Photography has been devalued. With digital cameras, it’s just too bloody easy to fire off a hundred shots of Alan and the boys ‘out on the razz’ and upload them onto Flickr the same night for the entire world to ignore. Not so long ago, you only had 36, or even 24 chances to preserve your companions’ merry antics for the ages, so a bit of thought was called for. If you were indoors things were even more fraught. ‘Denise, how many flashes are left on this?’ Yep, your housebound David Bailey could only do his thing if there was a sufficient supply of silvery plastic boxes full of wire wool to plug in the top of the camera, all the better to illuminate the alluring tableau of Auntie Jean’s paper crown slipping over her left eye with a veil of flat blue dazzle. The cube rotated four times to present a fresh bulb to the carousing throng, and then that was it, new cube please. Ooh, what a palaver! Small wonder everyone in photos from 1978 looks so damn fed up.
It all started with the Humphreys – those unseen drinking straw-wielding beasts insidiously snaffling the milk from under the noses of Frank Muir and co. That advert was paid for by Unigate Dairies, but the general message was people weren’t drinking enough milk, period. For the next few years, a slew of these ads – not advocating a particular brand per se, and seeming more like a public service announcement as a result – were all over the telly. The quaint Humphreys mutated into the racier ‘gotta lotta bottle!’ campaign, heralded by a chirpy bit of soft rock which informed us that ‘milk comes in a bottle’, while various tanned examples of calcium-enriched youth cavorted seductively, causing a Mary Whitehouse lookalike to peer disdainfully over the top of her half moon specs-on-a-chain and exclaim, “Well!” More desperately, a dairy-managing Brian Glover pleaded with us to “Use your milkman – don’t let him become a thing of the past!” Other dairy produce got their own, more modest, promotional leg-up. British Cheese created a cartoon country club populated by well-spoken wedges of Double Gloucester and Sage Derby. A squadron of jacket potato paratroopers asked, ‘Sarge, when we get there, it will be butter, won’t it? It won’t be – gulp! – anything else?’ The margarine threat was implicit: ‘No buts, it’s got to be butter!’ Meanwhile, the Meat Marketing Board were clearly worried about the encroaching fashion for vegetarianism. ‘Wot, no meat?’ cried a trio of Robin Askwith-like cheeky cockney lads, as they gate-crashed a couple’s pork-free dinner and regaled them with an impromptu oompah ditty detailing a plethora of exciting serving suggestions for a nice bit of British meat, aided by a marching band of only-just-starting-to-become-unacceptable racial stereotypes and a policeman with a flashing blue light on his head. Meanwhile, posters in butchers’ windows shouted: ‘What’s meat got? It’s got the lot!’ It wasn’t all animal-derived: ‘Make room for the mushrooms!’ sang a male voice choir of cartoon button-caps, marching onto the dinner table in a good-natured bid for fungal Lebensraum, while minimalist cinema verité ads demonstrated faked documentary evidence of the soothing powers of ‘tea – best drink of the day.’ But the least convincing of these unlikely broadcasts was not food-related at all: in the early 1980s, just as pit closures were starting to bite, a cosy family were shown relaxing by a fireplace warmed by ‘Coal: the fuel of the future.’
TV CREAM SAYS: MARKETING CAN ONLY ACHIEVE SO MUCH, YOU KNOW
Besuited men behind desks considered it a nationwide dose of protein, but out in the field it was always a cheap and hasty alternative to breakfast or forking out for crisps at break-time. Free school milk had been on tap for all British state schools since the late 1930s, introduced to combat spiralling levels of childhood malnutrition and later becoming an enduring post-war tonic to supposedly ensure the next generation had ‘good bones’. Notoriously prolific – crates of untouched curdling bottles were always hanging around the most over-heated corridor in the building – the hearty swig on a weedy straw through the blue or red topped pints was, for ages, as much a part of the morning routine as running about whooping at a dog loose in the playground. Then Margaret Thatcher famously curtailed universal guzzling of the white stuff when the country sank into yet another 1970s economic slump, though nursery and primary schools were allowed to continue siphoning it out for another decade. The final deliveries were made in 1986 – until, that is, local authorities in Scotland recently decided to re-introduce it, thereby rather charitably allowing kids to partake in the right kind of nostalgia even before they could read or write.
TV CREAM SAYS: OH FOR THOSE FAR OFF, STRANGE DAYS WHEN CHILDREN WERE JUDGED TO BE CONSUMING TOO *FEW* DAIRY PRODUCTS...
- Active Learning
- Agitprop Theatre
- Angel Delight
- Anti-Static Bumper Strips
- Banda Duplicators
- Barclaycard adverts with Whicker
- Barratt Homes
- Big D Nut Displays
- Bilton, Eileen
- Birdseye Steakhouse Grills
- Bottle of Guinness Supporter's Club, The
- Brian Rogers Connection, The
- British Rail's 'Age of the Train' ads
- British Wine
- BSB squarial
- Butler, Neil
- Button B
- Captain Beaky
- Casual font, The
- Choices Pension Ads
- Choose Your Own Adventure
- Christmas card post boxes
- Colour Separation Overlay
- Covered markets
- Crosse and Blackwell Alphabet Soup in a cube
- Dingbats, The
- DJ Kat
- Domesday Project, The
- Domino Toppling
- Dry Ice Laser Light Tunnel, The
- Energy Saving Campaigns
- Esso World Cup Coin Collection, The
- Everest windows
- Fairlight CMI
- Flash cubes
- Food Awareness Campaigns
- Free milk
- Glacé Cherries
- Gloy gum
- Gold Spinner
- Gossamer Albatross
- Green Shield Stamps
- Holiday on Ice
- Home taping
- Horace, of ZX Spectrum fame
- House of Dübreq
- Ice Magic
- Ideal Milk
- Instant Sunshine
- James Bond Digital Alarm Watches
- Jay, Ricky
- Jumper, Bored-Looking Men Standing About in the Front Room With Loads of Bits of Pattern Paper Pinned to Them by Their Wife Who's Knitting Them a
- Karaoke Challenge
- King's Singers, The
- Kodak Disc Camera, The
- Luminous socks
- Magnetic Weather Maps on the BBC
- Marsaud, La famille
- Midland Griffin, The
- Moretti, Hans
- Music and Movement
- Nat West Piggy Bank Savings Scheme
- National Garages
- Naughty French Wine
- Naughty... but Nice
- Nescafé chez Hunt
- Newspaper bingo wars
- Nimble Bread
- Noddy, Tom
- Parker Lady Pen, The
- Pirate Reading Scheme
- Pools Coupons
- Portable television sets
- Prize Yoghurts
- Quadraphonic Sound
- Qualcast Concorde ads
- Rabbit Phone Network, The
- Ready-Mixed Spirits
- Regional trade adverts
- Rondo Veneziano
- Roomsize Remnants
- School book clubs
- Scrolling LED Displays in Newsagents' Windows
- Shatterproof Typeface, The
- Slimtel InPhone
- Soda Stream
- Space exploration being taken seriously
- Spidery Octopus Things That Rolled Down Windows, Those
- Stage school choruses on adverts
- Stamp Bug Club, The
- Stork SB
- Sugar Puffs Honey Monster, The
- Swing Seats
- Telex Machines
- Telly cabinets on wheels
- Tesco checkout
- Trimphone impersonators
- TV Repairs
- Unterlander's Heimweh
- Vertical Hold, Fiddling With The
- Wicksteed Park
- Wimpy Bars
- Woolworths Christmas adverts
- X Stamps, Those Little Spot-the-Ball
- Yellow Pages, The 'Good Old' Days
- Zigger Zagger
It’s 1991, midnight, and you’re scrambling around in a half-lit kitchen, trying to pad quietly around as not to wake your half-listening parents, tripping over the cat as you go and you’re raiding your Mum’s cupboards for food she won’t notice missing from the cupboard and subsequently won’t tut loudly over the omission over the next day (like one half of a loaf of bread and cheese).
As you go, you’re only slightly drunkenly pondering why there are glacé cherries in the cupboard. Have they been there since 1980? (Surely that’s the last time your Mum seriously considered making a conceptual cocktail avec sugar-coated cherry garnish? You certainly haven’t noticed her baking Bakewell tarts anytime ever…) And you certainly haven’t seen them being slipped into the Kwik Save trolley lately. Come to think of it, as you accidentally tip over the tooth pics and cocktail umbrellas to grab one en route to your mouth, you realise your parents have never sipped a cocktail in their lives.
TV CREAM SAYS: COME TO THINK OF IT, HOW LONG HAVE THOSE PINK FLAMINGO STIRRERS AND CERISE COCKTAIL UMBRELLAS BEEN THERE?
There are few things in life more satisfying that painstakingly peeling a dried bit of glue off the side of the bottle and rolling it between your fingers. Such was the excitement of using Gloy, the clear glue that managed to enjoy 99.9 percent penetration of Britain’s classrooms. With memorable lower case ‘gloy gum’ logo, the product came in plastic squeezy bottles with a nubbly dispenser on the top which, inevitably, would get good and gummed up after a few squeezes onto crêpe paper and therefore require stabbing with a pair of scissors before you continued. Eventually the rise and rise of Pritt Stick saw Gloy fall out of favour, not helped by the fact that some kid would always make a right mess with it and stick everything to the table. The same was true of its less transparent ‘rival’, Marvin, meaning those essential little green spatulas soon fell into disuse.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE DREADED POST-LESSON WASHING UP RITUAL AFTERWARDS MERELY SPREAD THE GLOOP FURTHER AFIELD
Not so much a cheese spread, more a way of life. Well, that was the marketing plan, at least. In the admittedly small world of foil-wrapped triangular processed cheesy spreads, Dairylea reigns supreme. It was not ever thus: the 1970s played host to St Ivel’s Gold Spinner, a tenacious paste of solid milk which sought to steal a march on Kraft’s creation. Firstly, it upped the zany flavours ante with a multifarious assortment of tomato, pickle and onion-augmented wedges. Secondly, a cartoon ad campaign was cooked up, featuring Roderick, a gawky, accident-prone pre-teen in outsize baseball cap, who got into amusing scrapes as his frizzy-haired lisping sister and pet dog looked wryly on. This seemingly watertight approach was no match for Dairylea’s stage school showcase campaign, and the brand didn’t make it far into the 1980s.
TV CREAM SAYS: CAN I HAVE ONE WITHOUT BITS IN, PLEASE?
It was one of those record-breaking events, like domino toppling and giant houses of cards, that children’s TV lived for. Blue Peter, John Craven’s Newsround and Record Breakers got plenty of mileage out of NASA scientist Dr Paul MacCready’s attempt to fly across the English Channel in a man-powered aircraft. Luckily for pilot Bryan Allen, after all the media build-up, the backward-facing, all-plastic contraption with bicycle-powered propeller didn’t fare as ridiculously as it looked – the crossing was made in a shade under three hours, and children briefly forgave NASA for their unconscionable dallying over the space shuttle.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE POOR MAN'S THRUST II
So many artifacts evocative of the 1960s and 70s turn out to hail from antiquity, but the corner-shop-and-petrol-station-oriented phenomenon of Green Shield stamps only started up in 1958, despite the venerable glue-backed perforated dividend tokens looking like they hailed from some Edwardian printing press. This was, of course, partly the point. The resolutely old-fashioned ethos of saving up ‘points’, symbolised by each small stamp spewed out by a little metal machine by the side of the till and diligently stuck into a special booklet (there were bigger ones that counted for ten points or more, to save on your saliva) preached hard graft and patience. But then, when enough had been accumulated, it was off to the catalogue for – yippee! – toasters, glassware, Kenwood Chefettes and even, should you fill a comically enormous stack of booklets, a colour telly! Its was consumerism gone mad, though it worked, its only serious rival being the pale blue Co-op Dividend stamps scheme. Whatever the colour, mile-long reams of perforated paper being awkwardly stuffed into bulging purses were one of the all-time most evocative signifiers of grocery shopping.
TV CREAM SAYS: FINALLY CAME UNSTUCK IN 1992
It was launched during the second world war and still goes on in a big chilly shed somewhere in the world, but this never-ending (in all senses) ‘ice spectacular’ will forever be associated in the British mind with that period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, when it was guaranteed a sizeable chunk of a particularly drab bank holiday afternoon on BBC1, ensuring a mass exodus over to the film of Bless This House on the other side. Initially a feathered homage to Busby Berkeley (but on ice skates), latterly a bunch of people in rubbery costumes falling over a lot (but on ice skates), it’s chiefly remembered, aside from stinking out the schedules, for that ever-increasing ‘let’s all link arms and spin round the rink in a big long line’ climax that was so easily replicable round your local rink. Holiday… didn’t exist in its own sequinned time bubble, however, latching on to flavours of the moment such as Snoopy in 1976 and disco in, er, 1985.
TV CREAM SAYS: STILL, ROBIN COUSINS, EH?
Nowadays your recordable DVDs and iPods allow you to store your favourite music and TV in whatever format you want. However in the pre-VHS era, if you wanted to enjoy your favourite TV show again, you either had to invest in a bulky, expensive reel-to-reel video recorder, or, rather easier, hold the microphone from your tape recorder to the telly speaker and make an audio recording. Inevitably you’d hear your sister shrieking in the background, but given the theme to Windmill was unlikely to make it onto seven inch, this was as good as it got. Similarly, if you couldn’t afford to buy your favourite current singles, Sunday teatimes would see you crouched over the radio, taping what you wanted off the Top Forty on Radio One. Inevitably this meant keeping your finger over the stop button, desperate to avoid getting any of the DJ’s voice on the tape – adding that extra sheen of professionalism. As any Musicians’ Union member would tell you, recording such copyrighted material was illegal, and clearly not to be encouraged. However in later years, the BBC managed to retrieve a substantial amount of stuff no longer in the archives, thanks to a home-taping amnesty. Sadly there was no call for low-quality copies of Shakin’ Stevens singles drowned out by your mum shouting you down for your tea.
TV CREAM SAYS: IT’S KILLING MUSIC, BUT IT'S ALSO SAVING YOUR FAVOURITE SID SNOT SKETCHES
Oversized blue featureless head – er, kind of – on legs, famed for ‘his’ unerring ability to get hit by an ambulance and then rescued by an ambulance in the epochal HORACE GOES SKIING (1982) ZX Spectrum game, the road-crossing level of which was much more exciting than the actual skiing itself. Also good at battling spiders (HORACE AND THE SPIDERS, 1983) and park-keepers (HUNGRY HORACE, 1981).See post
Despite sounding like a minor European royal family from a Dynasty end of series special, the House of Dübreq was, initially at least, three blokes called Ted, Burt and Brian, who augmented their film sound dubbing and recording business (dub-req, see?) with the invention of the Stylophone in 1967, got Rolf Harris on board, and never looked back. Paul Daniels was the next celeb to lend his face to the firm, endorsing a collectible series of rhomboidally-packaged magic tricks with colour-coded difficulty ratings, which he plugged in a basic telly campaign shared with Rolf’s squeezy paint-filled art brushes. ‘All from the House of Dübreq!’ chanted the unlikely pair in unison. But these were mere diversions from their flagship product, the truly inspired Top Trumps. Sadly this wasn’t enough to keep the business afloat, and the early 1980s saw the company close, flogging the Trumps to Waddingtons. A new incarnation, however, recently rose from the ashes, helmed by Brian’s son Ben. What fresh aural mayhem they’ll unleash remains to be seen.
TV CREAM SAYS: NUMBER OF CYLINDERS: SIX
One of those 1950s childhood artifacts that lingered on onto the 70s and beyond by sheer bloody force of will (see also: The Famous Five, Meccano, Jack Hargreaves), these little themed spot ‘n’ jot booklets covered the gamut of outdoor entities from birds to car registrations to the glamorous ‘on the pavement’, for eager spies to complete (no cheating now!) and send off to Big Chief I-Spy, Wigwam on the Green, Paddington. Yes, it was all very ‘delightfully un-PC they’ll be banning scotch eggs next’ if you really must bore the entire snug bar into oblivion, but let’s not let a tedious Jeremy Vine-style debate obscure that evocative, visceral thrill of… Er, looking at some things and then ticking a little box to say you’d seen them.
TV CREAM SAYS: FORMAT HIJACKED IN LATE '70S BY DAVID BELLAMY
This begrudgingly sickly yet alluring pudding feature enjoyed a window of mid-1980s ubiquity when any mum with a modicum of sense made sure a substantially-filled bottle was always ready in the cupboard. Ice Magic lived in a crappy plastic squirty pyramid at room temperature, but when applied over ice-cream turned from runny liquid to a rock-hard solid, forming – depending on the application – a wafer-thin veneer (for wimps) or a massive crust (for die-hard dessert denizens). The only problem was you had to wait fifteen minutes for the thing to harden, by which time you’d invariably excavated all the ice-cream and were left with a lump of chocolate you may as well have got from out the biscuit tin.
TV CREAM SAYS: CHEMISTRY IN DELICIOUS ACTION
The finishing touch to a million Sunday afternoon desserts, Ideal evaporated milk from Nestlé’s (pronounced ‘Nessles’, never ‘Ness-lay’) brought a dash of creamy richness to any bowl of jelly, fruit cocktail or peach segments. Evaporated milk etiquette demanded that one made a hole in the top of the blue can with a tin opener, before decanting it into a jug. Rivalry came in the shape of Ideal’s nemesis Carnation, prompting a Coke vs Pepsi-style battle of red and blue tins. In the 1980s, evap, as the connoisseurs called it, faced new challenges, not least from Nestlé’s own Tip Top, a Bernard Cribbins-impersonating concoction (‘Whoops-ooh, aren’t you looking slim, mum?’) and, fatally, from Anchor Cream in a can (‘You just go squirt! Squirt! Squirt!’). Sunday teatimes with Jim Bowen and the Man from Del Monte were never the same after that.
TV CREAM SAYS: DAVID JASON PICKED UP SOME EARLY WORK AS A VENTRILOQUIST'S DUMMY IN THE EARLY '70S ADS
Unapologetic graduates of the straw boater/starched spats school of wordplay and whimsy, scarce indeed was the light-hearted magazine programme of the 1970s and 1980s that didn’t call upon capricious ensemble Instant Sunshine to supply a full stop to a line-up of topical chat, consumer watchdoggery and cut-price cuisine. Erstwhile medical students Alan Maryon-Davis, David Barlow and Peter Christie had swapped their lab coats for blazers in the late 1960s, moving swiftly from college hops to the Edinburgh Fringe to cabaret supremacy. With Christie penning the tunes and new recruit Miles ‘Franglais’ Kington wielding double bass, the tantalising prospect of not one but four Richard Stilgoe’s waxing wry about everything from government subsidy (‘We’re awfully keen on the Arts’) to liturgical controversy (‘Who mowed the lawns of Eden?’) to package holidays (‘Los Peckham Ryos’) became a reality. They were covered by the King’s Singers. They were permanent fixtures in the grubby foyer of Pebble Mill at One. Their appeal spanned the ages from kids on Jackanory – semi-musical tales including ‘The Search for the Source of the M1’ – to remuneratively-challenged pensioners listening to Radio 4 (‘Financial review is long overdue/don’t let money stew – with profit in view/what you must do is tune to Money Box’). They were regulars on Robert Robinson’s Stop the Week for decades, slipped effortlessly between the world’s cocktail lounges and literary festivals, and outgunned and outpunned rival harmonisers Harvey and the Wallbangers ten to one. Side projects, including Alan’s stint climbing in and out of giant polystyrene capillaries on BBC1’s Bodymatters, failed to derail the ‘Sunshine’s state, though Miles eventually buggered off to do more newspaper columns about funny foreign accents. Thankfully they’re still going strong today, with David’s son Peter now on bass and the repertoire bolstered by ice-cube chinking winners like ‘Don’t tell the Abbot’, ‘Cucumber Sandwiches’ and ‘Conservation Conversation’. Scat’s the way to do it.
TV CREAM SAYS: IN BETWEEN 'ONCE UPON A TIME' AND 'HAPPILY EVER AFTER' THERE'S A TALE TO TELL...
Also-ran Atari console rival from the days when cartridge-based video games still seemed just about a really good idea. Small controversy was drummed up with ads taking the Big A head on, and claiming technical superiority. But, in classic VHS-Betamax style, the better man lost, thanks to a lacklustre roster of games including Fantastic Voyage knock-off Microsurgeon and Burgertime, wherein giant sausages chased a chef up and down ladders.
TV CREAM SAYS: ROLL ON THE TAPE-DRIVEN HOME COMPUTER BOOM
From the KP Snaps Swimming Bag to the ‘Roller Radio’ (whatever that was exactly), promotional giveaways involving the accruement of a specified quantity of empty crips packets were a proto-recycling regular occurrence in the early eighties. Thus it was that in 1983, Smiths Crisps attempted to surf a wave of James Bond hysteria in the wake of the release of Octopussy by giving away cheap flimsy digital watches with two important differences – that familiar ’007′ logo rendered in a sort of crumbly off-yellow hue, and the ability to ‘beep’ a flat, tuneless, unrecognisable and (thanks to cost-cutting technology) virtually unstoppable rendition of the John Barry/Monty Norman/Delete Where Legally Acceptable franchise signature tune at a digitally predetermined time, only with an additional extraneous non-canon ‘beep’ at the end for no readily obvious reason. And surf that wave they certainly did – for a couple of months, playgrounds were uttertly swamped with youngsters proudly toting their Roger Moore-slanted time-telling acquisitions, leading to a teacher-infuriating cacophony of twenty three slightly-out-of-sync watch-generated Bond Themes sounding whenever the end of a lesson approached. Mercifully, so carefully tailored to the film’s theatrical lifespan were they that within a short while, failing components reduced the once-proud guitar-aping fanfare to a sort of dejected buzz, and the watches were ditched even faster than George Lazenby.
TV CREAM SAYS: BEEP BEEPBEEPBEEP BEEP BEEPBEEP...
A loudmouth American card sharp, Ricky Jay was all over TV in the 1980s as a speciality act, or ‘bloke who can do one really stupid thing really well’ to use the layman’s term. Jay would turn up and, with much sweaty decibel-rich verbosity, set up a bisected watermelon on one side of the stage, walk over to the other and flick playing cards into it with lethal speed and pinpoint accuracy. But wait! There’s more! He’d then turn the melon round, and do the same to what he termed ‘the outer, pachydermitous hide’ of the melon. But Jay’s turn was culturally significant for reasons independent of the high-speed laminated-paper/cantaloupe interface. Before you could say ‘yes, very good, but is that it?’ Jay pretty much admitted, in the same voluminously baroque West Coast showman’s verbiage, that yes, it is a bit of a daft way to make a living, what am I doing with my life, etc. Thus postmodernist self-deprecation was introduced to the variety stage, almost without anyone noticing. Within a decade or two, there’d be no other way to act…