28 January 2011

House Music - 1980s Origins...

House music was a brand new dance music genre which originated in Chicago in the early 1980s. House was influenced by Disco, just as Disco was influenced by soul, funk, etc.

So, how did "House" get its name? There are several answers to that!

Was it named after Frankie Knuckles' disco, The Warehouse? The Warehouse played Disco music, but in the early 1980s some patrons were apparently referring to the Disco music heard there as "house", simply because it was heard at the WareHOUSE! Did this name then pin itself on to the new Chicago music, the first true House sounds?

Was it thus named because some people were producing these new sounds using machines in their own homes?

There are other theories, but it's really of no consequence. The origins of the name are actually quite blurred, and perhaps the "House" tag originated from more than one source.

Blasting out of early '80s Chicago (the Channel 4 documentary Pump Up The Volume cites 1983 as "Year Zero" for the House music genre), the new sound became increasingly prevalant and popular. The first House track to chart in the UK was Jack Your Body by Steve "Silk" Hurley in 1986. 

This new popular music genre depended greatly on the new and affordable technology on which music could be made in the early-to-mid 1980s!

So, good things did come from the decade so many people like to priggishly revile!

26 January 2011

Haysi Fantayzee

From the Daily Mirror, August 14, 1982:

Don't underestimate the hand-me-down appearance of Kate Garner and Jeremiah Healy, singers with rock group Haysi Fantayzee.

For it's their junk shop look that attracted the record companies when the group made their own promotional video.

And it led to a record contract and their current top twenty hit, John Wayne Is Big Leggy.

Jeremiah fondly remembers the video which the group put together for £150.

"I had a bass guitar on the end of an elastic strap."

I spent the whole time bouncing it up and down, just to show that I couldn't really play."

Both Kate and Jeremiah buy their clothes at second-hand shops and wear their hair in West Indian dreadlocks - a million miles away from the clean-cut, all-American style of John Wayne, the subject of their record.

But the group are keen to point out that despite the title, the hit isn't a tribute to him.

"People think because we've written a song with the name John Wayne in the title that we actually like him, but we don't," says the band's keyboard player Paul Caplin.

Kate says that none of the band have any real-life heroes.

"I used to have a few heroes until I met one at a party and suddenly discovered he wasn't very nice."

The kind of characters that the band look up to are fictional ones like Huckleberry Finn and many of Walt Disney's cartoon figures.

Jeremiah said: "People say we look like cartoon characters and we don't mind putting that kind of image across. We like to say serious things but in a cartoon-like way.

"We didn't set out to play cartoon music - it just turned out that way."

'80s Actual On Haysi Fantayzee - The Facts...

Jeremy Healy (or is it really Jeremiah?!) was a former Blitz Kid, and ex-schoolmate of Boy George. In 1981, aged 19, he joined forces with model and fashion photographer Kate Garner and her musician boyfriend Paul Caplin to form the weird and rather wonderful Haysi Fantayzee.

Paul had studied maths at Imperial College from 1975-1978. He had some musical success with New Romantic synth band Animal Magnet in 1981 (Welcome To The Monkey House - remember "I, I, Me, Me, Grab, Grab, Grab!!"?), then left to help set up and become a founder member of Haysi Fantayzee.

The Face
magazine helped Haysi on its way in 1981. Says Jeremy:

"I had begun sprouting dreadlocks, which strangely enough was an excellent career move. It got my mostly imaginary group an article in The Face, and from that we blagged some demo time at EMI. Then we had to write something to record. At this time I was living in West Hampstead with Kate Garner and Paul Caplin in a flat he owned. I was the messiest person in the world with two feet of clothes covering the entire floor. Luckily the look was this Dickensian Rasta hybrid, so it didn't really matter that I was so raggedly turned out.

"Anyway it was here in this chaos that I found a little diamond. I wrote the lyrics for a silly song called 'John Wayne is Big Leggy'. It was an allergy for treatment of which the white settlers used, but on the Native American Indians. However, I wrote it like John Wayne having anal sex with a squaw. I thought this was hilarious! I've often been accused of having a childish sense of humour; I woke up everyone in the flat and announced I'd written our first hit record. We made our demos and shopped them around, and somehow, with our deranged songs and our strange looks, we landed our first record deal on my twentieth birthday."

Kate and Jeremy were the singers and front people of the band; Paul was mostly out of vision, writing songs and playing some instruments.

Quirky from the start, Haysi had traded on their distinctive fashion sense (dreadlocks meets hillbilly, meets circus master meets...) and sent out copies of Shiny Shiny as a low budget video and loads of publicity photographs to record companies. This was probably one of the first bands to win a recording contract largely on the strength of its visual image.

John Wayne Is Big Leggy charted in the UK in August 1982, and reached No 11. Follow-up Shiny Shiny charted in February 1983 and peaked at No. 16. These are the two songs which still haunt me (in the nicest possible way) to this day. But were they simply nonsensical cartoon pop? No, apparently not - it is said that Shiny Shiny was about the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse and John Wayne has some distinctly saucy and edgy lyrics!

The album Battle Hymns For Children Singing was released to a mixed reception, and finally in late 1983, Haysi split to pursue individual projects.

Jeremy would soon resurface on the popular music scene: in 1987, he and Boy George got into the newly emerging Acid House sensation. The result of this was the E-Zee Possee song Everything Starts With An 'E', released in 1989 and a chart hit in early 1990.

A great unofficial tribute site to Haysi Fantayzee can be found here.

25 January 2011

1985: England's First Mobile Phone Call...

"Pressing Towards New Horizons - British Telecom The Power Behind The Button", an advertisement which appeared in the Sunday People, June 24, 1984:

Take Your Telephone With You

This amazing new telephone system, which is being installed by British Telecom, has none of the traditional constraints of the telephone.

You will be able to dial direct from almost anywhere to anywhere - without wires, plugs, sockets or special equipment.

About the size of a paperback, the unit operates through Cellnet, the revolutionary cellular radio network. It's already under test and you'll be able to get one, starting in London, in early 1985.

Little Ern got on the blower, called Vodafone's headquarters at Newbury, and made a little bit of history.

On 1st January 1985, comedian Ernie Wise, he of the short, fat hairy legs, started a revolution. Standing in the middle of St Katherine's Dock, he made the first mobile phone call in England - in fact in the whole of Britain, and a little piece of history was made. Nice that Ernie was chosen to make it, particularly as he'd lost his long-standing comic routine partner, Eric Morecombe, the year before. Some of us were quite concerned about little Ern at the time.

In fact, it seems that Little Ern was not quite the first to make a mobile phone in England, because in recent years we've been told that in the early hours of New Year's Day 1985, Michael Harrison phoned his father Sir Ernest to wish him a happy new year. Sir Ernest was chairman of Racal Electronics and his son was in fact making the first-ever mobile phone call in England, using the network built by its newest investment, a company based round the corner from a curry house in Newbury, Berkshire.

And Ern made his call later the same day.

Never mind.

The famous 1980s hand-held brick phones, the first of which was unveiled by Motorola in 1983, began making an impact in England from 1985 onwards, but only the well-off could afford them and the rest of us had to content ourselves with the odd glimpse out on the streets.

And in the trendy wine bars and upwardly mobile boozahs.

We called them "yuppie toys".

Of course, they'd never catch on...

More on hand-helds here.

The 1980s: Coming To Your Home - A VCR! But Should It Be Betamax, Video 2000 or VHS?

Ah, the 1980s video revolution! Wasn't it thrilling? Well, yes, it was, but it was also slow moving and confusing. The newspaper ad above is from 1980, when only 5% of UK households had a VCR. Video technology had been around for yonks, but VCRs had not. And they were expensive - to buy or rent. So, hardly anybody had a VCR and nobody felt the lack because what they'd never had, they never missed.

But of course if you did rent one you need never miss another episode of Coronation Street again, as Chapman & Son of High Street, Haverhill, England, informed us.

The 1980s saw the arrival of various innovations - such as front-loading machines and ever fancier and more confusing timers.

VCRs moved into the ascendancy. In 1983, nearly 20% of UK households had a machine, and in early 1985 it was 25%. The sky was now the limit and it would not be long before a VCR in the home was regarded as essential by the majority of us. Most people I knew rented their first VCR.

However, another hurdle to surmount in the early-to-mid 1980s was the different formats available. Should you rent or buy Betamax, VHS or Video 2000?

From the Brian Mills Spring/Summer 1983 mail order catalogue:

VHS, Beta or 2000


The features and performance are similar, but the three systems are not compatible, and video tapes are not interchangeable between them. Please check carefully that the tapes you have ordered are the correct type for your machine.

A 1982 newspaper ad for the Phillips Video 2000 "Fame" release. The 1980 film was now available to view in your own home.

From the Brian Mills Spring/Summer 1983 mail order catalogue - a Sharp VC9700 format de-luxe video cassette player and a Toshiba V87008 Beta format de-luxe video cassette recorder - £699.99 and £535.00 respectively. Pricey, weren't they? The cheapest models featured in the catalogue were two Beta models at £399.00 each. Mail order catalogues provided another option, apart from renting or buying outright, for people who wanted the VCR experience, as the cost could be spread over a number of months.

An aunt of mine bought a Beta model in about 1983, and lived to regret it when VHS won the sales battle. However, Auntie kept her Betamax machine for years, determined to get "value for money". Blank Betamax cassettes were, of course, still on sale for a while, and she used the machine to tape films and her favourite soap, Brookside!

Another 1980s technological marvel from the Brian Mills Spring/Summer 1983 mail order catalogue - a Pye 2023 "2000" system de-luxe video cassette recorder, priced £499.99. Probably pretty collectable these days!

I was really becoming aware of the video revolution by the mid-1980s. One of my favourite memories of those days is the 1985 Scotch video cassettes skeleton ad, featuring the voice of Deryck Guyler. "Re-record, not fade away..." Remember? See it here.

24 January 2011

1989 - Sky - The Satellite TV Revolution

A newspaper advertisement - 10/1/1989. 26 DAYS TO GO, it promised and one of the first big attractions was to be the Bruno V Tyson fight, LIVE! from Las Vegas.

In the UK, we thought we were very lucky indeed to get Channel Four in 1982. Imagine - FOUR TV channels!

But, far more obscurely, this was also the year that another new UK-based TV channel was launched -
Europe's very first satellite and cable TV service. Wondrously beamed in from outer space and simply called "Satellite Television", it had begun a trial service in October 1981, and was launched on April 26, 1982 - beaming mainly UK programmes to Europe for two hours per night.

"Satellite Television" is not something that I, nor anybody else I know, remembers hearing about at the time. If me and my friends and family are anything to go by, Mr/Ms UK Average Person never even dreamt of having satellite TV back then.

But Channel Four, well that was something worth getting excited about - something for us!

As a related aside, whilst MTV had launched in America in 1981, quite frankly, I'd never heard of it in 1982. Nope, that old faithful 1960s innovation Top Of The Pops was still our weekly dose of TV pop heaven in 1982 here in the UK.

Rupert Murdoch's News International Group took control of the loss-making Satellite Television company in 1983 - according to modern internet sources for the grand sum of £1, plus outstanding debts - and renamed it Sky Channel in 1984.

It's Tuesday March 4, 1986 - the launch day of Eddie Shah's "Today" newspaper, the UK's first colour daily national newspaper, and the TV listings feature details of the cable and satellite broadcasts available. The Sky Channel features such delights as '80s Australian soap "A Country Practice" and the "Pat Sharp Show". As the vast majority of us didn't have satellite, we weren't bothered.

In 1986, BSB, British Satellite Broadcasting, won the Independent Broadcasting Authority's franchise and in 1988 Rupert Murdoch announced plans to relaunch Sky Channel as Sky Television.

And now the fun really began. In 1989, satellite TV was making waves in the UK as the brave new Sky era began.

Were we, the average punters, looking forward to Sky? Let's take a look at a local newspaper to get the vibe "down on the ground" in January 1989...

From the Cambridge Evening News, 6/1/1989

Satellite TV fans are making sure they are tuned into the right wavelength when the viewing revolution hits the screens next month, say city centre stores in Cambridge.

Scores of people have been popping into shops to find out more - and be first in their street to have a dish on their roof.

The first satellite station, Sky, owned by newspaper tycoon Mr Rupert Murdoch, will start broadcasting on February 5.

And most of Cambridge's stores expect to get their first stocks of dishes within the next few weeks to cash in on the revolution.

The manageress of Rumbelows in Petty Cury, Christine Nickson, said: "We have had a lot of inquiries and requests for brochures, but relatively few firm orders so far."

A spokesman for Dixon's in Lion Yard painted a similar picture. He said: "We are taking a few deposits at the moment, but we hope to install a working dish on the roof in two weeks and expect orders to really take off then."

The manageress of Radio Rentals in Lion Yard, Mrs Debbie Jamieson, also reported strong customer interest. She said: "A lot of people have been quite surprised at how small the dishes are."

The first of the new satellite stations comes onstream next month, when Rupert Murdoch launches his four-channel Sky TV. Sky programmes will be relayed from the European Astra satellite.

Three of Sky's channels will be specialist services, one each for news, films and sport. A fourth channel will offer a mixed bill of drama, quiz shows and comedy. Sky will be paid for by advertising and will be entirely free to the viewer.

Sky's main competitor is likely to be British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB), a consortium including Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Anglia TV, which will launch a rival service in the autumn.

Another group, headed by publisher Robert Maxwell, plans to launch six channels later in the year.

Experts predict four million British homes will be tuning into up to 50 satellite channels within five years.


Apparently, there was "loadsa" choice on Sky TV, including Sky Channel - with quiz shows, soaps, action, comedy, news and sport for all the family; Sky Movies - the ultimate home box office; Eurosport, with 18 hours of sport every day and Sky Arts - concerts, ballet, opera and performance arts.

Hmmm again...

Sky TV listings from the "Sun", 1/5/1989. I'm not that impressed myself, but at least there was MTV... And it was early days...

1984: Boy George Is A Dummy (At Madame Tussaud's)

Does that nose look quite right to you (the one on the dummy, I mean)?

The Sun June 14 1984:

Pop star Boy George was sitting pretty yesterday with his dummy double at Madame Tussaud’s. Delighted George - 23 today - waxed lyrical as he said: “I love it, but it’s not as pretty as the real me.”

George’s spitting image will rub shoulders with pop “greats” like Elvis and David Bowie.

A soundtrack with the model tells visitors: “I prefer a nice cup of tea to sex - and if you believe that you’ll believe anything.”

Spitting Image

Peter Fluck and Roger Law met at the Cambridge School of Art many moons ago. As time went on, the pair began producing "sculpted caricatures" for outlets such as the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

The venture was not very profitable, but then, in 1981, Fluck and Law produced caricatures of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer for the Not The Nine O'Clock News spoof book Not The Royal Wedding.

Infamy beckoned!

From the Sunday Mirror, June 28, 1981.

"We are not amused!" said the general public, unused to such "disgusting" disrespect.

I am amazed that these sadistic caricatures of Prince Charles and Lady Diana were allowed to appear in the Sunday Mirror.

Not only were they in atrociously bad taste but they were intensely cruel as well, since the Royal couple are unable to retaliate.

I have a sense of humour, but I wouldn't put this new book in my toilet.

I found the feature quite disgusting, especially the models by Fluck and Law. Would they want models of themselves to look like this? Nor do I agree that the Not The Nine O'Clock people are the BBC's top comedy team.

I think the BBC's "top comedy team" should be mentally examined.

1981 was also the year that Martin Lambie-Nairn invited Fluck and Law to lunch. A graphic designer at London Weekend Television, Lambie-Nairn thought a political TV programme which used puppets or animation would be a good investment. He offered to front Fluck and Law the capital for a pilot episode...

Some right Royal egg cups... from the Daily Mirror's Peter Tory column, June 11, 1982:

Making sport of Prince Charles' ears is enormous fun. But members of the Royal Family who come across these items on their friends' mantlepieces might be slightly alarmed by the figure in the middle.

What would happen if the mite, depicted here by Cambridge artists Peter Fluck and Roger Law, really turned out to look so gruesome? The poor thing would probably have to spend its days locked away in a dungeon at Glamis Castle.

Daily Mirror, December 31, 1983. Looking forward to 1984 - and the debut of Spitting Image. Said Jon Blair, producer: "We hope to have a Royal spot every week, with the Queen and Margaret Thatcher discussing world affairs.

"We scan the papers every day to keep our list of characters up to date."

From the Daily Mirror, June 16, 1984.

The Queen is not amused, but Prince Phillip jokes "This is me, not one of those puppets!"

Spitting Image was incredibly anarchic by the standards of the 1980s - blood thirsty, brutal satire of a kind never seen before. It left audiences gasping with outrage - or delight. In a show filled with highlights in its heyday, Steve Nallon's voice of Mrs Thatcher still stands out in my mind. 1985 saw the publication of The Appallingly Disrespectful Spitting Image Book. On the cover, Norman Tebbit was getting a real eyeful...

Inside, Mrs Thatcher was getting to grips with the unemployment situation...

... and Nouvelle Cuisine for the disadvantaged was covered, courtesy of Tom King, Employment Minister - amongst many other delights.

The "Nouvelle Cuisine" concept had been around for a little while (although we commoners had never heard of it), and in the desperate-to-be-posh mid-80s, fancy restaurants up and down the land saw the chance to make a killing - serving up hardly anything for exorbitant prices.

The Spitting Image book puts it best:

Nouvelle cuisine is a posh and expensive way of not having very much to eat.

A rip off, pure and simple, if you ask me.

Some politicians and celebrities claimed to enjoy the "fame" of being selected to be caricatured on Spitting Image. Michael Heseltine offered to buy his puppet for £2,500 - and eventually upped his offer to £7,500. "To whom shall I may the cheque payable?" he asked.

"The Labour Party," came the reply.

Exit Mr Heseltine - in something of a strop.

17 January 2011

The Human League

The Human League arrived - first hitting the Top 40 in May 1981 with Sound of the Crowd.

The original Human League had formed in 1977, and there were several changes in line-up before the vast majority of us discovered a rather different version of the group which came together in 1980.

The pivotal moments in the band's '80s history came when vocalist Phil Oakey asked Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall (then school girls aged 17 and 18) to join, having spotted them dancing at The Crazy Daisy Nightclub, Sheffield, in October 1980.

Oakey was faced with the highly difficult task of recruiting new band members within a matter of days for a European tour. The original group was in tatters after two founding members (Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, who later formed Heaven 17) had suddenly left, but a European tour had been arranged before this and now Oakey was faced with honouring it, or being sued by the promoters. He was looking out for a female vocalist when he spotted Susan Ann and Joanne dancing.

The girls were originally recruited as "guests" to the group, to dance and provide incidental vocals on the European tour. Many fans of the obscure original Human League group were disgruntled to see the dancing girls, expecting the original all-male line-up. Legend has it that thrown beer cans and some heckling were the result.

But, despite this, on returning to England in December 1980, the girls were made full members of The Human League.

The band gave us a distinctly unseasonal Christmas Number One in 1981 - Don't You Want Me.


I love the Human League. If I hear one of their early-to-mid 1980s hits, I'm transported back... I can smell the hair gel, see that jumbled Rubik's Cube sitting smugly on the settee, hear the Space Invaders and Pac-Man machines burbling, feel the tensions of O' Levels and job hunting and the happiness of becoming a wage earner...

It's not just nostalgia. I think that The Human League are brilliant - then, now, forever.

16 January 2011

The 1980s TV Revolution

From the "Daily Mirror", December 19, 1980

Back in 1980, things were very different on the TV front. We had three TV channels - ITV and BBC's 1 and 2.

BBC 2 was definitely "minority taste" as far as working class oiks like me were concerned.

Video technology had been around for yonks, but domestic video recorders for only a few years. They were hugely expensive, only 5% of UK homes had them in 1980. TV games, a more recent arrival, were also the province of the fortunate few.

As the Mirror article tells us:

The only big change in the 70s was that more families bought colour sets.

In my family's home in the early 1980s, there was a black and white TV with the horizontal hold so "gone" people on screen looked like eggs on legs. The plastic wood effect was peeling from the outer casing. We had rented a colour set around 1978 (colour had arrived in 1967, on BBC 2), but couldn't afford to keep feeding the meter.

Nobody I knew had a TV in the kitchen or the bedroom.

The 1980s saw a real revolution in our homes as far as TV was concerned. In 1980, the IBA's latest franchise allocations for the ITV companies led to the disappearance of familiar regional companies Southern and Westward and the arrival of TVS and TSW.
Sir Lew Grade's ATV acquired a new board and Central took over in the Midlands. The changes took effect in 1982.

The Mirror articles featured here, all from 19 December 1980, buzz with excitement over future telly-related pleasures - and paint a fascinating picture of the franchise allocations procedures, Lady Plowden and the IBA.

The bosses battle for your TV...


Video, computers and satellites

However much secrecy surrounds the battle for new ITV franchises, one thing is certain. They will all have to take part in a great technological leap-forward in the 1980s.

The only big change in the 70s was that more families bought colour sets.

Now there are video games and computers, video-text and video cassette recorders which can be plugged into home TV sets.

Within five years programmes will be beamed worldwide from satellites.

Pay TV, video disc-players, as well as the new ITV Channel Four and breakfast viewing will all be with us.

Some experts predict that most homes will have two TVs and some three. The family will split up to see different programmes in separate rooms.

With so many new things about to happen in the TV world it is not surprising that one company, which is in danger of losing its franchise, says it will refuse to hand over its studios and know-how to its successors.

They plan to make and market programmes for the new channels and other outlets the big TV technological revolution is expected to produce.
With only 5% of UK households having video recorders in 1980, we find Rumbelows offering an incentive to buy one in this newspaper advertisement from December that year.

By 1980 standards £449.99 was a lot of dosh - and not many people could afford it. Similarly, a lot of people were not keen to make the financial commitment to rent a video. There was a recession on.

The 1981 Royal Wedding caused an upsurge in video sales and rentals. My family rented one in 1983.

And we thought we were very posh.

Anyone Can Fall In Love: EastEnders Stars In The Pop Charts - Part 1...

Remember Anyone Can Fall In Love, sung by Anita Dobson, AKA Angie Watts, the flower of Albert Square? Remember those lyrics?

Anyone can fall in love
That’s the easy part you must keep it going

Anyone can fall in love
Over the years it has to keep growing
Sun and rain
Joy and pain
There’s highs - there’s lows
We’ve no way of knowing
Anyone can fall in love
That’s not hard to do it isn’t so clever

Anyone can fall in love
But you must make the love last forever…
Who can say
Love will stay?
It’s up to you
Don’t hide what needs showing

Anyone can fall in love
That’s the easy part you must keep it going
Everyone can fall in love
But you must make the love last forever more.
How do you keep the music from dying?
Love falls asleep unless you keep trying

Anyone can fall in love
Life’s more than that, it’s pulling together
Everyone can share the love
Where we come from friends never say never
Side by side
To stay right here in one square forever

Anyone can fall in love
That’s not hard to do it isn’t so clever
Anyone can fall in love
But you must make the love last forever more.

Acorn Antiques, the excellent Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV skit on Crossroads, also drew inspiration from EastEnders. The show's theme tune was released on vinyl (sadly, only in fiction!) - with Miss Babs warbling a song called Anyone Can Break A Vase over it.

I found the Anita Dobson-related article below whilst browsing through my local newspaper archive!

Ange - A Public Appearance...

The Time: August 1986

The Town: Cambridge

The Venue: A Bingo Hall

"EastEnders" star Anita Dobson planted kisses on a score of faint-hearted admirers last night and told them: "Don't wash for a week!"

The famous landlandy of the TV show's "Vic" pub proved a powerful pulling attraction at the Coral Social Club in Cambridge, where some 400 bingo fans gathered to see her in the flesh.

"EastEnders" addicts cheered and queued for autographs when the 37-year-old arrived at the Hobson Street club.

Dressed in a smart emerald coloured suit, Anita, 5ft 3 1/2 inches of true born and bred cockney said: "There's not any man in my life except my dad - mainly because I haven't the time."

She called the show's "Dirty Den" "a rat" but said: "We have a very good on-screen relationship. I'm going to string him up at Christmas. The real Den is a lovely, nice person."

On Andy O'Brien (Ross Davidson), who in the last episode of "EastEnders" was hit by a lorry, she was giving no secrets away, but said: "It was a pretty nasty accident. It looks pretty bad - I can't say officially."

Anita, who has just signed a new two-year contract for "EastEnders", said she had tried secretarial work and modelling before going to drama school.

She sang in various shows earlier in her acting career, so when she was asked to make a record, she agreed. Her song, "Anyone Can Fall In Love", to Simon May's "EastEnders" theme tune, is now number four in the pop charts and selling 20,000 copies a day.

Anita revealed she is one of the few cast members who can choose her own clothes - the other characters' costumes are bought by the BBC.

Her favourite "EastEnders" character is Angie's daughter, Sharon, played by Letitia Dean."She's a smasher," she said. "I love her to death. Willie the dog is my least favourite character because he smells."

When she's not working - and that's hardly ever - Anita likes listening to light opera, soul, rock and roll, Dire Straits, Queen and Billy Joel.

But hard work has brought money to a girl who started right at the bottom.

"I came from quite a hard background. I am just about to buy my parents their own house. Actually, my mother was so excited and so happy, she was sick."

Afterwards, Martyn Heasman, Coral's assistant manager, a smudge of the star's bright red lipstick on his cheek, said: "I think I'm in love. Someone ring and tell my mother."

The glamorous star made another man's night - Douglas "Curly" Nunn, of Cambridge, who celebrated his birthday with a stage embrace from Anita.

The successful night was a big publicity boost for Coral, who paid £300 for Anita's appearance. The date was planned as a lead-up to the club's £350,000 refurbishments for a relaunch as a cabaret club in November.

Coral had wanted Anita to sing her hit single and do two last bingo calls but the actress refused.

There was another EastEnder in the pop charts in 1986. Find out who here.

03 January 2011

The Archers: Nigel Pargetter - Graham Seed - A Fond Farewell...

Nigel Pargetter, played by Graham Seed, arrived in Ambridge in late 1983. The character hailed from a little way off, Lower Loxley House at Loxley Barrett, and was a completely unknown quantity in Ambridge.

But he wasted no time in making his presence felt, becoming romantically linked to Shula Archer ("Shulie") in 1983, bouncing around in a gorilla costume at the Hunt Ball, and driving Mrs Antrobus's Afghans wild with his Teddy Bears Picnic jingle as ice cream vendor Mr Snowy midway through the decade.

It came as a great surprise to this blogger to discover that the character has been killed off as part of The Archers 60th anniversary "celebrations". I find this trend in soaps - to feature a tragic story-line on such occasions - rather odd, and it's by no means as long-established a custom as some soap historians would have us believe.

A shame this trend has now reached The Archers.

Graham Seed was spotted by then Archers editor William Smethurst in a Birmingham rep production of Major Barbara in 1980. This led to Mr Seed getting his start in radio drama at Pebble Mill in several plays.

When the role of Nigel Pargetter was created in 1983, Mr Seed was asked to audition and won the part, which was originally intended to run for only a few weeks.

When the character was written out after two years (!), Nigel being sent abroad in 1985, a listeners' campaign was launched to bring him back. It was successful - Nigel returned after only a few weeks away. As William Smethurst wrote in 1987:

The Archers listener has always been a force to reckon with!

Actor Nigel Caliburn - now Carrington - briefly took over the role when Graham Seed took a break in the late 1980s.

Mr Seed was informed of Nigel's impending doom by Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn on 5 November 2010. Today, he issued an official statement:

It is with huge sadness that I leave The Archers after 27 years. Nigel Pargetter was a joy and a privilege to play, from 'Mr Snowy' to proud father. His enthusiasm, charm and love of life helped make Ambridge a happier place.

'On a personal note, I will sorely miss working with so many old friends and colleagues, especially Alison Dowling who plays Nigel's Lizzie.

'May I take this opportunity to thank all those listeners who endlessly communicated their loyalty, appreciation and affection towards Nigel and me. I'll miss him!'

Mr Seed further commented on the BBC's Archers blog:

It would be wrong of me to pretend that I was other than shocked when Vanessa [Whitburn, Archers editor] phoned with the news on a damp November 5th. Fireworks night - rather apt I thought! The hardest thing has been to keep it under wraps, not just from friends and family, but colleagues too. Now at least all is out in the open...

It's too soon to highlight memories. They go back to heady days in the '80s. William Smethurst created a wonderfully affectionate, vulnerable over-privileged young man causing havoc to the Archer household in scenes that were such fun to play.

Scenes of course with Jack May (Nelson) and Mary Wimbush (Julia), latterly with Richard Atlee (Kenton). But always Ali...

There was something of the Peter Pan in Nigel. He never really grew up.

Nigel was a charming character, of aristocratic background, naive, not terribly bright, but capable of great kindness and sensitivity.

Here's how the character was described in William Smethurst's 1987 book The Archers - The New Official Companion:

NIGEL PARGETTER is the only son of Gerald and Julia Pargetter of Lower Loxley House, Loxley Barrett, and in his day was a leading light of the Borchester Young Conservatives. In 1983 he fell in love with Shula but in the following year he was banned from Brookfield when, on the night of the Hunt Ball, he crept into Phil and Jill's bedroom having supposedly mistaken it for the bathroom. Later that year he was convicted of taking and driving away a sports car which he thought belonged to Tim Beecham (it didn't). Shula gave him the push and he started going out with Elizabeth. He got sacked from selling swimming pools and Elizabeth chucked him. His family sent him to an uncle in Zimbabwe and he returned after a few weeks.

In the summer of 1985 he was "Mr Snowy" and drove an ice-cream van, and in the autumn he sold toffee apples at Borchester Fair. In 1986 he went off to London to work for a City stockbroking firm.

Miss Elizabeth Archer and Mr Nigel Pargetter stroll the streets of Borchester in 1986.

In later years, Nigel married his dear "Lizzie" and they lived (mostly) happily at Lower Loxley Hall, with their two children, Lily and Freddie.

Nigel died in the episode transmitted on 2 January 2011. He fell from the roof of Lower Loxley House whilst trying to take down a New Year party banner. The last thing we heard from gentle, kind and whimsical Nigel was a terrible scream as he tumbled from the roof.

What has happened to our soaps?

Good luck to Mr Seed, and many thanks to him for years of happy listening. Nigel was usually very cheering to listen to.

I'll be tuning out of The Archers for the foreseeable future.

Modern day life is difficult enough.

Arriving in 1983, Nigel Pargetter was one of a number of new Archers characters introduced during the 1980s - others included Mrs Antrobus (Margot Boyd), Lynda Snell (Carole Boyd) and Ruth Archer (Felicity Finch).