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...