Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 152

Thursday 31st May 1984

Woke up about 8.30 and got up at 9.00. We went to Stockton and I got some spray paint from Halfords. Then I had a look in Smiths and when I got back at 10.15 I started to dismantle my bike.

When I was left with just the frame I sprayed it black, then left it to dry while I went in for dinner. After dinner I touched up the bike, then started to put it back together again. Before tea I had a ride around on the Strika, then I had tea.

Then Dad put some of the bike together, and at 7.05 I watched Tommorrow’s world. Watched Top of the pops at 7.35, and at 8.05 I watched Porridge. At 8.35 I watched We got it made, and at 9.00 I went to bed.

Yegods, how many times did I need to dismantle and paint that bloody bike? Today’s entry is, of course, the darker and more intense sequel to my ramblings from a mere three days earlier, when my attempts to take the Raleigh Chopper to pieces and coat it in metal primer paint ended up with my fuming Dad having to be dragged away from a bit of classic Arthur Negus-era Antique Roadshow and locked in the garage to put the bloody thing back together again.  


Since then, I’d been riding around on a bike coated in nothing more than a thick, blotchy layer of grey primer paint, unable to muster the nerve or enthusiasm to dismantle it a second time and apply the final finish. I actually quite liked it… it had a rough, urban, industrial look about it, a bit of sharp relief to the poncy, dayglo BMX efforts on which most of my friends were now haring around.


But the day had come, and – wise to the dangers of random bike dismantlement after Sunday’s disaster – I made a silent, valiant vow that, on this occasion, I’d take my bike to pieces incredibly methodically, labelling every individual part and arranging them neatly on the pages of the old Evening Gazette Late Final* spread out on the rough concrete floor.

That lasted for about thirty seconds before I thought ‘Aaaah, it’ll be alright’ AND THEN MADE A COMPLETE HORSE’S ARSE OF IT ALL OVER AGAIN!!!!

Cue my Dad having to be torn away from Northern Life (with, no doubt, another in-depth miner’s strike feature) for the second time in four days, and made to put my ‘bloody bike’ back together in complete silence with steam flying out of his ears while I wondered how the hell I was going to get the huge and numerous patches of jet black car paint out of my new denim jacket and jeans.

(*The back of our garage was an extensive archive for local newspapers and back issues of the Radio and TV Times. In the winter months, my parents used stacks of the things to light the spluttering coal fire in our front room, so no newspaper was ever thrown out of the house… they were chucked into a giant Hinton’s cardboard box at the back of the garage, there to remain until required. I remember, around this time, rooting through the box and finding a copy of the Evening Gazette from 1977 – the year we moved into the house. I was utterly fascinated by this window into another era, and used to regularly rummage through the pile whenever I was messing around in the garage. I wish I’d kept them all, I could make a killing on Ebay)

But we got there, and my Chopper was now sparkling, rejuvenated and ready for action (titter).

OK, Top Of The Pops! Hosted by the terrifying Radio 1 tag-team of Richard Skinner and Dave Lee Travis, and featuring the following motley assortment…

• David Sylvian – Red Guitar [Promo Video]
• Elton John – Sad Songs [Promo Video]
• Hazel Dean – Searchin (I Gotta Find A Man) [Performance]
• Madness – One Better Day [Performance]
• The Smiths – Heaven Knows Im Miserable Now [Performance]
• Ultravox – Dancing With Tears In My Eyes [Performance]
• Wham – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go [Promo Video]

A bit of a watershed moment for me, as this was the first time I’d ever heard or seen The Smiths, and Morrissey in particular, in action…

I’d love to say that it was a great Road To Damascus moment for me, and that by the time ‘Porridge’ started I was already wearing NHS specs with the lenses punched out and combing my hair into a towering quiff. But I actually thought, when I saw this, that it was a bit a joke act… the kind of thing that The Barron Knights or Jasper Carrott might have taken into the charts. Although that didn’t stop Doug and I spending most of the next week singing the ‘live or die’ bit in ludicrous falsettos while simultaenously grabbing our testicles.

Because that’s what you happens when your testicles are grabbed, your voice goes really high. Oh yes. Oh yes it does.

An early night as well, you’ll notice! A day’s worth of inhaling black car paint fumes were probably making me hallucinate weird dreams about Arthur Negus reading the Evening Gazette with a bunch of gladioli in his back pocket.

(NB The quiff, NHS specs and all-pervading Smiths obsession finally took hold in 1990 when I was in Sixth Form)



  Dr Giles Parcel wrote @

I’m glad you expand so fully on these diary entries as it was not immediately clear whether you had been touching up your Chopper or your Strika.

I wonder how Madness and The Smiths got on in that green room in 1984? I doubt either of them could have foreseen then the unhappy mayhem of Madstock a few years later. I just had to look Hazel Dean up on the BMA computer – it seems she had a few hits and yet I have no memory of her. I have a suspicion that Morrissey, even at the age of 25, would have greatly preferred the company of The Barron Knights to that of Ultravox though I cannot vouch for his stand on Carrott.

  Chris Byers wrote @

I think evan the great Morrissey would have to admit that Jasper Carrott’s Funky Moped was a classic. Although i cant help but think it would have been a bigger hit had he called it Funky Chopper.

  bobfischer wrote @

I’d forgotten about the Madstock mayhem! According to the small number of my showbiz friends that have actually appeared on ‘The Pops’ (John Otway, Gordon Giltrap and Dee Dee from Pan’s People) there was actually very little pre or post-show mingling… they all had seperate dressing rooms, and stage times were run with military efficiency! Although I believe (and I swear I’m not making this up) that Otway made a vague attempt to touch base with The Dooleys…

I remember Hazel Dean really well, she was like a Hi-NRG Elaine Paige. Worked a lot with the pre-Kylie Stock Aitken and Waterman, I think.

And Chris – work on ‘Funky Chopper’ starts here! I can already see the video in my mind’s eye…

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Just thought I’d throw this into the mix.

I was once taken to Bolton Hospital, (1982 `ish` from my recollections) for several stitches following a `stag do`incident and laid out on a trolley. The porter, pushing me back from the treatment room, engaged me in some friendly banter and asked me if I’d heard of a band called The Smiths. At that time, I hadn’t of course, being a hard working young teacher with no free time at all. Certainly no time to enjoy popular music and party!.

“My son’s the lead singer ” he said proudly.

It was only on watching TOTP that I realised Morrisey`s dad had wheeled me along those long whitewashed corridors and back to my inebriated mates.

  bobfischer wrote @

Fantastic! The Smiths would have been in their very early days back then. Good to see he was a proud Dad though, I’ve got a feeling that their relationship has been a bit fractious over the years.

Did he have a towering quiff and a bunch of gladioli under his white jacket?

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