memories of the Eighties
Image by brizzle born and bred
I started with the 1960s and the 1970s and continue with the 80s.
God it all comes rushing back! I thought it was all just a bad dream!. (A sure sign of the ageing process)
It was a time when Don McClean’s version of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ sat atop the singles chart, its glum chorus summing up a country struggling to emerge from the late-70s doldrums.
GDP had dropped by -1.8 per cent while unemployment, at 5.8 per cent or 1.56million, was still some 0.3 per cent or 360,000 short of today’s more painful figure.
While Britons got by on an average wage of £6,000 (the equivalent of about £19,000 today), petrol cost 28p a litre (90p), a pint of beer was 35p (£1.10), a loaf of bread 33p (£1.10) and a pint of milk 17p (54p).
At the month’s end, the pre-decimal sixpence was withdrawn from circulation. Later that summer, Alexandra Palace in London was part-destroyed by fire.
The British Olympics team returned from Moscow with a medal haul – including five golds – that left them ninth in the table, below Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. The USSR finished top with 80 golds.
Earlier in the year, the first episode of Yes, Minister had been broadcast by the BBC and SAS officers ended a hostage crisis by storming the Iranian Embassy in London, killing five terrorists and free all the captives.
Political events were to prove emblematic of the coming decade. In June it was announed that nuclear weapons were to be stored at RAF Greenham Common, prompting years of protests from the CND.
The 1980s set the mould for Britain today!.
It was the decade of Thatcher, yuppies and big phones.
In October, amid murmurs that she would be forced to make a U-turn in her economic policies, Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister, told the Conservative Party conference: "You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning."
In November, Ronald Reagan, the Republican former actor and Governor of California was elected US president, defeating by a landslide Jimmy Carter, who had presided over a sharp economic decline.
Back in Britain, after the resignation of Jim Callaghan, Labour elected the left-winger Michael Foot as leader, opening a generation of in-fighting that would see them fail to retake power for another 17 years.
In sport, while England failed to progress past the group stages of the European football championships in Italy, there were also then-unknown reasons for long-term optimism: future stars Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Ashley Cole were all born during the year.
Meanwhile, the assassination in December of John Lennon outside his New York apartment building capped a year of terrible losses to British arts. Among others who died were the film-maker Sir Alfred Hitchcock, the photographer Sir Cecil Beaton, the actors Peter Sellers and Hattie Jacques, and the musician Ian Curtis.
But for many of you reading this, it was all about BMX bikes, big hair, bright socks and New Romantics.
I remember the 80s as a consumerist paradise with massive phones, filofaxes and flash suits. There were also downsides outside of London, with riots and unemployment but to be honest the UK was rightfully feasting on Jambon at the table of European Commercialism and Progress.
Thank God I was an adult (in age anyway) in the 80s!
Being born in 1949 and then growing up during the 50s, 60s and 70s I found the 80’s a huge disappointment!
In the 60s we had free love, drugs, wild new music, in the 70s Glam and Punk rock, more free love, fun clothes.
But just as you were getting old enough to enjoy yourself without parental supervision! The 80s gave us Thatcherism, Aids, poncey poodle fashions and the most celebrated music star – Boy George telling us ‘War, War is stupid…’
It was the decade of spend, spend, spend, for some of 80s Britain.
The Cold War
A poll conducted in 1980 found 40 per cent of adults said they believed a nuclear war was likely in the next 10 years.
Yes deep insecurities were being sown in people’s minds as tensions between East and West heightened.
In the early 80s there was an intense awareness of the Cold War. Every move of the Kremlin was watched by the media at the time, should some crisis in Central America or the Middle East ignite World War Three.
Ronald Reagan was the president, talking of the evil empire, and spending huge sums on the military. Cruise missiles were being delivered to Greenham Common and Molesworth to much protest at the time.
As an adult now, you can appreciate the doctrine of "outspending, outperforming" the communist bloc which in the end hastened its demise. But at the time, watching the Soviet soldiers marching through Red Square in front of Brezhnev, you did wonder what might happen.
The nuclear threat was addressed in pop music with Nena’s 99 Red Balloons and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Two Tribes, on television with The Day After and Threads and in films such as Defence of the Realm and WarGames.
Britain busy being born
The Eighties were more subtle and significant: there would be no Katie Price without Samantha Fox, no Lady Gaga without Madonna, no Simon Cowell without Stock, Aitken and Waterman and no David Cameron without Margaret Thatcher.
The Eighties marked the death of one Britain and they hinted at another Britain busy being born.
The Eighties can appear endearingly unfamiliar. What did we do with our hands when we didn’t have smart phones? How did we waste time before Twitter?
Britain in turmoil
There was massive unemployment, whole of Britain in turmoil under thatcher, lads like me off to a phony war for political gain, and criminals like Archer and Maxwell running riot with Justice…I lost some respect I had for the police in the 1980s, following their handling of the 1984-85 miners’ strike.
It struck me that they were quite happy to stand back and watch football hooligans run riot on match days, for example (a genuine disturbance of the peace issue), but were overly keen to viciously truncheon miners and charge them with horses as and when required (a legal dispute between employees and employers).
The police should only be used to enforce the law and not be used to implement a political agenda (in this case, Thatcher’s destruction of our coal mining industry).
I remember huddling around a small battery-operated black and white TV by candlelight through yet another electricity strike, watching news reports of rats collecting around piles of uncollected rubbish in the streets.
Everyone lived at the mercy of the trade unions, employers could not remove lazy workers, and British manufactured goods, famous for their poor quality, were a worldwide joke.
The rise of capitalism, the inner city riots, rise of city yuppies and estate agents, we eventually saw the dark side of capitalism, where money, greed and power became more important than anything else. The eventual collapse of the banking system was the inevitable result of an economy reliant on money which did not actually exist.
From the miners’ strike, the Falklands War and the spectre of AIDS, to Yes Minister, championship snooker and Boy George.
Falklands War, the Miners’ Strike and the Brixton riots, as well as those reflecting on industry in the 1980s, unemployment and redundancy, and HIV and Aids.
Britain changed more in the 1980s than in almost any recent decade. The rise of the City and the fall of the unions, the wider retreat of the left and the return of military confidence, the energy of a renewed entrepreneurialism and the entropy of a new, entrenched unemployment.
The 1980s, destined to become the darkest decade for English football, opened with a portent of things to come when England travelled to the European Championships in Italy.
The rioting on the terraces during that tournament was a sight that was to become commonplace whenever the national team travelled abroad in the ensuing years.
You name a European city and it will have experienced so-called England fans terrorising stadiums or rampaging through the streets and squares.
It is good on music, showing how music evolved from political protest songs by the Specials and UB40 in the early 80’s, through to Live Aid in 1985 and then to Stock, Aitkin and Waterman whose musical production line with songs by the likes of Kylie and Rick Astley dominated the last few years of the decade.
Any memeories of Britain in the 1980s must inevitably revolve around the former Conservative Prime Minister and Thatcherism.
The Thatcher years
Yet Thatcherism was the bell-ringing herald of an age of unparalleled consumption, credit, show-off wealth, quick bucks and sexual libertinism. When you free people, you can never be sure what you are freeing them for.
Ted Heath had fought and lost an election on the question of ‘who governs?’ in the 1970s; and Thatcher was determined history would not repeat itself. Those on the right will regard her as a heroic figure that dragged Britain kicking and screaming into the modern age.
"Thatcher the milk snatcher" had the reins – and there was a sad anticipation that things were not going to get better.
Elected just after the industrial unrest of the "Winter of Discontent", she embarked on a tough reform programme with the top priorities of tackling inflation and the unions.
The Eighties did not begin on January 1 1980; they began on May 4 1979 with the arrival of Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street.
Queen Elizabeth may have reigned but it was Thatcher who ruled the Eighties
She was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and is the only woman to have held the office. A Soviet journalist called her the "Iron Lady", a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented policies that have come to be known as Thatcherism.
She was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990.
Thatcher became Prime Minister on 4 May 1979. Arriving at 10 Downing Street, she said, in a paraphrase of the prayer Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace:
"Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope".
The defining event of her premiership was the conflict over the Falkland Islands. In many respects the Falklands War was a bizarre conflict: as Ronald Reagan was moving towards promulgating a missile defence system that would involve space-based interceptor missiles, Britain found itself embroiled in a conflict ‘whose origins owed more to the preoccupations of the nineteenth century … in that it was about the ownership of territory’
The weapons that both sides used were by and large still those of the Second World War; and newspapers were the most immediate means for the public to gain information about the conflict.
The ‘last of the good-old fashioned wars’; a throwback to the days before humans became so good at killing each other that conflict now potential involved the destruction of the entire planet. And ultimately, the conflict was a more close-run thing than popular memory allows. It should also be noted that some people claim that reports of a ceasefire in the Falklands conflict began to emerge during the 1982 World Cup final. This is highly unlikely, given that the ceasefire was signed on 14 June and the World Cup final took place on 11 July.
Although it undoubtedly played its part, victory in the Falklands War was not entirely responsible for Thatcher’s re-election in 1983. Opinion polls suggest the tide had begun to turn at the start of 1982, with the unemployment rate still growing – but more slowly – and the economy beginning to turn around. That said, the Falklands transformed Thatcher from a unreliable quantity into the Tories prime electoral asset. In contrast, opposition leader Michael Foot attracted large amounts of derision, with one Times columnist describing him as the sort of man ‘unable to blow his nose in public without his trousers falling down’
Meanwhile the novelty of the SDP had quickly worn off after its formation in the early 1980s – there was now no need for ‘for the media to dispatch a camera team every time Shirley Williams stepped deftly from a railway carriage onto a station platform’
But many of you were oblivious to the political drama and the social changes sweeping Britain because you were growing up.
The Eighties. What do you remember?
See below for childhood memories in the 80s.
BMX bikes, Rent-a-Ghost and ZX Spectrum computers were more important.
Digital watches that were usually made by Casio, and which sometimes doubled as calculators.
Gordon the Gopher (and the Broom Cupboard) Phillip Schofield’s adorable squeaking sidekick
Back to the Future or anything involving Michael J Fox
Wham! George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley (aided and abetted by Pepsi and Shirley) sold 25 million records worldwide between 1982 and 1986. A similar number of British market stalls sold knock-off ‘Choose Life’ T-shirts.
Sun-In The best thing to happen to ’80s hair along with the perm, Sun-In turned your barnet blonde (or more likely, orange) in an instant.
Arcade/computer games Pac-Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Pole Position… If you weren’t playing them at home, you were playing them down the arcade. Pocket money was never spent so quickly.
The Young Ones Even if we were too young to understand all the jokes (especially the rude ones), ‘The Young Ones’ was an unforgettable – and incredibly quotable – comedy feast for us ’80s kids.
Torvill And Dean Bolero. Mack and Mabel. And here, Barnum. Suddenly, ice skating wasn’t just a sport but a moving, musical spectacle.
PEZ sweet dispensers Dispensing little tiny fizzy sweets was never so much fun!
Madonna She chewed gum, snogged boys and showed her bra – all while singing and dancing. We British children had never seen the likes of it, and were forever changed.
Transformers Transformers – more than meets the eye! Transformers – robots in disguise! And so on.
Slush Puppies The best way to get brain freeze as a child in the ’80s.
Grange Hill In the ’80s, British children liked nothing more than coming home from school to watch a show about children at school. Which was perfectly understandable, because that show was ‘Grange Hill’.
Bucks Fizz They won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 with an audacious display of catchy pop, fluffy hair and skirt-losing. And lo! British kids had four new pop heroes.
Neighbours A must-watch for British schoolchildren at lunchtime, after school, or both.
Duran Duran Did we know what they were singing about? No. Did we care? No. They had great tunes, and ever greater hair.
The Sony Walkman Which enabled us to listen to Duran Duran everywhere. Hoorah!
John Hughes’ movies Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty In Pink, The Breakfast Club… Hughes’ movies weren’t just relatable, they were a slice of cool American escapism.
He-Man …and the masters of the universe, of course. "By the power of Greyskull!"
Five Star "Britain’s answer to The Jackson Five" weren’t really that. But they were fine purveyors of kid-friendly bubblegum pop and shoulder pads.
BMX bikes What the Chopper was to the ’70s, so the BMX was to the ’80s. Especially after we all saw ‘E.T.’
The Adventure Game The same tasks each week, yet never a moment of dullness? It had to be the delightful, Douglas Adams-esque ‘The Adventure Game’.
Trivial Pursuit At last! British families had another board game to play apart from Monopoly. And it really sorted out the smart people from the, erm, people who regularly got stuck on blue Geography questions, ie everyone.
Breakdancing As popularised in the movie ‘Breakdance: The Movie’ and attempted, badly, by children at school discos throughout Britain.
The Royal Wedding/Princess Diana British girls now had a pretty princess to coo over, British boys now had a member of the royal family they could actually fancy, and British kids everywhere got a day off school. Hoorah!
Saturday Superstore The tradition started by ‘Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’ continued with ‘Saturday Superstore’, which ran from 1982 to 1987 and was hosted by Mike Read (he of the colourful glasses), Sarah Greene (she of the hair scrunchies) and Keith Chegwin (he of the annoying laugh).
Culture Club "Is it a boy? Is it a girl?" No sooner had Boy George confused British kids with his androgyny than he’d swept them off their feet with a string of catchy hits. Marvellous.
The Rubik’s Cube There was only one question on kids’ lips in the ’80s. And that was: "Can you do it?"
Now That’s What I Call Music… The best music compilation albums ever? Back then – when they were being sold to us by a pig voiced by Brian Glover – most certainly, yes.
Fame The ‘Glee’ of the ’80s. Hands up who didn’t dream of flying to New York, auditioning for the High School Of Performing Arts and dancing on top of a yellow taxi? We know we did.
Acne, puberty, A-Team, Night Rider, Young Ones, Only Fools & Horses, Miami Vice, XR3i and the Lamborghini Countach.
Wham, many young girls were so in love with George Michael. All that lusting, then you find out he’s gay!. Remember the "lewd act" in a public lavatory!.
The A-Team and Mr T
Michael Jackson and the huge anticipation around the release of the Thriller video. The album probably remains the best selling of all time.
Waca-Day & Timmy Mallett
10p sweetie mix-ups
Liverpool FC & John Barnes/Ian Rush
Atari consoles & Space Invaders
Thriller & the moonwalk
Robin Of Sherwood
Hoddle & Waddle
Newcastle FC/Brazil pom-pom hats
The Karate Kid
Mexico 86 & Gary Lineker’s wrist bandage
Music was loud and often involved electric pianos the size of Wales.
TVs were multiplying as well as getting bigger
Top loading video recorders and huge microwave ovens appeared whilst trim phones disappeared.
Monster record players started to shrink and CD players started to grow.
Home computers spread like wildfire
Work computers often filled entire rooms but started to shrink.
Cars still fell apart (unless Japanese or German) but started getting demographically faster with 205 and Golf GTi, more valves and the occasional turbo. Diesels still smelt and were usually lorries. People started to forget what a choke was, and only owned a 4×4 if they had a field or hillside to drive it over.
Pizza was suddenly the "in" food. Of course in the early days it was usually your typical frozen ones. They were great for dinner during school holidays, a real change to boring sandwiches.
Rubik cubes, the rise of 1980s hair. LA Hair Metal and the death of Punk, the original Live Aid concert. Big shoulder pads, thanks to Dallas – which also started the "I Shot JR". BMXs, cassettes and LPs were still on the go. Boy George and Adam Ant doing the "Prince Charming"
Sinclair Spectrum computers, Commodore 64s and Amstrad 1640, BBC Computers and Acorns and the rise of the Apple Mac. Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the conclusion of the Indiana Jones trilogy, Back to the Future and Gremlins.
The series finale of M*A*S*H and such classics Dallas and Cheers.
Ray Ban sunglasses. The must-have designer labels on clothes. The "I must have MTV". The Michael Jackson and his groin-grabbing routines. The Madonna and her controversial music videos.
Seeing ET in the cinema and crying at the end!
Being madly in love with Simon le Bon and wanting to be like Madonna, riding around on a battered BMX, watching Live Aid on telly, Marathons in a selection box every Xmas, drinking Quantro and trying to get drunk on Top Deck. Being a teenager when the second summer of love happened in 89…Happy days!!
Ra-ra skirts, po-go sticks, Dallas, Tenko, Soda-stream, Wagon wheels and the slipper at school!
…ah, Heaven…80’s weren’t bad after all!.
More memories of the 80s
Being worried about getting Aids from banknotes; trying to persuade dad to build a nuclear bunker; and Jimmy Knapp the hero of London commuters who stopped us being able to get to work during the summer of 1988 and 1989!
Ah, the thawing of Cold War. The collapse of communism in Europe. The intifada in Israel and its disputed territories. The revolving door of Soviet Union leaders spinning faster than ever. The stock market crash of 1987.
Coal. Snow. Cold winters in the south. No radiators. Hair gel and shellsuits. White socks, white trainers and Run DMC style wearing the tongues out of the laces. Multicoloured luminous and mismatched socks and Bruce Lee Kung Fu slippers. Betamax and VHS. Madness and The Young Ones.
Women could wear fur coats without the Anti brigade being very hypocritical, ie wearing leather and saying fur was bad! Choppers (bicycles)! Huge Video Cameras, even bigger phones, shiny suits and cool cars.
More bits of plastic in the wallet. In turn followed by interest rate hikes, less work, negative equity.
Memories of a phone box as the privatisation improved telecoms beyond recognition. Shops no longer closed Wednesday afternoon, and power cuts caused by strikes.
The music and popular culture of that decade (especially the New Romantic early 80s) made such a vivid contrast with the nihilism of the late 70s punk era. Boys started wearing pastel pink and yellow and still looked cool (in spite of the mullet hairstyles).
The North/South divide was at its height in the 80s.
The age that made cocaine, political and financial incompetence, nepotism and tasteless extravagance acceptable.
Flying a Union jack when the Falklands War started.
Miners Strike going on forever, Cruise Missiles and strikes at News International.
The fear of nuclear annihilation being a topic for normal conversation at work.
The Smiths, Billy Bragg, the first truly successful global political campaign, the anti apartheid movement and a generation of dedicated and hard-working young people opposed to the wanton greed of Thatcherism and ‘Thatcher’s Children’.
Boys from the Blackstuff. The dole and a wee bar job on the side. And yes I had a filofax, a Marxism Today filofax, if you will.
The miner’s strike – the one thing that galvanised the left (briefly) and polarised the nation. It was Thatcher v Scargill – there could’ve been a solution but neither protagonist was really looking for solutions for the people in mining communities.
Being young and coming to terms with sex in a post-Aids society.
Nokia Mobira phone and it was £25 per month and 25 pence per minute outside the M25 and 50 pence per minute inside the m25! Why, I have no idea!
Mobile phones, I was considered quite sophisticated by having my own BT Phonecard to ring home; CDs, we were still all vinyl and tapes.
The appeal of going to the cinema faltered in the 80s when the VCR became widely available. However they weren’t cheap. I remember buying my first one in 1982, it cost £280 – compare that to what they cost now (if you can still find any on the High St). And the cost of pre-recorded films were even higher, I remember ET coming out, I think it was £84 to buy a copy – so everyone hired it from the video hire shop.
Rotten, nasty self-centred right-wing government. Cynically high unemployment. Pretty grim for the common man, woman and child.
At the start of the Eighties there were three television channels, all terrestrial. MTV was launched in 1981 and Sky started broadcasting in 1989. The seeds of the TV explosion that would change our viewing were sown in the Eighties but it was the last decade of the truly national shared television experience. It isn’t the 28 million who watched the 1981 royal wedding that astonishes, it’s the 19 million who tuned in to Blankety Blank. It’s hard, too, to believe I spent my Saturday afternoons watching a fat old man in a shiny Union flag leotard chase a paunchy fellow dressed as a samurai inside a wrestling ring.
Since there were so few channels, sporting occasions were also national cultural events: Ian Botham’s 1981 Ashes, the 1985 world snooker final between Denis Taylor and Steve Davies. That match, now known as the “Black Ball Final”, was watched by more than 18 million who tuned in over the weekend of April 27-28, 1985. Less than three months later 1.9 billion people across 150 countries watched Live Aid, arguably the defining cultural event of the Eighties. Looking at the list of artists who appeared on stage in London and Philadelphia, I was reminded that the Eighties was the last decade of the truly global superstar: artists like Madonna and U2, plus Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen – who both sang on We Are the World but did not appear at Live Aid – were cultural colossi who transcended musical genres.
The other key cultural moment occurred three years after Live Aid with the Second Summer of Love and the rise of acid house and the use of ecstasy among the young. The Eighties began with teenagers sniffing glue and ended with them taking E.
In the absence of downloads we had to go to the cinema to watch films. And it was a time of action heroes who were brawn in the USA: Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis boxing, terminating and blasting their way through the decade. It was also the age of the video nasty – films with lurid titles such as I Spit on Your Grave.
It was the Rushdie novel, published in 1988, that was to offer a glimpse of an uglier future Britain. The protests that erupted after the release of The Satanic Verses were the first indication of a religious militancy among some British Muslims that would put the benign assumptions of multiculturalism under severe pressure.
Cultural consumption revealed a similar fracturing, as the computer rivalled the television and the CD as sources of entertainment. The first Sinclair home computers went on sale in 1980. Then at the end of the decade, in 1989, a British scientist, Timothy Berners-Lee, wrote a proposal to create a means for scientists to exchange information by computer.
His title for this invention was the World Wide Web, a final demonstration of how modern Britain – the good, the bad and the ugly – was created in the Eighties.
TOP 10 SINGLES
1 Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid, 1984
2 Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood, 1983
3 I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder, 1984
4 Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood 1984
5 Don’t You Want Me – Human League, 1981
6 Last Christmas – Wham!, 1984
7 Karma Chameleon – Culture Club, 1983
8 Careless Whisper – George Michael, 1984
9 The Power of Love – Jennifer Rush, 1985
10 Come On Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners, 1982
The early 80’s saw the rise of a new, but short lived phenomenon – the appearance of cross-dressing pop stars. While the men were trying the look like women, the reverse also applied – although it wasn’t as wide spread.
Boy George was probably the first 80’s performer to popularise the gender bender style which saw a momentary peak in 1983. Marilyn soon followed, but in an effort to become a more serious performer, he dropped the frock and quickly fell into the fickle 80’s fashion abyss. Around the time of Boy George’s rise, Annie Lennox also appeared in Sweet Dreams – sporting a short orange haircut and male suit. While this fad seem to disappear by late 84, a momentarily resurgence of the gender benders appeared in 1985 with Dead or Alive.
TOP 10 ALBUMS
1 Brothers In Arms – Dire Straits, 1985
2 Bad – Michael Jackson, 1987
3 Thriller – Michael Jackson, 1982
4 Greatest Hits – Queen, 1981
5 Kylie – Kylie Minogue, 1988
6 Whitney – Whitney Houston, 1987
7 Tango In The Night – Fleetwood Mac, 1987
8 No Jacket Required – Phil Collins, 1985
9 True Blue – Madonna, 1986
10 The Joshua Tree – U2, 1987
1 ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, 1983
2 Crocodile Dundee, 1987
3 Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988
4 Fatal Attraction, 1988
5 Crocodile Dundee II, 1988
6 Ghostbusters, 1984
7 Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, 1983
8 Back to the Future, 1985
9 A Fish Called Wanda, 1988
10 For Your Eyes Only, 1981
clink on links below for more memories
memories of the Sixties
memories of the Seventies
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