A ‘revolutionary’ cordless (note – never ‘mobile’) phone system introduced by Hutchison Telecommunications (geddit?) in the early ’90s, which relied on the user being in close proximity to a ‘Rabbit point’ (at home, or in a shop, station, etc.) for the phone to be useable. Died out quickly, but the stickers (upside-down capital ‘R’ made to look like a rabbit’s head) can still be spotted on the doors of shops who’ve forgotten to take them down.
R is for…
Up until the late 1980s, British TV adverts were properly produced, if often uninspired, affairs. Then, as the 1980s gave out their death rattle, a cheap, nasty-looking, muddy-sounding, seemingly unending no frills abomination appeared in daytime ad breaks in between Home Cookery Club and the revival of Gems, in which an excitable voice-over breathlessly ran through the many kitchen duties that were slightly beyond the bounds of the Rap’Tou, a sort of hand-cranked food processor with a knife attachment and another bit that did something else and a sort of bracket on the bottom. Viewers dimly remembered similarly bare bones ads from the earlier half of the decade on behalf of the mighty Ronco empire, but these were altogether more brash, eager-to-please, and downright un-British, the evangelical voice-over continually asking itself awed questions the audience would never bother to put in a thousand years, only to answer them itself as if the secret of eternal life and everlasting personal freshness had been stumbled upon just in time for part two of A Country Practice. ‘Watch how Rap-Tou deals with this hard-boiled egg! Look! But where’s the shell? Amazing!’ Well, you carry on with that, we’ll just be outside. And that’s not all! Later came attempts to flog a job lot of plastic stacking chairs that had lost their legs by marketing them as The Abdominizer, a rickety-looking gizmo that enabled the lucky punter to ‘Rock – rock – ROCK Your way to fitness!’ After that, the deluge, and British commercial TV now consists almost entirely of depressing tat being flogged by shouty men.
TV CREAM SAYS: WRITE TO: ADMAIL 77, PO BOX 77, PLYMOUTH
Cinzano and Campari began to look a tad retrograde in the brave new 1980s world of chrome barstools and rich men without moustaches, so distillers marketed a slew of ready-mixed drinks to capture that burgeoning female boozership. Taboo and Mirage (white wine, vodka and spices/citrus fruit respectively) set the aspirational standard with chiffon-clad women dreamily sipping the beverages as they reclined against marble columns and gazed out over an airbrushed landscape. Elsewhere, globetrotting models enthused about Monterez, ‘a delightfully bittersweet blend of white whine, brandy and a subtle tang of orange’. Most stomach-churning of all was banana-rum hybrid Calypso (‘never has the banana been so exotically drunk!’) Other ads sought to make provincial singles clubs look the epitome of urban swank. Lime-tinged Bacardi spin-off Bezique and fizzy infusion Volari were promoted as the one sure-fire way to turn a drab, empty nightspot into a vibrant hub of hand-to-mouth tittering and rolled-up jacket-sleeve seduction. And that very mating ritual turned up in the ads for pear-flavoured liqueur Calviere, with future Eastenders nasty Nick Cotton trying to lay the charm on a hapless temp in a Leicester Square nightclub by quoting the chorus to Bill Wyman’s Je Suis Un Rock Star. But these drinks were largely consumed for one purpose only: to get smashed as quickly as possible. Small wonder the most popular was the sophistication-dodging blend of British wine and whiskey that was Clan Dew.
TV CREAM SAYS: STILL TO BE FOUND CONGEALING AT THE BACK OF A COCKTAIL CABINET NEAR YOU
Sadly, with ITV regions practically extinct, the humble local telly ad’s becoming a rare species. The most basic was the still picture plus voiceover, exemplified by the Wigan Market campaign, which in its entirety consisted of a still of said location over which a voice implored ‘come to Wigan Market!’ Every region had these, be they for Yeovil Sheepskin or four-in-one Scottish electrical goods merchants Glens, Hutchinsons, Robertson and Stepek. Slightly more sophisticated ads employed a mascot: the animated lion who declared Don Amott ‘king of caravans’, the old lady who espoused the loveliness of Shackleton’s high seat chairs, or the Superman clone with enormous packet who strode through a furniture store as the jingle proclaimed, ‘when you walk through the door/your pound’s worth more/at Williams… where else?’ Next step up was to rope in someone famous. Manchester’s BOC Cars hired an ermine-clad Bernard Manning (‘we’re the Earls Court of the North!’), while Frank ‘Captain Peacock’ Thornton played a store manager for Welsh furniture shop Arthur Llewellyn Jenkins. Most glamorous of all was Midlands Yugo outlet Swithland Motors, who hired Sam Fox for a series of stilted skits with comical loser Wally, who fainted in awe of Sam’s spoilers, sunroof and trendy white paintjob. If you couldn’t afford a celeb, why not become one yourself? Many local entrepreneurs went before the cameras flogging their wares. In Ulster, it was Crazy Prices’ perpetually terrified Jim Megaw. Colindale Volkswagen was plugged by parachuting proprietor Ray Thacker. The North West was treated to the spectacle of estate agent Owen Oyston falling backwards into a swimming pool. And we’re supposed to be in the middle of the age of ‘make do and mend’ right now? Pah!
TV CREAM SAYS: IT WAS YOUR REGION, YOU KNEW WHERE IT WAS, AND HOW TO DRAW ITS LOGO ON YOUR SCHOOL JOTTER
Ronco was, first and foremost, an all-American empire of tat purveying bottle cutters and Veg-O-Matics to the honest folk of Poughkeepsie – and easy material for Atlantic City supper club stand-ups. But the British wing of Ron Popeil’s mighty Christmas gift manufacturing concern made us chop-eating islanders feel right at home with bits of fireproof tinsel, the forthright tones of Tommy Vance on announcing duties, and an especially dreary range of gadgetry. Seemingly based around a job lot of electric motors the Ronco boys had somehow ‘acquired’, the early ’80s range of variations on a spinny theme were an object lesson in inventing markets to suit your materials. How did we ever put up with the onerous task of whisking eggs in a bowl before the Ronco Egg Scrambler – an electric motor attached to an off-centre pin – did them for us inside the shell? Similarly, those long, arduous years of occasionally giving dusty stuff a bit of a wipe with a rag were gone forever when you purchased the comically specific and suspiciously similar Ronco Record Cleaner and Ronco Spark Plug Cleaner – as far as records and spark plugs were concerned, at least. Those with chronically weak wrists and piles of spare cash in indivisible units of £2.99 were sold. The rest of us hoped that square present from a distant relative was a box of Matchmakers and nothing more, er, ‘practical’.
TV CREAM SAYS: SEE ALSO THE GLASS FROSTER, CEILING MEASURER, FLOWER LOOM AND JASPER CARROTT'S BONCO BACK-OF-THE-HEAD VIEWER
1983, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that pop’s brief and arguably less than bountiful dalliance with classical music, which peaked with the pomp of high prog had, the ‘slight return’ of Hooked On Classics aside, more or less fiddled its last. But that was to reckon without Italian chamber orchestra Rondo Veneziano, who brought guitars and synths to the classical party for La Serenissima, a neverending ‘diddle-diddle-durr’ refrain that – hey! – put the ‘rock into ‘bar-rock’ (er, ‘baroque’). This ‘waxing’ failed to scrape the UK top 50, but that didn’t stop it being ubiquitous, via guest appearances for the Rond on the likes of Pebble Mill (in 18th century clobber and spooky silver fencing masks) and Venice in Peril, an unfathomable cartoon screened during many an ITV strike, in which a bloke in a spaceship saves the canal city from watery doom by spiriting its veteran architecture away through space. Or something. All the while going ‘diddle-diddle-durr’, natch.
TV CREAM SAYS: STILL TOURING AT A FAIRLIGHT-EQUIPPED BADEN-BADEN CONCERT HALL NEAR YOU
The phrase may be catchily alliterative and describe the leftover bits of carpet going cheap at Allied this Bank Holiday weekend, but not only is it uselessly vague (what size room? what shape?) it hardly entices buyers. (‘Remnants’, eh? Sounds popular!) As such, the phrase was discontinued.