Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 119

Saturday 28th April 1984

Woke up at 7.30 and was going to get the 8.20 bus to Middlesbrough but changed my mind and stayed at home. played outside on my bike, then I played on the tarzie. Had dinner at 12.00ish, and after dinner I played Tell her about it on the loudspeaker upstairs.

After a race around outside I went down to Doug’s, and he wasn’t in, however I met him later and we went for a ride around Levendale. We called on Stan but he wasn’t in so we had a muck around on the green for a while, then had a ride around. We came back to Stan’s later but he was still out so we went on Conyers and had a lark.

Then we went to my house, mucked on, and at 5.30 I had tea and Doug went home. At 6.00 I watched Some mothers do ave em, at 6.40 I watched The laughter show, At 7.00 I watched Robin of Sherwood and at 9.30 I went to bed.

Ah, nothing like a bit of Billy Joel to liven up the early afternoon! None of this involved money changing hands, of course. I’d recorded ‘Tell Her About It’ from the Sunday evening Top 40 by pushing my portable cassette recorder up against the speaker of the ancient, carved wooden stereo system in our front room. And now I was playing it back on the same recorder, rigged up to a single, even more ancient speaker that I’d found in the loft and that Doug had helped me wire up. It sounded crisper and clearer than anything I’d ever heard in my life, although undoubtedly if I heard it now it would sound like someone was playing it in the bathroom. Three houses away. With the speaker suspended in a vat of mushy peas.

It was a favourite song of mine, though… weirdly, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a strange leaning towards late 1950s-sounding music, especially (and this is the oddest thing) if it’s FAKE 1950s music, recorded in the modern day but intended to sound exactly like the old stuff. As a five-year-old, I was obsessed with the songs from Grease (especially Summer Nights, with its ‘Shooop Bop Bop’ backing vocals) and bands like Darts and Showaddywaddy…

‘He looks like a bloody orangutan in collars’ said my Dad of singer Dave Bartram. And… well… you have to admit, he does a bit. And Darts’ towering, wild-eyed bassman Den ‘BONGGGGG’ Hegarty became a childhood hero of mine… (check out the second half of the below clip!)

Den was EVERYWHERE for a while… he presented Tiswas in its final throes (which is all we got in Tyne Tees land – we didn’t have the show at all until Autumn 1981, and it finished for good the following Spring) and also starred in a strange advert for a chewy sweet called ‘Yogos’, which I remember us all singing along to when it appeared on the crackly portable TV on our school bus home one night. 

By 1984, none of that had changed, and I thought the best songs in the charts by far were Billy Joel’s attempts to recreate the doo-wop and R&B of his own late 1950s childhood. Although it took me another 20 years to realise that ‘Uptown Girl’ was the bestest, most brilliant tribute to Frankie Valli ever recorded (although thankfully Frankie Valli never tried to return the favour by making an album that sounded exactly like Billy Joel).

And where on Earth did I get the phrase ‘had a lark’ from?!?! I clearly had pretentions at this stage to being one of the Famous Five, dragging Poggy Doggy down to the smugglers caves on the seafront at, erm, Redcar to find the lost pirate treasure of One-Eyed Blue Jack. Or something. Failing that, there was always Donkey Kong in the arcades.

Anyway, stop what you’re doing – genuine TV history here!!!!

No, not Les Dennis and Dustin Gee’s Laughter Show. I mean, of course, the very first episode of ‘Robin Of Sherwood’ – and, I’m pretty sure, the second one as well. ‘Robin Hood and The Sorcerer’ was a two-parter, and I definitely recall watching them both back to back in a huge, feature-length special on this very night.

I’d never been much into Robin Hood previously (not enough spaceships or time-travel), but the pre-publicity for the show had very much centered on the mystical aspecs of it – stone circles, wizards, nature spirits and black magic*. It had all appealed greatly to the 11-year-old me that was already obsessed by Fighting Fantasy books and their brand of medieval necromancy, so I decided to give it a chance.

(*not the chocolate)

And what can I say? I loved it to bits. EVERYTHING about it was so RIGHT… from the lush, gritty greenery of the forests, to the startlingly charismatic performances (Ray Winstone became my instant hero, usurping even Den Hegarty) and – particularly – Clannad’s haunting, ethereal soundtrack, which still sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard.

(Apart from lots of other Clannad tracks and a little bit of Enya)

No, really, it’s great… it still looks, sounds and feels like a heady, perfect mix of 1180 and 1984, and occasionally – on dark nights of the soul – I’m filled with a strange, insatiable desire to throw in my humdrum life and spend the rest of my days in the forest, worshipping Herne the Hunter and living on trout and berries.

And Yogos.


  Fiona Tims wrote @

Ahhhhhh our beloved ROS 🙂
We wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for this show!
I still adore it.

  bobfischer wrote @

Me too, although I haven’t watched it for a long time! I might do the ‘Sorceror’ double bill one lazy afternoon over the summer.

I always think of it as a ‘summer holidays’ programme, which is odd for a show that was broadcast in April and May! Catweazle has a similar feel. Must be something strange and magical that Richard Carpenter does.

  Karon Hollis wrote @

You did better than me..I remember watching *some* of the first episode of RoS and then being forced (by my dad) to turn over and watch the Dukes of Hazzard .

Is it any wonder that I begged for a television for my 12th birthday, and watched the 2nd series of RoS in peace in my bedroom, and an entired lifetime unfolded from that moment…I even met my husband at a RoS convention 🙂

  bobfischer wrote @

Fabulous… what a great story! I wonder if anyone ever met their future partner at a Dukes of Hazzard convention?

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