Maybe Eighties fashion wasn’t so bad after all…

I’ve hesitated to go down this route but I’m afraid I can’t avoid it any longer: It’s time to talk big hair, shoulder pads and leg warmers.
As a dedicated follower of fashion, I dare say few people are as qualified as I to discuss the notorious clothing fads and hairstyles of my youth. I jest, of course.
Someone cruelly dubbed the Eighties ‘the decade that style forgot’. I prefer to think of it as ‘the decade that style disowned’.
Granted, there were a few positives – classic looks and new accessories which have gone on to stand the test of time.
I’m specifically thinking Ray-Ban sunglasses (à la Tom Cruise in Top Gun) and Calvin Klein underwear – as modelled by Michael J Fox in Back To The Future.
You see, prior to the Eighties no-one gave a monkeys who made the pants you were wearing but suddenly, almost overnight, people became ‘brand aware’.
At the same time, there was also an awful lot of: ‘I grabbed the first three garments I could find at the church jumble sale and threw them together. Good eh?’
Until the age of 11 (1983) all I cared about was going out to play footie with my mates and, frankly, I was happy to wear anything mum fished out of the wardrobe.
Then I hit high school and suddenly I started to notice girls and become envious of other lads in my class who were better looking/thinner and dressed cooler than me. Often all three.
I distinctly remember the day my friend Richard Murphy arrived at school sporting blond ‘streaks’ in his regulation brown hair.
I looked at him as if he had got off a spaceship.
I would like to point out that I never went for highlights in my hair but I was somewhat envious that Spud Murphy had engineered a talking point for the top tottie in my class.
I recall also being deeply jealous of Mark Duckworth who – in spite of having an horrific core flick in his fringe – was always wearing the latest ‘designer clothing’.
One such item was a blue and grey Nike cagoule. I hated him for owning that jacket – especially as when I asked mum for one I ended up with a similar, dark blue unbranded cagoule from Vale Market.
Then there was the fad for Pony trainers which came about because Channel Four became the first UK TV channel to screen American football which led to all the lads adopting a team. (LA Raiders, in case you were wondering)
Another lad in my class, Ashley Coates – a gifted left-footed footballer – had a pair of the aforementioned trainers and I was desperate to emulate him.
In the end I did get a pair – but in a bizarre white and fluorescent blue colour which made me a laughing stock at break times.
I didn’t have the heart to tell my mum, of course.
The only cool things I actually ever owned during my school days were a pair of Pepe Jeans (or Peps as we called them) which came with a must-have red plastic keyring and a pair of white Converse boots (or Cons) which seemed to last an eternity.
In my defence I don’t think I dressed outlandishly during my college years or towards the end of the decade.
This was a) because I didn’t dare and b) I’d have had my head kicked in up ’Anley had I turned up looking like Crockett or Tubbs from Miami Vice wearing a jacket with the sleeves rolled up.
I was basically a jeans and T-shirt kind of lad who shopped at Geordie Jeans, Stolen From Ivor and Next.
This was to be expected given my fondness for two types of music: ‘Hair metal’ (Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Poison etc.) and ‘Shoe-gazing’ (Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans etc.).
I also went through a phase of wearing jeans ripped at the knees in the style of Matt and Luke Goss from Bros. Didn’t we all?
I actually consider myself to have had a lucky escape because, had I been born five years earlier, my formative years would have collided with some of the Eighties’ most horrific fashion trends.
As it was I never wore parachute pants and my foppish hair only ever had the faintest touch of mousse to hold it in place.
I am also delighted to say that, unlike my friend Mark Williams, I never, ever had a mullet.
Similarly, my girlfriends were sensibly attired – no miniskirts, huge earrings, finger-less gloves, over-sized tops or leg warmers that I can recall.
They were also way too young for the Dynasty power-dressing look of shoulder pads – much to my relief.
However, they all sported beautiful 80s perms as modelled by the divine Susannah Hoffs from The Bangles.
Come to think of it, maybe Eighties fashion wasn’t that bad after all…

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Dirty loos and Robbie at his best; my V Festival memories

It sounds like a wonderful idea. You and your friends drive to a large open space to be entertained for a whole weekend by some of the biggest names in music.

For some, who should know better, it’s a way of harking back to their youth. For others, it’s a chance to experiment with illegal substances and swot up on their biology in a tent.

I didn’t know it at the time but my first open air music festival was also destined to be my last.

The date was August 22, 1998, and the venue was Temple Newsham, Leeds.

I was 26 years old, had no children, and umpteen rock concerts under my belt.

The line up that weekend included Green Day, The Verve, Iggy Pop, Feeder, James, Ian Brown, The Charlatans, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Chumbawamba, Lightning Seeds and our very own Robbie Williams.

It didn’t start well for us. Actually getting to the venue would have tested the patience of a saint.

Following a four-hour drive we were finally shoe-horned into a parking space after queuing for a further three hours.

Still, we had arrived at last, and leaving the camping gear in the car we set off to find the main stage and grab a decent spot to watch the various acts. That was when we discovered that traversing festival venues isn’t much fun. Indeed, it’s a fairly hazardous exercise.

Clinging on to my site map and my other half for grim death, I attempted to weave through the multitudes – taking care not to step in discarded chips, half-eaten burgers or someone else’s vomit.

It was a disorientating and pretty unpleasant experience during which I discovered that common courtesy had gone away for the weekend.

It also left me wondering how on earth I would find my way back to my Citroen Saxo in the dark.

Having secured a spot a few hundred yards from the stage we watched a succession of artists deliver what can only be described as lukewarm performances. At least it wasn’t raining.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I realised then that festivals bring together people who have many and varied musical tastes.

Hard core fans of one particular band or artist are hugely outnumbered by the great seething mass of people blowing whistles, throwing inflatables and getting merrily drunk or stoned.

It has all the atmosphere of a trip to the supermarket on a Sunday morning.

The one saving grace came as a genuine surprise to me.

R Williams esquire strolled on stage late in the afternoon – sparking real excitement in the crowd for the first time.

The food and merchandise stalls went dead for the only time during the whole weekend as everyone became entranced by the boy from Tunstall.

“You must be Leeds,” he said. The crowd went wild.

“And if you’re not, you must be Port Vale.”

“Yeah!” screamed yours truly, resplendent in his Vale away shirt.

A tumbleweed moment ensued.

Several dozen people turned to stare at me as though I’d just stepped off a spaceship.
My fiancé kicked me.

I went red.

Robbie, at the time was a troubled figure, still relatively early on in his solo career and rarely out of the tabloids.

I wasn’t a fan but he went on to deliver what can only be described as a virtuoso performance.

On his set list that day were Let Me Entertain You, Life Thru A Lens, No Regrets, Strong, Old Before I Die and Millenium – none of which had yet been played to death on the radio.

At his swaggering best, Robbie teased the crowd like only a great showman can and, for a brief time, all the festival-goers were united.

By the time the final chorus of Angels had faded away and the Robster had vacated the stage tens of thousands of people were on a genuine, natural high.

That, for me, was as good as it got.

Looking back, I like to think of V98 as the time I went to see Robbie because the rest of the weekend was eminently forgettable.

The toilets, when you could get into one, were positively disgusting.

My fiancé’s sister and her husband took one look at the campsite in the semi-darkness and, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, opted for the long drive home to their own comfortable beds.

Yours truly pitched his tent in the middle of the field and was kept awake all night by some herbert wearing a sombrero and plucking a guitar for the benefit of his spaced-out chums.

As I trudged back to my car on the Sunday I vowed ‘never again’.

I’d like to wish all those who have tickets for the V Festival at Weston Park near Stafford on August 21 and 22 a great weekend.

I can’t think of anywhere I’d less like to be.