January has been a big month for spring cleaning at Charming HQ. We’ve been tackling a bunch of those niggling jobs that never quite get struck off the list: fixing the broken base of the TV cabinet; rearranging the shelving in the shed; rehousing 236-odd Smash Hits and Countdown magazines – you know how it goes. But wait, what was that last one? Ah yes, my “collection” (please say this in your most facetious tone of voice; punctuation simply doesn’t do it justice). No matter how scathingly sarcastic you are about my mags, you’ll never match the grunts and groans and eye rolls emitted by the partners, family members and removalists who’ve had to lug this precious cargo from pillar to post over the years. Music meant the world to me as a teen, quite typically, and I come from a long line of hoarders. The end result is a big pile of paper that I’ve never quite known how to dispose of.
They’re not really worth selling – especially as they’re far from mint condition. There are very few of the stapled centrefolds still in situ and many pages feature gaping holes where pictures of Duran Duran et al once sat.[i] I’ve worked in enough museums and libraries to know that they’re unlikely to be a big ticket item there either. Their current possie is nestled in my baby son’s wardrobe; and there they’ll stay until he’s old enough to demand hanging space, I guess. But, if nothing else, I can share them with you! Consider this the first of what’s likely to be a haphazard series of magazine review posts when I’m stuck for inspiration.
Here’s the first one off the pile – randomly selected from what I could reach without doing a hammy. Countdown Magazine, Issue 32, with a young Scott Carne from Kids in the Kitchen on the cover. Who remembers what passed for cool in 1986?
Top 10 trendy trends from March 1986
1. Long before I’d heard of Captain Feathersword, suave lead singers like Scott Carne were rocking the fashion for pirate jewellery. Colours du jour, for men’s fashion at least, were black and white as modelled here by Spandau Ballet (in a surprisingly intact back cover poster). Other fashion hits include mail order black (only) t-shirts with vinyl iron-on band pictures. It wasn’t until at least 1987 that I realised what a rip off they were since they rarely survived wash day without peeling at the edges.
2. The magazine came with a free record: a floppy, coloured vinyl recording of Hold On by Mental as Anything (Don’t remember it? Me neither). Coloured vinyl was HUGE in the ‘80s and for the life of me I can’t remember why. Later in the magazine we find Molly Meldrum promoting Sony audio cassettes and Coke promoting itself by linking to VHS tapes – because “Coke is a live concert. Anything else is just a replay”. Yeah, man, that’s right.
3. The Go-Betweens were on tour, playing venues including the Byron Bay Arts Factory, Melbourne Uni and the Queensland Uni Refectory. A whole bunch of people who got their degrees for free have just gone “Ahhhhh”.
4. Not a great month for new releases with We Built This City by Starship taking out a full page colour advertisement. Apparently they were knee deep in the hoopla. Shame it wasn’t quicksand.
5. Pen pals were a thing, and people were happy to share their actual home address with a nation of strangers in the hope of getting actual paper letters from other young groovers who were into, you know, Pseudo Echo and stuff.
6. There’s a hard hitting article about teenage pregnancy, which responsibly provides contact numbers for counselling organisations and explains all the options (you should probably whisper that bit). Unfortunately there’s also a large ad for a deodorant called ‘Teen Mum’ a few pages later.
7. Swatch and Studio Line. If you were there, you’ll know.
8. In “I only read it for the articles…” news, there’s an exposé on the punk scenes in East Berlin, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Two of those countries technically no longer exist, but in 1986 the punk movement was providing protest music on the eve of revolution. Fascinating.
9. Jewel of the Nile was the comedy movie smash, while the Young Ones made comedy by smashing the system (take that Thatcher!) Meryl Streep promoted Out of Africa looking not too much different from how she looks today.
10. And finally, it wouldn’t be a magazine without a hot celebrity couple. With far more than their fair share of hair, George Michael and Brooke Shields were hooking up! 10 points to the first reader who can join those names Brangelina-style. Didn’t she also date Michael Jackson? Boy, she could pick ’em!