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!

03 November 2010

Coronation Street 1980s: Part 1

Coronation Street celebrates its 50th anniversary on 9 December, and here at '80s Actual we've been getting all dewy-eyed remembering The Street in years gone by.

With the help of our sister blog, Back On The Street, we've got some glimpses of Coronation Street as it was in the 1980s. We're beginning late in the decade and working backwards!

Eee, 1988 on't Street... Do you remember, chuck? Derek Wilton (Peter Baldwin) and Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) made it to the altar - oops, I mean registry office - second time lucky - though Mavis wasn't impressed by a couple of smutty comments from Sally Webster (Sally Dynevor) at the Corner Shop when she and Derek returned from honeymoon. Marriage was not just about that sort of thing, she lectured Sally.

Quite right too...

Meanwhile, Rovers barmaid Gloria Todd (Sue Jenkins) had been feeling her biological clock ticking for some time. So, when she fell for a fella, perhaps marriage - maybe even kids - lay around the corner? Trouble was, the fella belonged to Rovers cleaner Sandra Stubbs (Sally Watts). Gloria couldn't help herself, although she felt terrible. She began seeing Sandra's fella and they really seemed to "click". Gloria was horrified when Sandra turned up for a natter at her flat one evening when she was entertaining Mr Wonderful.

Finally, she confessed all to Sandra and got a pint of beer in her face for her trouble. Gloria left the Rovers after the incident.

Alan Bradley (Mark Eden) had left Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox) and was living in a bedsit away from the Street. Rita was completely besotted with the man, and begged him to return to No 7. Alan refused, but changed his mind when the bank refused to finance his business's move to new premises. Alan returned to Rita and daughter Jenny (Sally Anne Matthews) for his own benefit - with a plan in mind. He also secretly continued to see Carole Burns (Irene Skillington).

Here's some Corrie trivia for you: Did you know that Mark Eden first appeared in the show in 1981, playing a man Elsie Tanner (Patricia Phoenix) rather liked? He was called Wally Randle and sadly, did not feel the same way about Elsie!

Terry Duckworth (Nigel Pivaro) made Vera (Liz Dawn) so proud when he began work for Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) in 1988. His work was mainly chauffeuring (Mike had been banned from driving), but there were prospects. When Terry took a married girlfriend out in Mike's Jag and her husband sprayed "STAY AWAY FROM MY WIFE" down one side, the writing was on the wall as far as Terry's career at Baldwin's Casuals was concerned. Vera was distraught. Terry left the Street just before Christmas, feeling that he no longer had much in common with old pals like Kevin Webster (Michael Le Vell) and that it was time to move on again.

Pump Up The Jam...

Flippin' 'eck! 1989! What a year it was! Rita Fairclough was nearly smothered by Alan Bradley, and a tram dominated the end of that saga... but what ELSE happened down Weatherfield way?

Well, one half of the Street disappeared and new buildings rose in its place, courtesy of one Maurice Jones (Alan Moore).

Deirdre Barlow (Anne Kirkbride) (note her squarer framed glasses and nice '80s perm below) found out that Ken had been up to naughties with former town hall mole Wendy Crozier (Roberta Kerr). The icy atmosphere at No 1 ruined Tracy's Christmas.

The McDonald family moved into No 11 and Jim and Liz (Charles Lawson and Beverley Callard) made their first visit to The Rovers Return, where they tried to suss out their new neighbours and soon began making friends.

Meanwhile, the Corner Shop suffered a direct hit - from a football, causing the front window to fall out. The McDonald twins, Steve and Andy (Simon Gregson and Nicholas Cochrane), were responsible. The Roberts household was already under strain as Alf and Audrey's attempt to buy a new house had fallen through and they'd gone to live in the flat above the shop. Audrey (Sue Nicholls) was not pleased. "It's only temporary," wheedled Alf (Bryan Mosley), taking her a nice early morning cuppa. "LIFE'S only temporary!" snapped Audrey.

And for Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy) his new job as assistant manager (trainee) at Bettabuys Supermarket, which he began in October 1989, was fraught with complications. Manager Reg Holdsworth (Ken Morley) asked him to write reports on all the staff, and then announced his intention to use them as the basis for making redundancies in January 1990.

Curly was gobsmacked - particularly as his landlady, Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn), was on the redundancies list.

The Duckworths had much to celebrate earlier in 1989 (well, at least Vera did!) when they had their house stone clad!