Friday, September 28, 2012

1979: A lovely time

It must have been hard for them. Once with a grand house first in the poshest bit in town, then in the Midlands but now downsized to a tiny Barrett home on a small development alongside the new M27, just like that bungalow Rita Tushingham wins in Smashing Time. Motorway Mansions the postman called it, but to my aunt and uncle and my two older cousins, this was home.

Now living in reduced circumstances due to a court case that ended up not going their way they were making the best of it. And here we were, Christmas 1979, sense of humour still intact and Daytrip To Bangor never off the stereo and around the top of the charts thanks to a push by middle-class musical tastemaker Terry Wogan, surrounded by the old trappings of their previous life. Big clocks, chunky old furniture, chandeliers, the legendary (to us) Rolls Royce with gold-painted Spirit of Ecstasy on the bonnet, all so incongruous behind and in front of the net curtains.

But they vowed to get it all back. That house they lived in from 1969 to 1977, the favourite one in the plush part of the outskirts of the city where they'd always been so happy? They'd live there again, they were sure of it.

As ghastly and as showy and as flashy and vulgar and tactless and ridiculed as they were capable of being, they seat about picking themselves up, with held their heads held high among their snickering friends who'd been dying to see them fall, and started all over again. And lo and behold but within five years they were back in that house, (by way of a short stint in Hamble on the Solent, which is why we were not in the least bit surprised to open the Sunday paper one day to see a full article about my aunt and how she claimed she'd created Howard's Way and the BBC had stolen her idea).

So in that favourite house they stayed. Children moved on, dogs remained. It never went wrong for them again, really. They sold their business in the late Nineties and didn't have to work again. Their pleasures were early morning G&Ts in bed, rather than a cup of tea like normal folk, though mum and dad, not huge fans despite being related were irritated by them. Those photos of Uncle shaking hands with the Queen and Maggie Thatcher, along with the shooting, hushing up of backgrounds and beyond Daily Mail views, plus the ring of steel around their own family secrets (more court cases, death of a motorcyclist, hair loss, helicopter crash, what DID older cousin actually do for a living?) didn't endear them to anyone. 

They remained secretive to the end. Well, she's still alive but he's long gone. We're not as close as perhaps we should be. They were alawys good to me and I was fond of them in my own way. They could be silly and laughable but they could care less. Champagne was opened at every possibility.

However, whenever I hear this song I am reminded that anything is possible. Doesn't matter who you are or what you do, if you have the drive, you can do it.

I'm going into life coaching.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

1984: Now it's history

Here we are then.

I sort of ran out of steam on this blog recently, but with a little help from my friends, including song suggestions from between the years of 1975 and 1990 (Shake Your Love? Soap cycle of hell! Daytrip To Bangor? Uncle Ray!, Rain Or Shine? Hiding it from my friends!, etc.), I realise this seam is still worth mining. So if you have any requests, be sure to let me know. Every song has some memory attached, no matter how banal.

So let's go all the way back to mid-September 1984. I'm shortly to go to university and mum's over with brother to get me all prepared and to drop me off. But first, we're going on a little trip to Cambridge where legendary tapdancer Auntie Barbara now lives, with Uncle Adrian and their daughters who are a couple of years younger than us. We've known them forever since they moved into our close in 1971.

I remember my dad remarking what a big girl's blouse he thought Adrian was after he pinned a pink sheet against the bedroom window to the street by way of an announcement that the baby which had just been born was a girl. But they became firm friends. I found the photo albums which prove that.

So now they were in Cambridge, by way of Jersey, Portsmouth, the New Forest and Bournemouth. Those banking families must never feel like anywhere is home to them, but this lot always managed it. I suppose it's something you have to get used to.

For some reason we decided to get two coaches to Cambridge, changing at Victoria then out east. Walkman on, I sat in front of mum and bro, listening to my current fave Big In Japan by Alphaville. As we wound our way through some startlingly awful bits of north east London, with its tumbledown estates and parched grass I was glad I'd decided not to come to London to university after all, and pondered what my time on the south coast would be like.

Cambridge was fun in the meantime. I bought a lovely blue, black and red - and looking back on it - VERY Eighties shirt from newish chainstore Chelsea Man, a spin-off from Chelsea Girl of course, and thought I was just the ticket. I also saw a great t-shirt in a shop window with this cartoon hunk thinking to himself, 'I wish was deep as well as just macho', with a sidebar that read: 'Victor Mature Lives'. Six months later Auntie Barbara got it for me for my birthday. I wish I still had it.

The September days were shortening, the light was getting lower and soon I was about to embark on a new adventure, with my new shirt and my groovy hair... it was still coming too soon.

I went off this song for ages, but I'm back on it now. It really is a nice slice of Euro electropop with a beginning, a middle and an end, something all songs should have. Quite like the follow ups too. They were huge in Germany, you know.

Monday, September 3, 2012

1977: The best of taste

Which kid wasn't a fan of Showaddywaddy in the mid-Seventies?

To me, they were a fun bad with a novelty image doing catchy, singalongs. I had no idea they were covering old songs from the 1950s and early Sixties until it was pointed out by mum, but I did recognise the whole drape coat Teddy Boy image as being from that decade, and of course the Fifties were very much still raging in the Seventies weren't they?

Happy Days, American Graffiti, Mud, Peter Blake's Pepsi ads, Darts, Laverne & Shirley,That'll Be The Day, etc., not to mention half the entertainers still on TV had been around since then. There was an enormous amount of nostalgia for those days by people who'd been lucky enough to enjoy being the first proper teenagers but who were now adults with children. (It was the 20-year cycle thing of course, though I've yet to see any Nineties nostalgia breaking through into whatever we're calling this decade, but I'm supposing it's only a matter of time).

It all filtered down. So the Fifites were on my radar. Both my parents grew up in that time, doing all the things teenagers did and listening to all the appropriate music, often heard on the radio and often heard in our house specifically in my bedroom. While downstairs they'd been replaced by Motown Chartbusters and the Carpenters, upstairs I was discovering Bill Haley and Buddy Holly through brittle 78s (which I still have) having my own nostalgia party.

Funny though, as the whole decade really did pervade the Seventies like no other nostalgia has done since. Though we can now look fondly at the Eighties and have done since the end of the Ninties, I don't remember an awful lot of Sixtiesness infecting the Eighties, apart from through the indie music scene. Or perhaps I missed it.

While we ponder why this is - and why it was the US Fifties rather than our own drab decade that really took off, let's enjoy some Showaddywaddy. Love the hair. Like Chachi.