So there was this blog that I had /have that I used for writing what I thought were hilarious match reports for the various 5-a-side teams I have played for and it was great fun. But then I stopped playing footy …and I didn’t have any match reports to write….so I needed something else to pique my interest in writing again. So what else do I like I wondered…music of course! But not just any music…what music do I like the most that I would have no trouble in writing about. Anyone who knows me will tell you straight away that I am an unreconstructed 80s man in my late 40s, still hopelessly lost in the decade that was once derided and ridiculed but which is now curiously cool again. OK – then – subject matter chosen. Easy peasy.
But what would I write about – where would I start? Oh come on…start in 1980 an work forwards, clicking through the years as you build momentum. Of course ! Yes! Only…I wasn’t always massively into music in 1980, nor 1981 well not what was current anyway. I knew certain things that I liked such as The Beach Boys, The Monkees, ABBA, but as for chart hits of the time I just wasn’t up to speed. I knew about The Jam by osmosis through my elder brother’s obsession with Paul Weller.
However, come the Summer of 1982 and I decided I needed to get to grips with this stuff for myself. It was important. I had been a teenager for a year by this point and this stuff needed some top priority attention,for my social standing amongst my peers if nothing else. So I started to listen to the charts, the Top 40 rundown on a Tuesday lunchtime (as it was back then) and again on a Sunday evening. Chart positions became more important than football league tables.
Finally, my interest evolved into full time devotion with the passage of rites moment when I asked my Mum if she would cancel my weekly copy of Roy of the Rovers comic with the newsagent and replace it with Smash Hits instead. This was the beginning of 1983 and I became a fully paid up pop kid. TOTP on a Thursday evening was completely unmissable. Expecting me to miss it would be akin to expecting a teenager today to surrender their mobile phone for 30 minutes a day.
Around this time, I also started to immerse myself in Radio 1 – not the current version that peddles urban grime (or whatever it is) – “proper” Radio 1 when the DJs were almost as famous as the acts whose records they played. Mike Read, Gary Davies and Steve Wright were the legends who ruled the airwaves during the day but I also made sure I tuned into the more credible names like Peter Powell and Janice Long who patrolled the later slots and were more “about the music” than their daytime stablemates. Annie Nightingale and John Peel were a step too far though! It was as if I was revising pop music for some sort of exam – cramming in facts and songs about artists I was only just hearing about and had missed out on in my pre-pop awakening years.
All of these influences and sources of info (Radio 1, TOTP , Smash Hits) of course meant that I was very Top 40 centric in the music I consumed. No experimental free-form jazz for me, it was pop all the way – and we were talking singles in the main – it would be a little while before I would make the leap into the mature pop world of album buying. However, I did try and explore some stuff that was outside of the Top 40 and delve into the lower reaches of the Top 100 (the singles chart had recently been extended beyond the Top 75). As Smash Hits was a fortnightly publication, the Top 40 chart didn’t really feature and so, in this pre-digital world (widely available internet was a good 20 years away), I had to resort to other music magazines such as Record Mirror and No 1 which were both weeklies. The way cooler NME would not be my music publication of choice until I went to Poly some 3 years later although I occasionally dabbled with Melody Maker.
With the Top 100 listings secured, I would cast an eye down to those songs languishing near the bottom of the charts and keep an ear out for them being played on the radio. This was my attempt at being if not hip then non-mainstream. It worked as well sometimes as I would casually drop in some names at school of acts that were yet to break into the Top 40 to impress my mates. “Yeah I’m going into town on Saturday to buy that single by This Mortal Coil…” I would let slip. Of course when I got to town what I actually bought was Jimmy the Hoover or some such.
Anyway, back to blogging. I was looking for a reason to write again and having found my muse in 80s pop, I needed a structure to hang it all on. What better vehicle than the TOTP repeats currently being aired on BBC4 which have nicely reached the start of 1983 which as I already mentioned coincided with my pop obsession going into the stratosphere back in the day.
So here’s what I’m proposing. I’ll write some of my musings on each episode shown and publish them in weekly post. Who’s with me?