Season’s greetings to all RPM-People! This time of year is prime for accumulating all manner of collectables that you really don’t need, but really must have: Christmas is coming, the goose is getting tat, and all that. With that skewed mantra in mind, for this latest of my Pop Culture Schlock columns I present a righteous rockin’ relic that I found loitering under the Xmas tree at my childhood home on December 25th, 1981…
I have extolled the virtues of the annual previously in the virtual pages of RPM; detailing the must-have Rock On! annual from Christmas 1979 in an earlier column. It would be very remiss of me, however, to not dip a cowboy-booted-toe into the waters of this hard-backed veteran of youthful gift lore at the time of year when, once upon a happier time, an annual was as Christmas as mince pie.
The Record Mirror Pop Club annual 1982 – released in time for Christmas 1981 – was given to my then-ten-year-old self by a cool aunt. She had once won a beauty contest, almost got scalped in a car accident, and had got the top of one of her fingers cut off at a zoo so, yeah, she was cool. The cover photo of said annual was a great live shot of The Police, the first band that I, post-childish Showaddywaddy infatuation, really got into and had posters on my bedroom wall of. I guessed that this cover was the reason why this annual had resided in a pile of now-crumpled wrapping paper under my tree. But, no; a quick finger of the pages informed me that this gift was pointed in my direction due to the inclusion of my latest (and arguably greatest) musical infatuation, KISS!
Yes, a full-page colour feature entitled “The KISS of Success” was the reason why this annual found itself in my possession, where it would remain for almost four full decades. The photograph that accompanied the article was, and remains, simply awesome. Messrs Simmons, Stanley, Frehley, and Carr, the newest band member, looking slick in the photoshoot used to promote the band’s 1980/81 ‘Unmasked’ world tour. Now, I know that the photos were taken on the day of the band’s 1980 show at the New York Palladium – the only show where Eric Carr wore the original “silver fox” version of his make-up. Then, I, like many others, I guess, was left wondering just how this great new drummer looked a little different. The photos were used for the tour books of the European and Australian legs of the ‘Unmasked’ world tour with crude touching-up of Carr’s make-up to remove all traces of the silver outlines. I wouldn’t hold an ‘Unmasked’ tour book in my hoarder hands for many a year, so this was my first experience of the original (not to be confused with Carr’s hawk make-up trial which was mocked more than Gene’s future hair hats) fox look and it felt special.
The feature spoke to me of enthusiastic acclaim for ‘Attack of the Phantoms’ from Australia and Germany; of how the solo albums sojourn had seen the band members return stronger, with astonishing new energy, to produce sensational albums like ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Unmasked’; and of how former member, Peter Criss, would always “remain as a member of the KISS partnership.” As frothy as the feature was, the fact that I now had a full-page colour feature to drool over rather than the minuscule black and white cuttings collected by each and every UK-based KISS Kid meant everything.
The annual wasn’t all about KISS, though: the pages featured many intelligent articles on all manner of (then-)current bands and artists. The Daily Mirror Pop Club was, you see, an actual club that offered money off concert tickets, free to enter rock and pop contests, and a members-only cassette lending library which boasted over 5,000 titles. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones were honorary presidents of the club. If proof were ever needed that the Daily Mirror once had a life beyond indentikit idiocy enabler then here it is.
“Things Look Good For Dire Straits” yelled a headline accompanying a two-page spread; “Go Quo in ’82!” another such piece. Cover stars The Police got a three-page article where each band member’s private life was dissected; guitarist Andy Summers revealed to have once shared an apartment with actor Paul Michael Glaser – yes, Starsky himself! Sheena Easton, Olivia Newton-John, Joan Armatrading, Kelly Marie, and Earth, Wind and Fire all got one-page features, as did Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond in a dedicated crooners section. To even things up a little, The Tourists, XTC, and Hazel O’Connor all featured, as did a lengthy John Peel article. With Elton John and Billy Joel spreads rubbing inked shoulders with features on Air Supply and Don McLean, the eclectic mix of the hit parade of the early Eighties was captured almost perfectly. But what of the rock and metal, I hear you cry over your Manowar records – full colour posters of Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy would surely quench any metalli-thirst.
Posters, you say? What kind of savage would cut up a frigging annual? Not me! If, however, you were some kind of imbecile then matt-finished photographs of Debbie Harry, Kate Bush, Rod Stewart, Madness, Sad Café, Cliff Richard, and Leo Sayer in a bike jacket could have covered up the woodchip in your boxroom.
I hope that an annual resides under the Xmas tree of all cool kids who have taken the time to read my retro ramblings on RPM this year. I shall return in 2020 with more tales of rock ‘n’ roll spit being swallowed by the worlds of comic books, board games, action figures, and the like. I know that the world appears to be more fucked up than it has for some time but, if you’ve ever asked the question offered by the theme tune of one of the greatest television shows of the twentieth century – “is the only thing to look forward to, the past?” – then I may be able to bring you brief moments of solace via my much-loved, well-fingered pieces of tat. Have a cool yule, y’all!
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Author: Gaz Tidey