They’re a tad embarrassing now, but at the dawn on the Eighties, they were cutting edge entertainment. In fact, the Choose Your Own Adventure novel – a story characterised by many decision points and branching paths, and many, many endings – prefigured the text adventure computer game, and even today, someone creating a new cutting edge roguelike or fps would produce a first draft plan with a distinct family resemblance to the Choose Your Own Adventure.
The books were an incredible success, with over 250 million copies of the hundreds of titles published by Bantam sold – and that’s not including the 19 copycat series started by other publishers. Over the course of the decade, they would become one of the most iconic items of the Eighties. You can still find them in many second hand shops today, but good luck finding one of the small number of endings in each book where you don’t die.
One of the most controversial British heads of state since King Charles I, Margaret Thatcher was 64 when she became Prime Minister, and had been in Parliament for twenty years. She rapidly became known for the strength of her convictions – which unfortunately included more than a few she’d developed after drinking the free market kool aid.
Margaret Thatcher would serve as Prime Minister until 1990, presiding over the privatisation of many government services and Britain’s successful prosecution of the Falklands War in 1982. Few world leaders have ever been as hated by the left, or as good at unintentionally recruiting for it.
It’s probably a good thing that Nick Cave decided that suicide really didn’t suit his style. From relatively inauspicious beginnings, the members of the Boys Next Door would form the nucleus of the Birthday Party, Nick Cave’s first truly great band, who would in turn pave the way for the Bad Seeds.
“Shivers” remains a perennial favourite of fans of Australian goth and alternative music, and if JJJ hadn’t rejigged the Hot 100’s rules to make it a year by year thing, it would still be placing respectably in it each January.
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a decisive turn against Western influences, and a new, theocratic constitution that effectively made Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini dictator for life as part of a return to Islamic values. Among these was the banning of almost all Western culture, including most modern music. (With the exception of some music by Queen – the late great Freddie Mercury was of Persian descent, after all.)
Khomeini is gone now, but the bans remain in place.
“Good Times” was a distinctly Seventies show in many ways, but none moreso than its focus on African-American characters. Along with “The Jeffersons” and “Sanford and Son”, it was among the first shows to features a predominantly African-American cast, and after the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s had won new rights for African-Americans, shows like these helped to create a new normal for black and white audiences alike (however much they might have been guilty of tokenism, racism and sexism themselves, they were still improvements on most of the domestic comedies that had preceded them).
The final episode of “Good Times” was entitled “The End of the Rainbow”, and saw each of the major characters given a happy ending in terms of career and domestic arrangements. Since that time, it has been a perennial in syndication, and a steady seller when it was released on DVD
So imagine this: it’s the day before your band’s big debut. Your first single is doing well on the charts, but you’re still recording the rest of your first album. You’re even going to be on national television, on the highest rating music show in the country. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, your lead singer could hit by a car as he walks across Swanston St in central Melbourne. You could all wind up waiting anxiously at the hospital to see if he’s going to be okay.
As it happens, he is. James Reyne suffered minor fractures to his arms. Australian Crawl recorded their first appearance on Countdown the next day, Reyne sporting a matched pair of plaster casts on his forearms. Disaster was narrowly averted, and Reyne’s distinctive vocal style went national for the first time. The legend began, and the band later memorialised the incident in song on their first album.
While this date is almost certainly incorrect, this song was too much fun for me to leave out. I’ve dated it based on the generally agreed date that the car accident occurred the day before Reyne appeared on Countdown sporting plaster casts on both arms. The only problem with that is that Countdown was most likely pre-taped – this date is based on the broadcast date. it’s as close as we’re likely to get barring the release of the definitive James Reyne biography, though.
The Star Hotel in Newcastle wasn’t what you would have expected from a town like Newcastle in the late Seventies. The front bar might have catered to sailors and dockers like most other Newcastle pubs, but the back bar had bands playing every night of the week – and completely free. (There was also a middle bar, which hosted drag shows.)
The pun was a byword in Newcastle for the rebelliousness and rowdiness of the crowds. The crackdown was a while in coming, but it was inevitable that the authorities would respond. In Septmber of 1979, the response came with brutal swiftness. It was announced that the Star Hotel was to close – and only a single week’s notice was given. Protests and petitions were organised, but to no avail.
On the final night of trading, September 19, 1979, a crowd of 4000 people gathered to drink and dance at The Star Hotel for the last time ever. As the police showed up to quell the ‘disturbance’, the night descended into violence and chaos. The Star Hotel is best remembered today for this final riot.
Russell Hoban was always somewhat peripatetic in his writing interests. While he tended to return to the same themes, he was far less loyal to genres. “Riddley Walker” is one of his best known novels, and as the only major work of science fiction he wrote, is representatively unrepresentative of his oeuvre.
It concern a young man in a world (ours, about two millennia after a nuclear war) who stumbles on a plan to build a super-weapon. The novel took Hoban more than five and half years to write, and won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel in 1982, as well as an Australian Science Fiction Achievement Award in 1983. (It was also nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1982, but lost to Gene Wolfe’s “The Claw of the Conciliator”.)
One of the earliest and best arcade games, infamous for its simple vector graphics and unjustly overlooked for the difficulty and depth of its game play, Asteroids was never as popular as Space Invaders or Pac-Man, although historically, it’s almost as iconic. But its simplicity ultimately worked against it: there was nowhere to go to build a franchise out of it, not even any easy way to create variant forms of it (there’s no game that serves as the Galaga to Asteroids’ Space Invaders, for example).
Asteroids had a reasonable reign in the arcades, but even prettying up the graphics couldn’t do that much to keep it current as display technologies improved and newer games took over the marketplace. But to those of us who loved it, it will never die.