WH Smith goes ska in 1980


IMG_62321979 and 1980 were the glory years of the so-called “second wave” of ska music – first wave in Jamaica twenty plus years before and now the 2Tone wave came crashing out of Coventry. The Specials seized the charts by the scruff of the neck with a string of hits. And even WH Smith felt the vibe as the his ad from 1980 shows.

But…by the end of 1981, political pop gave way to bubblegum pop. However, fans of bands like The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat have remained fiercely loyal to the present. And it would be remiss of me not to mention that I co-authored the biography of Neville Staple, front man in The Specials, titled Original Rude Boy.

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Northern Ireland Troubles in 1980


Thank goodness this seems like an epoch ago! Even though I’m half Irish, I’m glad to say that the carnage we once witnessed year after year in Northern Ireland now seems a distant nightmare. One can’t be complacent but – fingers crossed – we don’t look set to return to those days anytime soon.

Here’s a reminder of how awful it was – the latest update from The Observer in 1980. What a sad front cover.

1980 – the Year of the Skinhead


That may not be how many would wish to remember the year but at the time, it was hard to ignore skinheads. Much maligned or did they get the criticism they deserved? Putting it crudely, there were skinheads who were bad and skinheads who were broadly good.

Bad skins supported the National Front, caused trouble on football terraces and if you saw a group walking down the road towards you – it was best to think of an exit strategy. Skinhead punk bands featured prominently as cheerleaders for fascist politics and one group undoubtedly played a major role in provoking the 1981 Southall Riot – though they whined to the NME afterwards that it was all a terrible mistake.

Good skins weren’t necessarily helping little old ladies across the road but they were more likely to be adopting a style they knew was associated with Jamaican music.  I knew skinheads on the far left of British politics and of course, the skinhead look was already being adopted by the gay scene – though some within the gay scene were heavily critical of the look.

Here’s how the Observer in 1980 reported on the year of the skinhead.

Thatcher first year in power


Here’s an interesting front cover from a Sunday Times colour supplement in 1980 “celebrating” the first year of Thatcher in power. Me or my sister defaced Maggie’s face with a beard and moustache at the time! Around her head – framed like Joan of Arc – are winged angels representing (from left to right) Geoffrey Howe, Lord Carrington, Willie Whitelaw, Keith Joseph and Jim Prior. Down below is Michael Heseltine looking a little wistful. At that stage, Thatcher was embattled and rumours were flying that Heseltine had his eye on Number 10.

The 1980 Soviet Olympic opening ceremony – wierd!!


OK – first of all, the Olympics were held in Moscow in 1980 when it was at the centre of the Soviet Union and under the thumb of President Brezhnev.  It all seems a long, long time ago now – but you didn’t dream it. Every Mayday and in November, we used to see huge Communist parades in front of the Kremlin celebrating international workers day and the Russian revolution respectively. A lot of that style was translated into the opening ceremony for the Olympics, which by today’s standards looks remarkably stilted. But back then – we were all amazed by that synchronized stuff in the crowds. It seemed hi-tech by 1980 standards!