30 December 2013

The Great BIG 1980s Pop Lyrics Quiz - Part 1!

In the 1980s, Frankie said "Relax". The pig said 'Oink'.

After our lovely long break, listening to those rascally popstrels Duran Duran belting out Rio and other "legendary" 1980s pop sonnets in a luxury yacht anchored in the swimming pool up at the Falcon Crest mansion, we're just dying to bring you the Great BIG 1980s Pop Lyrics Quiz.

You know, the 1980s was probably the best decade for pop music ever invented. It was so swingorilliant we waited with breath absurdly bated for each porksome instalment of the Now That's What I Call Music saga, thought that Nick Heyward was pretty darned brilliant, and shed bitter tears whenever our fave choons were chewed up by our wicked cassette players.

And those lyrics! Wow, those lyrics! From Jimmy The Hoover to Pepsi and Shirley, from Splodgenessabounds to A Guy Called Gerald, the 1980s were simply awash with memorable sing-a-long moments. "Wicked", was it not?

But just how well do you remember those lyrics? Can you match a handful of lyrics to a particular song? This is what our epic four-part Great BIG 1980s Pop Lyrics Quiz is all about. We give you the lyrics, you jot down the song title - if possible without Googling or some other new-fangled nonsense, then we give the answers and a rating with the final part of the quiz, which will be posted in late January. This is not for the faint hearted. There will be eighty, yes EIGHTY lyrical posers in all (fitted with big hair and shoulder pads as standard). This quiz is the best innovation since the C5. See how you do - GO FOR IT! - if you dare...

And whilst you're here, if you have any memories you care to share of 1980s pop epics and what they and their lyrics meant/mean to you, please feel free to do so in the comments.

We're agog with anticipation.

Still here? OK then, matey boots...

1) "You're a slave to fashion and your life is full of passion..."

2) "Stay with me, let loving start..."

3) "Qua qua fa diddily qua qua..."

4) "All the teachers in the pub, passing round the ready-rub..."

5) " Get your booty on the floor tonight, make my day..."

6) " Sound and caring, help the helpless, but always remain ultimately selfish..."

7) If we are what we eat, you're my kind of meat..."

8) "Given that you pay the price, we can keep you young and tender..."

 The legendary Michael Jackson. Billie Jean was not his lover.

9) Peaceful revolution let the perfect wave surround me..."

10) "It's wrong to wish on space hardware..."

11) "Easy girls and late nights, cigarettes and love bites..."

12) "Is it real or is it synthesized? Baby, I'm hypnotized..."

13) "Who do you want me to be to make you sleep with me?"

14) "Baby look at me and tell me what you see, you ain't seen the best of me yet, give me time I'll make you forget the rest..."

15) "In my imagination there is no hesitation, we walk together hand in hand..."

16) "On days like this, in times like these - I feel an animal deep inside..."

17) "I still find it so hard to say what I mean to say, but I'm quite sure that you'll tell me just how I should feel today..."

18) "Jack and Jill went up the hill to have a little fun. Stupid Jill forgot her pill and now they have a son..."

19) "And the public gets what the public wants..."

20) "It's not the way you lead me by the hand into the bedroom..."

Some truly memorable 1980s lyrics from The Art Of Noise here. All together now: "Dum dum dum tra-la-tra-la-tra-la-la". Look out for the next instalment of this quiz - it's gonna be nearly as raunchy as Haircut One Hundred, more satisfying than nouvelle cuisine, more stirring than a power nap... "Does heaven wait, all heavenly, over the next horizon?"

23 December 2013

Here Comes Christmas!

 Memories! A Now That's What I Call Music Volume 5 cassette, £7-99 from Woollies in 1985. A snip! 

We were fair hornswoggled here at '80s Actual Towers to realise that Chrimbo was on yonder horizon again, and that somebody had made a clock out of a Now That's What I Call Music Volume 5 cassette case from 1985! Love it!

"You can almost hear time ticking away..." as Go West once sang. This little beauty has got a lovely clunking tick to it.

Now is the time to give '80s-themed gifts, and look back on memories from that most golden of decades... the glorious deelyboppers debut of 1982, for instance, or Anneka Rice being flunked by a dwyle in 1987... such happy, happy days! 

Talking of 80s-themed gifts, we were dead chuffed to receive a Mr Tea mug (a spoof on the A Team's Mr T) and a "Hello, Is It Tea You're Looking For?" mug - an affectionate (we thinks) spoof of Lionel Richie's rather excellent 1983 song lyrics. We're so chuffed we're dancing on the ceiling.

Well, tis the season to get George out of the cupboard. George? you ask. Yus, we reply - George the bear who was rescued from being thrown out at a charity shop by Andrew, who was doing some voluntary work there a couple of years ago. George is incredibly cuddly and lovable, but has the regrettable habit of bursting into Last Christmas whenever his "TRY ME!" (very enticing!) foot is squeezed. Never mind. we love 'im anyway!

George luxuriates on a 1980s candlewick bedspread. It's not exactly Club Tropicana, but it's the best we can do.

Coming soon, we have the first part of our BIG 1980s Lyrics Quiz ("qua qua fa diddily qua qua") and a look at the making of the first series of the highly esteemed kids' telly show Press Gang in 1988 (first broadcast in early 1989).

Have a lovely Christmas. We hope you get all your heart desires. And remember... more is more.


09 October 2013

Remember 1980, When Men Dressed Like Men And Rave Was A New Soft Perm?

1980. Before the yuppies. Before the mobile phones. Before the ZX Spectrum. Before the Apple Mac. Before the C5 car. Before the deelyboppers...

Men's fashion at Foster's, December 1980 - with Tootal and Lopez. 

Quite stunning. 

From the Daily Mirror, December, 1980. In 1988 and 1989, a Rave was very different to a new soft perm.

06 October 2013

Let's Go Back To The '80s - To Iron Maiden And 7-Up, Bananarama And Breakfast Club...

"Hooray for Cosby and Rubik's Cube..." - fun song - a tribute to the 1980s by Aqua, with a great video by a YouTube user. Enjoy!

04 October 2013

'80s Emmerdale Farm: Amos Brearly - The Marrying Kind?

Emmerdale Farm: Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) - marriage plans in 1988.

Sheila writes:

Much is made of Amos's proposal of marriage to Annie Sugden - purely for business reasons - in 1972. But was Amos ever romantically involved with a woman during the 1980's? I do seem to recall something, but can't  quite remember!

Yes, Sheila, he was. In October 1988, Amos came close to marrying old acquantance Gloria Pinfold (Hope Johnstone). A personable woman, she dominated the blustering landlord and caused Henry Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) great irritation when she moved into The Woolpack and threw out the sausages and bacon because of their high cholesterol content. She also crticised Henry's book keeping.

Amos told Henry he was going to marry Gloria.

Henry would have to leave The Woolpack.

It looked like the days of one of Beckindale's best-loved duos were numbered, until Gloria called off the engagement and went off with someone else.

Amos and Mr Wilks continued their partnership until early 1991, when Amos retired.

10 September 2013

My Wonderful Wife (And Chris Rabbit!)

My wife puts up with an awful lot. Not least my passion for the 1980s. In the last few weeks alone, she's endured me swanking around Cromer with her in my best Miami Vice garb, repeated playings of Now That's What I call Music Volume 6, and every episode of the BBC children's show, Henry's Cat - which began in 1983. She now lives with the knowledge that Chris, the manic blue rabbit from that series - forever squawking "It's easy! It's easy!" - was a major hero of mine back in my late teens and early twenties. 

She's also endured a Thompson Twins cassette, the whole of the first instalment of TV-am, an hour of Brookside and three hours of original 1980s Chicago house music. 

When I arrived home from work the other night, I was startled to find an envelope bearing my name and a picture of two carrots on the kitchen worktop awaiting me. 

Had the pressure of living with an '80s man finally driven my wife insane I wondered? Was this a "Dear John"?

I opened the envelope to find a home made card inside, featuring my hero, Chris Rabbit, as usual squawking "IT'S EASY! IT'S EASY!"

And inside the card was written:

Thanks, Debs! I love you too. Not sure I deserve you, but I do love you. Thanks for everything. xxxxxx

09 September 2013

1982 - Slim Jim and Stardust Lil - Citizens Band Radio Comes To Coronation Street... And More...

CB radio was one of my favourite crazes of the 1980s. To be sure, it was a decade packed full of crazes, but CB stands out as one of my fondest memories. 

CB had been invented in America by a man called Al Gross way back in the 1940s, and it had been up and running there since the 1950s. In England, CB usage had been known on a very small scale since the mid-1960s, but it was illegal. Films and songs like Convoy heightened interest in CB in the late 1970s, and in 1980 an illegal craze went spiralling out of control. 

In 1981, the illegal CB craze had grown so huge it was wreaking havoc in some quarters, with a hospital claiming it was interfering with heart monitoring machines, and a fire brigade desperate to track down a chattering CB'er who kept "fanning out" onto their frequency via a faulty CB. The Conservative government decided to legalise CB during 1980, but it took until 2 November 1981 for this to happen. Then, shops sold out of CB's and the craze went wide. It was at its peak in 1983, with 300,000 licences sold.

In 1982, the craze went to Coronation Street where Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes), former lovable bad lad turned binman, met the love of his life over the airwaves... over to the TV Times, 2-8/10/1982:

CB slang and the language of love

Actress Veronica Doran has a problem with some of her fans - she can't understand a word they say.

It all started a few months back when, as Marion Willis in Coronation Street, she was driving a florist's van for a living which was fitted with a Citizens' Band radio.

Under the romantic call-sign of 'Stardust Lil' she made contact with another CB fan, the far from skinny 'Slim Jim', alias Eddie Yeats. And as every fan of the Street now knows, the language of the airways became the language of love as they met, fell for each other and became engaged.

"I still get a lot of mail from CB users,' says Veronica, 'and lots of invitations to their get-togethers.'

But Veronica is the first to admit that before the Coronation Street part she had never used a CB radio and the esoteric language of CB fanatics was a total mystery to her. Most of it still is.

'I had to tell one person on the phone that I hadn't the faintest idea what they were talking about," she says.

This article dovetails neatly in with an e-mail I received asking me about "nuisance" CB users, out to make trouble. I rarely came across anybody like that, but they were a feature of both the illegal and legal CB eras, sadly. One occasion stands out in my memory.

I was out one evening with my mate Pete in his car, circa 1984. We were on the CB, looking for nice ladies to chat up, sorry, I mean chat TO, when Pete got into a discussion with a male breaker who became increasingly hostile.

Not known for backing down from confrontations (despite the white legwarmers he often wore), Pete got pretty steamed up, too. "Yeah? Well come on, I'm in the car park opposite St George's Church. Get down 'ere - I'll take you on!"

Mr Not-So-Good-Buddy assured us, in no uncertain terms, that he was on his way. By the sound of him, he wouldn't stop at an eyeball - he'd tear us limb from limb. 

Oower, Missis! 

Pete sat silently behind the steering wheel, face grim and set, staring at the entrance to the car park.

"See you, Pete!" I firmly believed (and still do) that discretion is the better part of valour, and prepared to get out of the car.

Pete grinned at me, delighted that he'd made me sweat: "Where'd ya think you're goin'? You didn't think I was serious, did you?" and he started the car and away we went. Phew! Curious though I was to see if the breaker was as fierce as his voice, I could live with it!

Things were usually much lighter than that, and Pete had a speaker under his bonnet, attached to the rig, so we could make public announcements as we went along the road: "Kill that cat. Would you PLEASE kill that cat?" was a fave.


Dunno. Different times! 

That ties in with another recent e-mail I had, asking:  

Don't you think the 1980's were mad? 

Of course not, mateyboots! They were perfectly sane!

Read our main CB radio post here.

04 September 2013

Wikipedia - Is House Music Derived From Garage?

An e-mail from Sam:

Seems to be some sort of editing war going on on Wikipedia, with one editor insisting that modern day House Music is derivative of Garage Music (without backing this up with any reliable links I might add!) and another insisting it isn't. Do you know the answer, oh '80s Guru?

LOL, Sam! Had a similar query a week or two back, but I'll address the question again - just for you! Wikipedia has many great folks involved with it but it is not, at the end of the day, a dependable source of information because anybody can edit anything and edit wars do take place! No, house music is not derivative of garage music. None of my 1980s/1990s literature on the subject mentions such a link. The two forms of '80s dance music are related as they were developing at the same time, but separately.  I believe New York garage slightly pre-dated Chicago house, but house broke through into the mainstream much earlier. The Channel 4 documentary Pump Up The Volume, which contains many interviews with original house music pioneers, describes 1983 as "Year Zero" for the genre. It was hitting the mainstream pop charts here in England from 1986 onwards. Garage was something I heard more of in the 1990s. I'm not sure about modern day house, but garage should certainly not be listed in the "stylistic origins" section for house on Wikipedia. That is potty.

I'm amazed that sources like the BBC link so readily to Wikipedia. It is worrying. Wikipedia is a great idea, but needs closer monitoring. It is one of the biggest purveyors of misinformation around - and that's a great shame.

03 September 2013

Coronation Street 1989 - Transformation Time, But No Yuppies Allowed!

What's goin' on 'ere, lovey? Well, it's October 1989... and the Street is undergoing a revolution. A whole new street is coming to the old street, with new houses, shops and industrial units...

The production team relentlessly teased the viewers! What would the new side of the Street look like? On 11 December 1989, an episode filmed in November, eager Street watchers glimpsed the nearly completed building which houses the salon today. The building work was to be completed by the end of 1989, as the show filmed in advance, and complete unveiling was due on-screen in early 1990.

In October 1989, the Daily Mirror reported:


BY 'ECK! Whatever are they doing to our Street?

They must be glued to their nets over there between the Rovers and Alf Roberts's corner shop, gawping at all the amazing goings-on on the other side of the country's most famous cobbles.

For this is the Street as we've never seen it before. The bulldozers have moved in. Mike Baldwin's factory has been demolished. In its place they are putting up a complete new block of buildings. The site is sealed off, with high boards to keep out peeping Toms, nosey journalists and visitors who daily tour the TV studios, trying to catch sight of the stars at work.

All the lorries and bulldozers bear the name of Maurice Jones, the fictional character who has brought out Baldwin and is developing the site, throwing the whole Street into turmoil. Actor Alan Moore laughs mischievously as the cameras roll and the actors go about their business, while the brickies work away. He says: "I've become the new Mr Nasty of the Street - and I'm enjoying every minute of it."

But what exactly are they building? The producers are keeping that a strict secret. But one thing is certain. The Yuppies won't be moving in on the people's street.

We should flamin' well think not! But as Mike Baldwin commented in 1989, they didn't have yuppies up North. They had 'ey-uppies! As in "hey-up!" geddit? Oh well, never mind...

19 August 2013

Henry's Cat

When the TV broke down, Henry's Cat gave it a thump...

The TV set immediately started working, and the Prime Minister came on giving a speech. This seemed worse than not having it working, so Henry's Cat switched it off...

Let's start with a joke! Why did the chicken cross the road? To see Gregory Peck! Henry's Cat and Chris Rabbit were told this "joke" by a three-headed dragon. It's actually a mangling of a joke which begins: "Why did the chicken go to the cinema?" But I prefer the three-headed dragon's version! My family, friends and colleagues never laugh when I tell the joke to them. But I always do.

You're NOT laughing? Oh, well - suit yourself! Let's press on...

First question: what is Henry's Cat's name?

Er... pass.

Oh well, second question: why is Henry's Cat simply called "Henry's Cat"?

Er... pass again.

Actually, in a year 2000 DVD release, creator Stan Hayward gave us the story behind the mysterious absence of a name for our favourite 1980s TV moggy, but back in my favourite decade we had no idea, and it all added brilliantly to the quirkiness of the show. And for those who like the mystery of it all, I won't spoil things! The details are available on the Henry's Cat Special Edition DVD, which sometimes crops up on on-line auction sites.

Henry's Cat in book form and on video cassette in the 1980s, and on DVD in the 21st Century.

Stan Hayward created Henry's Cat in the early 1980s, and Bob Godfrey (of Roobarb fame) animated, directed and narrated the show. The BBC wanted a new series for its children's programming. Rather than do another series of Roobarb, Bob Godfrey asked Stan Hayward for a fresh idea for the new show. And Henry's Cat was the result.

It started out as a series of five minute shorts on BBC1, first broadcast in the 5.35pm slot, just before the news and weather - made famous by such past greats as The Magic Roundabout and Hector's House - on 12 September 1983.  

From series three, the episodes were lengthened to fifteen minutes and the stories became rather more elaborate and sophisticated.

Henry's Cat hits the box on 12 September 1983. Look at those line-ups! John Craven's Newsround! Fame! Hi-De-Hi! The cuttings from my local newspaper archive were apparently headed "24-HOUR TELEVISION", but we didn't actually have 24-hour telly in those days. The full heading was: "24-HOUR TELEVISION AND RADIO". Yep, you COULD listen to the wireless all day and all night - even way back then!

There was a special Christmas Day Henry's Cat episode for 1983, shown on BBC 2 - The Christmas Dinner.

 The 1985 Henry's Cat Annual...

Sadly, Bob Godfrey died this year, and in the Guardian obituary by Stan Hayward, some useful insights on just who Henry was supposed to be were given:

Henry's Cat is never seen in profile, and he doesn't have a name, as the first story was based on Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin. The boy, Henry, got lost in the second story and was never part of the TV series or the published books. 

 Henry's Cat was laid back and liked watching the telly, reading and eating - not necessarily in that order. Anyone for jelly baby sandwiches?

He had ambition - often inspired by TV programmes he saw. In 1984, he set out to be World Champion Bender - having seen a spoon bender on the box. But when Henry's Cat bent Big Ben, he found himself on the wrong end of an ear bashing from none other than Margaret Thatcher herself. Never mind. The body-popping Statue of Liberty was a great success, and Henry's Cat set up "Wally Tours" for eager tourists to view his worldwide bending miracles. 

Telly and books often provided the inspiration for Henry's Cat's wild and colourful dreams. 

 Daydreams or night dreams, Henry's Cat could very easily find himself being Sherlock Holmes, fighting three headed dragons, or unexpectedly encountering a pirate video on the high seas as part of Captain McGregor's trusty crew, out hunting for treasure.

 But Henry's Cat was actually pretty wise. "Glamour is mostly pie in the sky," he once said. "But life is mainly a pie in the eye."

Although Henry's Cat could talk, he was, when all was said and done, a cat, and he could also give a very impressive "MIOW!"  In the opening sequence debuting in the second season (1984) - inspired by the old MGM logo, which involved a lion growling most impressively, we saw Henry's Cat giving two very wonderful MIOWS! - with his head framed by the first "O" in the words "Bob Godfrey Films Ltd".

An original 1980s Henry's Cat badge. "Eat, drink and be purry"? Sounds like excellent advice to me!

Henry's Cat wasn't the only regular character on-screen. His best mate was Chris Rabbit, a blue rabbit - and, much as I adored HC, Chris was my favourite character. Hyperactive to the max, Chris bounced around, enthusing about everything, and, although I wasn't quite as lively (or downright barmy) as him, I definitely sensed a kindred spirit there! He couldn't half rabbit, that rabbit!

So could I. Some people say I still do!

Chris's hobby was UFO spotting. He enjoyed studying the sky for flying saucers through his binoculars, and writing down the registration numbers of those he spotted. And he saw quite a lot. Henry's Cat took a look, and couldn't see anything, which either says a lot about Henry's Cat's eyesight, or Chris Rabbit's mental state! 

 Henry's Cat enters the world of politics: "Many others offer false promises, that they do not keep, but I will keep my false promises - that I promise."

Rather more in the background than Chris Rabbit were other friends of Henry's Cat - including Pansy Pig, who loved doing gymnastics. Henry's Cat was most concerned when Pansy became convinced she was ugly, and organised a TV show called Blind Dates. The idea was that the contestant had to choose between three possible suitors, hidden behind a screen. Isn't that rather like Cilla Black's Blind Date, you ask? Even the title? Blind Dates? Blind Date? Well, yes, but Henry's Cat's dates were plural, Cilla only had one. 

Henry's Cat's other friends included Phillipe Frog, who was French, and liked underwater guitar playing, Ted Tortoise, who was training to be a boxer, Denise Duck, who liked water sking, Douglas Dog -  who loved kite flying, Sammy Snail - tightrope walker... er, I mean, slitherer,  and down-to-earth Northerner Mosey Mouse. Constable Bulldog was the local bobby on the beat. He was a traditional cop (''Ello, 'ello, 'ello!") who enjoyed flower arranging in his spare time.

The gang in 1984 - Douglas Dog, Henry's Cat, Chris Rabbit, Mosey Mouse, Pansy Pig, Phillipe Frog, Sammy Snail, Henry's Cat, Denise Duck and Ted Tortoise.

Henry's Cat had two notable enemies: Farmer Giles, whose life our yellow friend unwittingly disrupted on several occasions (well, anybody would be upset to find Myrtle the cow floating on her back in the village pond, spouting water and thinking she was a whale), and Count Rum Baa Baa of Paranoia - a very rum sheep indeed - in fact, a criminal mastermind.  When Rum Baa Baa kidnapped Father Christmas and threatened to cut off his pom pom, the world held its breath. But Henry's Cat and Chris Rabbit came to the rescue, and Christmas was saved.

Like me back in the 1980s, Chris Rabbit was a very enthusiastic bloke. Unlike me, he didn't become an '80s fashion victim as rabbits don't wear clothes.

Bob Godfrey said: "Henry's Cat is completely dozy, he doesn't know anything and of course Chris Rabbit is mad and he thinks that he knows everything, but in actual fact he knows nothing, and so these two together... they are both, you know - barmy!"

From the 1983 Henry's Cat book, The Whale, based on a first series episode, Chris Rabbit has the answer!

Chris Rabbit was a powerhouse of ideas and information. He'd read the history of America on a Cornflakes packet, for example, and was able to prime Henry's Cat when the yellow feline was gripped with a sudden desire to become President of the USA.

It was all a matter of sitting for a Presidents' exam. The person scoring the highest points became President, the one scoring the lowest became Vice President. Having gone to all the trouble of catching a bus from England to the USA, Henry's Cat failed the exam because he went off into a daydream and then fell asleep.

Oh well, never mind.

"Nothing succeeds like excess," says Henry's Cat on this favourite mug of mine. Well, it WAS the 1980s!

In series one, Henry's Cat and his pals came up with a new dance craze. After the Birdie Dance, the Henry's Cat crew entered a TV talent contest and brought us the Disco Doddle, which gripped the nation - and, in fact, everybody was so busy doing it that the Prime Minister feared the country was going to grind to a halt and sent in the paratroop to the TV studio to stop the fun. The studio audience was sent home with the Prime Minster's apologies and a bag of chocolate buttons.

The series was, and is, wonderful, because it has child and adult appeal. 

 Henry's Cat could always turn to Chris Rabbit  for advice...

My fond memories of characters like Henry's Cat (and Chris Rabbit, of course!) help make the big, boring, thoroughly corporate 21st Century world a little more bearable for me. I'm a big kid at heart.

Having immersed myself in Henry's Cat episodes for the last few days, this morning I found myself sitting on the bus, back in the real world, glumly chewing on a Chewy Mint, going into work. UGH! After five days off, the prospect did not really thrill me. Suddenly, inside my head, I heard Chris Rabbit's shrill, hyper-enthusiastic voice: "THAT'S WHAT I'D LIKE TO DO! THAT'S JUST WHAT I'D LIKE TO DO!"

It didn't make me feel any more enthusiastic about my break coming to an end and having to return to the daily grind.

But it did make me smile.

16 August 2013

Brookside - Groundbreaking Soap - Real Houses, Soap Bubbles And Lots More!

The Collins family faced the trauma of Paul's redundancy and a downwardly mobile route to Brookside Close; Jimmy Corkhill was up to no good; Barry Grant wanted dosh and fell into bad ways; Pat, Sandra and Kate faced a mentally disturbed gunman; Sheila Grant faced a late-in-life pregnancy and endless problems from her kids and hubby; Marie Jackson took her "FREE GEORGE JACKSON" campaign to Downing Street; Harry Cross and Ralph Hardwick bickered at the bungalow; and nice yuppie Heather Haversham had a hell of a time...

"From the outset one of my main aims was to reflect Britain in the 1980s..." - Phil Redmond, 1987.

In 1981, Phil Redmond, frustrated that his ideas were failing to reach their potential because of decisions made by others, formed his own TV company - Mersey Television - and put forward the idea to the soon-to-be happening Channel 4 that the company might like a twice weekly soap. The idea was accepted. The soap was originally to be called Meadowcroft, but was later renamed Brookside.

From the "Sun", February 2, 1982. Actually the provisional title for this show, which turned out to be "Brookside", was "Meadowcroft", not "Meadowcraft" and the creator was Phil Redmond not Redmund! Still, "Coronation Street" producer Bill Podmore's confident attitude is worth noting: "I enjoy competition... especially when we are going to win."
Phil Redmond was determined that Brookside would be a show reflecting life in the 1980s, and the technology and setting was also cutting edge. Redmond bought some houses which were still in the process of being built to form the setting for his show and made full use of the lighter, smaller cameras available in the early '80s to film in them. The use of real houses was an absolute first for soap - truly revolutionary.

Most of the houses would provide homes for his characters, others would house the various departments needed to produce a popular drama - technical, wardrobe, canteen, etc. 

The trouble was, the houses used for other things were empty as far as the plot was concerned in the early years - which rather dented the 'reality' of the show. Why had some houses simply remained unsold?

The first episode was shown on Channel 4's opening night in November 1982.

TV Times, 1988 - "South" was a Brookside "soap bubble", shown as part of the schools series "The English Programme". What was a soap bubble? A short series of programmes featuring characters from Brookside in a different scenario. The first, Damon & Debbie, was shown in 1987.

Brookside was so non-cosy, it shocked many viewers. And left wing. I was left wing (nowadays I don't trust any politicians), but none of the people round my way went on and on about being poor or social issues as much as the folk in Brookside. In fact, many got rather upwardly mobile as the decade went on.

But Brookside gave UK soap a much-needed boot up the backside, and the effects can still be felt to this day. If only the soaps hadn't become so sensationalised in more recent years, Brookside included! But nowadays everybody's obsessed with serial killers and explosions. 

Without Brookside, I'm sure BBC bosses would not have turned their attentions to producing their own all-year-round soap - and then EastEnders would never have been created!

 Brookside ended in 2003.

We'll be returning to the Close soon.

Annabelle Collins with husband Paul. Love his '80s jumper! The Collinses faced many traumas: son Gordon was UK soap's first regular gay character; daughter Lucy dallied with bad lad Barry; and whilst Annabelle initially wanted to be friends with her lower class neighbours in the Close and Paul despised them, the trend was reversed in later years, with Paul becoming more of a "people person" and Annabelle succumbing to snobbish impulses. When Paul, training for a charity fun run with "commoner" Matty Nolan, allowed Matty to use the Collinses' shower, Annabelle was disgusted!

06 August 2013

House Music And Garage Music... Separate, Not The Same...

Joanne has written:

Were the dance music genres of the 1980s, House and Garage the same thing? I remember as a kid them being referred to separately, but I recently read of something called "Garage House" on a not very accurate site, and thought I'd turn to you for the answer!

Yes, they were separate, Joanne. House music as a distinct genre of electronic dance music began in Chicago - 1983 was described as "Year Zero" for house in the Channel 4 documentary, Pump Up The Volume. House, of course, hit the mainstream in the mid-1980s. Garage I knew little of until the 1990s, when I heard talk of "house and garage". There was also talk of something called "shed" at that time. It all seemed quite witty, but I was married by then and no longer part of the nightclub scene so know little about Garage. It apparently began in the early 1980s in New York and New Jersey, USA, and was influenced by the same sudden explosion of electronic instruments - synthesizers, drum machines, etc - as house.

The origins of the two genres are separate though.

01 August 2013

1981 - Mr Rubik - The Barron Knights

The Barron Knights gave us the album Twisting The Knights Away in 1981, and reflected the year's main craze on the cover and in one of the tracks - the Rubik's Cube! The Cube blasted out from behind the Iron Curtain, Hungary to be exact, where it had been known as Magic Cube, to become Rubik's Cube in 1980 - re-manufactured to Western World safety and packaging norms. Sadly, Cubes were in woefully short supply. Although the trademark was registered in May 1980, the first of them did not arrive in the UK until just before Christmas. In the spring of 1981 more Cubes arrived. The craze flamed, and was so ferocious that the colourful little object become one of the main icons of the 1980s. Hear the Barron Knights' humorous Rubik's  Cube song below, with some clever modern day Cube animation that just suits the mood - and evokes very powerfully the spirit of 1981! Mr Rubik was, of course, the puzzle's inventor, Erno Rubik, and much more can be read about the Cube by clicking on our "Rubik's Cube" label below.

28 July 2013

"Language, Timothy!" "Sorry, Father!" - The Adventures Of Timothy Lumsden

Sorry! - the novel. Ronnie Corbett as hapless librarian Timothy Lumsden is the cover star. Timothy desperately wanted to leave home, and sought "full board without scotch eggs".

Towards the end of 1980, Ronnie Corbett, the little one of Two Ronnies fame, was recording the pilot of what he later described as an "everyday sitcom" at the BBC. Although the Two Ronnies was still up and running, Ronnies Barker and Corbett had an agreement with the BBC that individual projects would be provided for them as comedic actors in their own right.

 The "everyday sitcom" pilot in production in late 1980 would never see the light of day. It wasn't deemed good enough.

It was whilst recording this destined-for-the-dumper pilot, that Ronnie Corbett was introduced to a brand new character, written especially for him, by writers Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent.

Enter, Timothy Lumsden! Timothy Christopher Robin Lumsden, to be precise.

Ronnie was happy. The BBC was happy. The pilot of the other show disappeared, never to be seen on-screen. And Sorry! went straight into production - for a full seven episode series, no pilot needed!

Interior scenes were filmed at the BBC in London, and the exterior for the small town setting for Timothy's exploits was provided by Wallingford in Oxfordshire.

In March 1981, the series went on-air. 

 Timothy Lumsden was a very English little man, who would instinctively apologise if somebody bumped into him, trod on his toe, etc. And Ronnie Corbett, himself born in Scotland, made this character live and breathe.

It was a brilliant performance.

Of course, Ronnie Corbett was already famous, but Timothy looked a bit different early on. Slightly more hair. Slightly curlier. Ronnie later commented: "I wore a false piece on top of my hair to make me look a bit curlier, but I don't know why I bothered with that." For me, it was useful because I was already a Ronnie Corbett fan, and loved watching him (particularly his "sit down" act on The Two Ronnies!), but the hair served to set Timothy Lumsden slightly apart, and I found it useful in establishing the character as a separate entity from the Two Ronnies performer.

 What initially warmed me to this series was its excellently drawn characters and the writers' obvious knowledge of what makes people tick - the relationships between the Lumsden family members were brilliantly observed. 

 Detail from the opening titles of Sorry!

Librarian Timothy was not always good with words - he got tongue tied, rambling and flustered at the drop of a hat when in the presence of any woman he liked (his mother had kept him off school the day his class did page 44 in biology), but he was a witty and kind man nonetheless. He was also an Ovalteeny and something of an unlikely hero - saving his godson from a bully, reuniting a runaway daughter with her father, saving a circus troupe from the bailiffs, putting aside the fact that he was going on a date with the woman of his dreams in order to save an elderly neighbour's house from being burgled...

Timothy's big problem was his mother - Mrs Phyllis Lumsden. At the start of the series he was forty-one. But Mummykins still treated him as though he was about five. She cooed at him. She lambasted him, she was always telling him to "stop showing off!", and wasn't averse to clouting him on occasion. She kept asking him if he was constipated. She wanted to make sure he had clean "handy-pandies" before he ate his dinner. She sent him to bed if he misbehaved. She cut his porridge into soldiers for him.

"WHAT?!" you explode. Or perhaps yawn. I dunno what kind of mood you're in today, so I really can't say.

Well, yes, I reply,  I know that cutting bread or toast into soldiers is far more common. But then Mrs Lumsden's porridge was decidedly uncommon. Thank goodness. Which leads us neatly onto the subject of her cooking skills. Or rather lack of them. Mrs L was still living in the war and post-war years of rationing - she still had two boxes of powdered egg in the larder. "Waste not, want not!" was her motto, and leftovers were a speciality. Left over Twiglets and scotch eggs for breakfast? Why not? And what about last Tuesday's spotted dick?

Timothy couldn't break the ties of his mother's apron strings. Even when he seemed close to it, he sometimes scuppered his own efforts because the suffocating bonds were just too tight.

Mrs Lumsden clung on to the past (note the ancient cut-price tin of Zam-Buk in the bathroom) and tried to make sure her son Timothy never grew up. She was so out-of-touch that, when Timothy presented her with an elaborate wrought iron shoe scraper as a present, she tentatively asked: "Is it a video game?"

It seemed appropriate that one of Mrs Lumsden's relatives had invented flypaper. 

 Actress Barbara Lott found fame as monstrous mummy Mrs Lumsden in Sorry!

Mrs Lumsden's daughter, Muriel (Marguerite Hardiman), had broken free and married and Mrs L had never really forgiven her. And Muriel's husband, Kevin (Derek Fuke), well... his eyes were far too close together...

And we all know what that means (incidentally, did you know that eyebrows which meet in the middle are a sign of a "gold digger", and that small ear lobes are a sign of "not a very nice person"? Timothy did).

Whilst we're off on a tangent, was Mrs Nugent Is Coming To Tea a record by Soft Cell?

Muriel committed terrible crimes in her mother's kitchen - like throwing away the J-cloth (Mrs Lumsden believed this should be a yearly event) and descaling the kettle (Mrs L was convinced the tea would taste dreadful because of that). Muriel even threw away the wall calendar in 1981 - "It's not November 1980 anymore!" The photograph of helpless little puppy dogs  had caused Mrs Lumsden not to move beyond that month and year.  She loved helpless little puppy dogs, did Mrs L.

Muriel fell out with her mother regularly, but knew her well, in fact, had similar steel in her own personality. But she was very much in opposition and determined to get her brother out into the world if she possibly could. Far easier said than done!

Timothy's father, Sidney (William Moore), had long retired from the Water Board and even longer accepted his wife's rule. At first glance, he simply seemed to echo her authoritarian stance on occasion - "Language, Timothy!" he'd say, usually when Timothy had said something completely innocent, or, "Bolshie, Timothy!" when the little one was trying to assert himself. 

Mrs Lumsden berated her husband and sent him out to his shed or the garden (smoking was only allowed beyond the compost heap) and generally ruled him with a rod of iron. But we quickly learned that there was a warmer, kinder side to Mr L, and he was often an ally and confidante for Timothy.

Tim frequented the local pub, and often met his old pal, Frank Baker (Roy Holder), there. Frank was another ally, urging Tim to break away from his mother. Unlike Tim, Frank was just your average guy, unhampered by a monstrous mater. He married, started a family, and generally lived life as millions upon millions of men live it. Sometimes he grew frustrated with Tim, but he showed such patience and restraint it was obvious that he really cared.

Apart from that dreadful time in 1982 when he hit Tim with a shepherd's pie.

Frank provided a useful bit of grounding to the show, along with the local pub scenario, including Jean (Jennifer Franks) the barmaid, as Sorry! sometimes leapt away into the surreal. Did Timothy have a guardian angel (see the episode It's A Wonderful Life, Basically), for instance? Or was he simply going a bit strange and imagining things after all those lonely years of oppression?

Timothy had a few more near misses when it came to matrimony, but the closer he got to finding true love, the more desperate his mother became to thwart him. She wasn't above enlisting the aid of her friend Dulcie Barrable (Mavis Pugh) in her attempts to spoil her son's escape plans, and once even faked her own death. Some of the later episodes had a faintly sinister tinge, and the surreal aspects of the plot increased. But would good win through in the end? 

In 1988, now aged forty-eight,Timothy bought his house and met the woman of his dreams. "Snow White's Cottage", that's what his friends dubbed his quaint new home.Of course, Timothy declared he was a yuppie - moving into the property owners' class. And also an Oink (remember all those acronyms so beloved of the 1980s? Dinky, of course, stood for "dual income, no kids yet", but "Oink" was definitely Timothy - "one income, no kids"!).

But then Mother called at Snow White's cottage with a basket of apples...

And the thudding noises coming from upstairs that Frank Baker heard when calling on Mrs Lumsden at her house later, in search of a suddenly missing Timothy, were not, as Mrs L said, Muriel doing her aerobics with Jane Fonda...

I won't spoil the ending, but Sorry! was a brilliant sitcom, and a few visits to the 1980s Lumsden family are a must if imaginative, high quality TV comedy is something you enjoy. 

But remember - no elbows on the table and make sure your handie-pandies are absolutely spotless before venturing in!

23 July 2013

E-Mails: Henry's Cat, 1980s Tabloids, And Sportswear...

Dinky has written to say he/she is fed up:

Why no Henry's Cat here? It was a brilliant '80s cartoon, first broadcast in 1983, and from the fabulous Bob Godfrey stable. I like this site because it really does try to resurrect the 1980s on its own, no "cut and paste" from other sites here, but to leave out Henry's Cat and Chris Rabbit, etc, is an abomination!

Heck, Dinky! I would say "sorry", but Henry's Cat IS mentioned on this blog! You can read it here.

Furthermore, we'll be revisiting Henry's Cat, Chris Rabbit, etc, at a later date. Of the Bob Godfrey animations, Henry's Cat was our absolute favourite. HC was, of course, created by Stan Hayward. The show was first broadcast on 12 September 1983.

 We recently received an e-mail about the children's series Press Gang as well, which began late in the decade. We've never actually seen that, but we have put it on our list to study for possible future inclusion here.

UPDATE: As a small token of our esteem for the wondrous yellow moggy, we've included him in our updated header illustrations! How do we love him? Let us count the ways... but Chris Rabbit is probably our ultimate fave. x

Helen writes:

I love your feature on the tabloids of 1980/1981. What a turbulent time it was! Is there any chance of more tabloid material? It really ignites a feeling of "being there" for me.

Thanks, Helen. There will be more.

And, finally, Waldo says:

The '80s sportswear posts are a dream come true for me as I love the fashions of that decade and they help me to know what is what on eBay. Can we expect more stuff like this?

You can, Waldo! I must say, the '80s were such a packed decade, it is hard to please everybody and to pack everything in. Each year seems to be bursting at the seams with trends and events. But we'll continue trawling the decade and bringing what we can to '80s Actual. If only we didn't have a day job!