Friday, June 10, 2011

1980: Such a digital lifetime

It's a chilly January,1980. It's meant to be all silver spacesuits and food in pill form by now, and the only people recognising this fact are the obviously way-ahead-of-their-time and imaginatively spelled New Musik, pointing to a bleak, faceless future, with this ice-cold slice of jangly, strangely sad electronica.

In the real world, meanwhile, we're in the fourth year and we're allowed to stay in at lunchtimes. No more huddling against the wind behind the metalwork block in duffle coats and fur-trimmed parkas for us. It's the warmth of the French and German rooms, the radio on, swapping badges - and illicit gambling!

It's the height of 2-Tone mania, and those rooms are a sea of black, red and blue Harringtons covered in cod-mod badges, skinny black ties orderered from the back of Smash Hits with the Madness logo printed on them, tassled loafers and black brogues ('This is all very smart,' trilled my mum when we went to get some Sta-prest trousers. 'I think it's a mother who makes up these fashions.').

When you're 14 going on 15 and you earn £3 a week from your morning, evening and Sunday morning paper rounds, money doesn't get you too far. So gambling it away every lunchtime was not really an option. That said, it was so hard to get into a cardgame and plonk your tuppence down that it didn't really matter anyway. Watching was as interesting as playing.

I say 'cardgame' - it's hardly Boardwalk Empire. Think Grange Hill with one eye out for the caretaker. It was also the height of Grange Hill mania. Hadn't Madeleine Tanner just gone shoplifting with Cathy Hargreaves? If so, it was the talk of the town.

That said, I remember lending a really mean boy 2p, which he swore blind he'd pay back. I knew he had no intention of doing so. When I bravely asked him for the money back out side the newsagents he pushed me, said he had no idea what I was talking about and slashed my bicycle seat. He looked like and behaved like bowl-haired bully Michael Doyle. I think he went to jail eventually, and if he didn't, he should have. Embarrassingly, his sister was all over the local paper that year after nicking from the till in a restaurant where she was a waitress. Obviously ran in the family.

This little fad didn't last very long. I can't remember why it died out. Perhaps this illegal ring was overturned by teachers or perhaps everyone simply lost interest. But though 2-Tone was the thing, Living By Numbers provides the soundtrack to my underground activities.


  1. And lest we forget, it was later seconded for an ad for Casio calculators.

  2. Ah yes, very electronic, silver-grey, aluminium and bleak. Like a video game about a Scandinavian airport might be.

    Weren't the Korgis out with 'Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime' about then as well. It took me a while back then to 'get' Korgis from Korg synths. Bit slow.

  3. I've always found this song quite melancholy, don't know why. And I hadn't realised how strange the singer looks - like a giant toddler.

    The girl who played Madeleine Tanner went to my primary school. She went on to become a 'Hill's Angel'. Whether she was ever required to 'be nice to Uncle Benny' is not recorded.

  4. I found her terrifying yet utterly bewitching at the same time. Her green leather jacket was an eye-catching curio too. I had no idea she went on to be a Hill's Angel.

    And I also had no idea, OP, that Korgis came from Korg synths. Learn something new, etc...