The introduction of moneyraking 0898 numbers in the late ’80s wasn’t entirely restricted to shabby chatlines at the outset – this service offered callers the chance to sing badly into the receiver so that others may call up, listen, and titter aimlessly. But then again it was, as the blanket Channel 4 advertising unimpressively claimed, “your chance to be… famous on the phone!” Which is the best euphemism for ‘unknown’ we’ve yet come across.
K is for…
The 1970s was the decade when, in many cases, what was previously only science fiction became science. (Or, if you were an especially dim journalistic bulb, ‘science fact’. Well, it sounds punchier, doesn’t it? Like saying ‘Dad’s Army telly’ or ‘football sport’.) Inevitably, as soon as those utopian schemes leapt from the pages of Boys Own annuals into society at large, they started looking a bit less ‘gee whiz’ and a bit more ‘ooh, Christ!’ Computers went from debonair robot butlers and all-knowing superbrains to being ominous causes of mass unemployment and ‘that thing from the council that chewed up your rates rebate’ in seconds. Likewise, a future spent merrily munching on soya products instead of nasty old Stone Age stuff like beef and chicken seemed a tad less appetising once various textile – yes, textile -businesses, with the blessing of windmilling nutritionist Magnus Pyke, actually started churning the stuff out. Fabric merchants Courtauld’s knitted strands of amino acids together like they were so much polyester to form Courtauld’s Edible Spun Protein, or ‘Kesp’, which went on the supermarket shelves and sold like… well, like signed photos of Reginald Maudling, to be honest. Undeterred, Courtauld’s – allegedly – did a deal with the government of the time and off-loaded a consignment of the unloved un-food into the nation’s school dinners. If this ever did happen, the offending stuff was probably got through in a matter of months, but the rumour persisted for a good decade afterwards that the mince in that rectangular slice of minced beef pie was something not of this world, when in reality it was a perfectly natural lump of inedible gristle.
TV CREAM SAYS: ANBODY..? NO..? KESP
Ketchips were the type of fad product that would catch your eye whilst traipsing around after your mum during the weekly Presto or Gateway shopping expedition. The high concept at work here was taking the humble chip and inserting tomato ketchup in the middle. As a feat of engineering brilliance it was up there with the Cadbury’s Crème Egg, however the appeal of the ketchip was not quite as enduring as that fondant delight.Indeed, the ketchip was not so much a chip, more a big, soggy potato croquette seemingly made up from a wad of Smash mixture and laced with a vinegary tomato type sauce that was the condiment equivalent of watery squash. Yet during an era in which high street culinary tastes were rapidly expanding, the ketchip seemed just as plausible a product as a prawn cocktail sandwich or even butterscotch Angel Delight.
TV CREAM SAYS: CAUSE NOT HELPED BY REGULATION SHOUTY STAGE SCHOOL KIDS IN THE ADS, CHARMLESSLY BANGING ON ABLY 'FLUFFY CRISPY TATER!'
This vocal sextet, formed by a bunch of like-minded choral scholars from King’s College, Cambridge, has been on the go since 1969, but it’s imperial phase was undoubtedly from the mid-’70s to the early ’80s, when their ‘impeccably manicured vocal blend’ was, quite simply, everywhere. There was the traditional Carols from Kings on Christmas eve night. There were the amusingly plummy a capella covers of Good Vibrations and Life on Mars. There were guest spots with Ronnie Corbett, Nana Mouskouri and the Royal Variety Performance. There were ads for De Kuyper cherry brandy. There was The Frog Chorus. And of course, there was the vesper-like cathedral chant instructing us to retune our radios to receive the BBC frequencies which ‘will be chang-ed at this time’. Amazingly given all this activity, there have only been twenty members in forty years.
TV CREAM SAYS: ROCK ON
‘Yom po-pom pooom… Ah! Guten morgen!’ Don’t you just hate those chubby, ebullient German holidaymakers, forever windsurfing up to your yacht and sticking their nose into your breakfast drink arrangements? Well, no, quite frankly. But, like the similarly made-up stereotype of the early-rising Kraut sticking his towel on the best sun lounger on the beach, sing-song voiced waterborne irritant buffoon Klaus colonized popular culture in the latter half of the ’80s, all in the name of selling also-ran instant coffee Cafe Hag. To be honest, he seemed a tad less hateful than the snide English get on the yacht, but we were never in the ad’s aspirational demographic anyway. ‘Enough for two, ja? Aaaaaaargh!’
TV CREAM SAYS: SCHMELLS GUT!
Those clunky, boxy old Instamatic cameras, eh? All so very ’70s. But now it’s the ’80s, the decade when the future finally arrives in a blaze of synthesised soya-slurping glory, and here come Kodak with the ultra-slinky Disc camera! No more those bulky black and orange binocular-shaped film cartridges – this slimline, sleek little device uses a thin and sexy disc of film, enabling you to take not quite as many pictures of substantially poorer quality with a… what’s that? Er, oh yes, admittedly the sexy minaturisation process means the film size is reduced to little over a centimeter across, with the result that the pictures you get back from Boots are grainier than the most antiquated box brownie, but, er, never mind that, look how slim and sleek and slinky it is! It’s like something out of James Bond! And here’s Peter Bowles doing the telly adverts, emphasising the suave, debonair way it can fit into the breast pocket of a sports jacket without spoiling the line. No, you’re right, at no point does he show an actual picture that’s been taken with one of the blasted things, but, er…
[Point of consumerist order: In the UK at least, the heyday of the Disc camera was around 1986, when Polaroid sued Kodak's arse off for ripping off their patent instant film process, and the guilty party had to shamefacedly contact everyone who'd recently bought one of the offending cameras, informing them that they'd be useless from now on, but offering to do a gratis swapsie with them for... you guessed it, a sleek 'n' slimline Disc camera. So it's a good bet that the majority of these benighted snappers were forced upon folk against their will, rather than actively sought out. By the end of the century, they too would be bound for the big Jessop's in the sky.]