26 June 2010

Culture Club - Waking Up With The House On Fire - And What Princess Margaret Said...

Here's a great ad for the 1984 Culture Club album Waking Up With The House On Fire. And Boy George has a stunning new hairdo. Can't be bad, mateyboots. Mind you, it wasn't all goodies for George that year. On meeting him, Princess Margaret declared: "I won't be photographed with that over-made-up tart." Absolutely charming!

The trouble with Boy George though is that he was all image and not a lot of substance. His music was far from original and his look... well, what the hell did it all mean? Other male performers had worn make-up and 'gender bending' clothes aeons before the Boy and so, although it all seemed mildly surprising to the early 1980s pop scene, the Boy became a pretty dolly for little girls to buy and a purveyor of cutesy songs.

Still a helpful presence for the gay community in the era that AIDS was freshly discovered, but more than a teensy bit overrated in all other respects.

Searching For A 1980s Wall Clock...

Simon has written:

I remember back in the late 1980s having a very excellent wall clock: It was plastic, shaped like an alarm clock, and in very 80s colours. There was an 80s motif on the face. Do you know anything about these? I threw mine out years ago, and I'd like another now but I haven't seen any on eBay at all.

I think the photograph above shows one of the clocks you are referring to, Simon. I've had it since about 1987/1988 and it hangs in my hall - together with my Adam Ant mirror!

It still keeps good time (the clock, not the mirror!).

Keep an eye on eBay - I'm sure one will turn up. They were terrific novelty clocks - cheap and cheerful. You could have mine, but we've been through a lot together and I'm very fond of it!

23 June 2010

The Shake n' Vac Ad - 1980-2010 - 30th Anniversary Update...

The 30th anniversary of the famous Glade Shake n' Vac TV ad first hitting our TV screens has not gone unnoticed here at '80s Actual, as regular readers know.

Read all our Shake n' Vac material here.

And to top things off, Glade has brought together Jenny Logan, star of the original ad, and twin pop duo Jedward, to become "Jenward".

The Shake n' Vac song and dance was greatly loved by TV viewers in the 1980s.

Debuting in 1980, it was then shown on-and-off for nine years!

The ad was, of course, fondly remembered in the two decades following, bringing us right up to the present day.

In the new Shake n' Vac song and dance routine, Jenny hands over the Shake n' Vac "baton" to Jedward, who shake things up - and into the 21st Century.

Enjoy the fun below.

22 June 2010

Chris Sievey - Frank Sidebottom

Frank Sidebottom relaxes in 1985.

1985 again - Frank's Firm Favorites. - the EP!

Chris Sievey, the genius behind Frank Sidebottom, the man with the big papier-mâché head who first delighted us in the mid-1980s, has died.

A very sad piece of news.

I've found myself remembering how I first saw Frank...

My mate Pete and I were watching our favourite Saturday morning telly show Number 73.

We were not amongst the "target audience", both being over twenty at the time, but that didn't matter.

And suddenly, there amongst the regular cast, was Frank.

Pete and I looked at each other.

"Daft!" we said.

But within half-an-hour or so we were both laughing at Frank.

Pete turned to look at me: "What are you laughing at?!"

"I dunno!" I replied. "What are YOU laughing at?!"

Neither of us knew, but for some reason we WERE laughing at Frank's antics - and we continued to laugh in the years that followed.

Frank was, to use a very popular mildly derogatory word of the early 1980s, a wally. He was squeaky-voiced and child-like and his idea of entertainment was what most people considered naff.

But the naffness, given a Sievey-inspired tweak, was also highly amusing.

Remember "Little Frank", the ventriloquist's dummy Frank sometimes carried? Little Frank was, of course, a perfect, miniature replica of Frank.

A wally Frank may have been, but he was also an innocent. This upped his likeability rating no end.

He lived at home in Timperley with his mother, and related heart warming tales of his home life to his audiences - like the time he took the lawn mower apart, tried to reassemble it, but ended up with lots of left-over pieces of lawn mower workings. He attempted to flush them down the toilet to hide what he'd been up to from his mother.

Frank's quirky comedy is not considered to be alternative by most modern day people, but I think it kind of was. If you know what I mean.

Before finding fame as Frank, Chris Sievey had been a member of The Freshies pop group. They notably scored a hit (No 54 in February 1981!) with a ditty initially entitled I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk.

Virgin Records requested that they should be left out of it, so the song was then retitled I'm In Love With The Girl On A Certain Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk.

The initial idea for the (then unnamed) man with the papier-mache head was that he would be a fan of The Freshies, and he made his debut in 1981 on a promotional video for the song Wrap Up The Rockets (AKA Rockets).

The Freshies were cultie, but not that well known, so most people didn't see the papier-mache head man in 1981. The band split up in 1982.

In 1984, the launch of a game called The Biz, designed for the ZX Spectrum by Chris Sievey, saw the fully-developed Frank Sidebottom feature on a 12-inch promotional record, which came free with the game. This was intended to be a one-off gimmick.

But Frank was soon a star of telly and radio - and the children's comic Oink!

Chris Sievey died on 21 June 2010.

He was 54.

21 June 2010

Frankie Goes To Downing Street...

Love the Thatcher Government? Hate the Thatcher Government? This was a time when most people held very strong opinions either way! The pop stars of the '80s largely aligned themselves against the Iron Lady.
On February 27, 1985, the Daily Mirror reported:

Leading pop stars have signed a "celebrity petition" to be handed in at 10 Downing Street tomorrow. It opposes Government plans to axe supplementary benefit for school leavers if they do not take part in the Youth Training Scheme. Holly Johnson and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Paul Weller, Madness, Smiley Culture, the Flying Pickets and Alison Moyet are among the entertainers whose names will be handed in. The Downing Street visit is part of a national rally and lobby of Parliament organised by the Youth Trade Union Rights Campaign.

The Youth Opportunities scheme had been introduced by the Callaghan Labour Government in 1978, in response to rapidly rising youth unemployment. A YOP provided work experience only, although in 1982 a training element was added. In 1983, it was replaced by the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), which, as the scheme's name suggests, was centred around training for skills.

So, what was the beef with school leavers having to go on a YTS scheme to qualify for Government money? Did they not want training? Well, looking back, the reasons I heard bandied about were that the Government was simply using the scheme to make the unemployment figures look smaller, and that minimum age school leavers had a right to expect a proper job.

This interested me as, as far back as the mid-1970s, the fact that graduates with degrees were finding it impossible to find work was being widely reported.

But in the 1980s, any inititative on the part of the Thatcher Governments was seen by many of us as a plot to do us down.

And, although I had a job and was completely unaffected, I still ranted my disapproval.

12 June 2010

Hart To Hart

The idea behind Hart To Hart was once described as a "'spin on the Thin Man films".

There are similarities: like Nick and Nora Charles, Jonathan and Jennifer Hart were a wealthy, crime solving husband and wife team. Like Nick and Nora Charles, Jonathan and Jennifer Hart had a dog.

But Jonathan and Jennifer Hart also had a friend/servant who was a genuine one-off - Max!

The pilot show made its debut in England on Sunday, 27 January, 1980 - on ITV - the series having begun in America a few months previously. Minus the famous "'cause when they met it was murder" catchphrase, which came a little later (in the first season Max said: "I look after both of them which ain't easy - 'cause their hobby is murder!"), the other ingredients were all present and correct. The fabulously wealthy Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner), his wife Jennifer (Stefanie Powers), their faithful servant and old pal Max (Lionel Stander), and Freeway, the dog, solved crimes week after week.

TV was more of an event in those days, with only three channels, and most of us looked forward to the feature-length pilot episode. Hart To Hart began at 9.15 pm, breaked for fifteen minutes of news at 10.15, and then continued until 11.15.

In my ITV region it was followed by a dreary programme called A Question Of Sex, in which Clive James and Anna Raeburn debated whether women are more emotional than men, then, just after midnight, it was Closedown. Those were very different days.

Hart To Hart was an instant hit here. The final episodes were filmed in America in 1984.

One mystery remains. Whilst the Harts' bedroom was regularly featured in the show, Max did not appear to have one and it was a standing joke on the set that he slept standing up!

10 June 2010

Albion Market - A Request...

Albion Market - gone but not forgotten...

Barry has written:

I love the way '80s Actual covers obscure as well as famous pop culture from the decade. I note you have included some original press release photographs of the mid-'80s Granada soap Albion Market in your posts on the subject, and wonder if you would kindly upload a few more to stir up some more memories for me? I rather liked this programme. My wife and I were brand new parents when Albion Market started, and were taking life as quietly as possible, and Albion Market suited us because it wasn't as loud and brash as EastEnders. Keep up the good work!

Happy days, eh, Barry? There's a few more Albion Market images below. Hope it takes you back. Adjusting to parenthood is truly a magical (and absolutely exhausting!) experience.

Albion Market moments, left to right, top: Peggy Sagar (Paula Jacobs) pours a nice cuppa at the market cafe; Sita and Sushma Sharma (Seeta Indrani and Jamila Massey) are worried about Jaz - facing a court trial for a crime he didn't commit; Morris and Miriam Ransome (Bernard Spear and Carol Kaye) run the crockery stall and enjoy a cuppa.

Bottom row (left to right): Carol Broadbent (Barbara Wilshere) and Geoff Travis (Geoffrey Leesley) discover that Morris's cousin Joe (David Miller) tells tall tales; Larry and Brenda Rigg (Peter Benson and Valerie Lilley) celebrate their wedding on the market; and cousins
Ly Nhu Chan (Pik-Sen Lim) and Lam Quoc Hoa (Philip Tan) face many challenges as they settle down to market life - not least Hoa's gambling problem and Chan's love for the married market superintendent...

03 June 2010

Neighbours 25th Anniversary Poll - The Results!

271 people voted in our poll to find '80s Actual readers' favourite 1980s Neighbours character.

So, without further ado, here are the results...

Top favourite was Ramsay Street gossip Mrs Mangel, played by the English actress Vivean Gray from 1986 to 1988. She scored twenty-three votes. Mrs Mangel was vinegary and disapproving, and delighted in stirring up trouble. Her battles with "that Ramsay woman", Madge (Anne Charleston), were a lively ingredient in the Neighbours brew back then.

Mrs Mangel had a kinder side - she cared deeply for granddaughter Jane Harris (Annie Jones), was a good friend to Eileen Clarke (Myra De Groot) and doted on Bouncer the lovable Labrador.

But at the end of the day, she was pure poison to many.


Harold Bishop (Ian Smith) is an '80s Neighbours Top Man - sharing the title with Jim Robinson, original head of the Robinson clan, and Mrs Mangel's son, Joe (Mark Little).

Harold attracted sixteen votes in our poll, and once wooed and won Madge Ramsay. Prissy, sometimes pompous, and always allergic to dog hairs, Harold meant well, enjoyed pumpkin soup and totally rejected any form of gambling - he called poker "The Devil's Tiddlywinks"!

Jim Robinson (Alan Dale) - good old Jim, head of the Robinson family, scored sixteen votes in our poll, and shares the honour of '80s Actual readers' favourite Neighbours male character with Harold Bishop and Joe Mangel.

Father of Paul (Stefan Dennis), Julie (Vikki Blanche), Scott (Darrius Perkins/Jason Donovan) and Lucy (Kylie Flinker/Sasha Close), Jim's wife, Anne, had died some years before. In 1988, he married Dr Beverly Marshall (Lisa Armytage) and found himself with kids in his care again when Todd and Katie Landers (Kristian Schmidt and Sally Jenson), Beverly's nephew and niece, arrived on the scene.

Mark Little as Joe Mangel. When Henry Ramsay (Craig McLachlan) discovered a buried gun in Mrs Mangel's back garden in 1988, the scene was set for Nell's long-lost son Joe to appear. Joe turned out to be a nice bloke, down to earth, bit of a "larrikin" but really a lovely geezer. Mark Little graduated from NIDA (the National Institute of Dramatic Art) in 1981. He then appeared in several TV drama series - including The Sullivans and The Flying Doctors - before becoming Joe Mangel in 1988.

With 16 votes in our poll, Joe Mangel shares the top spot as Neighbours favourite 1980s male character with Harold Bishop and Jim Robinson.

The exact oposite to Mrs Mangel - Helen Daniels (Anne Haddy) was the caring, coping matriarch of Ramsay Street. She scored sixteen votes in our poll.

Anne Haddy was a respected Australian actress - and she had previous soap experience, playing Rosie the housekeeper in Sons and Daughters.

Ah - happy days! Feisty Charlene Mitchell (Kylie Minogue) scored fifteen votes in our poll.

Charlene's partner in romance and marriage, studious Scott Robinson (Jason Donovan), scored nine. Scott and Charlene (or "Lennie" as she was often called) helped make Neighbours a "must-watch" in the mid-to-late 1980s.

Both Kylie and Jason soon visited the pop charts. They were so lucky (lucky, lucky lucky).

Dependable Daph - former stripper Daphne Lawrence/Clarke (Elaine Smith) - scored fifteen votes. She was bequeathed the running of the local coffee shop by her grandfather, and, after a change of premises, turned it into the hub of the community.

Daphne was an all-Australian girl - but Elaine Smith is British, a Scot born in Largs, Aryshire.

Eileen Clarke (Myra De Groot), mother of Des (Paul Keane) was Nell Mangel's best friend, and Miss De Groot once described her as being as "mad as a meat axe"! The death of Myra in 1988 saw the character departing from Erinsborough to go on a competition-won tour of Europe. She was sadly missed. Eileen scored fourteen points in our poll.

English-born Myra De Groot arrived in Australia in 1980. She made her soap debut in the long-running wartime saga The Sullivans.

Sally Wells (Rowena Mohr) is rather an obscure Neighbours character - she arrived in the show in late 1987, and departed again in 1988. But she obviously struck a chord with two of our readers, who voted her their favourite 1980s character in our poll.

Sally turned up searching for her half-brother and her father. Her half-brother turned out to be Des Clarke. Her father was Eileen's ex-husband, Malcolm, and the product of an affair years before.

Sally found herself romanced by Henry Ramsay, but did not want a relationship. She found her dad, became quite close to Des, and, against all odds, forged a relationship with Eileen, who was desperately hurt by the news of her husband's betrayal with Sally's mother.

Gail Robinson (Fiona Corke) married Paul (Stefan Dennis), head honcho at Lassiters. Gail looked truly wonderful in shoulder pads (the character had her own wardrobe, supplied by Kamizole), and originally married Paul purely for business reasons. But the couple fell in love, and survived many traumas in true soap style, including the discovery that Gail's father was not her biological father - she had been adopted.

Gail and Paul enrolled in the IVF programme in 1988 after Gail revealed that she was unable to have children. She ended up expecting triplets, but beat a speedy retreat from Ramsay Street in 1989 when Fiona Corke decided to leave the show. Gail received ten votes.

Below are listed the full results of our poll:

The '80s Actual Neighbours Poll

Helen Daniels

Jim Robinson
Julie Robinson (Vikki Blanche)
Scott Robinson 1 (Darius Perkins)
Scott Robinson 2 (Jason Donovan)
Paul Robinson
Lucy Robinson 1 (Kylie Flinker)
Lucy Robinson 2 (Sasha Close)
Dr Beverley Marshall 1 (Lisa Armytage)
Dr Beverley Marshall 2 (Shaunna O'Grady)
Todd Landers
Katie Landers
Nick Paige
Hilary Robinson
Gail Lewis/Robinson
Rob Lewis
Max Ramsay
Danny Ramsay
Shane Ramsay
Maria Ramsay
Madge Mitchell/Ramsay/Bishop
Charlene Mitchell/Robinson
Henry Mitchell/Ramsay
Des Clarke
Daphne Lawrence/Clarke
Eileen Clarke
Mike Young
Mrs Mangel
Jane Harris
Joe Mangel
Dr Clive Gibbons
Terri Inglis/Robinson
Toby Mangel 1 (Finn Greentree-Keane)
Brownwyn Davies
Sharon Davies
Melanie Pearson
Rosemary Daniels
Nikki Dennison
Tony Romeo
Sally Wells
Harold Bishop

02 June 2010

1980s Hair...

Ooh, sing everybody: "The lights are on, but you're not home..."

We're looking at hair today. 1980s hair. And was there ever a decade that had such glorious barnets? There were fabulous trendy new products - think gel, mousse and wax - and we went wild. And I
MEAN wild. "Stu Stu Stu Studio, Studio Studio Line..."

The mid-to-late 1980s were a time of financial excess, but just about the
whole of the decade was a time of excess when it came to our hair...

Take a look at our two mid-to-late 1980s lovelies up top... Hazell Dean and Su Pollard eat your hearts out!

The inspiration for this post is a book called "Big Hair" - published in 2003. I quote from the introduction:

"During the 1980s something BIG happened. From mobile phones the size of telephone boxes to shoulder pads wide enough to land a Freddie Laker airbus, big was everywhere. Size mattered and hair was no exception. With the aid of gravity-defying hair products like gel, mousse, wax and hairspray, the sky was no longer the limit..."

And OOOHHH!! The lady on the left looks a little like a red-headed Spagna ("Call me, call me, baby, baby call me now. Call me, oh, call me, baby, baby, do, do, do it, baby please!") and the lady on the right looks a little like Tina Turner. Or somebody who has just had a vat of spaghetti poured over her head.

"Turn around, bright eyes!" Very lovely indeed.

With new shampoos like Timotei arriving, you could wash your hair as often as you liked. Which, with the amount of flaking gel left in my hair the morning after a big night out, was a relief.

1983 - Today's hairstyles need hold and a natural touch.
This is a nice look for young, serious-minded '80s gents - very stu... stu... stu... studious and rather Timmy Mallet. Studious AND Timmy Mallet? How can that be possible?!! But anything was possible in the '80s.

Magazine ad for Shock Waves gel, 1988. Wow!

And here's a beautiful, big 1980s mullet. Smart gent. In 1984, I became the first man in my family ever to own a hairdryer. And I was forever tweaking my hair.

I had the blonde streaks, I had the bouffant mullet (although we didn't call them mullets in the 1980s, that was a 1990s coinage), I had the hedgehog, I had the flat top...
I had everything possible. And for a young working class lad with a step father whose pride and joy was a 1950s DA, which he combed margarine into to keep it in shape, you can imagine just how revolutionary I was.

When I was a kid I had a haircut like Terry Wogan's.
But in the 1980s I cried "FREEDOM!!" It was a fabulous decade for male fashion and grooming.

"If I had a photograph of you..." A Flock Of Seagulls meets Toyah.

This is simply great.

"Who's looking good today? Who's looking good in every way?"

"Individuality, being what you want to be - until tomorrow..." I loved this look! To achieve it, first find a hedgehog. Then pop it on your head...

Another big mullet. Bliss. Hair was so high maintenance for many of us '80s people. I remember washing, blow drying and gelling my hair, and if it wouldn't sculpt right, I'd go back to the beginning...

In the 1980s, everyday men got into styling their hair like never before - with hair gel and mousse available, it was time to go mad. Men took to blonde highlights, and a new mullet emerged - big and bouffant to the max! I've seen footage of tennis star Andre Agassi playing a match in 1989 with a glorious blonde-highlighted mullet-mane of hair.

The 1980s mullet could be full at the side or shaved at the sides. It was usually long and flowing at the back.

Many 1980s mullets were simply magnificent. Others, like Limahl's of Kajagoogoo, are probably best forgotten!

1984 - it's the Thompson Twins! Our hair inspirations often came from pop stars.
The hairdo on the left has a built-in nose warmer - ideal for those nippy days. The hairdo on the right is really... er... um...

And it's a very fashionable colour scheme by '80s reckonings.

The early 1980s: the beginning of the romance between Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in 1980 propelled "Lady Di" into the public eye. She became a major trend setter. Did YOU have a Diana wig?

Whew - candy floss on the left and a very nice wedge hairdo on the right. I think the wedge would still be acceptable today - particularly with the huge revival in 1980s fashion that is on the streets.

These looks remind me of the early 1980s New Romantics scene. I can just imagine these gents singing "Aye, aye, aye moosey," too...

Lots of moustaches here.

Is it true, as we so often read that 'taches went out of fashion in the 1980s? Personally, I think that's rubbish. The 1960s made men much hairier (it's incredible to look at the male fashions of the early 1960s and the hippie fashions later in the decade to see how things had changed), and the years following made men gradually less so. And so the 'tache faded slowly.
But I remember as late as 1987 experimenting with growing a 'tache - something that, as a young fashion conscious dude, I would never have done had it been considered even remotely naff at that point.

So much cobblers is written about fashion.

The 'tache was on the wane towards the end of the 1980s, but was still trendy and highly acceptable for most of the decade. Think
Magnum. Think Hall and Oates. Think Kevin Webster of Coronation Street. Take a look at '80s telly in general.

Working class northern lad Kevin Webster (Michael Le Vell) in the 1980s.

Is this lady considering suing her hairdresser? She doesn't look happy at all!
Magazine ad for Shock Waves mousse, 1988.
Screen caps from a 1980s Studio Line (or rather Stu... Stu... Stu... Studio, Studio, Studio Line) TV ad. Heady days! HEADY days - geddit?!! Oh, never mind...