We're often accused of being arbitrary, or (worse) "ironic" on The 'Cream, so to show that the site really is based on value judgements rather than mindless nostalgic regurgitation, we take time out here to celebrate one deserving aspect of past culture, while rightly blowing another, lesser, entity out of the stadium. And, if you disagree with any of the value judgements made here, send us your counterblast here.

The format is achingly simple - just write a paragraph or two of fulsome praise for one aspect of old pop culture (be it a celebrity, TV show, film, book, confectionery, playground custom, spate of industrial action etc) while simultaneously putting the boot into another one. But for the conceit to fully work, the two must be linked in some way. this can be an obvious link (eg Tiswas v Swap Shop), or a tenuous one, as with the first example (ie both involve the parents of female presenters of Live and Kicking).



...WELL, maybe not yet, but honours are long overdue for the never-bettered king of kids' science. And, in times when his daughter is a hundred times more famous for doing practically nothing than he is for doing practically everything, it's surely time to recall the great man's magic. Rarely are nominally "educational" kids' shows actually educational, but, some '70s schools' TV and the odd weird item like Professor Lobster and Ken Campbell's Erasmus Microman aside, TV has always found it a struggle to teach kids (or indeed anyone) something while keeping them entertained at the same time (you could mention James Burke at this point, but it's probably best you didn't). This came naturally to our Johnny, though - armed with a selection of props, a couple of costumes, a plastic mackerel and some terrible puns, he galvanised a kiddy audience (in as much as they can be galvanised) as the facts and gags flew fast and (often very) thick. His trick ("it's a trick!") was to impart knowledge in the character of a buffoonish uncle - misplacing things, forgetting his point, wandering off on nonsensical trains of thought - keeping the manner as far from that of the classroom as possible. He had the kids' TV equivalent of "star quality" in exactly the way Michaela Strachan doesn't. At his peak on his own Think Of A Number (and the many derivatives, from the slightly more staid, audienceless Think Again to the oft-ignored two-week condensed summer series Think Backwards), The Ball also had a hand in Play School, Jackanory, Cabbages and Kings, The Adventure Game and various more adult-oriented science affairs. The fact that he's never been equalled, either in the children's or adults' domains, says it all. He is a mystic, and there, in excelsis, was his stick.



"LOVING", mused sink queen Nanette Newman in the 'foreword' to this 1974 75p Collins book, "is the first thing children learn - I wish life would teach them never to forget it." No. No, Nanette. The first thing children learn is the word "willy", followed almost immediately by other highly amusing rude words that are nowhere to be found in this pigdribble cash-in item, one of several sickly seventies compilations of children's drawings and enchantingly semi-literate sayings (see also the Christ-bothering God Bless Love) that clogged the bookshops in the same limp, sentimental way those little books of whatever do today. Think this is pure curmudgeonliness? Then read on: "You should never marry someone you don't like much." "Babys don't grow on trees." "Father Christmas and Jesus are best friends." "Old ladys arent reely old ladys. There just pepel waring old clothes." And so on. Any resemblance to your own single-figure childhood is entirely coincidental. Occasionally a hint of the real nature of the child shows through ("We went to Peter Pan and I hoped that Tinkerbell would die because she's like my sister") but this book and its companions were walking (out of the shops in great numbers, alas) embodiments of adult sentimentality foisted on children who neither want nor need it. At least today such whelpery carries big warning stickers saying "Disney" or "Spielberg on autopilot". The whole thing was a family affair through and through - the accursed tome was published by hubby's company Bryan Forbes Limited, and the cover was 'designed' by Nan's daughter, the infant Emma Forbes, no less. But the last word must go to 'Helen, aged 7', with the book's only remotely intriguing line: "My mummy sais I must love evreyboddy even the peple who killed my daddy but I dont." Er, quite.



It was in the park. Or recreation ground. Or "rec". That was ours, the "rec". Too small for a park, too big to flog off to Beezer Homes for a "luxury development of twenty 8 x 10' starter homes", but just the right size for us. The Kids. The layout was basic. You'd have a little fenced-off kiddie's play area (a climbing frame, some swings that the bigger boys had wrapped around the crossbar, a nasty rusty old slide that would cover your arse with rust if you even tried to slide down it, and a sandpit full of dog's poo), a sort of pavillion building, even though cricket hadn't been played there for years, a football pitch (re-marked once a decade, only one set of goalposts - wooden, no net - the other being in bits by the drainage ditch in the far corner) and possibly a BMX ramp if you had a "with it" council with money to burn that hadn't been used since it was put up. But best of all was thew clock tower. It hadn't worked since 1966, and it was probably put up in 1966, a sort of red brick tower with a concrete modernist pointy bit up top and a little plaque dedicated to Cllr. Albert Tatlock or someone you'd never heard of. Oh, and of course a hundred scratched, scrawled and scribbled "JF 4 BM" messages, because that's what it was all about - the clock tower was where you became a man, where you (whisper it) got your first shag. Except of course you didn't really. A 12-year-old's definition of a "shag" was somewhat at odds with the Oxford English Dictionary, to say the least. But the schoolday routine leading up to the big non-event was often better than sex (of the teenage grunt and squeak variety) anyway. You'd turn up in the playground in the morning to be told that "Big Babs" (let's call her that, as an Our Tune token of discretion) was "after you". Then, at morning break, a bunch of Babs' giggly mates would come up to you and sort of try and ask you out on her behalf but not manage and just piss off giggling instead. Lunchtime would be spent discussing the implications with your best mate - the House of Commons never was so tense. Then, during the afternoon lesson, a piece of paper would be slipped to you by someone you never spoke to - "Meet me under the clock tonight - Big Babs." And that was it. Your name was already sealed in school legend, and really it didn't matter that all you did under the clock was chat about nothing in the awkward way that twelve-year-old boys do with twelve-year-old girls, before she got bored and went off to play elastic with her mates. But that wasn't what you told everyone at school the next day, of course, oh no, that little scene the next morning made the Summer Nights scene in Grease look like Cliff Richard's funeral. This was safe sex long before Sarah Greene performed fellatio with a banana on national television. But don't worry about any mental scars this rite of passage may have left - I got my end away properly soon after (how soon is, to paraphrase Mr. Mandelson, entriely a matter for myself, you nosey git), and Big Babs is now a fine figure of a woman, and works for an Oxford property agency. And the clock tower? What happened to that big, phallic monument that (entirely appropriately) never went off? They pulled it down in 1988 to build a tennis court. Bloody criminal.



Bloody hell, it's cold. It's probably the only reason you'd be glad to get into a classroom - so you don't freeze your arse of. But when you got into school, removing regulation wellingtons trailing brown slush all over the green flecked lino, there would be a notice up on the wall with the chilling news - "Class 1A assemble in the Terrapin hut". Hearts sank. A regular feature of under-funded schools in the seventies, the Terrapin hut was a temporary construction designed to hous extra pupils brought about by the power cut-fuelled libidos of parents in the early seventies, until the education authority stumped up the cash for a new assembley hall (fat chance). Now, don't get me wrong, Terrapin Construction is no doubt a fine, noble building firm with many admirable landmarks across the globe to their credit. But their huts were shit. They seemed to be made out of a sort of hardboardy, plastery material, insulated with polystyrene which could easily be removed in chunks through a hole near the back of the classroom torn by a bored kid one looong Fletcher Maths afternoon. The windows were single glazed (if you were lucky, wafer thin they were) and were already scratched to buggery and covered with a film of muddy water when they were put in. You entered up some unsteady concrete setps through the door in the middle, and went into either of two classrooms at each end. There was a little cloakroom bit with those useless rows of hooks that always failed to hold your coat, sending it falling to the floor and trampled into the dirt by everyone else in the mad rush to get to the canteen at dinnertime. The classrooms had the regulation roller-blackboard (complete with little hook-on-a-pole for the shortarse biology teacher to get it down with when the little rail was stuck in an awkwardly high position, and the useless section with an orange gris on which never got used), a sort of storage cupboard in the corner full of the blue-covered exercise books, some lockers at the back if you were lucky, and most importantly, the heater. The heater was always up the teacher's end - how bastard fair was that? And lived in a sort of cubic wirs cage (handy for maths masters to demonstrate the concept of volume with) which everyone huddled around desperately trying to warm up as much as possible before teach appeared. And teach never knew how to work it, and the caretaker was always doing some tinkering with the boilers in the proper school building, so that was it, you just sat there, freezing and bored as hell. There were two small plus points - 1: The wire cage on the heater was ideal for leaving Helix Shatterproof rulers on (other people's of course) to melt and be rendered useless for the forthcoming Geography lesson ("It's mapwork today! Get your dividers and rulers out.") 2: The space under the huts (they were raised up on breezeblock foundations) collected no end of tennis balls, Dinky toys and other tat for an agile and thin kid to crawl under and get for himself (when the weather cleared up). But these were minor reliefs. Nowadays the problem with schools is just a lack of computers and decent teachers - in those days we didn't even have a proper school! Kids these days don't know they're born. Paul Mavvin



Tuesday evenings. Dad in a coma on the couch with a reminder of his Findus fish finger and chips dinner circulating around the dining room. It can only mean one thing-time for Whistle Test!! Live music from the Whipping Boys, Dave Hepworth's in-depth report on Billy Bragg's gig in a striking Newcastle coal miners kitchen (okay, maybe not). It seemed that Mr. Bragg was a regular feature on the show (the time where they surgically removed Andy Kershaw's gob from Billy's willy is particularly memorable-just kiddin' Andy calm down!!). The memory of the Smiths cracking set of songs from the then new album 'The Queen Is Dead' - ahh it brings a tear to the eye. To be honest there was some right twats allowed on the show- the Fall had a troupe of interpretive dance 'enthusiasts' prancing about with their collective butts hanging out -but I digress. As constant as a northern star was good ol' Richard (Nice jumper!!) Skinner. Sitting in his little circle at the bottom right hand side of the screen, good ol' Richie would inform us how many places 'Frankie' or 'Roman Holiday' had climbed or dropped that week. Occasionally Rich would flub a word, much to the delight of that other Whistle Test scamp Mark 'I am not Paul McCartney you tosser!' Ellen. How we all laughed. It had to end. There was no way that the Beeb would allow an intelligent, occasionally funny 'rock' show stay on the air. And so, it came to pass that Whistle Test folded up shop and buggered off into obscurity.



Saturday night-closing time. Walking home on remote control hoping that everyone has gone to bed so that you can enjoy your cod n' chips in peace. Click! Late night ITV. No matter what time you staggered in, you always seemed to be in time for The Hitman and Her. The format never changed. Ever. Pete (Waterman) and Machela (Strachan) would show up at some non-descript club to 'party' with the locals. As the 'music' played, the camera would push its way through the lower strata of the clubbing life cycle. Look! - there's Essex man trying to bust a lager fueled move for the ladies! Hey! -there's a Carol Decker clone trying to get a fella's hands off her arse! Waterman never seemed at ease among those that made him a millionaire. Wielding his microphone like a sword, Waterman battled every week to keep the rabble away from him with a salvo of bad jokes and undercooked ad-libs. Michaela on the other hand was oblivious to it all. Hopping and bopping around like a jackrabbit on speed, Michaela Strachan made sure that she didn't leave ANY of those annoying WAC mannerisms back in the studio. Fending off amorous glassy eyed jobseekers with great aplomb, Machela would corner some poor sod and force him/her to 'participate' in a competition. The prizes were usually of the 'trip for two to the local slaughter house' variety (okay, maybe not). Music? Production line pop served up via miming SAW robots on the stage or via the guest deejay. This show epitomized everything that was wrong with the music scene in the mid to late eighties. But like it or not I was on that couch every Saturday night like a masochist waiting for the whip crack. OUCH!! Derek Boland



A barnet that would put Roy of the Rovers to shame. Neck ties that could hide the population of Tooting Broadway. Trousers that went on forever. Jack Regan was the manliest cop on 70's T.V. GRRRR!!! Chasing after crims in his Granada V-6 with gay abandon (Oi!!), you could be sure that Regan didn't allow any of that 'politically correct' stuff on his manor mate! Criminals were scum that needed to be scraped off the streets-with a swift kick in the jewels for good measure. If you were the girlfriend of a face ('take a butcher's at these will ya love') and turned out to be uncooperative-well that's just you're tough luck. You were deemed a slag and you'd better shut it and tell Jack were the boyfriend was (which can be tricky if you think about it). None of that bottled water for the Flying Squad's finest either. After spending the day speeding around catching crims , knocking back your body weight in Scotch was the order of the day. Carter could hold his own, but nobody could throw back half a bottle of 'Nesbitt's North Sea Oil Barrel Scotch' and then drive home like rough and tough Jack Regan. GRRRR!!!!



Morse (or more exactly Morose) existed in a parallel universe. Oxford setting, intricate (see boring) storylines, tasteful clothing, thick but loyal Lewis and of course all that Wagner. If the pacing of Morse's investigations moved any slower the audience would have been witness to the first ever on-camera onslaught of rigor mortis. YAWN!! Dark and broody, Morse was not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve. Poncing about Oxford in that petrol guzzling Jag, we were supposed interpret this guy as the ultimate existentialist sleuth (so there!). What he really was, as we all knew, was a cranky old fart that could use an enema (up it goes). Who knew that there was so many people being murdered in Oxford? Morse's second banana was no Carter, not by a long mile. Carter knew what had to be done to get a case solved (drink, swear, and run/drive around a lot), Lewis, on the other hand, seemed to more interested in his retirement plan than solving a crime. Derek Boland


Early Eighties Heavy Metal Revival

My secondary school years were spent collecting 'Metal' band badges (Wytchfinder General, Magnum, Deep Purple etc.) for my denim jacket, listening to loud hairy music and reading 'borrowed' copies of Kerrang! I can still remember that tragic afternoon when my friend was drawing the Iron Maiden logo onto the back of my jacket . The tosser spelt the name of the band incorrectly. Iron Maden. I mean really! We haven't spoken to this day. The hair, the lyrics, the grime-these guys had it all! I too wanted to be a hard rockin' rocker on the highway of life where no-one understood me but my woman. I had to settle for a Gibson Les Paul knock-off, a 20 watt Vox amp and the stark realization that I would be a virgin for a very long time. To hold the mantle of headbanger in my 'hood you had to know the lyrics to all the Whitesnake/Gillan stuff (natch). More importantly you had to own a copy of K-Tel's Axe Attack Volume II. Axe Attack had 'em all: Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, UFO, Samson, Def Leppard (before the drummer lost his nostril rummaging finger amongst other things). It was over as soon as it started (or so it seemed). As the early eighties faded off into the ether, so too did the metal band revival. But every now and again when a metal song comes onto the radio, I think back to those days of my youth standing in my bedroom, guitar in hand, crucifying 'Wheels Of Steel'.


New Romantics

Every neighbourhood had a couple. They always seemed to travel in packs (for protection I suppose). The long tweed overcoats, the Robin Hood-type leather boots, the hairspray, the eye-liner, lipstick, and of course the music. It seemed that music (Visage, Classix Nouveaux, early Spandau) was secondary to 'the look'. On a Saturday night you would seem them prancing around on the dance-floor, acting all 'now', waving their arms around and looking rather constipated. The one good thing about the Romantics is that they gave my friends and I plenty of 'look at that pillock' fodder as we stood in a circle around our pints (now that's hip!). The truth of the matter was, what may have looked 'cool' (please!) on Top Of The Pops (Tony Hadley in a kilt, chrome domed Sal Solo, or Sad Steve Strange) didn't translate very well to a wet bus stop in Croydon on a Wednesday morning. Reality, an eye for passing fads, or even sensible shoes, didn't figure in the Romantic universe it seems. Sad, but very, very true. Derek Boland



Probably the definitive Cream Era car by my reckoning, if only because its production run from 73-82 coincides so neatly with the peak Cream Nostalgia period. Born in the dark days of the early seventies, when oil crises and 3 day weeks roamed the land, it went on to become a laughable but suprisingly resilient feature of British suburbs in the seventies, with numerous variants: Punters with money to burn could splash out on the luxurious 'van den plas' model, with its imitation Rolls Royce radiator grille and walnut and leather interior; Young Guns could jump in the GT version, which had an excess of go faster stripes, and was always orange; There was a hearse like estate; And, lest we forget, the groundbreaking 'Quartic' square steering wheel in early versions. Also, those famous colours: Aubergine, Harvest Gold, Snapdragon. Indeed, sharp eyed creamers will have noticed in the opening sequence of the Wombles that they use a salvaged Allegro door as part of their cave construction - what finer tribute could there be to this quintessentially seventies car?



What was going on here? Take an affectionately remembered marque from the fifties, and 'revive' it unwanted in the hostile and apathetic mid 70's to a deafening silence. Indeed, its main claim to fame was the allegation that two different committees and/or people designed the front and rear of the car. With its almost obscene 'arse in the air' stance, it always had to be photographed front on to avoid embarrassment. Brown plastic interiors, fabric covered roofs, formica dashboards - the full horror of this pre Lexus era attempt at a 'luxury','upmarket', 'executive' car reverberates around motoring circles to this day. Terry and June owned one - need I say more? Renamed the Ambassador in the early eighties to try and boost sales, disappeared soon after. Mourners singularily failed to line the streets... Adrian Partington

Miles Davis When I left school in '83 I became a Mechanic at a Austin Rover garage in Herne Bay, which must have had the highest concentration of Allegros and Princesses outside of Eastbourne, even Major Dunbar of Kirozokie (as it used to state on his job cards) had one. His was a 1750 Equipe, so that was the twin SU carb, OHC 5 speed Maxi lump, it really shifted... well sort of. Now the original Princesses were badged up as Morris, twin round headlamps and 1.8 B series engine a la MGB / Marina / 1800, then the Austin, rectangular headlamps same lump, but the real winner was the Wosley version with the 2.2 litre OHC lump, a Maxi engine with two extra cylinders nailed on the end !


The Fondue Set

Something of a seventies icon now, and a real cult object in its day. Basically a small pot on top of a burner into which either scorching hot oil or gooey, melted chocolate would be held. Various foodstuffs would then be 'dipped' into the hot liquid with the aid of long forks. Leaving aside such tiresome side effects as third degree burns, us kids never tired of quietly commandeering it in it's off-duty hours, and surrepticously experimenting to see which of us could eat the most bizzare combination of food - chocolate dipped cauliflower was a favourite. The melted chocolate would then burn and fuse itself to the base of the pot, neccesatating a pneumatic drill and /or dynamite to shift. In it's correct guise as a dinner party piece to rank alongside such objects d'art as the Hostess Trolley, it saw years of faithful service at soires throughout the seventies, usually alongside culinary stalwarts of the day such as Chicken Kiev and Peach Melba, and washed down with copious amounts of Mateus Rose and Soda Stream soft drinks(qv) by Kaftaned guests who swanned around the open plan lounge to the strains of Demis Roussos. Probably a few are still in use in suburban bungalows around the country today, craftily hidden away in the manner of a French resistance cell's wireless set during WW2..


The Sodastream

It seemed such a good idea at the time. A neverending supply of soft drinks from cradle to grave, unencumbered by such tiresome obstacles as having to trek to the supermarket,etc. Except that it wasn't. The dinky little bottles it used were too small to slake a summer thirst, unless you got a sort of production line going - as anyone who was press ganged into using one to supply a party with soft drinks will testify. The compressed CO2 bottles it ran off packed the explosive punch of a small bomb if mishandled, and used to nestle like nuclear fuel rods in the cupboard under the sink. The 'flavours' themselves might of passed muster in the frugal, post war years, but were well past their sell by date in the seventies, often literally so. There was a syrupy cola drink, various generic 'ade' drinks, distinguished only by their colour, and a lurid one called something like 'Witches Brew' which was bright green and was destined to lurk, untouched, at the back of the drinks cupboard forever more, like a container of toxic waste. Adrian Partington

70s Toys and Bikes


Long, long ago, before the Furby and Nintendo, before Pac-Man and Space Invaders, before even BMX and Rubik's cubes toys were toys, the real thing lifted straight from the thirties and souped up for the go-faster 70's. The late, great hall of fame reads something like this. Scalextric, the king of toys. The Peter Powell stunt kite. Soda stream, the Chopper with three speed sturmey archer hub and a gearstick. And a sidestand. Lego, Meccano and Action Man. Shaker-maker and Buckaroo. Timex watches with luminescent dots. Walkie talkies and a six blade pen knife. And Super Flight Deck. A skateboard with Kryptonics. Oh yeah and Hot Wheels. Evel Knievel's stunt bike, a music centre with 33 AND 45 rpm and a strobe thing to get the speed right, plus 4 band radiogram with an illuminated dial, and the cassette player has a little rack in it for storing up to 5 cassettes. And VU meters. Air rifles and the Diabolo catapult. Airfix 1/72nd scale spifires and Messerschmidts. Crossfire, Operation and gyroscopes. Tony Claydon had all that stuff, and he saw Tracey Henderson's tits. The bastard.


Of course many companies tried to emulate the great, well remembered toys and failed miserably. Who remembers the Raleigh Grifter, Tri-Ang bikes, plastic skateboard helmets with ventilation slots and those studded headbands that made your face itch? Fischer Technic, Hornby OO that only wankers like Mark Francis and Martin Whitfield had. Dinky Toys, First division Panini stickers where you had to pay Nigel McDermott 20p for the Liverpool silk which was next to impossible to get actually with the bubble gum (which was always flaky and tasted of banana cardboard). Oh god yeah there were all sorts of 'Star Wars' sweets too which had sod all to do with Star Wars apart from having 'Star Wars TM' written on the packet, in that particular way where the top of the 'S' joined up with the bar on the 'T'. Some sort of tube you would twirl round your head to make it whistle. They were shit Oh so were space hoppers. 'What?' I hear you cry, oh yes, they were rubbish. Have you seen one since 1975? They're tiny!Those 4 foot long fishing rods, 'Snap Together' models of the Indian chiefs of the wild west (free with Ricicles), the Bionic Man with roll up skin so you could see his bionic podules. LED digital watches where the batteries ran out the first day back at school after christmas. The 'Turbo Tower of Power' stunt bike (a parody of Kneivel). These needless to say were the presents I always got which made Tony Claydon laugh like drain. Well I didn't care cos I could grab stingers by the stem and it didn't hurt. Hey! Let's play war. George Lennan

David Mansfield The Grifter was so obviously more desirable for the kid of the time - only now has the Chopper attained some sort of nostalgic (70's style) bent. The Grifter was the ultimate 80's bike - chunky, funky with hand-twist gears...remember that, hand- twist gears. This was BMX before BMX. You even got blisters on the insides of your hands. (And that was just from doing wheelies) (Wheelies I said) Admitedly the Boxer kicked Budgies' ass in the playground, and don't forget the Tommahawk/Commando double header, but in the Big Boys league it was Grifter all the way And don't forget - with a deft fold of the rear mudflap you had a realistic motorcross noise. (even if it did leave a U shaped melted hole on your "flap") The Notting Hill boys might like choppers for the easy leg access, but us street-racers will always use Grifters.

Miles Davis About six months before the Grifter and Boxer came out Raleigh really broke the mould with the revolutionary "Striker", it came in commando green and featured a rear "Coaster" (back pedal) brake and motorcycle style front forks with dummy suspension gaiters, it was soooo trick at the time that people weren't sure about it, hence the delay in releasing the Grifter while it got "de sauced" and turned into what we know. I also remember the hideous "Grifter 2" with laser graphics and flippin square section Chopper tyres...


Wembley Trophy Football

Ah !!! Every budding footballer’s dream. You wake up Christmas morning and rush downstairs to your waiting pile of pressies, and there it is, the tell-tale 1 foot square cube that can contain only one thing, a Wembley Trophy Football ! These only came in a textured orange plastic inscribed with black lines to resemble the panels of a real leather football. Also like a real football they were supposed to be the regulation size and weight. The problem was, regulation Footballers are grown men ! when you first kicked one these with your age 10 feet, clad in a pair of Georgie Best football boots, it was like kicking the wheel of a stationary bus ! and heading the thing was like torture. But it was worth it, no other plastic football had the same attraction, kids would come from miles around to join in a game with a real Wembley Trophy ball and once you got used the weight it was actually brilliant for playing football with as it was totally unaffected by the wind. But I think the one thing which ensures it’s place in the toy’s Hall of Fame is it’s amazing sound ! Yes it made a noise ! Whenever it was kicked or headed a strange sort of ringing sound would come from within the ball ! brilliant !!!


Space Hoppers

Surely one of the most disappointing things ever invented. This toy must hold the world record for the biggest gap ever between the lust and longing promised by the TV and magazine ads and reality. The ads promised some sort of wonder device that would see the end of cars and bicycles as a means of transport, from now on you could just sit on your Space Hopper, bounce once or twice and then proceed to bounce off to school or race your mates round the block with no further physical effort. But of course, no such luck, the thing was a nightmare ! It was virtually impossible to sit on, you either sat too far back and fell backwards, cracking your skull on the pavement (it just refused to bounce on grass) or you sat too far forward and the hopper just hung limply behind you like some sort of hideous orange Hemorrhoid ! and when you could get it going, after about 10 bounces you were knackered ! and the face on it was enough to give kids nightmares, what was it meant to be ? a rabbit from hell ? But above all my worst memory of the Space Hopper was an episode of that Summer holiday classic TV series "Don’t just sit there, go out and do something less boring instead !" where 3 young girls occupied themselves through the summer months by having there own "Horse of the Year Show" in their back garden, jumping fences made with broom sticks and chairs, on, you guessed it, Space Hoppers. It must have ended in tears! Steve Buckmaster

Miles Davis Wembley Footie, agreed top football, even better than the "Super Striker" found in huge nets outside Amoco stations. The one thing better than the strange "ring" it gave on punting was the way it could fly in bizarre directions as is being controlled by an external force. Because of this we all used to call them "Floaters", which incidentally was almost the name of the Ivory Coast's goalie in the African Nations Cup about seven years ago. Because of Falie Outa we all supported the Ivories and they were really shite, especially Mr. Outa... bastard.


Race and Chase

For those that don't remember, Race and Chase was the Scalextrix equivalent of taking the mountain to Mohammed. At the height of the Dukes Of Hazzard's popularity (and my, what a dizzy (or should that be Daisy?) height that was), toy company Tyco realised that not every eight year old could afford the plane/train/automobile fare to Hazzard County (I was gutted, incidentally when I found out it didn't exist). Tyco, bless 'em, cleverly encapsulated all that back-axle car battering action in a box and sold it as Race and Chase. So rather than your conventional figure-of-eight circuit, you got a track with a section of the track that acted as a tilting ramp, sending either your Ferrari or police car soaring literally inches into the air. Sometimes, the car even landed in the groove on the other side as it was meant to. Of course, this meant the car bringing up the rear had nowhere to go but the backside of the ramp, I hear you say. But no, not content with this, Tyco also designed the cars to do U-turns! This was a tricky manoeuvre to say the least, but did result in you outrunning the cop/ catching the crook, as well as the glowing admiration of your friend as you sat cross-legged on his garage floor (as in my case). If you'd like to master the art of the U-turn, look no further than HERE where all is revealed. In short, this toy was far more fun than you had any right to expect. The whole idea brought an edge of excitement and danger to what essentially is the most overrated and expensive child's toy around, the electric racing set. Going round and round for an hour in a badly decaled Ford Escort Mk 1? No thanks, I've got my Race and Chase.

Note RACE AND CHASE was not an official Dukes of Hazzard toy (as endorsed, presumably, by Piggy Productions), just a late 70s Cannonball Run/ Convoy/ Smokey and the Bandit type car chase cash-in. Good on 'em, I say.


Millennium Falcon

At the other end of the good toy/ crap toy spectrum, we find the Millennium Falcon. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a big a fan of Star Wars as the next mid-20's child, and there's no denying that the MF was the finest craft in the galaxy, kiddo. So where did Hasbro go wrong with what was sure to be a money magnet? I'll tell you- plastic. Now obviously the thing had to be made of the stuff, but did it need quite so much of it? When you watch the film, you see huge areas of the ship- cockpit, corridors, compartments and training rooms. You get the sense of a huge, lumbering yet nifty craft with hundreds of stowaway nooks and crannies soaring through asteroid fields. Then when you persuade the big people to shell out enough cash that they probably could have bought the actual ship and saved Han Solo from all that grief with Jabba, you were guaranteed certain disappointment. For a start, had no-one at Hasbro looked at the original plans of the ship? They'd obviously got the scale quite wrong. The cockpit could hold one figure, wedged in with his sticky-out legs and a couple more in the training room around the chess table. But where were the corridors, vents and service hatches? This may sound picky, but this sort of thing is not lost on an eight-year old. Whole sections of the ship were just hollow plastic, which granted was probably so it was light enough to carry the damn thing (When you've hands like little salad tongs, it seemed bloody huge). So it was big, but at the same time not big enough. Now, someone is bound to point out that it had all or some of these features and they thought the MF was the best thing since the little pop-up R2D2 at the back of the X-Wing. But this is how I remember it, and I have never forgiven Hasbro for as much. The whole thing was just a great big, plastic let-down when you imagined what it could have been, and knowing that your mum and dad had to let out the spare room to pay for the damn thing. Mike Cheshire

Phil Hubbard I seem to remember 70s favourite Matchbox being the distributor of Race & Chase in this country. It was the top of the range "Powertrack" system The track was a small figure of eight affair with a tilting yellow jump ramp in the middle. the cars you got with it was a Blue & White rozzer with red lights on the top and a White vette with a wide yellow stripe down the middle of the boot roof & bonnet. Matchbox's "Powertrack" was not the only type of race track they dabbled in they had a go at emulating Ideal's TCR track too. This was imaginatively called Matchbox "Lanechanger" I don't think it sold too well as I or none of my mates ever had one of these. Race & Chase on the other hand was really cool and most of my mates had this. I ended up with a TCR set which was duff in comparison. I guess Tyco may have re released this type of racing in a similar guise but it was definately Matchbox who did this first circa 1980 methinks...


Fruit Salads

Fruit Salads were delightful little penny sweets from the time when such things really did cost a penny. I'm not sure what sort of fruit they were supposed to be based on, and it really doesn't matter - we all know that sweet flavours, like crisp flavours, have a special taste all of their own which, while identifiable in its own right, bears no resemblence to anything produced by nature. The point was that with Fruit Salads you felt like you were getting your money's worth. They had proper wrappers, yet still didn't move up into the 2p category like Drumsticks or those odd two-tone lollies on sticks. You could take 10p into your local shop and come out with a feast fit for a king, or at the very least a crown prince. I expect they even like Fruit Salads on the moon. Unlike...



Black Jacks

Try one of these, the urchins in the playgound would say. They make your mouth go black. Well, if that's all they've got going for them, I'm not interested, thanks all the same. Black Jacks were Fruit Salad's evil cousins, and for some reason the two always came together, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to put fruit and liquorice together. The wrapper had a picture on it of an unwrapped sweet flaunting its liquoricey nakedness at children the world over, but this was never enough to make me want to eat them. Liqourice was a bad choice of flavour because it was too grown up - I associated it with long car journeys and being force-fed Pontefract cakes. No amount of marketing or trying to pretend that they were just black Fruit Salads was going to convince me otherwise. I am pleased to say that I haven't seen any Black Jacks on sale for a long time, and I only hope that the current trend for ironic sweets doesn't see a revival for the dark princes of the confectionary world. Alan Beilby