11 March 2013

Roland Rat - 30 Years - 1983-2013

Time to celebrate a very special birthday! Roland Rat was born in the sewer under King's Cross Station on 12 March, and made his TV debut on 1 April 1983. He freely admits to being a licensed character, and boasts that because of this he still looks the same as he did in the 1980s. Wish I did!

Makes me feel a tad old to realise it, but 1983 is now thirty years ago. It was a year like no other. In fact all '80s years were unlike no other. But 1983 is a truly stand-out twelve months. Why? Hip Hop bringing along a wave of new-fangled break dancing to the '80s party? The world's first hand-held cell phone, the Motorola 8000x, being unveiled in America? Shergar vanishing? Bonnie Tyler giving us Total Eclipse Of The Heart? Breakfast TV starting? New Order being brilliantly innovative with Blue Monday?

It can be said that all those things were important, but they pale into insignificance beside the arrival of a fabulous new superstar.


The posey young decade had already introduced us to many new stars by 1983: Depeche Mode and Eurythmics had both formed in 1980; Boy George had made his chart debut in 1982, and, as one of my aunties said, didn't seem to know whether he was Arthur or Martha; U2 had finished tuning up and were belting out some fabby rock tunes by 1983; the New Romantics had arrived in 1980 ("To cut a long story short, I lost my mind..."); Madness were in their golden era; Simple Minds had changed direction with their New Gold Dream and were really making the '80s grade; Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five had knocked our socks off with The Message; a Flock Of Seagulls had given great synth pop and hair inspiration; the Human League and Duran Duran had both formed their classic line-ups in 1980... but the decade still lacked a style icon. A superstar. Somebody who would lead the way.

Then HE came along, the one, the only Roland Rat, rescuing the ailing breakfast TV station TV-am in one fell swoop, and lighting up goggle boxes across the land...

Number 1 Ratfan Kevin the gerbil came scurrying down from Leeds to join his hero at the very beginning of Roland's fame in 1983, and has been there ever since. Kev loves the colour pink and is pictured here in a very 1980s pink and grey sporty outfit. He adores pink buckets, and hoards them obsessively. He was thrilled to dress up as Julie Andrews for a production of "The Sound Of Music".

Roland was the '80s celebrity to top all '80s celebrities - charismatic, justifiably egotistical, brash and gobby, er, I mean highly honest, he, like Elvis, had a hairy chest, and his presence on any TV show was likely to produce an hysterical response from viewers.

The increasingly sophisticated 1980s scene was no problem for Roland. As he rapped in Rat Rapping, "la de dah, la de dee". He took it all in his stride - truly a superstar par excellence. He said.

Roland also introduced us to his pals - including his No 1 fan, pink bucket-loving Kevin the gerbil.

He delighted '80s children (and some discerning souls like me who were slightly older!) with his TV-am and BBC shows - including Rat On The Road and Roland Rat - The Series.

 An all-rounder, Roland turned his hand to TV and music. Remember "Rat Rapping"? Remember "Love Me Tender"? Remember Kevin the gerbil's version of "Summer Holiday"? Mmmmm... glory days, when music really WAS music! This is a publicity poster for Roland's 1980s classic "Cassette Of The Album". In the pic are Roland, Kevin,  Roland's little brother, Reggie, and Errol the hamster. No sign of Glenis the adorable guinea pig. I'll have to find some pics of her to up-load!

Roland loved his rat fans. As he said, they recognised his talent and the void he filled in their lives, and he respected them for that. He still does.

And, also respecting his fans' desire to buy Roland-related merchandising, he quickly launched Roland Rat Enterprises, unleashing a tidal wave of cuddly toys, jigsaws, spaghetti shapes and other goodies, all snapped up by the adoring millions.

From his humble TV beginnings in "The Spectacular ShedVision Show", broadcast from a shed on the roof of the TV-am building in 1983, Roland quickly scaled the heights of superstardom.  Here he is with Kevin on the cover of "Look-In", the junior TV Times, embarking on a new series of "Rat On The Road". This was, in Roland's own words, a "rodent travelogue" and featured Roland and Kevin visiting various cities around the UK. The old  Ford Anglia car they travelled in, dubbed the Ratmobile,  cost £85 and Kevin chose the bright pink colour scheme. Roland thought it was rubbish.

And what has become of the mighty rodent since the 1980s? Well, there's been no descending into a decrepit old age for Roland. These days, he spends much of his time in the USA, and he and his friends all have their own Facebook pages (where we recently learned, via Kevin the gerbil, that Errol the hamster had returned some leeks to the supermarket  as they were "substandard"). 

This year, Roland made a triumphant return to England and breakfast TV.

Roland's comments and observations in more recent years have, as always, been priceless nuggets of wisdom. He told Anne Robinson, horrid person of The Weakest Link, that, being a licensed character, he still looked the same as he did in the 1980s - which was more than she did! And, after all the naff (and often highly inaccurate) TV nostalgia shows in the BBC's I Love... vein, Roland appeared on Trisha and commented that people were just desperate to feel nostalgic about "any old rubbish".

As Roland himself might say, he's a true geni-arse. 

And we love him.

See our first Roland Rat feature here.


Anonymous said...

Great the we all going on a summer holiday sang by all came back...

Peter Gray

Drew said...

Yes, I was not part of the target audience in 1983, being eighteen years old, but I still love Roland, Kevin and Errol!

Anonymous said...

Errol is seriously underrated!