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Home > Music

Pop Quiz, Hotshot: Smash Hits 1986

Alan Connor ist askink ze qwestionz.

27 June 2002

I was dawdling at the market this week and found myself at a stall selling what archivists call "ephemera": an order of service for a long-ago wedding between two strangers, a press release from the 1980s for a new fleet of buses -- that sort of thing. I haggled my way into swapping three pounds for not only a book called The Sony Tape Rock Review (while Chrome is apparently better than Ferric, Ferrichrome is counter-intuitively better than both, though not as good as Metal, which the writers claim is some sort of industry standard), but also -- and this is the point -- the April 9th, 1986 edition of Smash Hits.

It had everything. Obviously, you can't resist the appeal of ideas which make absolutely no sense out of context: Go West are not, in the cold light of 2002, natural born pin-ups, and while George Michael's two-big-shredded-wheats-barnet is unique and memorable, seventeen thousand pounds seems an unrealistic price for a haircut, especially in those days. But it's also a reminder that the 1980s were in no sense some sort of pop wilderness: if anything, Smash Hits (Smash Hits, ferkrissakes - have you read it this week?) was a miscegented, crossover, catholic, inspiringly-inclusive picture of music. The penpal-hunters include as many Jesus & Mary Chain, Bryan Ferry and Talk Talk fans as they do Duranies, Tippa Irie gives great interview and there's generally a less-press-release-based, critical, open-minded feel to the rag. It's certainly less annoying than 1973 Rolling Stones and 1979 NMEs, anyway.

And what better way to guide you, the reader, through its pages than with a quiz? Well, scanning in the best bits, possibly with hyperlinks to other clippings of interest would be much better, but that wouldn't afford a prize, would it? So, for a chance to win one of the pile of CDs that people have left in my flat and I haven't been able to find an owner for: clear your mind of the last 194 months and the following should be a cinch.

  1. The Bitz section which opens the magazine contains news ("Remember how Nik Kershaw's backing band The Krew always used to go on about how they were going to make a record of their own one day? Well, now they've finally done it!") as well as the lyrics to Madonna's "Live to tell" and the following. Name the song. "It's never enough until your heart stops beating / The deeper you get, the sweeter the pain / Don't give up the game until your heart stops beating".
  2. The feedback section, Get Smart, has a profile of an artist who is the only reason one might have for wanting to listen to the current (2002) 'MTV Unplugged' best-of. (Note to MTV: the band Live are not liked over here, despite eight years of efforts such as the one in which you are involved to trick us into giving a toss about them -- kindly desist and start issuing CDs tailored for tastes which do not include mid-'90s corporate American college radio rock.) The profilee "went to see Supertramp in London as 'special guest' of Charles and Di and he was late because he missed the bus!" and released a track called "Diana" as a b-side "dedicated to 'our lovely' Princess herself!". Since then, he has served as official photographer to Diana's mother-in-law. And who is he?
  3. Among the adverts ("Real girls wear 17 Cosmetics"; "Compound W dissolves warts quickly and painlessly, without cutting or cauterizing") is one for the new ZX Spectrum machine, "available from Laskys". Evidently, the new souped-up model "can handle harder games -- whether you can is a different matter" and its graphics are "brill". (Only two games are mentioned by name: we learn that Daley Thompson has endorsed a track-and-field number and that the Spectrum will "keep you pinned to the edge of your seat playing a game called "Never ending story"", presumably a gaming recreation of the never-ending Limahl side.) How much RAM did the advertised computer boast?
  4. Every woman in the public eye receives at least two or three fanletters a week. Once a month, one of these will have the postmark of one of Her Majesty's prisons, and once or twice a year, the contents will surpass in obscenity anything you have ever seen on the internet. That being the case, Tom Hibbert's interviewee in this Smash Hits either has very caring and assiduous handlers, or knows her USP and how not to sully it. In 1986, she was the face of Twingo Bingo and the person 35% of British males under 30 would like to be stranded on a desert island with - what was her name?
    Q: Do you get lots of saucy letters from men?
    A: No, never.
    Q: *Never*?
    A: No, not really. Normally they're praising me 'cos I'm the girl next door done well. It's not just old perverts who are my fans. It's none of that.
  5. Sorrel Downer makes a very decent fist of her week reviewing the singles, dismissing Five Star's "Can't wait another minute" as "so clinically precise one doesn't feel like dancing" and identifying the natural home of Balaam & the Angel: "songs to sing in the bath." Only once does she slip up, slating one of the greatest songs of the year thus: "really, it's even more drivelly than "Manic Monday", and there's all those nauseating little harmonies just where you'd most expect them. A bit like one of those Tracey Ullman jokey numbers." What is the slighted single?

Answers to itsimmaterial@themusicthing.co.uk


A similar quiz, with a Rolling Stone from 1971, is here.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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