Is this thing working?
Pffft! *Blows dust off keyboard*
Okay, okay, a bad workman blames his tools and all that. Truth is, the enormity of the task I’ve set myself has kinda sunk in, and fazed me from writing anything for a while. But ok, let’s get this show back on the road. Or as a friend once told me someone had inappropriately offered in a corporate bonding session, and I apologise in advance for the language: “Let’s fuck this c#@%!”
So where were we? Oh yes, on the cusp of 1982.
Truth be told, 1981 and 1982 were formative years for me, and not just in terms of my musical development. For the other love of my life became firmly nestled now (Ladies, you may wish to skip through this one): football.
Back in the early 80s, football wasn’t really on TV that much. Well, certainly not as much as it is now, anyway. You had Match of The Day and…er…the occasional England match…and…er…The FA Cup Final….and…er…well that’s about it.
Bear in mind that I wasn’t allowed to stay up to watch Match of the Day, and my options were severely restricted.
Talk to any football fan about The FA Cup final in the late 70s and early 80s and one thing they are very likely to mention is the TV coverage. It was an event, with BBC and ITV (for these are pre-Sky days when thems was all the options we had) jostling for viewers from mid-day onwards. I say they jostled; in all seriousness I have never met anyone who, given the choice, would volunteer to watch a match on ITV if it’s being shown on the BBC at the same time. ITV coverage of an England game is still considered a curse round my way.
Anyway, so it was in 1981 that my brother and I sat down to watch the FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Neither of us had a team, in fact to this day my brother refuses to acknowledge that any enjoyment can be obtained from watching football, and has become a proper petrol head, only following F1 and nothing else. He even watches Top Gear and doesn’t seem to mind that it’s not actually about cars anymore.
But I digress. I loved football, was pressing (unsuccessfully) to get into my school team (I scored a hat-trick against an all-girl team, which didn’t seem to impress, and then captained my Cub Scout team to a resounding 19-0 loss), but hadn’t settled on a team to support and call my own. We were living in a little village outside Peterborough, and to my eternal shame, it never crossed my mind to support the mighty Posh (Port Out Starboard Home, acronym fans!), mostly because nobody else my age seemed to give a monkey’s about them either. No, everyone was either Man Utd or Liverpool, and I had a brief flirtation with the latter before deciding they weren’t for me.
My Liverpool allegiance was short-lived, mostly because I’d never actually seen them play. Truth be told, I only followed them briefly because Kevin Keegan played for them, I’d seen him on Superstars and I didn’t find his perm even faintly ridiculous back then.
There were other teams I considered: Crystal Palace (I liked their shirts) and Queens Park Rangers (I liked their shirts too) – both dismissed as their names sounded a bit…well, gay. I accept the fact that following not one but two football teams because I liked their shirts also makes me sound a teensy bit gay. Deal with it. I know I have.
And yes, I get that all this flip-flopping also makes me sound more than a little like this chap: Soccer!
But as I say, my only experience of actually watching football was the FA Cup Final, and I can remember them as far back as 1978, and only then because we arrived at my Grandad’s one Saturday for the weekly visit to find him not in the pub, chucking darts into random strangers’ heads (“Is this your dart, Charlie?”) but instead jumping up and down cheering Ipswich Town on, the most animated I ever saw him in a non-ferret related situation. They beat Arsenal, so I can understand his excitement. Then there was 1979: Man Utd 2 Arsenal 3, (Grandad less enthused) a dull game which exploded for the final 10 minutes with Alan Sunderland, his perm (a bit more ridiculous than Kevin’s) and his veiny arms
scoring the winner (PS – admitting to “playing with Graham Rix” is not the wisest confession to make in these Yew Tree-y times); 1980 – West Ham won, so I’m told. Dunno. Didn’t register. And then there was 1981. 9th May 1981. My brother and I sat down at mid-day to soak up the pre-match excitement, and agreed, to make it a bit more interesting, we’d pick a team each. So: Tottenham Hotspur or Manchester City? I genuinely do not recall whether I chose first or he did (it was probably him, as the elder sibling he had the bragging rights I often had to bow to), but whatever way it happened, I got Spurs. I was quite happy about this, as I’d heard this: Oh come on, you knew I’d have to post this at some point
I settled down to watch and cheer. It ended up 1-1 and in those days there was a replay rather than extra time and penalties, so we had to reconvene on the following Thursday evening. And that was when Ricky Villa happened. In one of my many moments of putting off writing this blog, I was watching a TV programme the other day about the best FA Cup moments ever. I may have remembered this wrongly, but I think Ryan Giggs’ goal against Arsenal in the 1999 semi-final came tops. Nah. Shouldn’t count. It wasn’t in the final, and in any event, it seemed to have been placed so highly because of the sight of Giggs’ monkey chest. Then there was Stevie Gerrard’s goal against West Ham in the 2006 final. A screamer, but even he admits he was knackered so he just twatted it. No, Ricky Villa’s where it’s at. He’d had a dog of a final the first time around, and was pulled off (insert own innuendo here) by the manager, Keith Burkinshaw. Managers aren’t called Keith these days are they? Here it is, a thing of beauty: 12 Seconds Of Beauty
The thing I love most about this is not just the goal, wonderful as it is, nor the sight of several (OK, one and the goalie) City defenders being dumped on their arses as Ricky twists and turns past them (twice, in some cases). No, it’s Garth Crooks miming kicking the ball just before Villa does. Watch it again. There he is, bottom of the screen. Priceless, ain’t it?
In 1982, Spurs only went and got to the final again, this time playing gay-sounding flip-flop attractors Queens Park Rangers, again needing a replay, but again coming out triumphantly. Cue another Chas ‘n’ Dave single (“Tottenham Tottenham (No One Can Stop Them)”, although an undoubted stone wall classic, it’s nowhere as iconic as “Ossie’s Dream” from the 1981 final, but you can’t have everything).
“Cor!”, I thought, for I was only 11 and hadn’t learned any of the good swear words yet, “This Spurs lot are brilliant, winning the FA Cup two year running! I shall continue to follow them for they are excellent!” Yes, the term ‘Glory Hunter’ applies.
And then in 1984 they only went and won the UEFA cup. On penalties. As an Englishman, a win on penalties is not something I have experienced often since.
And that was it. I was hooked. Spurs were my team. My Team. Mine.
(And yes, I can appreciate the irony in my posting this the day after Spurs got knocked out of the FA cup this year. Shurrup. It’s too painful.)
And then, having reeled me in, they didn’t win anything else until 1991, the contrary buggers. And since then, well…not nothing…but not much.
In between this, there had been the 1982 World Cup finals, and I had been utterly captivated. I vaguely remember the final of the 1978 final, or rather I can remember the actual final being on the telly and my Dad watching it. But the 1982 finals were the first I watched properly. They seemed to have everything: Bryan Robson’s goal against France in 27 seconds; Harold Schumacher decking Patrick Battiston in the West Germany v France semi-final. Paolo Rossi banging a hat-trick in against Brazil on his way to winning the Golden Boot, and in the process leading me to go and buy a pair of Rossi football boots (they worked, too: 16 goals in my first season playing for my local team. And a missed open goal in a cup final that we don’t talk about…) Somehow, I feel like this paragraph isn’t complete without ending with the words “Jumpers for goalposts, marvellous!”
So that was 1981 – 1984. Oh wait. I’m supposed to talk about music, aren’t I? Bet you’re expecting me to post some more Chas ‘n’ Dave now, right? Wrong!
There’s a name up there which means more to me than just being a footballer’s. For in 1982, the other love of my life entered.
We had a kind of spare room in our house, a room where us pesky kids could go and hang out without bothering the folks. It had a TV, a stereo, a settee, and as we got older, numerous guitars lived there too. But around this time it had become littered with albums by Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Black Sabbath. For my brother had begun to worship at the altar that is Rock.
I think this is a phase that most teenage boys go through, maybe not so much these days, but they certainly did in the late 70s/early 80. I was no different a couple of years later, but I had the added bonus of being able to plunder my brother’s record collection, and thereby win kudos from my peers at school. Big brothers had to be good for something other than dishing out wedgies, right?
But all this is to come (you lucky people, bet you can’t wait, eh?). In 1982, another rare event , was televised by the BBC: a rock concert. By Status Quo.
Now, I know the reaction their name gets. A guffaw. A smirk, even. Mutterings of them only knowing three chords. I understand that. But to this day I still love them. Although I haven’t particularly liked any of their records for approaching 30 years, one of the things I love about them is that they know what public opinion is of them, and they accept and embrace that, and even lampoon themselves. One of their most recent albums is called “In Search of the Fourth Chord” for fuck sake!
I remember reading a quote from Slade’s Noddy Holder which, when researching this article (yes, I do research, unbelievable as that may sound) I tried to track down, with no success whatsoever. It went something along the lines of “They say Quo only know three chords. That may be true, but I’m still trying to work out which chords they are!”
The gig was for The Prince’s Trust charity, was attended by the patron, Prince Charles (who apparently said afterwards that he wished he’d worn his jeans, the wag) and the first hour or so was broadcast on the telly, the whole thing on Radio 1.
So smitten were we, that shortly after this, my brother and I went halves on a 3-disc vinyl compilation album called “From The Makers Of….”, so called because this was the tag line on each of their previous albums, followed by a silhouette of the image on the preceding albums covers. “From the Makers Of…” came in two vinyl formats: firstly, a cardboard boxette with 2 discs of career defining tracks (as Tommy Vance would undoubtedly have bellowed on the advert), and a third disc with the first 10 songs from the NEC gig set, and secondly a round metal tin containing, I presume, the same. I can only presume, as we went for the cheaper cardboard boxette version. To my eternal shame, this got hidden away in a damp cupboard in a grotty house I lived in as a student, and the box perished, but I still have the discs and the disc-shaped paper inserts with all the details of who wrote what, when it was released and what chart position it reached which I memorised and can still recite to this day. At least one person I know will confirm this.
I’m not going to bang on about them too much here, for they will appear again later. A lot. But suffice to say, the first song of the set had me utterly hooked. If you ever see them live (and I would, I really would) I defy you not to be up on your seat when the guitar and then the whole band kicks in on the intro. And here it is:
More soon. No, really. I promise.
PS I have no idea what has happened to the spacing and paragraphs in this post. Apologies for it being all scrunched up. I must try harder.