Sunday, 8 November 2009

Walls Come Tumbling Down!

9th November 1989.

A defining moment in history, a fitting end to a decade of change.

In a TV studio in East Germany, Guenter Schabowski, a member of the East German Politburo is put under pressure.

"East Germans are free to travel where they like" he states. There is an air of change blowing throughout the East, but tension remains high and trust is not something that is seen in abundance the People's Democratic Republic of Germany.

"When?" questions the tenacious - and perhaps foolhardy - journalist interviewing him.

On the spot, without guidance he responds: "With immediate effect." An error, perhaps, but an error with the greatest of ramifications.

Hundreds, thousands of East Berliner's flooded Check Point Charlie, demanding to be allowed to pass to the East. Young, perhaps frightened, soldiers seek clarification from their superiors. None is forthcoming. The history of the Cold War is steeped with the brave and heroic. To that list must be added this group of soldiers who chose not to shoot, who chose not to bring their arms to bare on the sea of humanity sweeping before them.

First the gates opened and the 'Ossie' were welcomed in the West by their long divided brothers and sisters. But that was not enough. Like Shelly's lions rising from slumber, the people rose and pulled that wall down, pulling down with it decades of tyranny an oppression, to build a 'new world order' in its place. To see, on the news that night, young and old, men and women, East Berliner & West Berliner, stood atop the Berlin Wall, hacking at it with pick axe and hammer was a moment of hope, a moment of joy, a moment for humanity.

Walls really do come tumbling down.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

E is for ...

E is for ...
Echo and the Bunnymen

The hair! Ian McCulloch's hair spawned a thousand imitation hair cuts. Sometimes broody, but a much lighter sound than The Cure, the Bunnymen fused post-punk, physcadelia and the massed sound of a philharmonic orchestra to create a unique sound and a cult following both in the UK and the US. Listening to the Bunnymen I always get the sense of emerging, blinking, back into the daylight of the world around me, of emerging from somewhere darker to a present where the sun is breaking through the clouds after a period of prolonged rain. This may, of course, be a memory of watching them on the Sunday evening of a wet Glastonbury in 1985. It had been a VERY wet Glastonbury, but the rain had stopped and sun shone weakly in the evening as Echo and the Bunnymen took to the stage.

Musically great, and always uplifting, here are 3 of my favourite Bunnymen tracks for you to listen to on Spotify:


or Ecstasy, the preferred drug of the Second Summer of Love and the Acid House culture that exploded into consciousness in the late 1980s. Seen by the establishment as the spawn of Beelzebub, E, or MDMA as it is more correctly known, led to a reduction in anxiety, fear and aggression, an increase in empathy, compassion and forgiveness and feelings of intimacy and love for others, which all led to thousands of ravers 'blissed out' dancing to house music in a field in the home counties.

Dave Stewart and Annie
Lennox: a great partnership that was Eurythmics before launching Annie on a successful solo career and establishing Dave Stewart as a successful producer and songwriter. He married Siobhan Fahey, of Bananarama.

Friday, 21 August 2009

D is for ...

D is for ...

Duran Duran - one of the biggest bands of the '80s, their poppy, synth led music instantly transporting you back through the decades to a time of hairspray, frilly collars and make up. Another band that took full opportunity of the video revolution of the dawning of the MTV era, its hard to imagine now the furore that some of their videos created: the video for 'Girls on Film' was banned by the BBC, but as so often in pop culture, this merely helped propel the single to the top of the charts.

As long as you promise you wont be offended, you can watch the girls on film video here:

Little known fact! The Duffer was at school with Simon Le Bon's cousins.

Starting from (semi) alternative New Romantic roots Duran Duran ultimately went mainstream and are perhaps synonymous with 1980s music - there domination and popularity being confirmed when they recorded the Bond theme 'A View to a Kill.'

Listen to some Duran Duran classics:

Dr. Martens or doc martens, docs, or just dm's, the footwear of the 1980s. At the start of the decade it was the doc. marten boot, worn by punks and skins, with rolled up jeans. People then began customizing them with different colours and designs, and by the end of decade the famous air ware sole on the bottom of just about every shoe imaginable from city boy brogues to tasseled loafers and all shades in between. 'Red or Dead' sold customised dm's from there stall on Camden Market, launching a brand that went on to enjoy commercial success, whilst retaining its cred.

Depeche Mode another band that typify the new romantic movement, moving away from the classic rock band combo of guitars and drums, completely embracing the synthesizer to create the elctro-pop that we associate with 1980s music. 3 tracks to listen to, the first two a little brooding and dark, the third a great piece of 80's electro pop (recently covered by the Saturdays, bringing it to a whole new audience (but not as good as the original!))

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

C is for ...

C is for ...

The Cure I saw the Cure at Glastonbury in 1986 (I think that was a muddy year!) - Robert Smith's band that was often misunderstood and mis-labeled as purveyors of dirge like gothic melancholy. Yes, they could be broody, yes they never smiled and yes, they dressed in black, but they also produced some jangling poppy songs that satisfied both the masses and the moody, mis-understood youth. Here are three great Cure tracks to take you back through the years (Ok - 'Friday I'm in Love' was released in the '90s, but its too good not to listen to again!) Enjoy.

Close to me

In Between Days

Friday I'm in Love

Cola Wars Today its Microsoft v Apple (or maybe Microsoft v Google) but in the 80s the big corporate battle was over a soft, fizzy drink. Using its taste test advertising, Pepsi was making big inroads into the market share of Coke, the worlds favourite. Pepsi was sweeter than Coke so in a blind taste test most people would choose Pepsi over Coke and adds showing people choosing Pepsi were splattered all over our TV screens.

Coke responded in April 1985 by changing its recipe and introducing New Coke, or Coke II.

However, it just didn't taste as good as regular Coke and the public revolted, demanding their original taste back. In July of the same year Coca Cola Classic returned, Coke's sales rocketed and New Coke was quietly dropped.

April '85 - July '85

The Cult Possibly one of the best musical entries, ever:

She Sells Sanctuary

Sunday, 9 August 2009

B is for ...

B is for ...

Boy George
One of the most popular and successful new wave groups of the early 1980s music scene were 'Culture Club', racking up 7 straight Top Ten hits in the UK and six Top Ten hits in the US. As the MTV era dawned, it was Boy George's iconic fashion style: cross dressing, heavy make up and vibrant dresses, coupled with his wit, quips and soundbites (long before we knew what a soundbite was) that helped to propel the group to stardom, as much as their infectious poppy sound; a sound that would have your macho uncle singing along to on the radio, before reeling in horror at the site of Boy George on Top of the Pops. The band split up in 1987, and recent years have seen George in the limelight for less happy reasons.

Lets, though, remember those heady days of the 80s and listen to 3 Culture Club classics that help to define the music of the 1980s:

Karma Chameleon

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me

Church of the Poison Mind

Blackadder Wednesday, June 15th, 1983 and a new series was broadcast over the airwaves that was to come to dominate and define 1980s TV. For the first time, we met the dreadful, the deceitful, but the oh so funny Edmund Blackadder and his chums, that included Baldrick, Lord Percy and others. Played by the brilliant Rowan Atkinson, Blackadder the First was set in the 15th Century - and made comedy from History and Shakespeare, perhaps two of the dullest subjects we were studying at school at the time.

The show ran for 4 series, spanning the 1980s, with the brilliant 'Blackadder goes Forth', set in the trenches of the First World war, airing in 1989. Many feel that this was the best of a brilliant bunch of Blackadder series, but my favourite remains the first. Television in the 1980s was so much the richer for the despicable Blackadder. Enjoy a couple of treats below, and watch, again, our first introduction to Edmund Blackadder, and then the end of his reign as the Archbishop of Canterbury. TV at its very best.

Bananarama ... the most successful British girl group in pop music history. Formed in 1981, they initially produced great pop songs, all be it with little substance. In 1984 they released 'Robert De Niro's Waiting' giving the group a gravitas they had previously lacked. In 1986 they joined the production maestro's of 'Stock, Aitken & Watreman' who helped catapult them to the stratospheric success they enjoyed. Cool enough to be cool, but poppy enough for mass appeal, everyone loved Bananarama - girls wanted to be them, and boys, well boys ...!

Great pop, great music, listen to these:

Robert De Niro's Waiting

Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)

Love in the First Degree

Friday, 7 August 2009

A is for ...

A is for ...

ABC - Led by Martin Fry, this group gave us some typical 1980s music, gold lame suits and the 'Lexicon of Love'

Three great ABC songs to listen to on Spotify:

Acid House
- The Second Summer of Love dawned in the late 80s as clubbers swapped their designer labels for T - shirts, gathered in a field, surrounded by a heaving mass, all screaming 'Aceeeed!'

The Sun newspaper effectively declared the end of the world as we know it while the youth of the nation danced until dawn. Police raids, growing up, and the dreary weather of Autumn did what the Sun couldn't do, and pulled the plug on the sound systems.

A - Ha Norwegian pop rock, voted 'Best band of 1986' by Smash Hits and No 1 readers, and the lead singer, Morten Harket, was voted the most 'Fanciable male' and 'Sex God' of the year. He sported a ridiculous "Mullet" haircut (more of this most unfathomable of fashions to come, a recurring theme (embarrassing nightmare?) of the 1980s)

For our female readers, here's a pic. of Morten and the boys:

A-Ha never quite became the force in 1980s music that they once promised, their biggest hit being 'Take on Me'. Listen to it here, on Spotify, if you must:

Take on Me, A Ha

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The 1980s - What a great 10 years!

The 1980s - a decade born into a dysfunctional family, angry and snarling and looking for change, and left us decadent and hedonistic, wearing shoulder pads and hairspray, looking sharp and feeling cool.

We had Teenage Ninja Turtles and Top Gun, Pacman and the Sega Megadrive and a couple of new inventions: the mobile phone and the Internet.

The world before iphones!

Miami Vice - who did you want to be, Crockett or Tubbs?
White shoes, white trousers, no socks, pink T Shirt, jacket - what a look!

Click Here

to listen to the theme tune
(you need to have
Spotify installed)

So join us, on trip back through time into that greatest of decades, the 1980s.