Those Were The Jamie Days

Standard

My special guest on this week’s My 80s radio show, choosing his Favourite Five 80’s tracks is Jamie Days. As a young boy in the Eighties, Jamie started to keep a diary, and has already published his daily musings from 1984. He has contributed excerpts from his diaries to The 80s Annual, vol.II, due out this November. I asked Jamie a few questions about his diaries and growing up in my favourite decade. 1984 Summer

What made you start to keep a diary at the tender age of eleven?

My nana bought me a tiny Grange Hill diary for Christmas in 1983. I’d had a little Paddington one before, in 1982 or 1983 I think, but I never stuck to it. But something in 1984 made me keep going.

How many years did you write your diaries for and how difficult was it to keep them going for that long?

I kept a diary from 1984 to 1986 and then for a couple months in 1987, then started again towards the end of 1989 up until the end of 1994. It was hard to keep them going and I didn’t always write every day, sometimes I’d write a few days at a time or catch up on the week at the weekend.

How did you feel when you first began to read the diaries in adulthood?

I’d always re-read them on and off, particularly those from ’84-‘86. For example in 1992, for some reason, I started to type them out, but it was only recently I re-visited the late ‘80s early ‘90s ones. It’s these later ones that really make me cringe. The detail I went into and how I went on and on about what friends said and did and how I felt about everything…*groan!* In terms of the ones from the 80’s they really make me laugh. It’s almost like they’re not by me; just this innocent boy entering into, but at odds with, this adult world. They’re also quite a good reminder of what is important to teenagers, and where their heads are, which can help bring some perspective when dealing with my own kids.

Why did you decide to publish your diaries?

A number of reasons really. Mainly, it is that I had a friend who kept diaries in the 80s and she planned to publish hers. I was helping her work out how she might go about this and started to share my diaries with her. I’d always thought they wouldn’t be interesting to anyone else, but she loved them. Sadly, she died before she got chance to realise her ambition. However, as we were working through it, we discovered other people who were blogging or tweeting their old diaries and I just loved them! They were hilarious and moving and I wished I could have the whole lot to read. So after I’d typed out all of 1984, I thought why not? I’ve always had ambitions to be a writer but never seem to get round to finishing anything. But I have written diaries, which are a form of book, so why not?!

How did it feel when you first let someone else read your diaries? Was it scary making the entries public?

I guess it felt quite daring, to assume anyone else would be interested. Diaries are by their very nature self-indulgent and individualistic, so why would they appeal to anyone else? In terms of revealing myself, it was all so long ago it doesn’t bother me. That said, letting the people I was at school with, who are in the diaries, read them has been weird – and I haven’t let my Mum and Dad read them all!! Whilst I’ve fessed up to quite a lot of what I got up to, that they had no idea about at the time, they’re not ready (or I’m not ready) for the whole truth!!

You’ve had some fantastic feedback from people who have read the diaries. How does that make you feel?

It’s brilliant and really touching in many ways. I recognise they won’t be for everyone. A lot of people get more pleasure from the now and the future, rather than looking back, but for those who tell me they’ve had them laughing ‘til they had tears in their eyes, that’s just amazing.

Some of your entries are hilariously candid. Do you think a lot of readers, especially the guys, can relate to the situations you found yourself in?

Potentially yes. I’ve talked to a couple of guys who’ve read them and, particularly in reference to those more candid elements, they’ve said things to me like you think at the time it’s just happening to you, but reading my experiences makes you realise it’s the same for everyone. Also, that a lot of what I wrote about is normal, yet it doesn’t get talked about, so it’s refreshing to have it out there. But more broadly, I think we all have teachers we don’t like, friends we fall out with, music we fall in love with and struggles with our changing bodies and environments!

Are you still mad about Madonna? Did you keep any memorabilia?

Not really. I still have huge affection for her because she was a massive part of my growing up, and her songs bring back great memories. She also broadened my horizons into art and cultures I don’t think I would have found without her (I’m still convinced that I managed to scrape a B in my General Studies A Level due to my essay on censorship and freedom of speech, which centred heavily on the banning of the Like A Prayer video and the content of a Channel 4 season called Banned!). However the musical genres she explores on her records these days aren’t ones that appeal to me as much. I still buy the albums but find there are only a handful of great songs on them. I had masses of memorabilia, but as her career progressed there was too much to collect, so I narrowed my collection to UK only releases and magazines with her on the cover. I had over 2000 at one point but eventually sold virtually everything on eBay. I managed to pay for a loft conversion out of it though! I still have some bits, the more sentimental items, but nothing like I used to.

You mention Smash Hits magazine throughout your diaries. Have you kept any copies from the Eighties?

Well, as you’ll get to find out in the diaries, I ended up cutting up all the original copies I bought for my Madonna scrapbooks. Then I would buy them again from charity shops, jumble sales and off friends, cut them up for swaps etc. But now, thanks to the internet, I’ve acquired every issue from the very first one, up to the early 2000s. They’re great to look back on. It was truly an iconic publication!

Judy Blume and Sue Townsend were your favourite authors as a boy. Whose books do you enjoy reading now?

Without a doubt my favourite writer is David Sedaris. He’s recently published extracts from his diaries, and I love them. I also really love Andrew Kaufman, JD Salinger and Alan Bennett. I spend two hours a day on a train commuting so I read a lot. I love books about life and people, so I am fond of memoir, autobiography and fiction that is character driven.

You’ve published your 1984 diary, with 1985 coming out in October. Are there any more diaries to follow?

Yes, I’m definitely going to publish 1986, hopefully next year. It’s probably my favourite, and I may well publish the others from 1989-1993. However I was 16 – 20, so the content is very different!!

What is your favourite year of the Eighties and why?

1985, without a doubt. It was a real coming of age year for me. I started to get into music properly and the music was great. Arguably, the music in 1984 is better, but from a nostalgia perspective I remember a lot more of the music in ’85. I started getting Smash Hits, started writing down the charts, started listening to Radio One properly and religiously. And, of course, there was Madonna! How amazing was she that year?!

End pic 1If you could return to 1984 and give your 11-year-old self any advice, what would it be?

I’d tell him not to worry about stuff because it all works out brilliantly in the end. I’d also tell him to buy multiple copies of every magazine with Madonna on the cover, all her limited editions and special releases and to keep them in immaculate condition as they’ll be worth a fortune!!

*****

Jamie Days 1984 Diary is available on Amazon.

Follow Jamie on Twitter: @1980sDiaries

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Letter To You …

Standard

In the days before social media made it possible to be in constant contact with friends and family, ISmash Hits Five Star cover 230486 used to keep in touch with people the old school way … writing. A prolific letter writer since I was in single figures, when I would regularly correspond with my great, great aunt in Eastbourne, I was delighted when my penpal profile appeared in an issue of Smash Hits.

I was 15 years old when my request for a penfriend was published in the magazine in April 1986. Within days I was inundated with replies, which resulted in me having penpals in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Alaska and all over the UK, and school friends replying to some of the remaining hundreds of letters.

I continued to write to a number of my Smash Hits buddies for several years, writing at least one letter every SHday, and some went on to become very good friends in reality, not just on paper. In fact, my son’s Scouse godfather is one of those friends I met because of this listing. Who would have thought it back then? Over thirty years of friendship due to a few lines in a magazine.

Now, like many people, we use Facebook rather than letters to keep in touch across the miles and, although a nostalgic part of me misses the excitement of a letter dropping through the letterbox, I cannot deny the advantages of our online updates. Social Media has also been responsible for bringing some wonderful new friends into my life, and had it not been for a friend and fellow 80s fan I met via Twitter, I would not have the images included in this post. I can’t imagine how our communications will develop over the next three decades. I doubt very much that today’s teenagers will look back on Snapchat messages with the same fondness I feel when I look at the shoeboxes full of letters I have kept, and I am certain none of them will be sending rhymes like “Postman, postman don’t be slow. Be like Elvis, go man go!”, which I recently discovered on the envelope of one of those letters.

Whatever the future holds, nothing will ever top my 80’s letter-writing days and the memories they made. Maybe I will even get around to publishing the letters one day.

I Just Can’t Wait ‘Til Saturday

Standard

With only a couple of days to go until ‘Your Eighties’ is published, and everything organised for the launch party, the excitement has started to kick in. As much as I’m looking forward to my book being unleashed on the public, I can’t wait to see my party guests. Friends old and new are making their way to east Kent, to join me in the celebrations.

Travelling down from the north west are my Scouse friends, who I first met in 1986. Anyone remember the penpal section in Smash Hits magazine? Well, my details appeared in an issue of the magazine earlier that year. I was inundated with replies from all over the world, and ended up with penpals in a number of countries, including Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Italy and France. However, My Favourite Waste of Time (we had been corresponding for a couple of months when the Owen Paul track was released) was a lad from Warrington, called John. We would usually reply the same  day we received a letter, so by the time we finally got to meet, just after Christmas ’86, we were old friends.

T (2)

L-R: John, Me and Wayne

John arrived with three of his mates, Wayne, Terry and Tommy in a Nissan Sunny driven by Wayne, the only one of the four old enough to drive. It was the first of many meetings which would see us together during the Eighties. Along with their visits to Kent were my visits north, the first of which was with my friend Kate, and involved us travelling on a National Express coach, and Wayne huffing and stamping his feet when we finally arrived over an hour late! These were the days before mobile ‘phones, and we had no way of letting him know we were held up in traffic. By the time 1989 arrived, I was the proud owner of an Austin Allegro, and we drove to see our northern friends. After a fantastic time, which saw us on the ferry ‘cross the Mersey, being given the lads’ guided tour of Toxteth (!), and hanging out with Kirsty from Brookside at a house party, we made the drive home. Thanks to mechanical problems with my prized piece of British engineering, it was an arduous 9 hour journey on a scorching hot summer’s day. That didn’t put us off returning though.

During other visits, we went to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the Brookside set (although unlike ‘normal’ sightseers, we accessed it by climbing through the adjoining woods!), and West Kirby beach to do handbrake turns in Terry’s black Manta! Although we have stayed in touch, I haven’t seen Wayne since 1996, and John and Terry a few years before that. So, the fact that the three of them are coming to the launch party, along with all my other fabulous guests, puts a huge smile on my face. Roll on Saturday!

The Live Aid Legacy

Standard

As a teenager in the mid-Eighties, I kept a diary from 1984 to 1986, recording in great detail the minutiae of daily life. Having recently stumbled across these journals, I have taken great delight in reliving the past of my youth. From watching “Morons From Outer Space” at the cinema on a Good Friday, to the changing shape of my favourite magazine: “Got my copy of Smash Hits, which was smaller than usual”; from drinking Martini and lemonade on a school trip to Germany, to the weather: “It’s very, very hot today, and I’m absolutely sweating buckets!”, every aspect of my teenage life had been documented in scrawly blue ink.

A self-confessed obsessive of Eighties’ culture, particularly the music of the decade, I was intrigued to see what I had scribbled as my entry for Saturday 13th July, 1985, when the “show that rocked the world” took place. Thirty years on, I can still remember the excitement I felt when I woke up the morning of Live Aid. This was going to be a show unlike any other, and I happily gave up the opportunity to top up my tan (unheard of for my teenage self), to sit in front of the TV in a darkened room. Excitedly turning the diary pages, in expectation of the lists of artists and their performances I had undoubtedly noted, along with long-forgotten titbits such as what colour over-sized bow Paula Yates had worn in her hair, I arrived at the relevant page. This is what I had written:

“I’ve been watching Live Aid all day. It’s 9.07 at the moment and I’ve seen all of it apart from 1½ hours which I taped [using our Betamax top-loading video recorder] and it’s all been really good. I aim to stay up until 4 o’clock tomorrow morning to watch the end of it.”

I cannot convey the disappointment I felt at my lacklustre description of a day that has held such a special place in my heart for the past three decades. Why hadn’t I written about the incongruity of seeing Charles and Diana’s stilted participation, as Status Quo opened the concert? Where was my rave review of Freddie Mercury’s fantastic performance with Queen, and reminiscences of how he had played up to the cameraman? What about the bit when Bob Geldof swore and told us to “give me your money!”? Surely I had noted that somewhere. Then, I realised that I had. The memories may not have made it to paper but, in my head, they were as fresh as the day they were made. Unlike those who make the mistake today of viewing a gig through their mobile ‘phones, and fail to enjoy the moment because they are too busy recording the event for posterity, I had mentally absorbed every last note and nuance of that day. This became even more apparent to me a few weeks ago.

I had interviewed 80’s TV presenter Steve Blacknell for my next book, “Your Eighties”. Some of you will remember Steve for his interview of Phil Collins during their transatlantic trip on Concorde, which enabled the Genesis frontman to make music history, by becoming the only musician to play at both Live Aid venues (Wembley Stadium in London, then JFK Stadium in Philadelphia). Whilst transcribing my interview with Steve, I tried in vain to find video footage of his ground-breaking Live Aid interview. I couldn’t understand why all I was able to find was the audio recording, set to video footage of Concorde flying through the clouds. After all, the image of Steve wearing one of his trademark gaudy shirts, whilst chatting away to Mr. Collins, was so vivid in my mind. Then, it suddenly hit me. My mind was the only place I would find that image. The technology for live, televised broadcasts from Concorde did not exist in 1985. The little video tape I was replaying was solely in my mind’s eye.

So, whilst it may be that celebrations of Live Aid’s 30th anniversary are somewhat more subdued than I believe such an event deserves, it lives on in the hearts and minds of a generation. Alongside the preceding Band Aid single in November 1984, Live Aid created a worldwide consciousness and responsibility for matters further afield than your own doorstep. It brought awareness to the masses, and made people believe that they could make a difference. Live Aid’s legacy lives on in ongoing charity fundraisers such as Comic Relief and Sports Aid, which have become a familiar and instantly recognisable means of raising money. So much so, that those too young to remember Live Aid may wonder just what all the fuss is about. Today, charity and entertainment form a reciprocal partnership, in which many are keen and happy to participate. A partnership that has its foundations in Live Aid, and the incredible performances it produced.

There was the battle of the big voices in Paul Young and Alison Moyet’s duet of the Marvin Gaye classic “That’s The Way Love Is”, not to mention the strut-off between Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, during their performance of “State of Shock”. Then we had Hollywood legends like Jack Nicholson, taking on cameo roles to introduce rock royalty, The Who. Not forgetting the all-star line up on stage at the Wembley finale, with David Bowie, George Michael, Sting and Paul Weller just a few of the Eighties’ finest singers joining Midge Ure and Bob Geldof to perform “Feed The World”. Just thinking about the day has made me want to see those performances again. Now, there’s an idea for a fundraising compilation DVD…

Hillsborough Remembered…

Aside

Whilst I have a lot of happy memories of the Eighties, today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most tragic events, and the saddest memory I have of the decade. Few will have failed to notice that it was 25 years ago today that 96 fans of Liverpool F.C. lost their lives at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium. For those of us who remember that fateful Saturday, our compassion and sympathy seem inadequately hollow, alongside the pain still felt by those haunted by memories of that day. Speaking to the BBC today, Bruce Grobbelaar recalls “It all happened right behind my goal. I can see those images today, if I think about it. They will never leave. It doesn’t get removed from your mind. I will never forget.” Perhaps those who have continued to spout vile comments, based on lies, online today should listen to those who were actually there.

Despite being born and bred in Kent, I have been a Liverpool supporter for as long as I can remember, probably due to my Nan, who was also an ardent fan. In 1986, thanks to Smash Hits magazine, I gained a Scouse penfriend, John. He came to visit me at the end of that year, along with a few of his friends. It was the first of many meetings between us, both down south (or France, as they refer to Kent!) and up north (I can remember the first time we took the ferry ‘cross the Mersey like it was yesterday) and the beginning of a number of friendships that have stood the test of time. As with all good friendships, they became part of the family – my Nan was never happier than in the company of her “Liverpool Lads”. It has continued through the generations too, as Wayne (the only one old enough to drive on that initial visit) is godfather to my son.

Both Wayne and John would regularly attend Liverpool’s matches, so when news of the disaster broke on 15th April 1989, I was desperate to know they were safe. These were the days before social media provided a second by second commentary on the world, and I sat glued to the television screen, in a state of disbelief at the scenes we were being shown. At one point, the camera honed in on part of the crowd being crushed against the fence. I was convinced I had seen John in that crowd. I have no coherent memory of the day after that, and cannot recall how I came to discover that neither Wayne nor John had been at the match. It’s not something I’ve ever felt the need to probe – just knowing they were safe was enough.

The family and friends of those who died that day were not as fortunate, and it is with them that my thoughts are today, as they are every time I hear  “You’ll Never Walk Alone” being sung. Let us hope that the current inquest, being held in Warrington, will eventually show the world the truth about the tragedy, and there will finally be Justice For The 96.