessed with money, possessions and style - how awful we'd been.

What truly hacked me off at the time was that the people making these pronouncements were well heeled journalists and BBC types. And, compared to us, their lives had always been highly materialistic.

And when had these big greedy years that suddenly were the entire 1980s actually happened? 1980? Don't make me laugh! 1981? Pah! 1982? Give me my deelyboppers!

The boom times had been from around 1984 to 1987 in my estimation, when the stock market crash put the frighteners on the yuppie types and things got a little wobbly.

In the years following the 1980s, it has been a great comfort to many to scapegoat the decade as the start of materialism writ large. But when you consider that, in the 1970s and early 1980s, many of us working class folk lived in housing and with facilities that would cause your average 21st century geezer to have a fit of the vapours, it's hardly surprising that we wanted new stuff and wanted to be part of the modern technological world.

And much of the stuff in my family was brought through mail order catalogues on easily repayable terms, just as they'd always shopped for larger items during my childhood.

The people making "greedy '80s" statements now are many and varied. It really is a comforting thing to scapegoat one decade. But the voices are still loudest from the comfortably heeled Guardian and BBC types - and that gets right up my nose!

Round my way, we certainly weren't saying, "Chortle! Chortle! Consume, consume!" in the mid-to-late 1980s. We were just emerging from the long, grey, poor-as-can be 1970s and early '80s, and we went: "Crickey! A VCR! And we can rent one! Isn't that brilliant?!!" or, "A microwave oven? Well, if you're sure they don't give people radiation poisoning, it would be out of this world to be able to cook like that!"

Wikipedia tends to try and glamorise the 1970s and write the 1980s as very ugly indeed, and a lot of that is simply claptrap.

That's not to say that everybody was happy in the 1980s, far from it - unemployment more than doubled in the early 1980s, from one and a half million at the end of the 1970s. Genuine stories of '80s traumas make for heart rending reading or listening.

But the fact remains that for millions of us life improved a great deal, we became better fed, had more material comforts and better lifestyles.

The fact is also obvious, to anybody with a few brain cells, that the view of the decade so familiar to us all, touted by the likes of the BBC, is simply a ridiculous comic book caricature, based on trying to make everything in the 1980s look horrible compared to the mythically beautiful 1970s.

And that view of the 1970s? Ridiculous! Hippies truly were a cutting edge thing of the mid-to-late 1960s, and the only hippie types I encountered in the 1970s (and, indeed, 1980s) were well-heeled, middle class people. That was always the case.You couldn't be dirt poor and drop out!

Punk was the real, fresh and happening thing of the 1970s.

Oh, and to all those reading this who think I was a rabid Tory in the 1980s and that this post is leading up to a great dollop of praise for Maggie Thatcher, think again: I gave up my nice office job and went to work as a care worker in a Social Services home for the elderly in the mid-'80s. I also took the greatest of pleasure in voting Labour (Old Labour, that was, not New).

But to wear tacky, cheap Miami Vice style clothing and be able to have some home comforts and experience modern technology gave me great pleasure.

These days, I'm probably the least "materialistic" person I know - I don't have a TV service subscription, no mobile phone, no microwave oven, no washing machine even.

But that's my choice. I like to rough it, it doesn't give me any right to preach or feel superior.

I wouldn't call your average working class person of today, with a houseful of nice furniture and modern technology (far more than we had in the 1980s), greedy.

But there are many amongst the great and the good who see it as a regrettable trend started in the so-bad-they're-unreal 1980s.

And, coming from their moneyed backgrounds, everything on tap and taken for granted, that makes me seethe!