27 May 2010

Coronation Street: 21 Years Of The Stone Cladding...

With a bit of dosh to spend (if they were lucky) some working class folks did lovely things to their houses in the 1980s - "the decade of style". Having your homestead stone clad was quite a craze in the mid-to-late 1980s.

Ooh, 'eck! We missed an important anniversary here at '80s Actual. Something that happened in the very crucial year of 1989.

Nope, we're not talking about the invention of the World Wide Web, the Fall of the Berlin Wall or the launch of Sky TV. Sure, they were all "crucial" events of 1989 - and their 21st anniversaries are well worth marking - but the event we have in mind makes those things pale into insignificance.

In February 1989, Mrs Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn), a resident of No 9 Coronation Street since 1983, had her house covered in stone cladding.

Thus ensuring that the neighbourhood was set on an "upwardly mobile" path.

Just look at the posh houses which were built opposite later in 1989!

Would builder Maurice Jones ever have chosen that site if Vera hadn't made the grotty little terrace opposite so attractive?

We're so sorry we forgot the anniversary. It's unforgivable of us and a right kick in't teeth to't memory of the lovely Vera.

Sorry, chuck!

To make amends, we've included a "lovely" photograph in this post of the most attractive house in Coronation Street, taken when the Duckworths were still in residence. The handsome guy at the door (we've blanked out his face because he's too devastatingly good looking to be seen on-line) is the chief cook and bottle washer of this blog, calling round for a cuppa and a natter with Vera a few years back.

Some screen caps from our "Back On The Street" blog. Back to 1989 and the cladding is going up. Vera worries about the quality of the job the workmen are doing and asks Jack: "Does that look straight to you?"

"When you cover one eye, it looks to go down at one side..."

22 May 2010

Pac-Man - 30th Anniversary - 1980-2010

On 22 May 1980, a Namco arcade game called Puck Man was first released in Japan. In those days, shoot 'em up games like Space Invaders ruled (the Invaders were just consolidating their grip on the UK in 1980!), but within a year or two Puck-Man, now renamed Pac-Man, was everywhere.

Read our original article on Pac-Man here and many happy returns (or WACCA WACCA WACCA!) to our favourite arcade game - and one of the ultimate 1980s icons!

We love ya - now, then, forever!


14 May 2010

The Shake 'n' Vac TV Ad - 1980-2010: Jenny Logan Answers Your Questions, And A Look At 1980...

Bliss! Doesn't it take you back? Shake 'n' Vac by Glade had first appeared in our shops the year before, but 1980 saw the debut of the now legendary TV ad. And it ran, on and off, for nine years!

Jenny Logan, the star of the ad, has answered some questions from '80s Actual readers about the Shake 'n' Vac experience, her showbusiness career, and her other famous 1980s TV appearance - in the fondly remembered Two Ronnies serial, The Worm That Turned. Thanks to Jenny for her detailed answers to the questions we sent. We think it's lovely to see her again! Jenny's answers are split into two videos, below.


So, what were things like in 1980, the year the Shake 'n' Vac TV ad launched? Well, it was a different planet! Adam and the Ants and Spandau Ballet first hit the pop charts. There were three TV channels. Only 5% of UK households had a VCR. And as for home computing... what on earth was that?!!

Let's do the Shake 'n' Vac through a few memorable 1980 events and trends...

Who shot JR? The country went Dallas crazy as the mystery hung in the air for months... "I Shot JR" T-shirts, badges, and stetsons abounded!

In November, America elected a new President, Ronald Reagan. It was in America a year or two later that the term "yuppie" was first coined. But in 1980 they simply didn't exist!

Naughty goings-on as Brighton opened the first nudist beach in England - and indeed the whole of Britain - on 1 April, 1980...

Well I never!

CB radio, invented in the USA in the 1940s, had been used in the UK (illegally) in a very small way since the 1960s. In 1980, talk of legalisation was in the air (it would happen in November 1981) and a huge illegal craze sprouted. Breaker break!

First released in Japan in June 1978 with arcade machines debuting at UK trade shows in 1979, the Space Invaders invaded the early 1980s. In 1980, BBC Radio 1 announced: "Space Invaders have well and truly landed!"

Buster Bloodvessel of much-loved pop band Bad Manners helped to make 1980 fun. Here he is on Tiswas, eating some very posh nosh - a jar of pickled onions seasoned with pork pie.

1980, of course, belonged to Jenny Logan and the Shake 'n' Vac dance - and also to Madness. It was a truly golden year for the band with the "Nutty Sound". Remember Baggy Trousers? The lads could do no wrong.

It came from behind the Iron Curtain - Hungary, to be exact. In 1980, an obscure Hungarian puzzle called the Magic Cube was re-manufactured for the Western World and renamed.

What should the new name be? The "Gordian Knot" was suggested, but Rubik's Cube was chosen. The name gave credit where it was due - the inventor was Erno Rubik.

Launched in the UK (patent registered 7/5/1980) and the States in May 1980, the Cube was in tremendously short supply. It began to infiltrate UK toy shops not long before Christmas, amidst tremendous interest after it had appeared on Top of the Pops during the summer. 

The British Association Of Toy Retailers noted the interest and declared it "Toy of the Year", but the country would not be fully stocked until the spring of 1981. The Cube also won the Toy of the Year award for 1981.

Also in 1980...

Simon Bates began his long-running Our Tune programme on BBC Radio 1.

Female cops Jean Darblay of the BBC's Juliet Bravo and Maggie Forbes of ITV's The Gentle Touch made their debuts.

On at the flicks was Breaking Glass and The Shining.

The romance between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer began.

The UK's first personal stereo, the Sony Stowaway, arrived.

Margaret Thatcher declared: "The lady's not for turning."

And London cabbie Fred Housego won Mastermind.

1980 was a memorable year...

All that, and Jenny and the Shake 'n' Vac too!

07 May 2010

Early '80s Youth Fashion... And The Changing Years Of The '80s...

1983: donkey jackets for both genders...

Ah, the 1980s! So big! So flashy! The donkey jackets (£9-95 - a snip!). The deelyboppers (you could get 'em for fifty pee if you were lucky!)! The pineapple knits (£8-99 - bit pricey!). The ra ra skirts (£5-49!) and so on.

'Ere, wot's goin' on? you say. The '80s were all about being flash! Spendin' loads of dosh on clothes! Kids getting into designer labels! Don't you con me, matey!

And yes, you are quite right. But then there were '80s and '80s...

The early 1980s were so poor they hurt. In fact, I'd found the '70s to be the same.

And it was useless looking for big hair and shoulder pads in the early 1980s youth clubs and comprehensive schools. No, no. You would have found manky flared trousers instead.

Flared trousers? Sooo '70s, you chortle. Wrong, actually. Flares dated back to the late 1960s, and had been on their way out of fashion since at least 1978. In fact, I have a newspaper article from 1975, advising dedicated followers of fashion to get rid.

The trouble was, flares had been around so long, and people were so poor, that they didn't just chuck out perfectly good, wearable trousers.

It was said that Punk was the '70s way of washing the '60s out of their hair.

But, bizarrely, the '70s then washed the '60s straight back in with a Ska revival. The revival spanned from 1979 to around 1981, and for good measure the late '70s also reintroduced '60s Mod fashions.

The new fashionable trousers to be wearing in the late 1970s and early 1980s were black straights - also known as drainpipes. And white socks were a wow.

So '50s/'60s.

But wonderful.

However, at school, whatever we boys wore, flares or straights, the girls took the mickey.

Flares had been relegated to their late '60s origins, so if we wore them some waggish girl would always taunt:

"Flaredypops! Come on, pop pickers!"

And if we wore drainpipes instead we got a dose of heavy sarcasm:

"Oooh, I like your straights!"

It was terrible!

Fortunately, in the early 1980s, stone washed jeans arrived.

And that was better. Something new.

Ad from my local newspaper, 1983: donkey jackets were so desirable in 1982/83. Yes, we trendy kids actually wanted to dress like the dustman.

'Cos we woz the embattled working classes and we 'ated Thatcher.

Well, at least I think that's what it was all about.

Even girls wore them, as shown in the photograph at the top of this post. The "fairer" sex liked to have their names emblazoned on the back in nice pink lettering or similar.

Yale cardigans, the cardigans with the big "Y" on the front, were another huge early '80s youth fashion trend. And leg warmers were suddenly fashion items, inspired by the Fame TV series. Wear 'em anytime. Wear 'em in the height of summer. Enjoy sweaty ankles.

And then, in 1982, came the fashion statement to end all fashion statements. Deelyboppers. Absolutely fabulous, darling! Were the '80s now aspiring or what?!!

Cor, we were chuffed! Dead posh these!

Upwardly mobile? Not 'arf, mateyboots!

In the early-to-mid 1980s, pineapple knits were regarded as being very excellent. I had both the jumper and the cardigan illustrated in this 1984 mail order catalogue. Yes, honestly!

Ah, the ra ra skirt! You could get mini ra ras or... er... ra ra ra ras. In 1982 and 1983 every young girlie had at least one.

Or so it seemed.

Stonewashed denim and mirror sunglasses - the new fashion "must-haves" - seen in this 1983 mail order catalogue. Strike a pose - there's nothing to it!

Fame had started life as a film in 1980, and became a TV series in 1982.

And once they'd seen Leroy and co on the small screen, suddenly all the girlies wanted to wear leg warmers.

And not just the girlies.

My tough mate, Pete, underwent a sudden transformation circa 1983.

He'd begun the decade by buying and wearing a studded dog collar. He was a Punk, he declared. I must say, I saw more Punks on the streets from 1979 to circa 1982 than I ever did in 1977 or 1978.

The death of Sid Vicious seemed to propel the trend into the mainstream, and whilst one or two media worthies waffled on about "post Punk" (a nebulous phrase, so beloved of pop music "historians" these days), the declaration on the common, council estate streets seemed to be "Punk's Not Dead"!

But around 1983 my mate Pete dropped his Punk image and suddenly started wearing leg warmers. And little pixie boots. And skin tight stone washed jeans. And he had his hair streaked blonde. And cut in a style rather like David Sylvian's of synth pop group Japan.

Evidence that the early 1980s New Romantic movement was beginning to impact on the glum council estate where I lived.

Of course, I was amazed.

But nobody dared to challenge Pete.

'Cos he would have bashed their face in.

Push up those sleeves and streak that hair. Male youth fashion from a 1983 mail order catalogue.

So, there were definitely '80s and '80s. Useless to categorise the decade as one long shoulder pad fest.

I look at the '80s this way:

Imagine you're in a pub, looking around at a bunch of rather odd people.

In a corner sits 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983.

1980 is having a fag and listening to Going Underground by the Jam on the jukebox. It's considering having a game of Space Invaders in a minute; 1981 has forked out for a personal stereo, and is listening to winky wonky synth music, whilst twirling a Rubik's Cube; 1982 can't afford a ZX Spectrum, but has deelyboppers, a ra ra skirt, nasty black leggings ending around the knee and pixie boots. 1982 is also eating cheese and onion crisps and trying a little body popping; 1983 has a ghetto blaster but can't get the hang of break dancing at all.

On the other side of the bar sit 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987.

1984 wears a "Frankie Say Relax" t-shirt and is terribly into Trivial Pursuit. And as for the Apple Mac - "we live in technological times, darling," it trills excitedly! 1985 is also into Trivial Pursuit and computers, but far more into its unwieldy mobile phone - and charitable events, being the year of Live Aid; 1986 is into everything, including the new House Music genre, and has designer stubble; 1987 is sleek - by '80s standards. All four years wear shoulder pads and jackets with the sleeves pushed up. All four years have unlikely gelled or moussed hair. But 1987's shoulder pads are the biggest and its hair the most unlikely. It's sleek... but schizoid. Suddenly, it's a terrifying wild beast, ranting and roaring as it turns against all it has held dear, putting the wind well and truly up the yuppies with Black Monday.

1988 and 1989 thrash around to the new music sensation - Acid House. It's too much for one small pub, and they're going to take the scene outside. As well as Smiley "On One Matey!" T-shirts, another new fashion wow, the colourful shell suit, is also much in evidence.

These years all existed as part of the same decade. But, preparing for a New Year's Eve party in 1989, listening to the radio with the DJ telling me that the '80s were dying now, I found myself looking back... and finding it hard to believe that the decade had contained so many changes...

01 May 2010

'80s Actual - 5th Anniversary

The original '80s Actual blog header.

May 2010 is the fifth anniversary of '80s Actual.

I began the project back in 2005 simply because I was bored with seeing pop culture history being rewritten. The 1960s, it seemed, were suddenly too far back to bother much about. The 1970s had become the new 1960s, but the problem was much 1960s pop culture was being called "70s" - which seemed naff and bizarre. The BBC led the way with its woefully inaccurate "I Love..." series, and Wikipedia was - and is - a prime purveyor of inaccurate info.

The 1980s had been designated truly awful, with absolutely no redeeming features, and likeable and quirky aspects of '80s pop culture were being rewritten as "70s" or even "90s".

The '80s were touted as simply being the decade of the Cold War, not the arrival of Gorbachev and the declared end of the Cold War in 1989 (this is sometimes moved by historian revisionists to the ultimate break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, which was something else and demonstrates our point). The '80s were touted as simply being the decade of yuppies, not Greenham Common or Red Wedge. The tremendous rise in concern for the environment during the 1980s was ignored.

The '80s were, apparently, simply a greedy time.

But we were all right now.

And the '70s had been absolutely lovely (with stuck-on '60s and '80s pop culture, of course!).

It really seemed boring and nonsensical to me, so, with hardly any experience of computing, I sailed forth to produce a blog which would be a place for people to visit if they wished to recollect the 1980s as they actually were in reality.

Hence "'80s Actual".

Blogger was - and is - a brilliant tool for web novices, and so I found getting the idea off the ground very easy indeed.

'80s Actual was never intended to be a hymn of praise to the 1980s. Every decade has its faults, but I wanted to portray just what a dramatic era the '80s were, how jumbled, colourful, vibrant and contrasting those years were.

It seems to me that 1982 and 1987 were two different planets. There was 1982, waggling its deelyboppers, dressed in ra ra skirt and leggings, crunching cheese and onion crisps. There was 1987, toying with a bag of cream cheese and chive, coolly power dressed, eyeing the Financial Times - before suddenly going absolutely bonkers and ripping the rug out from under the yuppies with the Stock Market crash.

And the Acid House craze of 1988 made 1987 seem so old hat.

So much changed.

Warm, happy memories of the Rubik's Cube, the ZX Spectrum, the Scotch Skeleton ads, the Apple Mac, "You Got An Ology", etc, jostling with the much harsher realities of inner city rioting, Chernobyl, Clause 28, and the 1987 Stock Market crash.

Today there is still a big "anti-80s" thing going on.

But it's far too easy to blame the decade for all today's wrongs.

Far too easy to negate its innovations and fondly remembered fads.

Far too silly to pretend that the likeable elements were "70s" or "90s".

I enjoy producing this blog, and I'm grateful for all the comments I've had over the years.

Thanks to everybody who drops in.

There'll be more!