08 March 2015

The 1980s Mobile Phone As A Defensive Weapon!

The Sun, November 18, 1988.

Yuppie Richard De Vahl didn't hesitate when a mugger attacked him... he clocked him with his mobile phone. The thief collapsed stunned, then fled empty-handed.

Richard, 26, a property consultant, carries his £2,000 phone with him everywhere.

He said yesterday that the black mugger threatened to stab him if he didn't hand over his cash.

Richard, of Fulham, London, added: "I wasn't over-pleased at this, so I smashed my phone over his head.

He reported the incident to local police.

A spokesman said: "We are looking for a man complaining of bells ringing in his head..."

The arrival of the mobile phone in the 1980s was a boon to yuppies.

07 March 2015

New Romantics

 August 1980 - the release of Ashes To Ashes, with its groundbreaking video, was a great moment for David Bowie - and propelled the Blitz Kids and others towards the pop scene to form the New Romantics, the first big 1980s music and fashion scene.

20th Century Words by John Ayto traces the term "New Romantic" to 1980. So, what was a New Romantic? Late 1980 saw the emergence of two acts - Adam And The Ants and Spandau Ballet - into the upper echelons of the pop charts. They gave us Ant Music and To Cut A Long Story Short, respectively, and although both songs were very different, the Ants and the Ballet blokes were both heavy on the face make-up and the dashing outfits of years long, long past.

And, suddenly, we were all talking of New Romantics.

1981 brought a flurry of them into our lives - including, of course, Duran Duran and Ultravox. Planet Earth, complete with video, was very typical of the scene - synths, futuristic setting, OTT dandy flounces, lashings of lippy, and bizarre hairdos. The movement crossed over to America and Kim Carnes sent us the divine Bette Davis Eyes

TV Times, June 1981. How would you feel if your son looked like Adam Ant? If he'd lived where I lived, he'd probably have got seriously punched. But although nobody I knew was brave enough to adopt the image, Adam And The Ants were immensely popular with us lads.

So, the first big new pop sensation of the fledgling 1980s. How did it all begin?

Well, that's not quite what it seems! Read up on it elsewhere and you'll find that it all seems to have originated from a club called The Blitz Club in London, whose patrons paid homage to David Bowie - apparently dubbing themselves "Blitz Kids". Or was it somewhere called Billy's? Or both? Or...

Anyway, it was a dressy night club scene - or a couple of dressy night club scenes - where men wore make up and/or flamboyant outfits

The UK press created the "New Romantics" tag when Adam and the Ants and Spandau Ballet first hit the pop charts in late 1980.

David Bowie, of course, had been exciting the pop scene since 1969, and was very heavy on image. Was he Ziggy Stardust? A Thin White Duke (goodness, I thought that particular image was bloody boring and so retro!), but whatever he was he attracted dedicated followers in droves and his music brought flashes of sheer brilliance. 

In 1980, David had another one of those flashes - with his Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album, and a single which would be included on this album, released in August 1980, although not officially classed as a New Romantic song, was what kick-started the scene. That song was, of course, Ashes To Ashes.

The video (or "promo" as we referred to them back then) was striking and hugely expensive, and featured Steve Strange, who wowed the pop charts in 1981 and 1982 with Visage hits like Fade To Grey and Mind Of A Toy.

But not all of those considered New Romantics in the early 1980s were part of The Blitz Club scene - Adam And The Ants for instance. 

And I can certainly state that I'd never heard of the Blitz and what attracted me to the New Romantic style was that I had simply had enough of the gobbiness and run-down seediness that had dominated the previous decade.

Several years before the New Romantics, as I lurched into my teens, I was yearning for something a bit more flash, a bit more stylish. I was depressed with the thick layer of mould up my bedroom wall, my threadbare "make do and mend", often hand-me-down clothes. 

I craved for glamour and excitement. I'm sure I was not alone! There was simply something in the air - many of us wanted a change. 

After the likes of Slade shouting their mouths off - as tacky as you please, the sleaziness of the Disco scene and the hopelessness (and, of course big gobbedness) of Punk, plus the oh-so-unoriginal 1970s revivals of 1950s style, 1960s mods and rockers (no thank you, Paul Weller!), plus the '60s ska scene and rockabilly, I was hungry to dress up, desperately hoping that the 1980s would be different.

And they were.

And probably the first manifestation of that was the emergence of the New Romantics in late 1980.

The wonderful Roxy Music, still going strong in the early 1980s, are considered to be an influence on the New Romantics, and I'm sure the group was, but the New Romantics, despite their precursors, were still startling and fresh at the time.

Boy George, of course, was part of the Blitz Club scene, he worked as a cloakroom attendant there, and he was an early New Romantic for sure -  but by the time he made his chart debut in 1982, the New Romantic thing, which had burned fiercely from late 1980 and throughout 1981, had fizzled as far as we the public were concerned. So, The Boy was, at the time, greeted as a stand alone newcomer, a unique individual, loved or loathed. Similarly, A Flock Of Seagulls, who had chart success in late 1982 with Wishing, whilst looking very New Romantic indeed, were not, at the time (as far as I remember!) labelled as such.

Let's hear it for the boy - Boy George, of course - before fame, pictured in the Daily Mirror in April 1981. Although an original New Romantic mover, shaker and trendsetter, by the time he arrived in the pop charts in 1982, the New Romantic scene was just about dead and buried. So, he was regarded simply as Boy George. And his own very personal sense of style inspired admiration, clones, and some homophobia. Soon-to-find-fame George (as seen in the newspaper picture), then simply referred to as George O'Dowd, 19, was wearing Chinese slippers (£3.99), old school trousers he'd tapered himself, and leg warmers. A 1920s dress (20p, Oxfam) was draped around his waist. The tassle belts, the long scarf, and Oxfam beads around his neck, cost him a few pence, the crimplene blouse came from his mum and the wooden cross from a friend. A black felt hat and assorted earrings completed his outfit.

Adam and the Ants.. well, Adam - AKA Stuart Goddard - has stated that his early '80s pop venture was not part of the New Romantic movement. I never knew at the time. Loved the band and saw it as very much part of the New Romantic thing way back then. Sorry, Adam! I still love you and the Ants - whatever you were!

Two groups which I was labelling "New Romantic" long after 1981 were Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. They were always and forever "New Romantics" to me. I loved the way the Duranies dropped the frillies for those gorgeous brightly-coloured suits - and the 1982 Rio video marked a turning point in my own personal fashion statements. 

 A change of image for Duran Duran, seen here in 1981 and 1982. Loved the colourful suits with pushed up sleeves and large shoulders!

Even now, knocking on towards fifty, I still feel a stirring of youthful (if that's possible at my age!) excitement at the thought of the New Romantics and the blossoming synth pop scene of the early 1980s in general. Combined, these two factors were the first indication that 1980s music and fashion were going to be OK for me. And, as it turned out, brilliant!

06 March 2015

Computer Technology 1988 - IT For The Terrified...

TV Times, 10/11/1988: IT for the Terrified -


Our world is increasingly dominated by new technology. So how can ordinary people be expected to understand what is happening?

Those were strange days indeed! I never thought I'd get to grips with computer technology back then - ever! I simply couldn't imagine it - the whole thing was far too complicated and what would be the point? I was far from being alone...

But the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 would end up bringing computers into just about ALL our lives.

Good programme, IT For The Terrified - I'd love to see it again. It would be quite nostalgic and fascinatingly dated!

05 March 2015

1989: The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

Thinking about 1989 the other night, two events sprang into my mind, followed by a whole battalion of others. I haven't much time, so I'll just toddle through the first two here...

The first of the 1989 events that came to mind when I focused the little grey cells on that memorable twelve months, was the invention of the World Wide Web by English software engineer Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in Switzerland.

This event passed unnoticed by the vast majority of us at the time - we would not discover its wonderful, world-altering significance until the 1990s. Read all about it here.

The second event to trot into my noddle was the Fall of the Berlin Wall...

An absolutely stunning historical moment...

Here's how the
Daily Mirror reported events on Saturday, November 11, 1989:


on the day the world became a better, braver place...

Holes were bulldozed in the Berlin Wall and East Germany promised free elections yesterday as thousands of her citizens continued to pour out to the West.

Minutes after the election announcement, East German bulldozers began smashing two more holes as exit points in the wall. And eight more border crossings will be made next week.

For the Communists it is a calculated gamble in an attempt to stem an exodus. For the East German people, already almost delirious with the pace of change, it is another giant step to freedom.

The East German Communist Party unveiled an amazing package of reforms, including free elections, changes in the economy and parliamentary control over the army.

This revolutionary programme means party bosses have now given thousands of demonstrators everything they demanded during peaceful candlelit protests.

They knew that East Germany's 16 million people would never have halted the protests unless free elections were granted.

Yesterday the East Germans were walking and driving through the Wall at the rate of 800 an hour, sounding their car horns and weeping with emotion.

For some, however, the dizzying pace was almost too much. The East German guards did not know quite how to react to the West German who stretched out the hand of friendship near the Checkpoint Charlie crossing.

But for the families who were crossing into West Berlin all day there were no doubts. They came, they saw... and they fell in love with the capitalist world they had for so long been taught to distrust.

With the toys in the shops - the Batman cars, the walking, talking, living dolls, the video games, the mountain bikes.

With the clothes. The baby wear. The range of cars.

But, most of all, with the overflowing shelves in the supermarkets.
For many who are younger than the 28-year-old wall, it was their first day of freedom. Their lives have been dominated by secrecy and shortages.

Their first taste of Western plenty was a free handout.

Police and savings banks told excited East Germans who wanted to go shopping the way to social security offices.

There they were given 100 West German marks - worth about £35 - in "welcome money."

Gunter Martin, a factory worker from Halle, waved a wad of East German marks and said: "This is completely useless to me here.

"It's the most unbelievable day of my life. I just shut up my car repair shop and jumped in my car as fast as I could."

Reinhold Haupt, a 41-year-old electrician who drove from Ashersleben to spend the weekend in West, was showered with hospitality by a crowd of West Germans giving the new arrivals a heroes' welcome.

Within minutes someone offered him a bed, another said he would take him on a tour, a third handed him a cup of coffee and a woman pressed a 10-mark note into his hand.

He spent his "welcome money" on bananas, oranges, coffee and chocolate, all in short supply in East Germany.

Civil servant Thomas Kolbar said: "I turned up at my aunt's house last night and she nearly died of shock."

The Communists' gamble may pay off. Most East Germans are only visiting the West, happily returning home after partying or sight-seeing in the West.

No one could count the numbers going to the West in Berlin. But elsewhere, 45,000 East Germans swarmed to the West yesterday and only 2,500 stayed.

More from 1989 soon.

03 March 2015

More 1980s Sports Wear For Men - The Way Things Changed - 1981 And 1989....

UGH! 1981! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... "Sporty mix 'n' match separates in a comfortable jersey-knit with 'tennis' motif". Never fear. As the 1980s continued, sportswear would never look the same again. Thank heavens.

Some of these aren't too bad... but hardly exciting.

In fact, 1981 was simply not very exciting in the world of sportswear. And just look at that dreadful bubble perm (far right)! Still (smiles fondly), good old Fred Perry!

1989 - the ultimate year of the 1980s - "The Style Decade" - and sportswear was certainly stylish by then. So much had changed since 1981. All the designs featured are SO much of the era. And that lad in the second pic looks like he's finding the fact a painful experience. Makes me eyes water.

Tragically, by 1989, many of us were on pose overdrive. But never mind. Those tracksuit designs are now called "classic" and highly sought after. Classic? They're pure 1980s, darlings! But fashion snobs HATE acknowledging the fact! Nevertheless, these designs are very influential and popular today. And I LOVE them!

Le coq sportif. By 1989, some even quite working class men were going to the gym! Sports clothes for men had become colourful, modern, designer. So handy for getting down to a serious workout. Or nipping out to the corner shop for a packet of fags.

02 March 2015

Introducing the first mobile phone - the DynaTAC 8000x

The first commercially available handheld cellular phone ever was unveiled in 1983 (although, according to Motorola, they weren't available to consumers until 1984). Motorola had invested fifteen years of research and $100 million in the advancement of cellular technology, and the story stretched back much further than that. The first handheld mobile was called the DynaTAC 8000X and was unveiled on March 6th. It was, of course, a brick. At a price of $3,995 it wasn't for everybody.

If the first commercially available mobile was a brick, boggle at the thought of the first working Motorola prototype ten years earlier which has been described as a boot! Motorola built several prototype models between 1973 and 1983.

And we ended up with a brick.

Rudy Krollop, one of the original Motorola designers, said recently: "In 1983, the notion of simply making wireless phone calls was revolutionary and it was an exciting time to be developing the technology at Motorola."

England's first mobile phone call was in 1985.

01 March 2015

1982: Postman Pat Joins The Postcode Campaign

 "Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white... er... postcode..."

"Always use your postcode - you're not properly addressed without it," said the Post Office ads - endlessly in the early 1980s. Most of us wouldn't have known our postcodes if somebody had stuffed them up our noses back then. In 1982, Postman Pat, the BBC children's TV character, who made his debut in 1981 and was created by John Cunliffe, joined the chorus in this rather natty little badge. By the late 1980s, I knew my postcode. Just about.