I’ve jumped a decade into the future this month to land smack in the eighties to have a quick look/see at what’s going on. So, music first where Wham! dominated the singles chart with “The Edge Of Heaven”. Written and produced by George Michael, one half of the duo with Andrew Ridgeley, it was promoted as their farewell single. George wanted to expand into an adult market with his own music and he couldn’t do that tied to a duo, known for their young, fun sounds aimed at young teens. I didn’t realise Elton John played piano on it nor that the actual single was about physical and emotional frustration (what??) about which George said at the time – “The lyrics …were deliberately and overtly sexual, especially the first verse.” I must have missed that and listening to it again just now, I’m still not awfully sure what he meant. Anyway, he got away with it, he added, because “no-one listens to a Wham! lyric anyway.”
George and Andrew got together in 1981, after meeting at a school in Bushey, near Watford. First performing with others in a ska band, Executive, they broke free to form Wham!, a name chosen because “it was snappy, immediate, fun and boisterous too.” Their debut “Wham! Rap” was released during June 1982, but struggled saleswise because the BBC refused it airtime due to the profanity in the Unsocial Mix of the song. “Young Guns (Go For It)” followed and after a Top Of The Pops appearance, when George wore rolled-up jeans, open jacket and espadrillies, while Andrew danced behind him with Shirlie Holliman and Dee C Lee, their career was launched big time. By all accounts, Wham! went on to sell a massive thirty-plus million records internationally and probably boosted sales of baggy tee shirts on the way.
Lifted from her third album “True Blue”, Madonna sat just below Wham! with “Papa Don’t Preach”, a single that attracted some public outrage (much like the rest of her career methinks on several levels) due to its lyrical content. They appeared to encourage teenage pregnancies, while other organisations believed it carried an anti-abortion message. Anyway, in a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, she defended the single, saying the song fitted in with her personal zeitgeist of standing up to male authorities – “whether it’s the Pope, or the Catholic church or my father with his…patriarchal ways.” Hah, clever Madonna, she’s rarely stuck for words but not totally sure what she meant here. “Papa Don’t Preach” hit the top spot across the world, selling mega-millions on the way, proving once again that controversy sells! At number three was a song I can’t remember at all – “Happy Hour” by The Housemartins. It was a song with sobering lyrics, banging home the hypocrisy of young UK business types, for some reason. This group of four young men was born in Hull, and following recording sessions for top radio jock John Peel, eventually broke through with “Happy Hour”, their third single.
Here’s another song that escapes me. What say you? “My Favourite Waste Of Time” by Scottish singer Owen Paul, who fell into that dreaded category of ‘one-hit wonder’ with this 1986 hit his only one. Actually, I did a little research to discover the song was first recorded by American singer Marshall Crenshaw and (wait for it!) The Handsome, Ruthless And Stupid Band. That’s what’s on the record label so must be right, while the song’s title was “You’re My Favourite Waste Of Time”. Apparently, Marshall also penned the song after being inspired by The Hollies, resulting in cheeky lyrics about his wife. I’ll leave it there I think. Thankfully, and with a deep sigh of blessed relief, Bucks Fizz were enjoying a top ten entrant with “New Beginning”. Normality returns: hurrah! This was marketed as their ‘comeback’ single and featured Jay Aston’s replacement Shelley Preston. With its multi-layered vocals and lavish production, this welcome song stayed in the chart for ten weeks but failed to hit the pole position. There’s a little story behind their appearance on Top Of The Pops which may bring a smile. The group wore the clothes as featured in the single’s promotional video but Shelley’s outfit got mislaid. So, she ended up wearing a skimpy leotard covered by a borrowed long-tailed jacket for her modesty’s sake!
From music to royalty now. This month in 1986 Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson in an opulent ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Shall I leave it at that? And for the second time Edinburgh hosted the Commonwealth Games. Only twenty-seven teams participated; thirty-two stayed away. It was a wide political boycott against Margaret Thatcher’s decision to keep the UK’s sporting links with apartheid South Africa. Sadly, this, and financial mismanagement resulted in the lowest turnout since Auckland in 1950. Hindsight is a wonderful thing on both counts, don’t you think?
After three months since its launch, the brand new musical Time was still attracting eager punters at the Dominion Theatre in London’s West End. By all accounts, the theatre was gutted and refurbished to accommodate a huge steel set complete with a hydraulic lift. Our Cliff Richard played the starring role of Chris Wilder, later replaced by David Cassidy, while Laurence Olivier was a hologram as Akash, The Ultimate Word In Truth. It was one of those time travel musicals that relied on special effects to entertain their audiences, and was described in the promotional blurb as being the right time to “examine Earth’s people to determine what role they will play in universal peace.” It was left to Chris and his group to defend their planet. All a bit pie-in-the-sky but nonetheless the musical ran for two years, despite critics saying “…it’s like a science fiction Sunday school lesson….tourists with little English will be enraptured.” Who reads reviews anyhow, apart from the contributing actors who, back in the day, used to rush to the nearest news vendor to grab the first editions to check if their star was still shining in print. Nowadays, they simply click an icon on their mobiles. The downside to this of course, is they can’t cut out the reviews and paste them in a scrapbook. And my scrapbooks were legendary!
From theatre to cinema. It was one of the first scary, scary, scary movies I actually sat through although admit to covering my eyes on more than one occasion. What is it? Aliens! This science fiction extravaganza was written and produced by the mighty-talented James Cameron whose Avatar and Titanic are the second and third biggest-grossing films of all time. Sigourney Weaver had the starring role as Ellen Ripley and, my, wasn’t she brilliantly believable. Known simply as Ripley, the role remains Sigourney’s most famous as she portrayed a significant female protagonist on the cinema screen. Joining her were forklift power-loader exoskeletons, aliens in all their gruesome disguises, face huggers in containment tanks, a terra-forming colony of biological weapons, and a host of creatures that made you jump and squeal. Aliens was soooo unique that it was globally acclaimed by critics who jumped up and down with glee – “a flaming, flashing, crashing, crackling blow-’em-up show”. And more, including – “a technically awesome blend of the horror, sci-fi and service-comedy genres”, “the second best action movie of all time behind Diehard” and so on. As was to be expected, the film was showered with honours and awards, before it went on to gross $183.3 million.
On that note, I’ll leave you to enjoy the weekend sunshine as we continue to tentatively step into a new normal world. I’ll be back next month, so it would be great if you could join me for a quick visit into a decade yet to be decided. Cranking up the Tardis now!