EastEnders: Angie Watts, Her Shaggy Perm And Ever Changing Moods, Lou Beale In Brighton and "Thatcher Is Killing Us All!"

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Eastenders! Scary scary stuff. I don’t know why, but I used to watch this nonsense religiously. Dirty Den and Angie – I suppose that it must have been compelling viewing.

Good grief – I’ve just been watching the first eight episodes of EastEnders from 1985, and I’m absolutely stunned! Clearly influenced by the subversive Liverpool saga Brookside, which had begun in November 1982, the Albert Square saga was, however, far more seething, far more “in yer face”, far more downbeat.

Obviously the downbeat part was a teensy bit overplayed: there we were, in the mid-1980s, with Thatcher in her second term of office after her landslide of 1983, and many BBC types were out to portray just how grim life was for us plebs under her rule. How I applauded at the time. But it isn’t the truth. It wasn’t like that for everybody – far from it. And young Punk Mary Smith (Linda Davison), being moved into a Victorian hovel room, complete with iron bedstead, does not echo the experiences of young single mothers I knew back then. Indeed, many of the older generation were complaining that these young women were given far too much by the State.

Sue and Ali Osman (Sandy Ratcliff and Nejdet Salih) made a memorable couple as they slugged it out in the cafe.

The teenagers, apart from Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), who appeared good for a giggle, were far too dowdy and miserable, and all-in-all the “Thatcher is killing everything good” vibe (“Community spirit went out when the Tories came in!” “It’s that cow in Number 10!”) is a little bit laughable.

The Square obviously hadn’t begun its tumble downhill in the few short years of Maggie. But, that aside, early EastEnders is compelling viewing: Anna Wing as horror bag Lou Beale (“I’ve missed me bingo!”), Wendy Richard as a surprisingly chirpy Pauline Fowler (“I need a fag!”), Gretchen Franklin as lovely, dippy Ethel Skinner (“The last time I had beef, we had a different Prime Minister!”), Sandy Ratcliff as miserable, bitchy but somehow touchingly vulnerable Sue Osman (“ALI!!”), Ali Osman, the aforementioned’s ever loving (“SUE – pack it in!!”) and Anita Dobson and Leslie Grantham as Angie and Den Watts of the Queen Victoria public house (“Seventeen years since our marriage was consummated. Except it wasn’t!” “You’re barred!”) particularly light up the screen for me.

And although Albert Square was rather too grim to be total reality, it certainly made compelling viewing and uncompromisingly pulled many issues of the day out of the closet and shoved them in our faces.

It was a shock.

Favourite characters? Well, my all time favourite EastEnder has to be Lou Beale – what a terrific battle-axe she was! I recall almost bumping into actress Anna Wing outside Boots in Brighton on a very hot, sunny day in the early 1990s. Lou, the character, had been dead since 1988, but seeing Miss Wing there, and myself being heavily hung over and dazzled by the sunshine, I saw only Mrs Beale, and fully expected to get a terrible mouthful for almost knocking into her. I changed course and stumbled up the steps into Boots, although I’d had no intention of going there originally! With shaking hand, I sought out a hangover remedy and retired back to my hotel for a long lay down!

Number two favourite has to be Angie Watts – Anita Dobson. I know actors are supposed to act, but how on earth did she do it? At the beginning of a scene, we might find Angie crying. Then, suddenly, she was happy, all teeth and smiles. Then she was blazingly angry. Then she was frightened, heavily made-up eyes wide with fear. Then she’d suddenly laugh and turn playful…

Angie’s wardrobe and snazzy ’80s shaggy perm were also highlights.

And where would we have been without the sneering and surprisingly complex Den?

Thoroughly engrossing viewing.

What a shame the BBC doesn’t bring out some official DVD releases of ’80s ‘Enders.

Read what happened when Anita Dobson took to the pop charts and opened a bingo hall in the town where I live in 1986 here.


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This was such a silly film – all in all good fun. Michael Crawford was perhaps never the sema again after this film – he’d probably just made the leap into musical theatre around the same time. Certainly there were to be no more Some Mothers… from him.

condormanI have to admit that my taste in films hasn’t really progressed that much from when I was a boy. Show me a film with an alien, a spaceship or a superhero and I’m hooked. Todays post is a film about one of the latter, a superhero. Well, a superhero of sorts anyway.

Condorman was a Walt Disney film release from 1981, which starred Michael Crawford (yes, the hapless Frank Spencer from the seventies sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em) as Woodrow Wilkins. When I first watched the film I half expected him to still have the slightly effeminate sounding voice, so was shocked to hear Frank Spencer talking with an American accent!

Woodrow, or Woody for short, is a comic book writer, but he works to a set of principals which mean he doesn’t include anything in any of his stories that couldn’t happen in the real world. Hence this is why the film opens with Woody plunging into the River Seine in Paris whilst attempting to fly with a gigantic set of wings strapped to his back.

Woody is in Paris visiting his friend Harry, who works for the CIA. Harry is ordered to find a US citizen to perform a document swap in Istanbul, and Woody is only to pleased to help out his friend. However, when he arrives in Istanbul the Russian citizen he is supposed to be swapping papers with turns out to be a Russian spy called Natalia.

Things turn sour and the pair are attacked, but Woody manages to fend off the attackers (through sheer luck) and then pretends to Natalia that he is in fact a US secret agent codenamed Condorman.

All would be well then, if it wasn’t for the fact that Natalia then decides to defect to the west, and asks for Condorman directly to be the US agent who will assist her in doing so. The CIA approach Woody for his help, but he only agrees to do so if they will supply him with a range of gadgets that he has designed for his comic books.

Condorman is finally truly born then, and sets off with a flashy yellow sports car, the aforementioned wings from the start of the film and a whole range of gadgets that would make both Q and James Bond sit up and take notice.

I suppose really Condorman is actually more of a spy film, but given that the hero ends up donning a superhero style bird suit, I think it does also qualify as a superhero film too.

The film was panned by the critics at time of release, and it didn’t do that well at the cinema box offices either, but I still have a soft spot for it, although this is still purely based on my memories of watching it as a kid. That said, the film did get a DVD release in the last couple of years as it seems to have developed a bit of a cult following, so it looks like I’m not the only one to have enjoyed it!

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Alexei Sayle: 'Ullo John! Gotta New Motor? And Toshiba: 'Ullo Tosh, Gotta Toshiba?

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And no mention of The Young Ones either… that was blinding 80’s comedy make no mistake.

Alternative comedian Alexei Sayle gave us novelty chart hit ‘Ullo John! Gotta A New Motor? in 1984. Apparently originally released in 1982, the song bombed – Mr S. was simply not famous enough, it seemed. But, re-released a year or so later, it was a different story.

It sounded bloomin’ awful and I loved it to bits.

Mr Sayle also had an album released in 1984 – The Fish People Tapes, based on a series called Alexei Sayle And The Fish People, broadcast on London-based Capital Radio in 1981. Both the radio series and record apparently featured a few digs at the Government.

Good job, eh?

One of the tracks included – That’s Milton Springsteen – was a parody of the Jam’s early 1980s song That’s Entertainment.

‘Ullo John was included on the album and was soon tweaked for a fondly remembered mid-1980s TV ad – “Hello Tosh Gotta Toshiba?”… or should that be “‘Ullo Tosh…”?

Ian Dury provided the main voice over for the ad…
“‘Ullo – ullo – ullo Tosh gotta Toshiba?
‘Ullo Tosh gotta Toshiba?”
That’s an FST.”

“That’s an FST.”


“It’s the flattest squarest tube.
It’s the flattest squarest tube.”

“They ain’t ‘arf built well”

“They ain’t ‘arf built well.
‘Cos every Toshiba component is stronger to last longer – know what I mean?
That’s good”
“That’s good”
“‘Ullo Tosh gotta Toshiba?”

“‘Ullo Tosh gotta Toshiba?”

And what did the flatter squarer tube give you? A flatter screen and sharper picture. It was a good development.

See the ‘Ullo John! and the Toshiba ad below!

The Hits of Wham!

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Great Pop Music, no mistaking. However, as a person, I have no time for George Michael at all. it seems that he really is good at whinging at the injustice of it all. Injustice? What injustice. He’s a bit like a premiership footballer in many respects – remember his spat with Sony? You signed the contract mate, get over it. And as for all the furore surrounding his private life – what were all those hot chicks in the Wham! videos if they weren’t a smokescreen. If you’re gay, you’re gay – I personally don’t care. Being an annoying, self satisfied / absorbed smug tw*t is a different thing.

With the news that George Michael’s Faith is to be remastered and reissued later this month, it got me thinking about his earlier days as part of Wham! and just how many highly memorable songs he has been involved with.

Whether you love or hate Wham!, chances are you probably could sing along or at least hum many of their songs, so this week I’m asking you what your favourite Wham! song is.

What was your favourite Wham! song?

  • Club Tropicana

  • Wham Rap

  • Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

  • Last Christmas

  • The Edge of Heaven

  • I’m Your Man

  • Freedom

  • Young Guns (Go For It)

  • Add an Answer

View Results

Margaret Thatcher blocked Soviet aid for striking miners, files reveal – The Guardian

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Is this news? I don’t suppose it is really – she’d say that the USSR had no business ‘interfering’ in an internal UK matter – or worse, not quite McCarthy but getting that way; her opponents would say “the bloody old bag”… you know the kind of stuff.

The Guardian

Margaret Thatcher blocked Soviet aid for striking miners, files reveal
The Guardian
Guardian after a five-year freedom of information battle, show how the pair clashed during the titanic miners’ strike that convulsed Britain in 1984-85.

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Googling the Cube

solved-rubik-cubeWhen it comes to iconic items from the Eighties they don’t get more iconic than the humble Rubik’s Cube.

It may have caused many a gnashed tooth and uttered profanity, but there’s no denying that when someone wants a picture to illustrate the decade of the 1980s, they go straight for the cube. There are countless compilation albums and books featuring the cube on the cover, and a fair few websites too (hey, I’m as guilty as the rest of them!).

Whilst most of us would just fiddle and twiddle with the thing for hours, perhaps completing one side and then giving up, boffins around the world have been trying to work out what the maximum number of moves required to solve the cube is. This magic number, nick named a God Number, is a surprisingly low twenty – yep, a maximum of 20 moves is all that is required to solve any combination of the cube!

So how did they get to this number? Well, firstly the scientists took every single possible mixed up cube combination (a mere 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possibilities!) and dissected this up into groups of similar types which would all be solved in the same way. These groups were further wittled down by taking symmetry into account, which left just 2.21 billion groups to solve!

A computer program was then devised to solve each combination in the most optimum manner. On a reasonably powered desktop PC this took around 20-30 seconds to solve a single combination. Not bad, but 2.21 billion groups would still take around 35 years of non-stop processing to complete!

cat-with-cubeSo how did they solve it in a more timely manner? Well, they trained an army of cats to solve the Cube!

Only kidding… To the rescue comes Google, who offered to run this program on their high tech super computers (so if you’ve found Google slow to respond recently, maybe it was too busy wasting time on a Rubik’s Cube solution) and managed to churn through all the combination groups in just a matter of weeks. Ouch, that’s some serious processing power they’ve got there!

Turns out there are around 300,000,000 combinations that need the full 20 moves, but the majority can be solved with between 15 and 19 moves. Even with solid scientific evidence though, I still find this very hard to believe!

Then again, given that the world record for solving a scrambled cube is just a little over 10 seconds, I guess there can’t be that many moves required as I reckon it can’t be humanly possible to do more than 3 or 4 moves per second, and certainly not on my inferior quality Rubik’s Cube copy off the market, which had to be aligned exactly before you could twist the damn thing.

99 Red Balloons

Absolutely loved this. It was just so catchy. Our German teacher at school was dead chuffed when they played the German Language version on TOTP – Neun und neunzig Luftballon – she wasn’t even singing about red balloons in the original version and this was a great point for our teacher about literal translations. Well it amused her!

via Child Of The 1980's by Big Boo on 7/7/10

99 Red Balloons99 Red Balloons was a number one hit for Nena, which was both the name of the female singer of the song and her band too, in February 1984. This was the English translation of the original German version, which was called 99 Luftballons, and between the two versions Nena managed to achieve the number one slot in the charts in at least ten countries, including the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and home country Germany.

Surprisingly enough, though it only managed to reach number 2 in the US, this was with the original German language version of the song, which was quite an achievement.

The song was a very poppy, bouncy (fitting for a song about balloons) yet still a bit rocky affair, but the story it tells had a rather darker over tone. The two versions tell broadly the same tale, although the English version isn’t actually a direct translation of the words. It goes something like this…

Some friends buy a packet of balloons (perhaps a packet of 100 but one popped during inflation? Who knows?) and decide to blow them all up and let them loose into the sky. Off they merrily bob, only to be picked up on radar and mistaken as a possible UFO or maybe an enemy attack, which leads to fighter jets being scrambled and the brink of war! Ouch!

The song was apparently written by Nena band member Carlo Karges after seeing a bunch of balloons being set free at a Rolling Stones concert. He noticed the shape the mass of balloons made looked somewhat like a strange spacecraft, and what with the Cold War between East and West being at a height, he wondered what could happen if something as innocent as this occured near, say, the Berlin Wall.

99 Red Balloons is therefore considered somewhat of a protest song, and indeed it was released just after a round of missile deployments by the US and Russia, so the song struck a chord with many around the world at this time.

The song remains popular today, and somebody out there obviously really loved it, as in 2006 one viewer of VH1 Classic donated $35,000 during a charity event for Hurricane Katrina so that both the German and English versions of the songs would be played continuously for an entire hour!

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John Craven’s Newsround

John CravenGood old John Craven. I’m not quite sure how he did it, but somehow he took the most boring programme on TV (the news) and turned it into something kids wanted to watch. Maybe it was his snazzy selection of jumpers, or perhaps his teacher like demeanour, or perhaps it was just because John Craven’s Newsround only lasted for about five minutes, so you didn’t have time to get bored?

John Craven’s Newsround first came on air in 1972, and from then until 1989 the legendary sweater wearer John Craven told kids what was going on in the world in a clear and straight forward way. It was never really dumbed down though, just told without a load of jargon, waffle and conjecture. John gave you the facts of the story, and it was up to you to decide what you thought about it.

Newsround, as it is now called since Craven left the series, is still airing today, and has gone through a succession of presenters including Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who now hosts Channel 4’s evening news and Juliet Morris, who went on to read BBC Breakfast News before going on to present a number of other shows. You can still see Mr. Craven on TV though, as he hosts the BBC countryside show Countryfile.

Of course, the stories chosen were usually ones that were more likely to appeal to children in the first place, such as the near endless stream of stories about Giant Pandas, but you did get real news too. In fact, Newsround (as it became known since John left) was the first British news programme to report on the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, and was also first with news of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.

There are three more things that Newsround will always be remembered for though. One was the way the day of the week was repeated on the wall behind John Craven, the second was that intense theme song, and the third was the old rectangular phone sat on the desk behind John. Boy, how you wished that phone would ring, just once!

80s v 00s: Which Decade Made Better Movies? TV.com

Is there any competition? It’s always incredibly hard to do justice to a remake of anything. So for my money, I’d be asking what can be added to the original to make it better? The people who do these remakes never seem to ask that question, they take an idea which worked twenty plus years ago and think that merely rehashing it will give them a hit all over again. Of course the tag ‘derivative’ is always stuck on things that are embellishments of the original, but at least those film and programme makers have tried to give something that improves on the original or at least retells a story in a new way. With regard to the Indian Jones movie from the noughties, I kind liked it – in many ways its inclusion in this list is a little undeserved as they did take the story and move it on from the original, and it was a franchise in any case…


80s vs. 00s: Which Decade Made Better Movies?
the fashion and music of the period while maintaining high-quality police drama standards. Miami Vice is a fascinating cultural document of the 1980s as

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UK finishes last in Eurovision – musicweek.com

It is interesting that our so called musically naive European cousins soon spotted this rubbish for what it was and awarded it (figuratively at least) null points. If you go back to the late eighties and compare that with our own craze for almost anything put out by SAW then things slide into focus. And for the record, as I have shamefully admitted elsewhere in these pages, I too bought more than one SAW release…

UK finishes last in Eurovision
Dubovie's song – That Sounds Good to Me – was written by Waterman, Steve Crosby and Mike Stock, hit maker for Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan in the 1980s.

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