27 January 2013

Living Life '80s Style... Part 3

Twirling back down the years to the 1980s, the "Style Decade", is such a pleasure. Want to know what to eat? How to furnish your micro bijou home or penthouse flat? Take a seat and enjoy the show - courtesy of mid-1980s Habitat and others!

Do eat nouvelle cuisine. Such a lovely, yuppie fad! Spitting Image described it as "an expensive way of not having very much to eat". Wasn't it WONDERFUL?! Also, employ lots of '80s speak in your conversation. "Tubular!",  "Wicked!", "Gnarly!" Call your friends "mateyboots" and always remember to say "purlease".

Transform your study area, 1980s style! The colours here are so conducive to concentration, I'm surprised they ever went out of fashion!

Computers began entering the home in the 1980s and they were provided for. Remember how trendy black was as a furnishing colour? Even tellys went black eventually.

Pose about in your lounge in pink trousers and fondle your hi-fi. Looking faintly minimalist here.

Invest in lovely lantern light shades and install a pendant over your dining table. Place a warning sign proclaiming "Gesticulation Prohibited" over said dining table before guests arrive as entanglement with pendant may ensue. It is, of course, highly desirable to be known for giving memorable dinner parties. But electrocutions are probably best avoided.

Just look at these! Even plugs went all bright and jazzy in the 1980s! 

"Individuality - being what you want to be - until tomorrow..." and what better way to make a statement than by spray painting your lounge suite with your own '80s style daubings? Glorious, is it not? We love Habitat!

 Ah, the children! The next generation! Our hope for the future! Ensuring their well-being was, of course, one of the top priorities of the 1980s. And what better way to care for them than by providing a nice, restful decor and furnishings for their bedrooms, like this red metal tube bunkbed?

And for your bedtime? How about these gorgeous quilts and pillow cases? The epitome of 1980s chic!

Bonce feeling a bit chilly? Buy a pillow case with inbuilt night cap and you'll be oh-so-cosy! And oh-so-stylish. Lucky you! Night, night!

We haven't finished yet! Tomorrow's another day. Lots more on living life '80s style soon! xxx

Sorry, I'm A Stranger Here Myself

So excited to read that Sorry, I'm A Stranger Here Myself, the Thames TV comedy written by David Firth and Peter Tilbury (now mainly remembered for Shelley and It Takes A Worried Man), which ran for two series in 1981 and 1982, is coming to DVD in March this year. It's the tale of poor, henpecked Henry, who is left his uncle's house in the fictitious English Midland's town of Stackley, and escapes his ghastly wife to return to the scene of his formative years. Unfortunately, the Stackley of 1981/1982 is not the Stackley Henry so fondly recalls, hence the title - Sorry, I'm A Stranger Here Myself.

Punk rocker Alex is squatting in Henry's house, Asian Mumtaz is running the corner shop, and there is a militant union shop steward living next door!

This is a very witty portrayal of the 1980s as they were before the yuppies, before the brick-sized mobile phones, before the explosion of creative energy brought to television by Channel 4, before the credit boom, before the huge shoulder pads. A 1980s where the Rubik's Cube and CB radio are huge crazes, New Romantics are the current pop sensation, Charles is marrying Di, and inner city riots are erupting.

The stars were Robin Bailey, Christopher Fulford, David Hargreaves, Diana Rayworth and Nadim Sawalha.

I ate this series with a big spoon. Can't wait to see the DVD and write a full review!

24 January 2013

1980s Trends: The Snorkel Parka

Georgina asks:

What is that material draped across the foreground of the photo of your 1980s bedroom?

Ah, Georgina, t'was my coat - my Snorkel Parka, no less!

It's 1985 and I'm wearing my "academic look" for a sporting event with some very "classy" friends. I suppose nowadays my attire might be classified as "geek chic", but in the mid-1980s I had discovered that fitting the clothes to the occasion was terribly important. Look at that magnificent '80s middle class golfers' jumper. Wow, eh? I wore the snorkel parka to the event because I'd spilt tomato ketchup down my shoulder-padded grey jacket and it was at the dry cleaners! Faces have been blanked out to protect the innocent. And me.

In the early-to-mid 1980s, the Snorkel Parka was everywhere. Those heavy weather coats with orange innards and hoods with fur trims weren't really fashion statements. In fact, they were mainly the sort of thing that mothers bought for schoolboys. My mother bought me mine as a Christmas present in 1983, which was after I'd left school, but the garment was practical - it DID keep the weather out - so I used it for day-to-day living - slouching around the supermarket, etc. You'll see loads of them if you look at media from the early-to-mid 1980s. But, around 1986, they faded away quite rapidly. That's when I chucked mine out. I recently watched an episode of Coronation Street from the mid-1980s in which sticky-beak character Percy Sugden was wearing a Snorkel P. Perhaps that had something to do with their rapid demise?

Below, I've reproduced the photograph of "The Pit" - AKA my mid-1980s bedroom, with points of interest clearly tagged.

Happy days! Below is a range of snorkel parkas as featured in the Freemans 1981 Spring and Summer mail order catalogue. £11.50?!! Daylight robbery! And that boy on the right with the fancy briefcase! What a flash git! At my school, we took our books to school in a Budgens or Co-op bag. 

13 January 2013

Pricing Guns Versus Bar Codes...

Lovely 1980s Cadbury's Wispa chocolate bar (read our article on Wispa here), with bar code and sticky price label. 18p! And they were even cheaper if you bought them from a supermarket. I haven't seen any sticky little price labels on anything for ages. The bar code, making a determined onslaught in the 1980s, began turning those friendly (sometimes!) folks with the pricing guns, trotting around the supermarket aisles, into an endangered species.

The 1980s saw huge technological changes erupting into our lives - the arrivals of various early and hugely influential computers, the first commercial computer mouse and mobile phones, satellite TV, Microsoft Windows, the compact disc, the C5 car (OK, not a great hit), the UK's first debit card - which sent plastic money into the ascendancy... plus, VCRs (you could always rent if you couldn't buy) and microwave ovens were also hitting the mainstream... yep, the decade positively crackled with electrically charged change.

And this was reflected in the shops, too. Slowly at first, the bar code began to make its presence felt. Sainsbury's, for instance, installed its first bar code scanning tills in 1982, and gradually these were rolled out throughout its stores. A great friend of mine who worked at a large Sainsbury's store out in the sticks in the mid-1980s, told me the story of the scanner tills arrival at her store:

"The beeping noise drove us all bats at first - and you could hear it in your head when you got home at night. I think it was louder with the early tills. Of course, now we take it as a part of everyday life, but I got married in 1986, shortly after the new tills arrived at the store I worked at, and I remember, on my honeymoon, thinking I heard a beep in the hotel bedroom at a very, well... to avoid being crude I'll call it a very 'romantic' moment. I think I was a bit befuddled with wine, because I interrupted proceedings to ask my new hubby: 'Was that a beep?' Good job he worked at Sainsbury's too, because he understood perfectly!"

 Johnny Ball's Think Box, 1982. Look - no bar code!

Incidentally, I was a great bookworm, and found the arrival of bar codes on book covers in the early 1980s positively hideous. I loved (and still do love) books, and bar codes printed on the back of each new purchase looked ugly and alien to me. And, at that time, I couldn't understand just what purpose they could have! Of course, the bar codes needed to be in place on merchandise before shops could invest in the equipment to use them.

Weetabix box from 1987, featuring one of the Weetabix skinheads in trendy hip hop garb doing a spot of breaking. The cereal was fifty-six pence way back then (sell-by date Aug '87) and the box has both price label and bar code (the bar code was on the other end). Until supermarkets were equipped with scanner tills, the pricing gun continued to be an essential tool. This particular purchase was made at a small Sainsbury's store and, whilst the supermarket chain installed its first bar code scanners in 1982, it would seem that by 1987 this particular store was still without them.

12 January 2013

Vorsprung Durch Technik - As They Say In England...

"Vorsprung durch Technik" - what?!! Apparently, it means something along the lines of "advancement through technology" in German, and has long been the slogan of the Audi company. In 1984, the slogan achieved fame here in England, with actor Geoffrey Palmer telling viewers that an Audi 100 was needed if the Germans were to be beaten in the race for the swimming pool. "Vorsprung durch Technik, as they say in Germany," said Mr Palmer in droll posh English tones, and it rapidly became one of the ad catchphrases of the mid-to-late decade.

Mr Palmer, already a TV favourite (remember him in Butterflies?), now had a new claim to fame.

The idea to use the "Vorsprung durch Technik" slogan in English language Audi ads came about when Sir John Hegarty, of the Bartle Bogle Hegarty advertising agency, visited the Audi factory in 1982.

1984: Some Popular Computers And Games - Remember Frogger, Galaxy Invader 1000, Donkey Kong, Mario Brothers And The Commodore 16?

Double page advertisement from 1984 for the Commodore 16 complete starter pack - Everything you need To start computing in one box.

Some computers and games featured in the Janet Frazer autumn and winter 1984/5 mail order catalogue.

Fun with the likes of Zaxxon and Sensor Travel Chess. The Tomy Skyfighters "brings you realistic sights and sounds. Press the top control buttons to manoeuvre your 'Skyfighters' against the enemy squadron."

The Atari 600XL and the Commodore 64.

Games for the Commodore 64, Sinclair Spectrum 48K and Atari 600XL and 400/800.

The new streamlined-look Atari 2600 console and games galore - including the delectable Ms Pacman.

Goodies here include the Philips Videopac G7000, a "boss joystick" suitable for Atari 2600 video game, Atari computers, Commodore 64 and Vic 20 computers, and lots of lovely games like Donkey Kong and Zaxxon.

Astro Wars, Star Force, Munchman, Firefox, BMX Flyer (BMX without the cuts and grazes), Krazy Kong and Multigame - "6 CHALLENGING GAMES IN ONE PLUS BONUS GAME".
Here are the CGL mini arcade games Frogger, Amidar and Galaxy Invader 1000. Such memories! Details are also listed of the items below.

CGL - Game and Watch - "The games you can take anywhere for those boring moments". Here are Snoopy, Donkey Kong, Mario's Bombs Away, Donkey Kong Junior, Mario's Cement Factory, Pinball, Mario Brothers and Popeye.

10 January 2013

1981: Marching For Nuclear Disarmament...

From the Sunday Mirror, 25/10/1981: 

Thousands of ban-the-bomb marchers staged a massive demonstration through the streets of central London yesterday. 

The march, from Charing Cross to Hyde Park, was headed by Labour leader Michael Foot and veteran anti-nuclear campaigner Canon Collins. The 150,000 demonstrators shouted slogans like "Give us jobs, not bombs" and "Fall out with Thatcher".

Police adopted a low-key softly-softly approach and the protest passed off peacefully.

The march, organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, ended with a mass rally in Hyde Park.

Mr Foot described the rally as "the greatest and most historic meeting" ever seen in Hyde Park.
"Only by disarmament can we properly defend our people in this nuclear world." 

1981 - "I can envisage a limited nuclear war in Europe" - President Reagan came out with some corkers - but 1985 would mark the beginning of a new era, which would include the end of the Cold War, as new Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev arrived.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, I was terrified of the prospect of nuclear war. I was far from being alone. I even remember Gail of Coronation Street voicing similar fears in 1978! 1979 was particularly grim as the SALT II treaty failed because of Russia invading Afghanistan. As the 1980s arrived, things seemed darker than ever on the Nuke Threat front, but by that time I had decided that I could not spend my young life petrified with fear and was getting on with living. The rapid thawing of the Cold War ice after Gorbachev took office in 1985 surprised and delighted me and the formal ending of the Cold War in December 1989 was simply incredible. 

Post Bag - Your Comments...

Carol writes:

I so love 1980s fashion. I've been into the leggings for years now, but the current trend for '80s style boyfriend jackets has got me rapt. Need some hairstyling advice though. Can you help?

Well, I'm sure the rather interestingly named Shaggers School of Hairdressing could have helped you back in the decade, Carol. But, as times have changed, how about our article on '80s hair - here? x

An anonymous e-mailer says:

I've got a couple of new names for Disco music. How about post-Motown and post-Soul?

Dunno, mateyboots! Don't a lot of Disco fans prefer to think it sprang out of nowhere and spawned everything else?

 Cressy  asks:

Own up! Do you ever listen to Karma Chameleon these days?

Yes! T'was Number One on my eighteenth birthday after all!

And Paul writes: 

Saw your 1986 jumper pattern cover. Any chance of a copy of the pattern?

Send your e-mail address to '80s Actual, Paul, and I'll zap you over a copy!

Back soon, folks! Thanks for writing! xxxx

PG Tips, 1981: "My Name Is Bond. Brooke Bond"

One of the funniest new TV advertisements of 1981 was a James Bond spoof - the latest in the PG Tips chimp saga. Michael Jayston was the suavest monkey yet - providing the voice for that death-defying dare devil Brooke Bond. The full page spread shown above was featured in Woman's Weekly in March 1981.

09 January 2013

1981: Chas And Dave - Rabbit Upsets Some Feminists!

One of my step-father's favourite chart hits of 1980 was that rollicking "rockney" outing Rabbit, by those two likely geezers Chas and Dave - aka Chas Hodges and Dave Peacock.

This was, I felt, a grotty piece of fogey stuff back in the day, designed for parents, not teens. But I must admit, on hearing it on an '80s compilation over Christmas, it made me smile.

You've got more rabbit than Sainsbury's, it's time you got it off your chest...

However, back in the 1980s, Rabbit aroused the ire of some feminists.

Oh, purlease! Surely the song wasn't stating that all women talk too much? But the letter I've scanned below, from the Daily Mirror, January 1981, reveals that rumblings were definitely being heard in feminist circles.

"The singers list the woman's bodily charms then complain that the only thing wrong is that she talks too much. This implies that men are only interested in a women's body and appearance," snipes the letter writer.

Well, perhaps some are. Just as some women appear to only be interested in men's bodies and appearances. I've sat in enough pubs with female friends who were happily eyeing up every bloke that came in the door and rating their physical appearances, to know that both genders contain examples of this type.

For me, the Rabbit ditty conjured up a strong image of the singer as an insensitive, often monosyllabic male, most animated in conversation when out with "der lads" - and probably a bit of a twit. As, it seemed, was his chattering girlfriend.

Flipping heck - gender issues...

I've worked hundreds of shifts at hospitals with women who spent a lot of the time making hideous generalisations about men, but who were terribly quick to cry "SEXIST!" at anything vaguely similar from the apparently unfairer sex.

Such double standards! Such lack of insight!

Perhaps one day the situation will improve. But not until both genders grow up a bit!

In the meantime, I've revised my opinion on Chas and Dave. The memories Rabbit evokes of 1980 make me smile!

08 January 2013

1983: The Smiths, REM, Billy Bragg, Cocteau Twins, Icicle Works And Prefab Sprout: Music To Listen Out For...

Daily Mirror, 31/12/1983:

The Smiths are my favourite group of the moment. I was delighted to see "This Charming Man" crack the charts.This Manchester four-piece fronted by singer Morrissey, have the neccessary live power and strong material to win through.

The only problem the Smiths may encounter is financial. They refuse to compromise their integrity by signing with a major record company.

The limited budget available to independent company Rough Trade may prevent Morrisey and his group hitting the top. 

David Jenson had also spotted a Sprouting Genius:  

Prefab Sprout - they took the name after mishearing a line in a Nancy Sinatra song - made one of the year's best singles with "Lions In My Own Garden".

Now they have signed to the giant CBS Records, whose whole building is trembling with excitement at the results.

The Sprouts, from Newcastle, are the brainchild of singer-songwriter Paddy McAloon. Stuck in a garage for the past three years with his brother and bassplayer Martin, Paddy claims to have written enough songs for five albums!

The delicate acoustic style, married to weird, wonderful words and the voices of Paddy and Wendy Smith will make listening to their debut album, "Swoon", due out in March, a heady experience. 

And then there was...

 Top American booking agent Ian Copeland - brother of Police drummer Stewart - rates REM from Athens, Georgia, whose mini tour and "Murmur" album got rave notices. 

And amongst David's musicians and singers to watch out for... 

Billy Bragg: Excellent, if odd, solo performer from London.

Cocteau Twins: Liz Frazer and Robin Guthrie from Scotland have topped the indie charts with their "Head Over Heels" LP. They need a commercial single.

Icicle Works: Liverpool band, strongly tipped by Malcolm Gerrie, producer of "The Tube".

07 January 2013

If You See Sid Tell Him...

Part of a magazine advertisement from October 1986.

Another advertisement - this time from November.

Who was this mysterious "Sid" in the British Gas shares ads? I found myself wondering if it might be the hissing Sid of Captain Beaky fame, you know, the snake whose innocence we'd all been proclaiming back in 1980?

But nobody I mentioned my theory to thought it very likely.

More of the November 1986 magazine ad. 

To help as many people as possible afford to apply for British Gas shares, we're making the minimum investment level as low as possible. And payment will be in instalments... 

Did you get a "share of the shares"?