Charming guide to being a hipster – if it’s 1986

Countdown Issue 32, 1986January 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

Countdown Spandau Ballet 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.
Molly audio tapes

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.

I've got a Swatch

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!

What was cool for you in the ‘80s?  Do you remember Smash Hits and Countdown magazine?


[i] These pictures were removed for the serious business of photo album scrapbooking.  I have another large box housing bulbous albums with arbitrary mountain ranges on the front and browning paper clippings neatly arranged beneath flimsy plastic security blankets.


42 comments for “Charming guide to being a hipster – if it’s 1986

  1. January 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    pretty much grew up with countdown and rage and love dthe magazines threw most of mine out by the time i left high school ima big fan of 70s and 80s music check out my webpage at dont suppose u have any articles on colin hay or men at work saw him live several times awesome to meet too !!
    fran crisp

    • This Charming Mum
      January 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      I don’t have any Colin Hay material around at the moment, but I’m sure it must be there in my old Countdown mags. If I spot any, I’ll keep you in mind!

  2. Min
    January 26, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Oh I loved Countdown – always watched it. Never had the magazines though? In 1986 I had been married for one year but was only 21 in May 1986. Loved the 80’s music. The fashion…well…not so much looking back LOL

    • This Charming Mum
      January 29, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      Oh, I don’t know. I did love my Swatch! lol

  3. January 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Oh those music mags were my life, then I had kids and well now they are history….

  4. January 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    I remember Smash Hits, until I got all indie and cool and subversive which basically meant I paid a fortune to buy imported magazines, and looked exactly the same as all my other friends who were into the same stuff I was! 😉

    • This Charming Mum
      January 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      Yes I did a stint as a goth/mod/something-or-other and became too cool for Smash Hits too – but I never got rid of the old ones 🙂

  5. January 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

    We really have come so far. Scary thing is its nearly 30 years ago and it feels like yesterday. Visiting from the Camera Chronicles.

    • This Charming Mum
      January 25, 2013 at 11:43 am

      I know – it’s gone so quickly, and yet so much has happened!

  6. ana74x
    January 25, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Yes, yes, yes, and yes!!! So many fun reminders! I was a total Smash Hits JUNKIE!!!! Owned a swatch watch, loved Jewel Of The Nile, all of it!!!

    • This Charming Mum
      January 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one Ana!

  7. January 23, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I had that very copy of Countdown Magazine. And I read Smash Hits religiously!
    I went and saw Kids in the Kitchen in concert once. I threw a soft puppy dog toy at Scott Carne and he held it as he sang “Current Stand” Swooooooon!

    Oh, Lara! I love how I come to your blog and it transports me right back to high school!

    • This Charming Mum
      January 23, 2013 at 9:35 am

      Thanks Grace! I’m just glad there are a few people out there who know where I’m coming from. Oh I would have swooned too if Scott Carne had held my puppy toy. And I bet he kept it forever and ever too… 😉

  8. January 19, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Wow, what a blast from the past. I didn’t buy Countdown so much as Smash Hits…lol wish I still had copies! Great to look through. I’m starting a link (hopefully this Friday) titled Flashback Friday for posts just like this one. Feel free to stop by and link up if you discover any more hidden treasures! Or you can add this post if you like 🙂

    • This Charming Mum
      January 20, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Thanks Cathy. I will definitely check out your link up. Sounds right up my alley!

  9. January 18, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    I was born in 1982 and was never acquainted with countdown magazine- but I do remember the Teen Mum deodorant and Smash Hits. No matter what ANYONE says to you, you hold on tight now to those magazines now, you here? They are ‘collectables’!

    • This Charming Mum
      January 19, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Thanks! I’ll tell my husband you said that!

  10. January 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Hmm… Geoooke?
    Lame. I know. PENPALS! I used to have a couple of penpals, those were the days. But as for the rest of the post – I don’t really know what you’re talking about hahahaha.

  11. January 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I have just gone back in time to sony tapes and my first portable tape deck.

    • This Charming Mum
      January 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

      Those were the day eh? Well, maybe not…

  12. January 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    They were my bibles, I loved them when I was a teen. I was 80s music obssessed too. I remember the floppy vinyls!

  13. January 16, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Hello memory lane!

    I can’t help but think of a radio competition we had for Kids in the Kitchen back in the day whenever they are mentioned. You had to send an envelope to the radio station with your school name on the back and the school with the most envelopes won an in school concert. We spend weeks making envelopes. Unfortunately, we only came second so we got nothing except a lot of paper cuts.

    • This Charming Mum
      January 16, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      Oh gosh, seems like such a waste of paper in this day and age doesn’t it? What a bummer to come second though – so near and yet so far!

  14. January 16, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Oh this cracks me up! I had heaps of Teen Hits magazines for years, but managed to part with them eventually. If not Boatman would have by now!

    • This Charming Mum
      January 16, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      I do need to get rid of them one of these days … just not today 🙂

  15. January 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Oh my- a few good chuckles at the astute observations here. Everyone was going to marry George Michael, weren’t they? (I was every little hungry school girl’s pride and joy/ And I guess it was enough for me…) Well it was for a time, anyway.

    I had so many of these mags, the only one I wish I still had now was the one with the A-ha free floppy vinyl picture single. Don’t know what happened to that. And my brother had the transparent ‘jelly fish’ Swatch everyone wanted. Oh boy was I envious for a time. Thanks for this! Visiting from #teamIBOT

    • This Charming Mum
      January 16, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      I remember that picture single! I had an A-Ha freebie one that had a song (not sure which) and an interview with the band recorded on it. We might be thinking of the same one. My box of vinyl is also stored somewhere and needs sorting!

  16. January 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Oh man I totally had a swatch – remember ‘sychronise swatches’! And I had a pen pal from Iowa in American, but I can’t even remember how we hooked up!!! Thanks for memories! Emily

    • This Charming Mum
      January 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      Those Swatches were certainly THE must have accessory. Pen pals were cool. I’m still in touch with one of mine (thanks to Facebook).

  17. January 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Cold Chisel and then Jimmy Barnes were my “thing” back in the 80’s butI have to admit Thriller was my first album.

    My favourite memory from late in the decade was of course expo 88, I was there almost every day or every night depending on which shift I was working.

    BrookenGeor (broken jaw) sorry, the best I could come up with.

    • This Charming Mum
      January 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      So I be you went to see Jimmy Barnes when he played at Expo then? I remember the old river stage. BrookenGeor is not bad at all 🙂

  18. January 15, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I thought Swatches were so cool 🙂

  19. January 15, 2013 at 5:05 pm


    • This Charming Mum
      January 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      Nice work Rachel! I reckon that would be the one the mags would choose.

  20. January 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Ghields? I was one of the thousands of hopefuls looking for pen pals in Smash Hits. I hoped to connect with fellow Cure fans.

    • This Charming Mum
      January 16, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      The Cure did such a good job of crossing over groups of fans and the related magazines – you could be into fluffy pop or be a hard core goth and somehow still like the Cure!

  21. Enid Bite'Em
    January 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    It doesn’t really work, but ‘Grooke’ makes me laugh (what it takes to amuse small minds) 🙂

    • This Charming Mum
      January 15, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Yeah, it’s not an easy one is it? I really tried but I came up with zilch. Beorge? Mields? Shichael? I got nothing.

  22. January 15, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Oh, lol. Takes me back. I would have been 9 years old, and definitely sporting a swatch (or two).

    • This Charming Mum
      January 15, 2013 at 11:08 am

      Yeah, the more Swatches the better if you believe the ad!

  23. January 15, 2013 at 7:55 am

    fantastic article, although I do like a bit of Starship 🙂

    • This Charming Mum
      January 15, 2013 at 11:08 am

      Sing it and be proud Emma! I think I did like that song back in the day, but that’s because it was linked to the movie Mannequin which I loved 🙂

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