23 September 2012

'80s Hole Punch - "We've Been Together Now For 30 Years And It Don't Seem A Day Too Much..."

Remember some posts ago when I wrote about the Now That's What I Call Music pig and posted a pic of my bedroom in 1985? Well, looking at the photo recently, I suddenly realised that the only thing appearing on there which I still have today is the hole punch, which I've ringed pink in the pic.

The Pye Tube Cube and the Now pig display have long since gone, but the punch remains.

It's been with me through good times, through bad times, and has never ever failed me when I've wanted to punch holes in pieces of paper.

And it's the colours of a ripe banana.

I bought the punch from WH Smith in 1981 or 1982, and never dreamed I was selecting a companion for life.

Cheers, hole punch - I love ya! xx

And thanks to my friend, Ivika, who gave me the digital camera to take the 2012 pics of the punch!

18 September 2012


 Perishers, 1987: poor orphan Wellington is sad that all his friends are getting Filofaxes. But why on earth should Maisie have one? Maisie demonstrates one good reason.

Ooh, that wonderful yuppie accessory the Filofax! Great, eh? 

The original Filofax (file of facts) was created in the early 20th Century, and was basically a ring binder used for storing information - much favoured by the military and the clergy. Most everyday individuals had never heard of it. But then, in 1980, the company was sold to David Collischon, who decided that the Filofax needed a revamp - and it was on course for making the tremendous transition from being a personnel organiser to being a personal organiser. 

The luxurious leather binders, complete with forms for business expenses, financial data, diary, year planner, world time zones, etc, etc, etc, we all remember from the yuppie era were born in the early 1980s.

By 1985 the new Filofax was booming - such a boon, darling, so handy for that power lunch with Miles, or that board meeting at Wigginson-McDowell.

Actually, it's interesting to note the Filofax's popularity at a time when we were just beginning to enter the IT era. Paper and pen still ruled!

The craze for the Filofax soon spread beyond the City offices and wine bars - even into our school yards if the 1987 Perishers strip featured at the top of this post is to be believed. Great how Maisie, my favourite character, found such a good use for it. 

Even today, the Filofax continues to be a trusted tool for many, both in the business world and outside.

16 September 2012

1980 - JR, Fred Housego, Our Tune, Yes Minister, Bad Manners, New Romantics, Metal Mickey, Baggy Trousers, the First Nudist Beach and "Walkies!"

The Rubik's Cube was released in May 1980 but did not arrive in England until just before Christmas. It was declared Toy of the Year by the British Association of Toy Retailers, but was in short supply until the spring of 1981. 
Unemployment topped two million; the '70s hard times continued - not a Yuppie in sight. In December, John Lennon was shot and killed, sending his many fans into mourning. Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory to become President of the United States. The 1980s as we know them would never have happened without him.

Suddenly, just about everybody had the right to buy their council houses. Groan! But these were not the first council house sales. Council houses had been being flogged off for yonks.

Sales rose in the early 1970s with 46,000 dwellings sold in England and Wales in 1972 and 34,000 in 1973.

Before 1980, council house sales were discretionary. Councils which sold houses most actively were Conservative-controlled.

I lived in an area where council house sales were rampant back in the early 1970s. For more on this, see my 1970s blog here.

The 1980 legislation introduced a higher discount rate and made the right to buy more universally available to tenants. 

The BBC launched Children In Need

The Ecover company, makers of ecologically sound cleaning products, was founded in a small cottage in a rural town in Belgium in 1980. In 1989, Ecover products finally appeared on supermarket shelves and became enormously popular in England. 
England's first nudist beach opened on the 1st of April - in Brighton, where else? 

The newly named and manufactured Rubik's Cube trademark was registered here on the 7th of May, but stocks did not start arriving until just before Christmas. It still made Toy of the Year.  
Space Invaders, first exhibited at a London trade show in 1979, were beginning to make their presence felt.

We were a breadline family, living in a breadline area, and it was no use pretending that the 1970s had been a feast of fun. They had been a time of recession, strikes and rampant inflation. I hadn't even set eyes on "Pong" until the Christmas 1979 episode of George & Mildred. It was one of Tristram's pressies. Mind you, I had better-off friends and none of them had Pong either.

Computers were for boffins,
Dr Who and making mistakes on utility bills as the 1980s began. It's amazing to look back on the way they've evolved since those days.

In 1980, just 5% of households in the UK had video recorders.

Trousers were trouble for many comp. school kids in 1979 and 1980. For years, we'd worn flares. Never questioned it. They'd been around since the hippie years of the 1960s and somehow got stuck. We didn't wear them because we were hippies - we regarded hippies as a '60s thing, and anybody calling us that would have got a mouthful - or worse. No, we wore flares simply because they "woz" fashion. And woe betide any kid who didn't wear them. There was a strong pack instinct on the council estate where I lived and you had to fit in. Or get picked on. 
But, towards the end of the 1970s, fashion decided enough was enough, and so we moved into straight trousers. Or at least we did when we could afford it. The recession bit deep and it was a slow transition. There were still a lot of flares around in 1980. 

The trouble was that in 1979 and 1980 whatever we boys wore in the way of trousers drew jeers from girlies smugly attired in skirts or dresses. If we wore flares it would be: "Flaredypops! Come on, pop pickers!" They had suddenly been relegated to the distant past. If we wore straights, there would be a sneered: "Ooh, I like your straights! Very fetching!" You couldn't win!

Ska revival tightened its grip, with the film Rude Boy, and hits like the Beat's Mirror In The Bathroom and Stand down Margaret, the Selecter's Missing Words and the Specials' Too Much Too Young. The Ska look was so in and those Rude Boys were everywhere. 

It was a golden year for Madness, which included several of their best-loved songs - Baggy Trousers amongst them. Oops Upside Your Head had us all doing the rowing thing down on the floor. The Nolans had a great year; Sheena Easton, Liquid Gold, Kelly Marie, the Cure, Adam And The Ants and Spandau Ballet all made their first chart appearances; David Bowie's Ashes To Ashes video was a New Romantic trailblazer; robotic dancing was increasingly popular. 
Sheena Easton, Kelly Marie and a few others helped advance the notion of colourful boiler suits as fashion. Some called them jump suits, others called them flying suits. Kelly called hers a "cat suit". 

Er, no, that famous 1960s garment was rather tighter-fitting!

Of course, the bravest animals in the land were Captain Beaky And His Band, and the Korgis informed us that Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime. Still sends shivers down my spine, that song. 

Buster Bloodvessel and Bad Manners were absolutely brilliant.

Disco had fallen victim to the "Disco Sucks" campaign in America in the late 70s, but over here we had no issues with it as the 80s began. The classic Let's Go Round Again and Stomp both charted, and we loved 'em.

In September, Ottawan gave us D.I.S.C.O.

Chas and Dave couldn't be described as disco by any stretch of the imagination, but in December they were very popular with Rabbit.

Splodgenessabounds requested Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please. Did that poor bloke ever get served?

Our Tune began on Radio One's Simon Bates Show. 

Also, over on Radio Two, the often controversial soap opera Waggoners' Walk, which had been on air since April 1969, was last broadcast in 1980 - all part of the BBC's cutbacks. More here

The saga of Ambridge continued in BBC Radio 4's everyday tale of farming folk, The Archers. Doris Archer died quietly in her armchair as actress Gwen Berryman was too unwell to continue in the role she had played since 1951.
Something called the Sony Stowaway crept into the country in 1980. In 1981 it would be patented here under its original name - Sony Walkman.

The number of illegal breakers swelled enormously in 1980 and a mass rally in London demanded the legalisation of
CB radio - although some model aircraft users were worried that it would interefere with their frequencies.

CB radio was invented by American Al Gross in the 1940s and has been in use in the USA since the 1950s

The Adventure Game began - green cheese rolls with Uncle the teapot on Planet Arg. Bliss. Yes Minister debuted and the pilot episode of
Hi-De-Hi was screened - all three shows were treats from the BBC.

Hart To Hart
first appeared here on ITV on January 27th. TV was more of an event in those days, with only three channels, and most of us looked forward to the first feature-length episode. Max, the Hart's friend and manservant, had the famous catchphrase "'Cos when they met it was murder!", spoken over the opening credits, but in the first series he said "I look after both of them which ain't easy - 'cos their hobby is murder". The better known version arrived later.

More about Hart To Hart

The Dukes of Hazzard, first shown by the BBC in 1979, which was also the year they debuted in America, moved to their legendary Saturday tea time slot in 1980.

In late 1979, a series listed in the TV Times as The Minder, starring George Cole and Dennis Waterman, began on ITV.

The show (which was, of course, simply Minder) was not an immediate hit. The format was tweaked over the next year or two, and the comedy element was increased
(in fact, judging by a comment in a mid-1980s TV Times, the show's comic content was still on the increase then).

Read more about Minder here

Not The Nine O'Clock News had begun in late 1979, but the first series had slipped by virtually unnoticed. The original team consisted of Pamela Stephenson, Mel Smith, Rowan Atkinson and Chris Langham. It was felt that Chris wasn't quite right for the show and so, for the 1980 series, he was replaced by Griff Rhys Jones.

Not... had arrived. 

Blankety Blank was in its second year and 321 in its third. Both were extremely popular with viewers.

Monkey, shown on BBC2 on Friday evenings since 1979, was becoming a cult.

Family Fortunes and Play Your Cards Right began, as did Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World. In these programmes, Mr Clarke examined various mysteries of the world, usually ending by debunking them. "Do people really burst into flames for no reason? I don't think so." Well, that was a relief!

Juliet Bravo and The Gentle Touch began, flying the flag for England's female cops.

Ena Sharples made her last appearance in
Coronation Street in April. Actress Violet Carson had had several long absences from the programme in the 1970s, due to ill health, and this was supposed to be another break. Consequently, there was no big send off for Ena. As Ena bowed out and left our television screens for the last time, Metal Mickey bowed in. Was this progress?!

London cabbie Fred Housego won Mastermind and became a national folk hero.
Barbara Woodhouse was out for a "walkies". 

David Hunter was shot in Crossroads and JR Ewing in Dallas. The latter sparked huge interest and "I SHOT JR" and "WHO SHOT JR?" T-shirts, stetsons, car stickers and badges abounded.

See here for more.

And what about Dallas spin-off, Knots Landing - which told the tale of alcoholic Ewing brother Gary and his wife Valene, as they attempted to find happiness away from Southfork? The Knots pilot episode was shown in America on 27 December 1979, with a full first season of episodes to follow early in 1980. Here, we had our first opportunity to visit the Landing in 1980. It was never going to challenge its older sibling, but it was intriguing enough.

More American pot boilers were soon to follow...

11 September 2012

Reg Watson - The Very First Neighbours Script - 1984

This is the front of an historic document - the very first script of the Australian soap opera Neighbours, written in 1984 by none other than the show's creator, Reg Watson, formerly producer of England's legendary Crossroads saga!  This script is featured in its entirety at The Perfect Blend website, a brilliant resource for all Neighbours addicts.

Reg Watson first pitched the Neighbours concept to Australian Channel Seven in 1984 and, of course, they took him up on it. The show made its debut there in 1985. 

That wasn't the end of the tale of Neighbours arrival, as the show initially failed to thrill the Aussie TV ratings and so Channel Seven cancelled it. 

Oh no!

 But fear not.

The show was then picked up by Channel Ten, and given a revamp - more comedy was introduced and new characters arrived. The tales from Ramsay Street were suddenly a HUGE hit.   
 "Neighbours" had debuted in Australia on 18 March 1985, and we got our first glimpse of Ramsay Street on 27 October 1986 - the first day of the BBC's daytime service. Des Clarke (Paul Keane) and Daphne Lawrence (Elaine Smith) are pictured.

Wild rumours that this new series would feature a stripper were rampant round where I lived...

Interviewed by Perfect Blend on the occasion of the show's 20th anniversary, Reg Watson recalled: 

 'In pitching the show to Seven and Ten I blithely said, “This concept can run for twenty years”. I knew from the looks on their faces that they thought they'd heard it all before.'

It's still running today, although 21st Century Ramsay Street is rather different from the way it was in the beginning.

But back to 1984 and Reg Watson's very first Neighbours script - the script which introduced us to the suburb of Erinsborough and Paul Robinson, Daphne Lawrence, Des Clarke, Helen Daniels and Max Ramsay - amongst others. It all began with Danny Ramsay's terrifying nightmare. Read the whole script at The Perfect Blend - here. Also,  look here for our very own potted history of the origins of the Neighbours saga and its impact.

08 September 2012

ET The Extra Terrestrial

Picture the scene - late 1982 and early 1983...

Many of us were going around intoning "ET phone home" and trying to make a BMX airborne.

And all because of a film...
- Sunday Mirror, October 10, 1982:

Out of this world. That's the only way to describe the oddest visitor ever to roam the streets of London.

Not really a pretty sight at first stare, with huge saucer eyes in a squashed-up face lined with a thousand wrinkles. But he was a monster hit wherever he went.

The visitor is E.T. - that stands for Extra Terrestrial - and he's the lovable little alien who stars in the latest blockbusting space movie.

The film is not to be seen in this country until December, yet incredibly, everyone seemed to recognise the creature that has touched the hearts of millions of American movie-goers.

They've ET mad in the States, where box-office takings have hit a staggering £160 million and millions more have been made from merchandising. The hysteria is sure to follow in Britain.

Last week the Sunday Mirror introduced ET to London. Not the real ET, of course. We asked comedian Freddie Starr to don an alien look-alike mask to give startled onlookers a preview of what is coming.

Just the chap for the job, Freddie. ET has audiences weeping over his plight. Freddie has fans crying with laughter.

The superstar comic has also seen the film, created by movie mogul Steven Spielberg, and reckons it's wonderful. He predicts: "It will be a huge success when it opens in Britain. The little creature has such a sad face, it will touch everybody's heart," he said.

The Extra Terrific ET is an alien left behind on Earth by visitors from another planet. He meets an eleven-year-old boy who befriends him in his misery.

The Freddie Starr version of ET met earthling kids at Sullivan's Primary School in Chelsea. Needless to say, they were spaced out.

"It's ET. It's ET!" they shouted. Advance publicity in children's comics has told them the movie is on its way.

"He's lovely," said eight-year-old Claire Adams. "I'd love to see the film."

After blast-off from Chelsea our ET bumped into Tommy Steele near Piccadily Circus.

ET Freddie shook Tommy's hand before taking off his mask. Tommy came down to earth with a quip: "Put it back on. It's a big improvement."

Then it was on to BBC Broadcasting House to meet Radio One's very own hairy monster, DJ Dave Lee Travis.

Once he had been bearded in his den, Dave said: "I've a feeling ET is going to be a phenomenal success in this country. I'm very much looking forward to when the film opens.

In Regent Street, ET came eye to eye with cab driver Benjamin Silkin.

"I've had some funny-looking passangers in my time." he said. "But this little fella takes some beating."

Something to tell his cabbie mates - A Close Encounter of the Friendly Kind.

The BMX flew through the night...

Above and below: from the Brian Mills mail order catalogue, spring and summer 1983. Note the ET Speak and Spell.

Love the "ET Phone Home" T-shirts!

The 1982 novel:
He may be wise and as old as the stars but right now he needs a friend. The secrets of the universe can't help him. He's stranded on earth: alone, homesick and afraid.
It is a hostile planet. The police are after him and there's no one who can help... until he meets the children. To them he's a magical being from another world: to him they are unforgettable friends.

The English provincial newspaper article below, from December 1982, reveals how a journalist took three youngsters to the cinema to give judgement on the new sensation...
ET brings out heavy cold symptoms in the audience

 After 11-year-old Illyr had seen "ET", he said he had a cold. It must have been a particularly virulent one as so many of us in the audience showed the symptoms at the same time.

The lump in the throat came as the little lost alien, ET, began repeating "home" plaintively while pointing to the sky and by the time he lay dying we were all feeling almost as sick with runny eyes and difficulty in breathing.

The last hour was so heart-rending it made the shooting of Bambi's mother seem as tragic as a sketch from a "Monty Python" film. And we loved it.

There is no denying that at the start the director, Mr Steven Spielberg, had his work cut out to impress my three young companions.

Illyr Pride, Gwendolen Vickers, 11, and Alexandra Alderton, 10, have all seen such favourites as "Mary Poppins" and "Star Wars". They know a thing or two about what keeps their eyes on the screen and not on the clock.

We all agreed that we had been a little put off before we started by the ferocious publicity build up for "ET" the Extra Terrestrial.

Their classmates knew all about the film and wanted to go; some even had ET key rings.

We managed to finish at least three bars of fruit and nut chocolate watching the preliminaries to the main film, including a Pearl and Dean advertisement for ET board games.

Holding our excitement and orange drinks, the title credits begin to roll and we are prepared to share the experience with a widecross-section of adults as well as children in the audience, who only half filled the 900-seat Vic 1 at this 2 pm performance.

The cinema management were not surprised at this low turnout. They expect the queues at the weekend and during the school holidays. The packed houses it is expected to draw everywhere will literally keep open cinemas which have been suffering poor box office receipts.

The Victoria Cinema assistant manager, Mr Trevor Wicks, said: "It will save many. Not us, because fortunately we are already in profit but a lot of cinemas have been hit by the Hollywood strike; there were just no new films coming through. Managers were forced to show re-runs and even films which had been on television."

Struggling managers can quite confidently book their holidays. Any customer resistance created by the infernal racket of "hype" is swept away after the first 25 minutes. By then, my three young critics were totally in love and, perhaps what is more important, in sympathy with the waddling alien who has the appealing vulnerability of a premature baby. Over the top? Go and see it.

Illyr and Gwendolen spent much of the time after the first three quarters of an hour on the edge of their seats. There was as much laughter to be heard as the anguished crushing of drink cartons.

"I thought it had three things: emotion, it was funny and it had very good photography," said Illyr.

"The saddest bit was when he [ET] was dying. I cried," said Alexandra.

"I thought the two bits of flying on their bikes were good," said Gwendolen. "The first time they were flying against the moon he was dying and the second time symbolised life when they were seen against the sun."

Such perceptive remarks show that Mr Spielberg achieved exactly what he set out to. The only criticism of the film, which runs for nearly two hours, was some mumbling in one scene.

All agreed that the most moving moments came when the shared feelings of the human hero, Elliot, and ET are broken during his illness.

Such unaminous verdicts show that ET may be afraid, totally alone and three million light years from home but the film's makers are not.

Neighbours: Vivean Gray On Mrs Mangel

Mrs Mangel, all ready for another day as housekeeper at Lassiters.

Claire writes:

I think Mrs Mangel in Neighbours was fabulous, and I've read that some viewers took the brilliant portrayal of this character too seriously, resulting in hassle for actress Vivean Gray and Mrs Mangel's departure for England. Do you know how Vivean Gray felt about Mrs Mangel?

I share your admiration for Mrs Mangel, Claire.

English-born actress Vivean Gray was no stranger to playing gossips - she was Ida Jessup in the Australian wartime saga, The Sullivans. But she believed that there was one important difference between her two gossipy characters:

"... Jessup had saving graces, she would help people. Mangel is mean and bitchy."

Of course, Mrs Mangel was not originally intended to be a permanent Ramsay Street local. Vivean Gray in another 1980s interview:

"Mangel was only supposed to be around for three weeks, but I think people like watching her. I think they say, 'Isn't she dreadful? Thank goodness she doesn't live near me!' "

Analysing the character, Miss Gray said:

"The Mrs Mangels of this world are people who are disappointed in themselves. Perhaps they are lonely, too. At any rate, they can't adapt to a changing society. Such people need counselling."

A great shame her time in Neighbours was so brief (1986-1988) - but what a legend the character is!

Mrs Mangel did, of course, have a great friend in Eileen Clarke (Myra De Groot) for most of her time in Ramsay Street.

Did you know that Myra (who, like Vivean Gray, was born in England) first went to live in Australia in 1980? A short time after her arrival, Myra appeared as Laura Watkins, the sister of Vivean Gray's character Ida Jessup, in The Sullivans.

Of course, Eileen and Nell's friendship in Neighbours has gone down in soap history as being one of the funniest ever! Whether it was Eileen seeking comfort over her "wayward" son Desmond, Mrs Mangel reading the tea leaves, or the latest juicy piece of gossip leading to terrible confusion, these ladies were wonderful to watch!

Eileen Clarke and Nell Mangel joined the local bowling club in 1987.

Plastic Money Truly Arrives - The First Debit Card - Barclays Connect - 1987

The Barclays Connect card - the original late 1980s design.

Credit cards had, of course, been available in the UK since the 1960s. These were considered terribly posh round my way. Nobody had one, nobody would have qualified to be allowed one, and we thought we'd never have any use for plastic money. Cash point cards might be offered to students and the like, but as most of the working classes had no bank account, did not go to university and had no money, they were no use to the banking system.

Until the late 1980s rolled around.

An announcement from October 1986. A debit card? Plastic which can only be used only when you have sufficient funds (or overdraft)? Brilliant!

Look at these ads from May 1987 - part of a major outdoor poster campaign by Barclays, showing that whilst the cat was already well and truly out of the bag about past innovations, a brand new puss was going to burst upon the scene on June 3. It seems archaic now, but when I started work in 1982, I got paid weekly and in cash. The "pay packet" coming round each Thursday was much looked forward to. I didn't have a bank account. Nobody I knew did. Most of us common-as-muck types didn't. Bank accounts woz "posh".

I opened an account circa 1987, when I began a new job. My employer wanted to pay my salary directly into a bank account. 

And in 1988 I gained a Barclays Connect Card. Still have one. Felt very odd and rather wonderful at first. I flashed it around, seeing it as something of a status symbol (I hadn't worked out the difference between credit and debit cards then and must have looked a proper twit!). 

Within nine months of its arrival in 1987, Barclays was issuing its one millionth Connect Card, and by 1989 I was rapidly becoming one of the common herd again.


What Simon Says: '80s Stars Who Negate The '80s... And '70s Fantasists...

 Clare writes:

I recently saw an interview with Simon Toulson-Clarke, singer of Red Box, a two-hit wonder band of the mid-1980's. He claimed that the 1980's music scene was nearly all "70's influences" and that the music wasn't up to much - although Red Box were, in his opinion, innovative and good. I grew up in the 80's and bought the two Red Box hit singles and love 80's music and feel a bit distressed that one of my 80's singing heroes should slag my youth era and tastes in music. I think 80's music was thoroughly innovative and wonderful. Listen to music from 1980 and 1989 and you will see how far music progressed. What do you think?

I do see why you're distressed by this, but I think it has a funny side. The 1980s have long been reviled by the "great and the good" as a decade of unbridled greed. It follows that everything else within that decade must be reviled or negated too - from pop music to fashion, the 1980s, being the era of Reagan and Thatcher, have a very tough time. History is gleefully rewritten to accommodate the view that the 1980s are simply not worth examining - and, if anything is worth examining in that dreadful decade, it's because of "influences" from other decades - particularly the 1970s, which were rewritten as totally wonderful about fifteen years ago.

Also, if you formed a pop band in 1981 and you are one of the "great and good", it is desirable to say that you formed that band in "about 1979" (and certainly not in the 1980s!) - happens all the time - although the trend has faded more than somewhat in the last few years.

When I began this blog in 2005 it was because I was amused at the tendency of pop culture pundits (including the BBC - which continues to indulge itself in '70s fantasy presented as fact even in 2012) to move likeable pop culture of the 1980s into the 1970s or 1990s. A huge fad of the early 1980s suddenly became "1979", another early '80s fad slipped back to 1976, a popular TV ad of 1985 became 1990... it was nonsense and absolutely hilarious because it revealed how insecure and self-deceiving many media and web pundits were. We were fascinating, influential and groovy before the 1980s, we're much better than the 1980s afterwards. Nothing to like in the 1980s!

When somebody like Ed Miliband (born December 1969) states that he remembers the 1970s well or the BBC shows a Dominic Sandbrook (born 1975) series revising the 1970s into something glorious, one can only assume that some people were a little too influenced by the 1970s hype of the 1990s and early 2000s as youngsters.


I haven't heard the interview with Mr Toulson-Clarke, so I can only comment generally, but yes - the 1980s did have '70s influences - and influences from further back (just as the '70s were positively awash with influences from the 1960s and further back). It's only natural - decades are short periods of time, and if they were allowed no influences - particularly from the immediate past - then things would be very odd indeed as time is a constant stream and decades a human construct. Imagine, in the 1970s' case, if people could not have gone on wearing flared trousers after New Year's Eve 1969! Goodness - although these were very much a 1960s bequest and selling like hot cakes in fashion stores late in that decade, the '70s would have lost a major fashion trend, wouldn't they?

And the '70s would also have lost Chopper bikes (on sale in UK stores in 1969), the space hopper (on sale and a craze from spring 1968 onwards), rock and pop stars like Led Zeppelin, Slade and David Bowie, dreadful '60s-inspired wallpaper, plus the stylophone, hippie chic, and synthesisers (which would have been ruinous for the 1980s when synth pop entered its heyday!). 

And, just think, the '70s, which enjoyed a huge 1950s revival, would not have been able to revive that decade at all, nor the1960s ska and Mods and Rockers' scenes!

I believe that 1970s music and pop culture was far more swamped by 1960s influences than the 1980s was by 1970s influences simply because the 1970s had so many revivals - the 1950s, Mods and Rockers, Rockabilly, ska - and more -  and never fully succeeded in shaking the 1960s out of its hair (although Punk took a darned good stab at it!).

There is a lot of piffle written about Margaret Thatcher who, of course, won her first General Election in 1979. It's as though her tenure as Prime Minister throughout the 1980s was then absolutely assured and that the electorate had decided on a major and permanent change of direction at that point. From my perspective, from observing the events of 1979 at the time, I think that people were simply sick of the Winter Of Discontent, spiralling inflation and unemployment, and that's how she first got in. The BBC news bulletin at the end of Sheila Tracy's Truckers' Hour from May 1981 featured here mentions the results of a poll from a reputable source which found that if a General Election had been called at that point the Tories would have lost. 

Ah, a poll you scoff. Yes, good point, but Thatcher became highly unpopular with many people in the early 1980s and it was the Falklands War of 1982 which helped her tremendously to win a second term with a landslide majority. She even called an early election in 1983 to take advantage of that fact! And the election of Ronald Reagan as American President in November 1980 was  probably far more influential on the shape of the 1980s than anything Thatcher did simply because America is so much larger than the UK. And yes, loathe though many revisionists are to admit it, Reagan was elected in 1980 and inaugurated in 1981, not in the 1970s!

Let's look at 1950s influences on the 1960s and beyond: What if National Service hadn't ended in 1958, the Rock 'n' Roll era hadn't begun and the Pill hadn't been invented? What would the 1960s have been like then? Also, CND was formed in the late 1950s - ushering in the era of student protest. And what if Margaret Thatcher hadn't entered politics during that decade? No election wins in 1979, 1983 and 1987 then, eh?!!


Let's look at the influence the 1980s had on the 1990s. What if the World Wide Web hadn't been invented in 1989? What if the Game Boy hadn't been invented in the 1980s, or Microsoft Windows? What if the ZX Spectrum and the Apple Mac hadn't come along? What if the first handheld mobile phone hadn't been unveiled in 1983? What if work on the current GSM mobile system hadn't begun in 1982? What if the Grunge scene hadn't started in America? Or the Stone Roses had not released their seminal 1989 album? What if...

To sum up: to pretend that the 1980s were simply a lot of '70s influences and were somehow stagnant or alone amongst the decades for having influences from the past is pure piffle and bunk. To pretend that the 1970s were not HUGELY influenced by the 1950s and 1960s is similar piffle and bunk.  Anybody with a thought in their head can see that it is pure nonsense.

It's like some kind of illness "bigging" up certain decades. '80s Actual simply looks at what went on within that ten year span, referencing the past and the future where necessary. 

And we maintain that it was a turbulent, vibrant, fascinating and influential decade. 

And that's fact.

03 September 2012

Clinton Cards Brighton Nudist Beach Info - 1979? No, 1980!

Keith writes: 

Just had my birthday (I was born in 1979) and a Clinton cards "Year You Were Born" '79 card, which states: "First British Nudist Beach Established In Brighton". Wasn't that 1980? 

Yep, bit of a boo-boo there - the go-ahead was given to open Britain's first nudist beach in Brighton in August 1979. The opening date was set for 1 April 1980. Until then it was absolutely illegal to bare all on Brighton beach and the local council spent the intervening months fending off furious Mary Whitehouse types and preparing adequate signage to ensure that nobody would stumble upon the beach by accident. Those were far more shockable times! But, when the beach did open in April 1980, many people had a special outing especially to see what was on view! See our original article on the subject (complete with 1980 newspaper cuttings) below. 

1 April, 1980, April Fools Day, and England's - and in fact the whole of Britain's - first official naturist beach opens. Brighton will now seem a little breezier for some. I hope they at least kept their flip flops on - that shingle beach can be murder on the old plates of meat!

From the Daily Mirror, 5th April 1980:

A town's new nudist beach was the hottest holiday attraction in Britain yesterday.

Crowds flocked to the beach at Brighton for a peep. The 180-yard stretch of shingle was packed with picnickers while neighbouring beaches were deserted.

Hundreds of sightseers also lined the promenade railings, many of them with binoculars. A road leading to the signposted beach had the town's only traffic jam...

01 September 2012

Neighbours: A Brief History Of How It All Began

A young Kylie Minogue as Charlene Mitchell in her very first on-screen "Neighbours" appearance.

The road to Ramsay Street began when Brisbane-born Reg Watson, pictured above with the late Noele Gordon, left Australia for England in the 1950s. It was in 1959, according to Noele Gordon's autobiography, My Life At Crossroads, that Reg first suggested the idea of a daily serial to his boss at ATV, Lew Grade.

Reg was not instantly taken up on his idea, but in 1960 the next paving slab on the road to Ramsay Street was put in place when Granada Television's Coronation Street was first screened.

Interviewed in the 1980s, after Neighbours had begun, Reg stated: "I first got the idea in England watching Coronation Street."

Back to the 1960s, and in 1964 Reg became producer of Crossroads, a brand new soap set in a motel in the English Midlands, and made by ATV. Lew Grade had taken his time, but had not forgotten Reg's idea for a daily serial!

Reg gained valuable experience working on Crossroads, and, although often mocked, it became one of the most popular programmes on the ITV Network.

In the mid- 1970s, Reg returned to Australia, and, between then and 1984, created such memorable soaps as Prisoner (screened here as Prisoner: Cell Block H - late night cult viewing in the late 1980s) and Sons and Daughters.

In 1984, work began on Neighbours at the Australian Grundy organisation, where Reg Watson was head of TV drama. Although inspired by Coronation Street (humour and all), Neighbours was rather more youth-orientated than the Street of the 1960s-to-mid-1980s era. "Humour was to play a big part in it and the other important thing was to show young people communicating with older people," Mr Watson later explained, in answer to questions about the show's gestation period.

Cancelled by Channel 7, picked up by Channel 10, the early days of the Neighbours series were pretty turbulent off-screen. But what did we care? We'd never seen it. But then the BBC bought it...
"Neighbours" had debuted in Australia on 18 March 1985, and we got our first glimpse of Ramsay Street on 27 October 1986 - the first day of the BBC's daytime service. Des Clarke (Paul Keane) and Daphne Lawrence (Elaine Smith) are pictured.

Wild rumours that this new series would feature a stripper were rampant round where I lived...

A caring, coping female in the classic soap opera tradition, Helen Daniels took on the task of bringing up her four grandchildren when her daughter Anne died in childbirth.

Played by the late Anne Haddy, Helen was also a great support to son-in-law Jim (Alan Dale) - and was created with the notion of disproving the "interfering dragon" mother-in-law stereotype.

Helen was once described on-screen as "St Helen of Ramsay Street".

Anne Haddy spoke of her feelings about Helen to TV writer Hilary Kingsley in the late 1980s:
"She sometimes annoys me when she's always right. But she's a doer - and it's nice to show a grandmother can wear high heels and nail varnish, too."

Helen remains one of the fondest remembered of past "Neighbours" characters.

Daphne Lawrence was the non-stripping stripper at Des Clarke's bucks (stag) night.

A shaggy-permed, blonde-highlighted, twenty-something sticky beak - the original Julie Robinson, played by Vikki Blanche. I found her infuriatingly fabulous!

1985 - a scene from the first episode - and it looks like Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) is still in nappies. Father Jim (Alan Dale) is amused.

The original Scott Robinson (Darius Perkins) receives advice from father Jim.

Scott transformed - the move from Channel 7 to Channel 10 brought a new Scott to our screens - Jason Donovan, seen here with screen sister, Lucy (Kylie Flinker). Like Scott, Lucy changed faces - she was Sascha Close later in the '80s, and would undergo another transformation in the '90s.

The Channel 10 "Neighbours" episodes gave us the glorious Madge Mitchell/Ramsay/Bishop - played by Anne Charleston, seen here with screen nephew and original "Neighbours" character Shane Ramsay (Peter O'Brien). Just look at those shoulder pads! Just look at that mullet!

Gossipy Mrs Mangel, played by the English-born actress Vivean Gray, loved her granddaughter Jane Harris, played by Annie Jones. Of Hungarian parentage, Annie had formerly played roles in the film "Run Chrissie Run" and the TV shows "The Henderson Kids" and "Sons And Daughters". Jane Harris had originally been called "plain Jane, super brain" by her contemporaries at Erinsborough High School, but soon revealed herself to be one of the beauties of Ramsay Street.
Eileen Clarke, mother of Des (Desmond, if you please!) was, like Nell Mangel, played by an English-born actress: Myra De Groot made the most of a brief stint in "Neighbours", greatly impressed the production team, and Eileen became a regular character. She was gossipy, prudish, gullible and excitable, but always meant so well!

Myra's death in 1988 put an end to Eileen's stay in Erinsborough - nobody else could have played her!

The "Neighbours" theme tune was written by our very own Tony Hatch, creator of such memorable TV themes as "Crossroads" and "Emmerdale Farm". The lyrics were written by his wife, Jackie Trent, and sung by Australian actor and singer Barry Crocker.

Interviewed by the Neighbours Perfect Blend website in 2005, Reg Watson said:  

'In pitching the show to Seven and Ten I blithely said, “This concept can run for twenty years”. I knew from the looks on their faces that they thought they'd heard it all before.'