30 June 2011

Soap Aid 1986: EastEnders And Emmerdale Farm Stars In A Lather For Charity...

From the Sun, July 28, 1986:

Do you remember all the charity events of the 1980s? You couldn't walk out the door without colliding with a sponsored walk, a sponsored silence, a sponsored bean scoff, a telethon, a walkathon, a talkathon, a bonkathon (you should be so lucky), etc, etc.

This particular event, part of "Soap Aid", appears to have been a bit of a wash-out, but it's good to see Beckindale's Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill), Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) and Dolly Skilbeck (Jean Rogers) hobnobbing with Walford's Angie Watts (Anita Dobson) and Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully).

EastEnders and Emmerdale Farm - both shows had titles that started with an "E" and both were soap operas, but, in 1986, they had little else in common. The Square squabbles seemed to be a million miles from the Dales tales!

29 June 2011

Acid House

One of the big "things" in 1988 and 1989 - the smiley face! Created in the 1960s and long associated by us plebs with kids' badges and jolly tea mugs, the face was suddenly the symbol of a rather frantic and frankly rather naughty progression from the House Music scene called Acid House. I was confused. House music had been created in Chicago - 1983 was 'Year Zero' for House - and the sound had not begun to go wide until midway through the decade.

And now we had ACID House. Say what?!

The smiley face was soon cropping up on T-shirts everywhere, accompanied by the slogan "Right On One Matey!" The elders got themselves into a right old stew about it all, whilst many youngsters, bored with being garishly posh, gothy, Indie or synthy, eagerly embraced the chance to get sweaty under strobe lights, and move about to weird electronic noises and samples.

And if you had to break into somebody else's warehouse or barn to do it, all the better!

Some newspapers seemed alarmed. A new drug culture, and the kids acting up again. Oh dear! Where had Acid House sprung from?

The Observer observed in 1988:

Drugs Fear as the 'acid house' cult revives a Sixties spectre

"Acid house" started in four London clubs... In the past month it has "taken off", spreading to other clubs around the country.

1988 and 1989 were wild. Absolutely evil according to some! The elders were definitely rattled!

From the Sun, August 28, 1989:

More than 25,000 youngsters - some aged only ELEVEN - went wild at a huge acid house party yesterday as the police watched helplessly.

Dozens of evil pushers raked in a fortune openly selling the mind-bending drug Ecstacy at £10 a time - with a bottle of mineral water to wash it down.

A police superintendent and WPC moved through throngs of spaced-out teenagers as dealers chanted "E, hash, weed" to the beat of the music.

School-age children rolled their own reefers.

But the officers were only there to make sure there was no trouble while notices about the noise were served on the organisers.

The 15-hour bash started on Saturday night when hordes of acid house fans converged on the village of Effingham, Surrey.

Cars, coaches and vans poured into Newmarsh Farm for the £30-a-head "Energy Summer Festival".

Youngsters from as far way as Leeds, Swindon and Ipswich screamed "Mental, mental" as lasers lit the sky.

Headlines from the Sun CONDEMMING the drug craze flashed on a huge video screen.

Party organisers made an estimated £500,000 from the bash - which cost about £50,000 to stage.
Police, who only heard of the party hours before, at first stopped youngsters entering the site.
But as thousands joined the crush, senior officers decided it was safer to let them in.

About 70 police were on duty, but there were only seven arrests - two for alleged drug offences.
Police will quiz the organisers and those responsible for the land.

A spokesman said:

* An acid house bash, tagged The Heat, was smashed at the weekend because it was a FIRE RISK.

* Around 10,000 revellers were expected to head for a disused factory at West Bromwich, West Midlands.

* But the local council won an injunction to ban the party after fire experts declared the building unsafe.

* Only 30 youngsters, mainly from London, arrived at the factory, but were promptly turned away by the police.

"There could be criminal charges."

Michael Grylls, MP for North West Surrey, said: "It is a massive indictment of parents that they allow their children to attend this sort of thing."

Fellow Tory Terry Dicks said: "These parents should be fined, if not sent to prison."
Monks at a silent order at West Kingsdown, Kent, were disturbed by 3,000 at a nearby acid house party.

Master of a little-known DJ skill called Transformer Scratching (making a record sound like a robot's voice), James Dorrell was hailed as a pioneer of "English hip-hop". Dorrell, who was also in M/A/R/R/S (Pump Up The Volume), was interviewed in 1988 and said of Acid House:

"It's really crazy, psychedelic music. There's no real tune, just lots of studio technology. You can also scratch other bits of records over the top of the beat and add to the effect. The other day I found an amazing old record by Brian Clough of all people! I used this bit where he says, "He's got a good left foot that lad!" over a serious Chicago House groove. It sounded brilliant!"
Mind you, imagination and originality were needed. Dorrell again:

"If I hear another James Brown yelp or This is a journey into sound again I'll scream!"

Despite the '60s psychedelic references (particularly the return of the lava lamp, which became HUGE in the 1990s, reaching its highest ever sales), the new drug culture (just what was this ecstacy?!) and so on, followers of Acid House were not hippies. From what I saw, they were harder, more streetwise, more working class - "On One Matey!" rather than "Peace Man!" The music too was very different. 20th Century Words by John Ayto, describes it thus:

Acid House n (1988) a type of house music with a very fast beat, a spare, mesmeric, synthesised sound, and usually a distinctive gurgling bass noise. Also applied to the youth cult associated with this kind of music, characterised by a vogue for warehouse parties, a revival of psychedelia, and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs. "Acid" may well be the slang word for LSD, although many cultists claim that it comes from the record "Acid Trax" by Phuture (in the slang of Chicago, where this music originated in 1986, "acid burning" means "stealing", and the music relies heavily on "sampling" a polite word for stealing musical extracts).

Did you join in or want to put an end to the "menace"? From the "Sun", November 18, 1988.

Sheena Easton: "My Baby Takes The Morning Train..."

We were all hoping for good things for singer Sheena Easton, who hailed from north of the border, and first came to our attention on Esther Rantzen's The Big Time show.

And good things she got - quickly scoring several hits here. It didn't matter if she was a Modern Girl or a traditional stay-at-home, waiting for her hubby to arrive back from his 9 to 5, Sheena could do no wrong...

"All day I think of him - dreaming of him constantly..."

The audience was so thrilled that a balloon was let fly.

Sheena later left us far behind, hitting the USA for a brief (fictional) marriage to Sonny Crockett of Miami Vice and a duet with pop genius Prince.

Who would have believed it back in 1980? In fact, I'd never even heard of The Purple One back then, and Miami Vice was still a twinkle in a scriptwriter's eye...

Fast forward... From a boiler suited 1980 to a shoulder padded 1987... Sheena with Prince in the video for "U Got The Look".

1982: The Kids From Fame In England...

"Baby look at me and tell me what you see..." We see Doris on the cover of an October 1982 Look-In magazine, which contained an invitation for readers to meet the kids from Fame in an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW!

"You ain't seen the best of me yet, give me time I'll make you forget the rest..."

It had all started as a film in 1980, but now, in 1982, we got Fame the TV series, and Fame fever struck! The series helped start a major fashion trend - transforming leg warmers from useful but boring garments into high fashion. Yes, they were worn on the streets in high summer.

"You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here's where you start payin' - in sweaty ankles..."

Here's a newspaper advertisement for Fame, the 1980 film, available on Video 2000 in 1982.

Video what?!

Yes, we didn't only have Betamax and VHS to confuse us. Perhaps it was a good job that video machines were too expensive for many of us!

Fame, the TV series, was first shown by the BBC on Thursday, 17/6/1982.

From the Daily Mirror, 31/12/1982:

The Kids from "Fame" faced up to the consequences of their phenomenal showbiz success yesterday. They were hemmed in by a crowd of fans and photographers at their London hotel.

The singing, dancing, music-playing kids, including Debbie Allen and Lee Curreri, came smiling through as they do in their TV shows.

It was their first night off during a ten-day British tour.

But they were given no time to relax at their hotel when the cameras clicked and they were questioned by a group of children for an ITV programme.

One youngster asked Debbie, who plays teacher Lydia Grant in the series: "What do you do if you want to be a dancer?"

The answer: "Just jump into it and work, work, work."

Then, without further ado, Debbie led Lee Curreri, who plays keyboards ace Bruno Martelli, and the rest of the cast back to rehearsals and work, work, work.

Claire, my little sister, was a Fame devotee well before the end of the year. My diary entry for 8/9/1982 reads:

Claire has gone bats on "Fame". I'm going bats listening to her rambling on and on about it. There's going to be trouble if this keeps up.

16 June 2011

Postbox: The 1980s Versus The 1970s...

Thanks to all those who write in. It keeps me company, and I'm truly grateful.

Lovely recent e-mail from Sita:

We have a very attractive young teacher called Miss Cross at my school who likes to encourage debates. She often joins in and hogs the show because she's very fond of herself and usually able to out-argue any student.

One day recently, she set the agenda: "Let's talk about our favourite decades. What decades were significant, and why?"

Immediately, she started going on and on about the 1970's, how wonderful they were, how hippie they were, how world shatteringly eventful and influential they were...

I pricked up my ears and said: "But surely hippies were 1960s? They may have been around in the 1970s - '80s as well - but they started out in the 1960s?"

"Yes," said Miss Cross, "but the full thrust of hippiedom was felt in the 1970s. Woodstock..."

"But that was 1969!" I said.

Miss Cross went a bit red. "The gateway to the 1970s," she said.

"I disagree," I said. "1969 was not the 1970s."

Miss Cross was looking rather cross, and said: "Well, what decades interest you?"

"I find the 1980s fascinating," I said.

"The 1980s?" Miss Cross smirked. "A very conservative and vapid decade, in my opinion."

I frowned: "How come? Red Wedge, Greenham Common, Perestroika, fall of the Berlin Wall, creation of House and Acid House music, invention of the World Wide Web, inner city riots..."

"But many events of the 1980s were the outcome of events from other decades," said Miss Cross.

"And many events of the 1970s were the outcome of events from other decades," I countered. "Left-over hippiedom and flared trousers for a start."

"But the inventions, the fads, fashions and the technology of the 1980s can't hold a candle to the 1970s," said Miss Cross. She was getting very red in the face by now.

"Rubik's Cube, CB radio, ZX Spectrum, Apple Mac, invention of the World Wide Web, goths, shoulder pads, hair gel and mousse, leggings, ra ra skirts, jelly shoes, bulldog clips, first commercial hand-held cell phones, beginnings of GSM system, DNA fingerprinting, Sky TV, Trivial Pursuit, Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, Channel 4..." I recited.

The debate ended.

"Yes, well, that's most interesting. Thank you, Sita," said Miss Cross, looking as though she'd like to slap my face.

My friends and I still talk about that day. And it's thanks to you, Andy, because I took all my info from your blog!

Miss Cross hasn't initiated a debate since, and the decades skirmish was two months ago!

Thank you!

Glad to help, Sita. It does give me the pip when people start glorifying decades (usually the 1970s, unfortunately) when they don't know their facts. Decades are ten year spans and every ten years contains its own significant events, fashions, fads, and are usually interesting enough and significant enough without having to embellish them.

Judging by TV, books and on-line stuff, the 1970s are the exception...

But that's not true. Plenty happened in the 1970s, even if you just stick to the real 1970s!

Of course, the 1980s are priggishly disapproved of because they were the era of Thatcher and Reagan and enormous changes, both socially and technologically. But that's why they're so fascinating. And no amount of attempts to rewrite history can make the ... er... actual 1980s any less so.

04 June 2011

The 1980s House - Part 1

1989 living room from Argos catalogue. Blue pastel walls and black, black, black! Black was hugely popular in the mid-to-late 1980s, even TV casings went that colour - a trend which lasted throughout the 1990s. The director's chair on the far right was a must-have - so very, very stylish!

You've looked around your house, grown sick of your "funky" late-1960s inspired wallpaper (it makes your eyes go funny) and realise you want style. You want a 1980s style home.

Do you? Do you really? There were so many styles of homes in that decade, each one designed to say something about the occupant and their lifestyle.

But you are not to be diverted. You want your home to give a screamingly 1980s effect, and you are determined. OK then. We'll take a look at popular decors of the 1980s including furniture, knick knacks, clocks, kitchens, kitchen ware, and bathrooms. See what you think afterwards. This is the first of four articles designed to bring the 1980s house back to life.

1989: Black blinds... Mmmm... lovely. Red blinds for the kitchen, of course. An uplighter. Glorious. But a black stand for it might be nicer... And look at that music centre - yuppie heaven...

1989: A very beautiful black ash shelving unit and bed settee. The mixing of black, grey and red in the design of the settee material is so 1980s. Don't you just love it?

As well as black, toy box colours were incredibly in, and this kitchen from 1983 simply shrieks "1980s!

If you were poor in the 1980s, you might have painted the wood chip wallpaper in your hall pink and hung up your Adam Ant mirror. In the modern day, this is only recommended for people who remember the 1980s, liked them, and have fond memories of Adam (I do and so the mirror still hangs). It's not terribly evocative of the stylish 1980s house you are trying to create though, so if you don't have a nostalgic attachment to the decade, avoid.

A wonderful 1980s bed (1989) and, of course, a director's chair beside it. Sleep had never been so stylish! In the 1980s, duvets (known in the early-to-mid decade as "continental quilts" but increasingly as the decade wore on duvets) took over from blankets and candlewick bedspreads.

This late 1980s wall clock is called "The Boss" and features a yuppie gorilla on a lovely red '80s phone, chomping on a banana. I don't recommend it, but remember that the 1980s were actually rather brash and whilst they craved style, their taste was not exactly impeccable. You might like it, however, and it's certainly very much of the decade.

This 1980s Ferrari clock is of a similar style to old monkey chops, but rather more tasteful. I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. And I want it now!

Here's my trusty old wall clock from circa 1987. Still going strong.

More 1980s home design tips coming soon!