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You could drink such cocktails at Freud’s a bar in a deconsecrated chapel.
Exhibit C: Video box set (though I doubt it was then available) of award-winning ITV drama serial Brideshead Revisited. Exhibit D: Video of Series 2 Episode 1 of BBC Comedy Series The Young Ones (first TX 1984) The ‘University Challenge’ episode of The Young Ones, though already a few years old, is probably your best visual snapshot of Oxford’s extremes of style and political stance.
Since David Cameron claimed class war anthem “Eton Rifles” as one his Desert Island Discs, many political journalists seem to have bought the argument that they are “The Jam Generation”; the subject of a recent Radio 4 series. They say your musical and cultural tastes are frozen by the time you’re in your early twenties.
It seemed a good time re-post my piece for The Spectator arts blog writtten after they came to power last year about the cultural deadzone of the mid 80s. So what does it say for much of the new government that they hit that seminal moment in the mid-to-late 80s?
The first thing you need to do is forget all their suspicious Estuary English and Tony Blair and David Cameron’s ‘you know’ blokeisms; and most of all, forget Dave’s choice of ‘Eton Rifles’ on Desert Island Discs. ‘Oxford Blues’ inflicted Rob Lowe and a posse of poshies led by Julian Sands on our cinemas. Exhibit A: A Laura Ashley magenta brocade dress with leg o’mutton sleeves and big bow at the back. Bought to wear to THAT 1987 Union Valentine Ball at which David Cameron also made an appearance and was photographed for posterity in black tie.
As someone who happened to be at Oxford at the same time, I have been lifting the repressed memories of what had been the crucial cultural influences around the group now running the country. The dress still lives – hidden – in the back of my wardrobe waiting to be worn as fancy dress when my daughter’s old enough, or turned into a pair of curtains.
The one accuracy, of course, was the broken glass and vomit-flecked antics of the Bullingdon and the sporting clubs that interrupted our Saturday nights with predictable regularity. The intense American Rhode Scholars heading for careers in high finance who put on proper English Mayday breakfasts with champagne, strawberries and scones and networked: ‘Where’d you go? A posh, possibly Etonian fellow student at St Edmund Hall who is to eventually go into the City is running an ‘Oxbox’ boxer shorts company from his rooms (boxer shorts are, of course, a very 80s thing) and has taken to calling me ‘Sharon’ whenever he sees me (it is his idea of a joke about the lower orders). I note that ‘the Socialist Workers Party, Latin American Society and Third World First are supposed to be great places to meet new people’.
I don’t know who told me this and, though never explained in the diary, I actually never try out any of them. Militancy is wreaking internal havoc in the large Labour party contingent and future Oxfordshire MP Evan Harris is a worryingly intense and organised presence in the Liberal-SDP alliance for the General election campaign that the Conservatives win comfortably. My first mix tape made on my sister’s stereo in the summer holiday after A-levels is dominated by the Communards with a single Dire Straits track: ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
I have also done my first political interview for the university paper – with Labour Student Union president Stephen ‘Were you up for Portillo? As with the odd subsequent politicians the subject is rather miffed that it’s not entirely complimentary. Record players are on the way out, and certainly too bulky to bring up to college. Exhibit F: The mix tape, with its song titles written in capitals in fading biro and entitled, though the writing is too faded to be sure: ‘Oxford 1986’. My contemporary Toby Litt confirms my memory of ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ as the anthem of ‘86 to ‘87.
Let me take you on a personal journey through the fashions, music and politics of a bygone age: a cultural history of the 80s in a dozen or so objects and a kind of criminal trial, hence the lettered pieces of evidence. But it survives mostly as a chilling reminder that in fashion, as much as in print, TV and politics, the 80s were the last time that it was COOL, that many teenagers aspired to look as though they’d inherited money. An alternative to the big meringue dress was the skin tight short ruched and often strapless number (to maximise coltish legs) made, apparently out of Austrian blinds.
Mustard yellow was a popular colour at the Valentine Ball of ‘87. Ideally of a large cocktail with an umbrella standing in front of a Venetian blind- as displayed on many student bedroom walls.
The print is notable for its total lack of visual depth or texture.
It is brightly coloured and conveys 80s glamour and excitement: Wham’s ‘Club Tropicana’ transposed into ink and paper.Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating