Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 30

Monday 30th January 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. The first thing I did at school was go in for assembly then when I came out we had to go in for topic groups. I did Topic when we came out and then I started a jungle painting. At 12.00 I had dinner and then in the afternoon I read for a bit then went into Maths groups.

When I had finished, Me and Stan started to do a sign for Mrs Keasey and after having our Maths marked we finished it. At 3.15 I came home and read my comic. Then I went upstairs and had a go on Pac-Man, then set up the ZX81 and played Asteroids and Avenger on it.

4.40 Watched Finders Keepers and at 4.45 I had tea. Then I went back upstairs and played on the ZX81 again. At 8.00 I had a game of chess with Dad and watched In Loving Memory at the same time. 9.30 Went to bed.

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that my favourite word in 1984 was ‘then’.

Alright, I’d forgotten one important addition to my ‘songs recorded off the radio’ last night, and it was the song at Number 1 in the UK singles charts on this very day. A song that was to change my life, and the way I thought about music, and the way I cultivated passions and (cough) relationships with the artists I loved. And a song that I discussed with Mr Millward at a table in the middle room on this very day, just as I was cracking on with my jungle painting.

There had been ‘banned’ songs in the UK singles charts before (and a disturbing number of them were made by Paul McCartney) but Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ was the first one I was aware of, and its impact on both me and Levendale Primary School was seismic. A fortnight early, on 13th January, the BBC had removed the song from all of its playlists after that the Cliff Richard-obsessed Mike Read noticed in mid-play on his Radio 1 show that it was – of all things – a little bit saucy. And maybe a little bit fruity. With just a touch of what my Auntie Norma would still refer to as ‘salty language’.

They had performed it on Top of The Pops once, just before the ban, and it looked like this…

But in this slow-moving era – pre-internet, pre-text, pre… anything, really – it had taken a couple of weeks for the news to filter through, and I think the previous night, while taping Simon Bates’ Top 40 rundown on my portable cassette recorder, was the first time I’d heard the terrifying ‘Batesy’ issue the immortal words ‘…due to the nature of its lyrical content, we don’t deem it suitable for broadcast’.


It must have been the first time for many of us, too, as Frankie-based conversation was rife at Levendale Primary School on this very morning. 

‘It’s not been banned because of rude stuff, it’s just because of the swearing,’ said Matthew Price, clearly making it up as he went along.

‘That’s not true,’ said Jason Wheater, knowledgeably. ‘It’s been banned cos it’s about poofs’. 

At this point Mr Millward’s ears pricked up. ‘Less of that,’ he warned, sternly, twitching his moustache and peering over his Reactolite spectacles. ‘Although I would like to find out why it HAS been banned, if anyone knows?’

I could see that Doug, sitting opposite me, was itching to explain to Mr Millward the precise meaning of the lines ‘Relax, don’t do it, when you want to suck it to it, relax, don’t do it… when you want to come’. And 25 years on the mischievous glint in his eye still brings me out in a cold sweat.

But needless to say, within a matter of weeks Frankie Goes To Hollywood had become my first great musical love, and even those opening seconds of ‘Relax’ still send leather goosebumps up and down my spine.

I just wish I could pull off a moustache like Paul Rutherford. So to speak.


Anyway, more of Frankie in the coming months, but in the meantime – Finders Keepers! I can’t find a clip anywhere, but it was a Battleships-based quiz show with Richard Stilgoe taking charge of three grotty kids teams eager to torpedo ‘Foxtrot 7’ and blast HMS Milton Keynes Comprehensive off the face of the Earth. He did the theme tune himself on a little bleepy synthesizer, but I can’t find that either.

And ‘In Loving Memory’ was an ITV sitcom set in a funeral parlour in the 1930s, starring Thora Hird and Christopher Beeney. Quite good, as I recall, although no doubt Mike Read took offence at something or other in it.


  PJEUK wrote @

Ahh Stilgoe does Kratfwerk

“Finders Keepers / Loser Weepers”
“Can you find it / Where’s that square”

Some half remembered lyrical banality.
Foxtrot Oscar Richard.

  bobfischer wrote @

Blimey, well done! I just had vague memories of him doing the theme tune, and it all being a bit bleepy, but had no idea how it actually went.

Kraftwerk have just lost another member, haven’t they? Stilgoe seems like the ideal man to step in. He’d have a field day making amusing anagrams out of the rest of the bands’ names.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Like ‘Rural Theft’ and ‘Hurtle Fart’ you mean? Or ‘Hertz Lip Rift’?

  bobfischer wrote @

‘Hurtle Fart’ is now the title of my forthcoming debut album.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

It will blow the competition out of the water.

  Fiona Tims wrote @

I remember my best friends sister (4 years older than us) asking us if we knew what Relax was about. We were puzzled and said no, she said it was about sex! Our response was probably “NO, it isn’t!!!”

Ahh to be 11 and innocent again.

  bobfischer wrote @

Until Doug’s subtle word in my shell-like, I thought it was just about, erm, relaxing. And ‘not doing it’. You know, just taking things easy. Having a day off.

I do remember getting a few funny looks at school for singing it out loud in Mrs Mulhern’s earshot. Especially the ‘shoot it in the right direction’ bit.


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