The Straightness of George Michael

Back in the early 1980s, I was one of those annoying “alternative” British teens who, when pressed, would admit they quite liked “Wham Rap!,” which extolled the freedoms of unemployment (“I’m a soul boy! – I’m a dole boy!”), and acknowledged he was “really talented,” but essentially dismissed George Michael as “too commercial.” Which in the inverted snobbery of the era essentially meant “uncool.” And also – you may find this rather difficult to believe – “too straight.” Me on the straightness – and subversive […]

Pride & Prejudice

I think the time has come to share a secret about my past I’ve kept hidden for far too long. Back in the 20th Century, when I was still a teenager (just) – and a long, long time before I became cynical old queen – I shook a bucket for the miners as a member of an unlikely lefty group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners during the Great ‘Coal Not Dole’ NUM Strike of 1984-85. I had no idea a film had been […]

Straight Down the Hatch

As the 80s boy racer dreamboat the Peugeot 205 GTI turns 30 Mark Simpson remembers stroking its stick-shift Hot. Hatch. In the world of car porn there is no other conjugation that raises the punter’s pulse more than that one – evoking as it does fuel injection, tight handling, firm suspension, snug interiors and accommodating rears. And amongst hot hatches, the Peugeot 205 GTI is the ultimate car porn star. This year the French stunner, launched back in 1984, when the miners were on strike and Frankie […]

1983: The High Summer of (Synth-)Pop

From the gender-bending of Eurythmics, Culture Club & Marilyn, to the propulsive synthpop of Depeche Mode, New Order, & the Human League, 1983 was, argues Mark Simpson, a high-water mark for pop experimentation. (Originally appeared on Out.com, 18 Feb, 2014) IN 1983, THE YEAR THAT MCDONALD’s introduced the Chicken McNugget and the second Cold War was at its height, the world very nearly ended when huge NATO exercises were mistaken by an extremely jittery USSR for preparations for a nuclear first strike. More ominously still, compact […]

Stretch Jeans & Synthpop: The Human League’s ‘Dare’

By Mark Simpson IN THE EARLY YEARS of the 1980s stretch jeans were all the rage. Stretch jeans and The Human League’s Dare. Both were revolutionary but practical and, when wrapped around youth, snugly-smugly invincible. I was sweet 16 when Dare was released in 1981 and it confirmed all the psychoses of teenagerdom. We thought the future belonged to us and our arrogant thighs, with our denim/spandex mix and new-fangled dance-orientated synth-pop. We thought we were so fucking clever. So fucking fuckable. And we were so fucking right, even […]

How Ridley Scott invented the 1980s – And His Own Obscurity

Inevitably Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, which I went to see last night, was Gladiator crossed with Kingdom of Heaven – but with the embarrassing mistake of Orlando Bloom dead-headed. Though actually I found myself missing Bloom’s lightweight charms. Robin Hood is even more boring and pretentious than both of Scott’s ponderous epics combined (which is an achievement of sorts). Except that is for the entertainment provided by Russell Crowe’s idea of a northern English accent – a mixture of Harry Enfield Scouse and Brad Pitt […]

Don’t Mess With the Bull Young Man, You’ll Get the Horns

  Mark Simpson on John Hughes’ pristine legacy (Arena Hommes Plus, Winter 2009) So here’s the pitch:  A Hollywood teen movie in which nothing happens.  All day. In a school library. Introduced by a pretentious quote from David Bowie’s ‘Changes’. Or how about this: A boy bunks off High School to take his friends to mooch around an art gallery, to the strains of something especially delicate by The Smiths. What do you mean you’ll call me? Don’t you want to invest your millions in […]