Arthur

Dudley Moore plays New Yorker Arthur Bach, rich, alcoholic and incredibly spoiled. Heir to a chunk of his family’s vast fortune, he is told he will only inherit if he marries Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry), the daughter of a business acquaintance of his father.

Herein lies Arthur’s problem; he does not and intends never to love Susan. Unfortunately, his family have different feelings on the subject. Fed up by his drunken antics, they think she will inject some much-needed maturity into Arthur.

On a trip into Manhattan, Arthur and his valet Hobson (John Gielgud in an Oscar-winning performance) witness a young woman, Linda Morolla (Liza Minnelli), doing a bit of shoplifting. After intervening with the security guard, Arthur asks her for a date. How will the family feel about this latest dalliance?

Arthur shares his feelings for Linda with his grandmother Martha (Geraldine Fitzgerald), but to no avail. Hobson, in a more-like-a-father-than-his real-father moment, encourages Linda to attend Arthur’s engagement party. Hobson, you see, believes that Arthur is beginning to grow up and it’s down to her.

So, Linda crashes the engagement party and in a yeah-right moment, she and Arthur spend time alone together – a fact noticed by both families.

An old man, Hobson is later hospitalised. Arthur rushes to his side and vows to care for the person who has long cared for him. Several weeks later, Hobson dies and the previously sober Arthur goes on a drinking binge. On the day of his supposed wedding to Susan, Arthur visits Linda at the diner where she works and proposes to her.

He then tells Susan that there will be no marriage. Her enraged father, Burt begins to attack Arthur, landing several meaty blows. Linda arrives and tries to intercede. At this point, Burt grabs a cheese knife and goes after the pair. They are saved by the intervention of Grandmother Martha, who slaps Burt, bringing him out of his murderous haze.

A wounded and groggy Arthur announces to the congregation that there will be no wedding then passes out. Later Linda attends to his wounds and they discuss living and him having to get a job. A horrified Martha overhears and tells Arthur that he can have his fortune because no Bach has ever been working class. The happy couple is driven off through Central Park by Arthur’s chauffeur Bitterman.

Superman II

Receiving its first release in Australia and mainland Europe in December 1980, Superman II was not released in the UK until 9 April 1981.

Featuring Christopher Reeve as the eponymous hero and Gene Hackman as the fabulously deranged evil mastermind Lex Luthor, Superman II is tremendous knockabout fun regardless of what critics may say. Margot Kidder reprises her marvellously kooky role as Lois Lane and the villain count is upped by Terence Stamp’s memorable portrayal as the truly vile General Zod. This doesn’t do justice to other fine performances from Valerie Perrine as Luthor’s girlfriend Miss Teschmacher and Ned Beatty as Otis, Luthor’s would-be dastardly henchman.

To paraphrase the plot is not hard. Three criminals, General Zod and his hench-people Ursa and Non have been banished from Superman’s birthplace Krypton and cast into the Phantom Zone.

Unknowingly released by Superman’s redirection of a hydrogen bomb into outer space, the three arrive on Earth with powers equal to Superman’s and immediately force the President of the United States to surrender the planet to them.

The only person capable of resisting them, Superman (aka Clark Kent), has decided to trade his own superpowers for a lifetime of love with Lois Lane. It soon becomes apparent to Clark and Lois that their promise must be reversed and Superman duly joins battle with the three, who are assisted by Luthor and his cronies.

After a tense set to, with lots of BIFF! and KERPOW!, not to mention THWACK!, Superman wins the day seeing off Zod and his cronies; returning Luthor to jail, and wiping Lois’ memory of who his alter ego at the Daily Planet is. Oh, and he also returns the Stars and Stripes to where it belongs on top of the White House.

For Your Eyes Only

A British vessel, St Georges, carrying some piece of high-tech gadgetry for communicating with the Royal Navy’s fleet of Polaris submarines, is sunk in the Ionian Sea. Our hero, 007 is dispatched to retrieve the gadget before the Soviets…

Time is against Bond, as KGB head, General Gogol, already knows the fate of the St Georges and has his best man on the job. Marine archaeologist, Sir Timothy Havelock, asked by the British to locate the St Georges, is murdered by a Cuban hitman, Hector Gonzales. Bond goes to Spain to find out who hired Gonzales.

Spying on Gonzales’ villa, Bond is captured but manages to escape as Gonzales is killed by a crossbow bolt. Outside, he finds the assassin was Melina Havelock, Sir Timothy’s daughter, and the two escape.

Q and Bond use some of that new-fangled computerised technology to identify the man Bond saw paying off Gonzales as Emile Leopold Locque. Bond is dispatched to Locque’s possible base in Italy. There Bond is told that Locque is employed by Milos Columbo, known as “the Dove” in the Greek underworld.

Bond and figure skater Bibi Dahl are chased by three men including East German biathlete Eric Kriegler. The action then moves to an ice rink, where Bond fends off another attempt on his life by men in ice hockey gear before travelling to Corfu in pursuit of Columbo.

More shenanigans ensue before Bond eventually retrieves the all-important gadget from the St Georges, which is immediately stolen by the other side again. Now accompanied by Melina, Bond breaks into St Cyril’s, an abandoned mountaintop monastery and steals back the gadget. Before Gogol can get his grubby hands on the gadget again, Bond throws it off the cliff.

Finally, and it wouldn’t be a Bond film without a scene like this, Bond and Melina spend a romantic evening aboard her father’s yacht when he receives a call from the Prime Minister.

Chapter 1 – 4 May 1979

4 May 1979. Let that roll around your mouth for a few moments. The. Fourth. Of. May. Nineteen. Seventy. Nine.

There have been momentous days in British history and this one would rank up there. Whilst it might not be the most momentous, its impact upon British culture and way of life, the very fabric of the nation, cannot be underestimated.

For the uninitiated, the date might not mean anything. After all, it’s almost 40 years ago. However, if you were alive then and older than 5 or 6, then you should at least be able to make an educated guess at its significance.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that events leading up to 4 May 1979 began on 13 October 1925 in the town of Grantham, Lincolnshire with the birth of one Margaret Hilda Roberts. She was born to Beatrice Ethel Roberts (née Stephenson), wife of grocer, Alfred Roberts; a shiny new sister to Muriel.

By the time we arrived in May 1979, Margaret Hilda was 53 years old, leader of the Conservative Party and married to businessman Denis Thatcher. Your author was 9 years old, snotty nosed and scabby of knee. She had two children, 25 year-old twins, Carol and Mark; your author, two siblings (not twins).

At number 1 in the UK singles chart was Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel, taken from the soundtrack of the animated adventure film Watership Down. Those commentators without a crystal ball wouldn’t have grasped the likelihood, but the Labour Party was to be out of power in the UK for nigh on 18 years from this date. A “light that burned so brightly, suddenly burn[ed] so pale.”

Following Harold Macmillan’s famous “people have never had it so good” speech, delivered in 1957, Britain’s economy of the 1960s didn’t really live up to the decade’s subsequent reputation for exuberance and radicalism.

In the early part of the decade, the Conservatives had struggled to prevent inflation getting out of control. At the same time, growth struggled at about only half the rate of that of West Germany or France. Mitigating this, industry had remained relatively strong in the nearly 20 years following the end of WWII. Extensive house-building and construction of new commercial developments and public buildings had seen unemployment stay low throughout this time.

In essence though, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Britain’s economic prosperity was in steady decline from seventh place in the world in 1950, to twelfth in 1965 and to twentieth by 1975.

There were various explanations given: The so called early-start theory said that Britain’s earlier Industrial Revolution meant that her rivals were doing better because of the benefits of the progression from a more agrarian economy to an urbanised model, such as had already happened in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

A second theory stressed the beneficial effect of defeat on (West) Germany and Japan. They had been forced to rethink, restructure and re-equip their economic bases. Was Britain complacent due to being (having been?) a global power.

There was certainly a lack of investment in public sector infrastructure. Although burdened by high post-war debt, the UK was a major recipient under the US Marshall Plan yet struggled to invest in new transport and technologies. For example, the UK was still relying on steam trains until the mid 1960s – later than many other countries who had switched to cheaper and more efficient engines and fuels.

What had happened to Britain’s share of Marshall Plan funds? Had it been wasted? Had it added to her complacency or had it perhaps been used towards other uses than rebuilding? For example, immediately after the war, Britain still had her imperial distractions.

This was a third theory – that Britain’s responsibilities to its large empire handicapped the home economy, especially through defence spending, and economic aid. This must be considered in the light of the deconstruction of the British Empire in much of the immediate post-war period.

Finally, and perhaps most relevantly, the theory of institutionalised-failure stressed the negative roles of discontinuity, unpredictability, class envy and a lack of willingness to innovate. This theory blamed trade unions, public schools, and universities perpetuating an elitist anti-industrial attitude.

Drilling down on this theory, what about plain old poor industrial relations? A growing number of days were being lost to strike action. There was often a break down between owners and managers and increasingly militant trade unions – fuelled by inflation and the need to protect their members’ pay.

What part did Britain’s class system play? At the start of their working day, Japanese workers would sing company songs with enthusiasm. British workers would more likely be working to rule or considering strike action. Or were British workers just not equipped with the skills required by a modern economy?

Obviously, there was no single reason, but as the world moved into the 1970s, a mounting series of economic shocks, marked especially by strikes, saw the British economy slipping further and further behind European and World growth. Inflation during the early 1970s was never once below 5%, peaking at just below 25% in 1975.

Two things lead to this – world wide food shortages and rapid increases in fuel costs due to the 1973 oil crisis which was in turn due to the Yom Kippur War. Ted Heath’s Conservative Government lost its majority in the first of 1974’s elections, with Harold Wilson’s Labour Party only just securing a majority in the year’s second election in October.

By 1976 things were so bad for the UK economy that the country required a loan from the IMF – the International Monetary Fund. There were two reasons, namely a) too high a budget deficit, the difference between the government’s revenue and expenditure; and b) belief in the markets that the British currency was valued too highly leading to pressure on the pound, causing it to deprecate.

Running alongside the IMF loan, Chancellor Denis Healey and Prime Minister James Callaghan had implemented a form of monetarism. They had adopted deflationary policies and reduced public spending. Initially enjoying some success – inflation was below 10% by the summer of 1978, although unemployment had climbed to one and a half million.

Obviously, this did not go down well with the unions and coupled with the break down of wage restraint, lead to the Winter of Discontent in 1978–79 during which there were widespread strikes by public sector unions that seriously inconvenienced and really did anger the public.

The scene was set for a vote of no confidence in the government on 28 March 1979. The government lost by 311 votes to 310 and the die was cast. Parliament was dissolved on 7 April and 3 May set as the date of the general election.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Jones, Howard – Life in One Day

Life in One Day was the third* single from Jones’ 1985 album Dream into Action.

Peaking at number 14 in the UK singles chart,  it’s an uptempo number, warning against the dangers of wanting to have everything right here, right now.

It obviously resonated with the 15 year old me – I was for ever wishing for this and wishing for that. I was also, my dad would readily testify, always taking life too seriously – a morose scowl plastered on my face.

Howard Jones was a relatively short-lived phenomenon in terms of singles success, peaking in 1983 through 1985. His biggest hits were his first two singles – New Song and What is Love, which peaked at number 3 and number 2 respectively. The latter only kept off the top of the charts by Paul McCartney’s Pipes of Peace in early 1984.

*Like to Get to Know You Well made number 4, also in 1984 and was later included on the CD release of Dream into Action, presumably as a selling point for what was probably viewed as an experimental release on the nascent technology.

Gabriel, Peter – Games Without Frontiers

As I was only 10 in 1980, there would have been no way that I could have bought the original single, so as you can see, I cheated with this one!

The original track was released in 1980 and was taken from Gabriel’s eponymous solo album. The song recounts a series of games between a group of children. It is clear that they are not all playing altogether nicely – a series of arguments and alliances is reported. Perhaps the most obvious sign that this is an anti-war song is the line about the child Adolf…

Then there is the reference to the extremely popular pan European TV show of the late 70s / early 80s – Jeux Sans Frontières, which, of course, the title of the track is a literal translation. Gabriel even references the domestic UK vesion, It’s A Knockout.

In a precursor to their 1986 collaboration, Kate Bush sings backing vocals – listen out for the repeated refrain of “Jeux Sans Frontières” especially.

It is perhaps forgotten but Games’ is Gabriel’s joint top performing track in terms of UK chart singles position. Along with 1986’s Sledgehammer, it made number 4 in the chart.

Slade – Run Runaway

Run Runaway was Slade’s follow up to their Christmas number 2 from the previous year.

If My Oh My was anthemic, then this was a more lively and, certainly, rockier effort. It featured some swirling, guitar based bagpipes – as made famous by Big Country. In fact, the track does nod to a Scottish hymn, There Is a Happy Land, which was written by schoolmaster Andrew Young.

Noddy Holder is clearly having a great time with the lyrics. With the rest of the band providing a cracking pace it is a wonderful piece of high octane fun.

Perhaps ‘of their time’ as much as, if not more than, any other band, this was Slade’s final foray into the top ten of the UK singles chart. Making number 7 in early Spring 1984, the track spent two of its ten weeks in the chart in the top ten. It is interesting to note that, finally, Slade had broken into the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100.

Say what you like about Slade, but they always knew how to perform and to deliver exactly what their audience wanted – 13 years of top ten singles pay ample testament to that.

Slade – My Oh My

Bit of an odd one this. Mum bought it for me for my birthday in December 1983.

Of course with colossal hits like Merry Xmas Everybody, Skweeze me Pleeze me, Come on Feel the Noise, Mama Weer All Krazee Now, Gudbuy T’Jane, Take Me Back ‘Ome – I could go on – Slade were bona fide 70s pop royalty.

However, this track represented a commercial comeback of sorts. Making number 2 and spending 5 weeks in the top 10, it was the band’s best selling single since 1976’s Let’s Call it Quits which had stalled just shy of the top ten in the UK singes chart and 1981’s We’ll Bring the House Down which made number 10.

My Oh My would have reached number one, if it hadn’t have been for an a cappella version of a certain Yazoo track.

Slade had been off target with a number of their releases in the late 70s. They had also been off, over the pond, trying to crack the fabled US market – without much noticeable success.

To my ear and musical sensibility, it is a sister song to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. Written by Meat Loaf collaborator Jim Steinman it was, of course, over blown nonsense (meant in the best possible way!) –  a vibe shared with My Oh My.

 

Palmer, Robert – Riptide

My record collection is, as I have mentioned more than once, quite the eclectic mix. This track represents a decision (which may have been conscious) to be a little more cool.

Let’s face it, Robert Palmer was the epitome of cool. Bowie apart, I think that there was no rock star quite as cool in the 80s.

After the hit singles that Palmer had with the Power Station, this was the second single from his 1985 Album of the same name. The first, Discipline of Love, released in late 1985, had pretty much bombed, reaching only number 95 in the UK singles chart.

This one didn’t really fare much better, making only number 85 in the chart on its release in 1986. My copy is a gatefold double issue with Palmer’s 1980 single Johnny and Mary. I probably would have bought this for the Johnny and Mary as it was quite well known.

Riptide was originally written by Gus Kahn / Walter Donaldson, one of the most prolific composer / lyricist duos from New York’s Tin Pan Alley.

The song describes the singer’s angst at having to make a choice between two loves. One love (the old?), it seems, is steady and devoted. The other (the new?) is offering something altogether more exciting. To mix the metaphors, perhaps the singer fears that the grass might not be greener on the other side?

Following on from Riptide, of course we had the huge smash that was Addicted to Love, followed by Hyperactive and I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On.

Men at Work – Down Under

At last! The track we’d all been waiting for!

A non Rolf Harris* track about Australia! And, let’s face it, one which got to number 1 in the UK singles chart!

As I was only eleven at the time of its release I didn’t buy it then, instead I waited for eight years or so until I was at university and bought it from a second hand seller in the Student Union. Mine is the Brazilian print of the single, released on CBS records and although on 7″ it’s actually played at 33 1/3 rpm. Now there’s a thing.

When released the song and its video became a massive hit for the nascent MTV. The song tells the story of an Australian man travelling the globe, interacting with people wanting to find out about his homeland.

Slang terms are thrown in aplenty, like fried-out Kombi – an over-heated Volkswagen van or head full of zombie – from zombie grass, a very strong batch of marijuana and my favourite where beer does flow and men chunder – chunder, to vomit. I’m guessing a much-loved Aussie pass-time, presumably because they can’t take their ale! Or something.

Of course in more recent years the track has probably become bogged down with the old Kookaburra copyright lawsuit. Written in 1932, by a lady called Marion Sinclair, Kookaburra was a children’s classic in Australia.

It was so much of a classic that nobody noticed the similarities between the two songs until 2008 when it was first suggested on an Australian TV show that part of Kookaburra had been plagiarised. Marion Sinclair hadn’t made the connection in her lifetime, but now all of a sudden, copyright owners Larrakin Music wanted their share.

In the event, Larrakin won the court case, but instead of 40, 50 60% they were awarded 5% backdated to 2002. Still a cool AUS$100,000 mind.

* we didn’t know then, what we know now…