Archive Page 2

Shell suits

One fashion trend that surely will never return to our streets, well except in Liverpool anyway, the shell suit was a disaster from start to finish. Even its description on Wiktionary makes them sounds god-awful:

A lightweight tracksuit consisting of a matching zip-front jacket and matching elasticated trousers, each having an outer nylon shell, often bearing panels and flashes of different colours, and inner cotton lining; popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s both as sportswear and as general leisurewear.

Any trend that is pioneered by Jimmy Saville is worrying but the problematic polyester took off in the late 80s and reached their peak during the early 90s. They often featured awful colour combinations and made people look like a packet of Refreshers.

Perhaps if you were working out at the time you could get away with it but the mere fact that people used to wear them to the pub, around the house and even on nights out concerns me. There’d be no need for a lighting system in the local discothèque as people breakdanced and bodypopped in their rainbow coloured clothing.

However they were practical as they were waterproof which is a good thing, but take it to other extreme and you’ve got a problem. If exposed to hot temperatures or fire they suddenly melted and gave you no protection, especially on Bonfire Night as they attached themselves to your skin.

At least burning shell suits is one way of getting rid of them, or the other being hand them into you’re local Oxfam. Whilst you think you’re doing a good turn and helping a charity, they won’t sell them as no-one wants to be seen or even heard in them thanks to the plastic rustling like leaves as you moved around.

Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin’ Chain attempted to reintroduce the shell suit when they had a spell in the charts a few years ago and I’m sure many of the chavs that lurk in city centres would find them tasteful today. And then there are the Eastern Europeans who probably think they look amazing dressed like someone who got stuck in a wrapping paper warehouse.

But no matter how people try to recover the popularity of the tracksuit’s scabby little cousin it looks to be destined to appearing in the mean streets of Newport rather than New York for the foreseeable future.

South Park

It seems like a good time to write an article about a show that will celebrate its 200th episode this week, but whilst South Park continues to mock celebrities and warp our fragile little minds with its crude humour, it took off towards the end of the 90s.

The show revolves around a core group of four friends, Cartman, Kenny, Kyle and Stan in their small redneck town called South Park in Colorado. There are many other characters who also feature prominently and attracted me to the show in its infancy.

South Park began being shown in the UK on Sky One in 1998 and would be on well past my bedtime, however when it began a year later on Channel 4 me and my friends could enjoy it in the comfort from our rooms, and without our parents knowing.

The show was riddled with swearing, sexual references and other profanity, indeed Mr Hankey was a talking poo and Kenny was brutally killed in most of the early episodes. But the 10 year old me loved it despite most of the references going straight over my innocent head.

When we went on holiday a few months later me and my sister put it on the telly before we went out one night, and my folks were stunned when Stan was asked to put a stick in his girlfriend’s “pee-hole”. But noticing our naivety they just burst out laughing and enjoyed the show themselves.

And then came the t-shirts, posters, CDs and all the other merchandise as South Park became huge for a generation of kids who really didn’t know what it was about. When we saw the movie we were all totally confused about references to “finding the clitoris”, but thankfully for my former girlfriends I found out eventually.

And so the episodes racked up and we were introduced to cripple fights, authori-tah and “mmm-kay” over the years. Many of you will have your favourite moments but for me the episode with Jimmy desperately trying to get over his problem to perform on stage is pure genius, click here to see it.

Over recent years the show has sometimes come across as quite preachy and too satirical, and I still think the older episodes are the best where every character was made from bits of paper and filmed. However it is still one of the funniest shows on television and is sure to have a few more years in it yet.

At the end of many shows, Stan says to Kyle “you know what, I’ve learnt something today” and South Park taught me and many of my fellow 10 year old pals how to swear properly, how to take the piss out of celebrities and the female genitalia. And for that I am entirely thankful.

Blackburn Rovers

When you think of Blackburn Rovers now, you immediately think of physicality, long balls and football as ugly as their boss Sam Allardyce. But the fact remains that Rovers are only one of four sides to win the Premier League since it began in 1992.

Thanks to Jack Walker’s millions the Lancashire side were the Manchester City of the 90s, splashing the cash to bring in the likes of Alan Shearer, David Batty and Tim Flowers to a newly refurbished Ewood Park, and they would go on to win probably the tightest title race of the modern era.

The key signing came when they broke the British transfer record once again to sign Chris Sutton for £5 million from Norwich just before the 1994/95 season began. He and Shearer immediately struck up a fantastic partnership and began scoring goals for fun, netting 49 in total as Blackburn soon topped the table with champions Manchester United trailing.

It looked to finally be the season that Kenny Dalglish’s men were going to win their first league championship since 1914, especially when United’s star player Eric Cantona went all kung-fu on a Crystal Palace fan and would miss the remainder of the season, but Alex Ferguson signed Andy Cole for £7 million from Newcastle and wouldn’t give up.

Whilst United went goal-crazy, including beating Ipswich 9-0, Blackburn began to crumble. Their large lead at the top was cut dramatically and the title went down to the final day of the season where Rovers had to travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool, and United had a seemingly easier task just to beat West Ham. If United won and Rovers dropped points, the trophy would be in Ferguson’s hands for a third season in a row.

In one of the most remarkable days in Premier League history, Shearer netted his 34th goal of the season to give Blackburn the lead, and West Ham opened the scoring at Upton Park. United levelled through Brian McClair and Liverpool came back to win the game in the final minute. United though couldn’t score the crucial goal and Rovers were champions.

It would be as good as it got for Blackburn as Dalglish moved into a director of football role and they struggled the following season before Shearer left and the side started to break up. They would be relegated four seasons after their league triumph and haven’t come close to repeating it since.

But how refreshing would be it to see someone else from outside the “Big Four” actually take the championship once again? Here’s to hoping that 2010/11 is the season where a new name is carved onto the trophy.

Titanic

“Titanic” is literally the biggest film ever seen in all aspects. It held the record grossing movie of all time until recently, and it cost over $200 million to produce. In the 90s this was unheard of and everyone went to see it.

Directed by James Cameron, “Titanic” features a love story between Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet’s characters Jack and Rose, who are poles apart in class sense. They fall in love on board the liner to the dismay of Rose’s snooty family and their relationship blossoms until the fateful day when the ship sank.

But don’t let that put you off, even I who doesn’t particularly like films enjoyed watching it because there’s something for everyone in it. In an attempt to appeal to men it has drunken behaviour, sex scenes and Winslet even appears topless which all helps you get through the whole three hours, even if you do have to listen to Celine Dion warble on.

Because of its huge budget the film received a lot of hype and many critics had their knives out hoping that it would sink just like the RMS Titanic itself. After being released in December 1997 it topped the box office for a record 15 weeks, and made over $13 million on Valentines Day alone.

Someone brought it into my school on video towards the end of term and we were allowed to watch it as a treat, and whilst lads laughed and girls cried when Jack slipped off the door, I couldn’t believe the special effects as they were the greatest thing I’d see on TV, well apart from Newcastle dismantling Manchester United 5-0 obviously…

Unbelievably Cameron issued a scale model of the ship to be built for the film and used millions of gallons of water when filming. Many of the crew and actors came down with flu or kidney infections after being in the water for so long and he got stuntmen to recreate people jumping from the side of the boat. No wonder the SFX looked so good, they were actually real.

“Titanic” became the highest grossing movie of all time, making over $1.8 billion and has only been surpassed by “Avatar”, however instead of a weird film about a crossover between Abe from Abe’s Odyssey and The Smurfs, 3D viewing will be taken to the next level when “Titanic” is converted into the format to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship sinking in 2012.

I for one am looking forward to seeing that spectacle and being able see what Jack sees when he stands on the front of the ship. However if I do accidently shout “I’m the king of the world!” you all have my permission to slap me.

Virgin Cola

Fair play to Richard Branson, he gets most things right. The madcap entrepreneur owns the world famous Virgin brand and runs successful airlines, train networks, music festivals and even now his own Formula One racing team. But Virgin Cola was a mistake.

Branson decided to take on the American giants of Coca Cola and Pepsi by releasing his own drink in 1994. It came in curvy bottles called “the Pammy” to continue with Virgin’s jovial image, but just like Miss Anderson’s bra size throughout the decade Virgin Cola went tits up.

It did achieve initial success with Branson gaining a 50% market share in Britain when it was first launched and looked to be a serious threat to the established American brands. He even managed to get Monica, Chandler and co to drink it in “Friends” as he aimed to take the battle of the beverages Stateside.

Never one to do low-key launches, the silver-haired billionaire rode into Times Square in New York on a tank, declaring war with the red and blue brands. In similar fashion to his attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon in the 90s, sales of Virgin Cola crashed and quickly disappeared across the pond.

It then began to fizzle out over here as people realised that it just wasn’t as nice as Coca Cola. I didn’t particularly mind it but it was a poor man’s Coke, after all why would you date Alexandra Burke if you could get with Rihanna?

And slowly but surely it began to disappear. The only major supermarket to keep selling it was Asda, and it was even stopped being sold on Virgin Trains as no-one would buy it. Apparently it is still forced upon people on board Virgin flights, but that’s only because there’s no-where else to buy a drink 20,000 feet in the air.

And yes you did read that correctly, Branson hasn’t put a lid on Virgin Cola just yet. Even though I haven’t spotted a silver shaped bottle in the shops for years on end it is still available from most bad newsagents, and there have been quiet attempts to re-introduce it to America too.

Many Virgin brands have taken a while to take off (a bit like his planes) but gradually become successful, but surely nearly 20 years of trying to break the drinks market is enough? If Branson is too stubborn to scrap his attempts it could leave him, just like those who drank it, with a bad taste in the mouth.

Sonic The Hedgehog

Imagine being able to run faster than Usain Bolt, spinning more than Shane Warne and as being as blue as Eiffel 65 wanted you to be. That’s the world that Sonic the Hedgehog lives in, and he was one of the biggest stars of the decade.

After Nintendo had launched Super Mario as their mascot of sorts, Sega decided to respond. At the time the figurehead of their company was a character called Alex Kidd, who looked like the lovechild of Ian Brown and Superted. Noticing how stupid he looked, Sega decided a change was needed.

After rejecting an armadillo, a Theodore Roosevelt look-alike and a rabbit, Sonic was thankfully chosen. Blue was chosen to reflect the Sega logo, and whilst his shoes were inspired by Michael Jackson his personality was to mirror Bill Clinton’s. Thankfully Sonic was never caught shagging his co-workers and went about saving the world.

Sonic first appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog, the first of his games released on the Sega Megadrive. Subsequent sequels would follow as the games proved incredibly popular, and are still classics to this day. Indeed, I just spent an enjoyable hour playing this game which I stumbled across. Well it would be rude not to wouldn’t it?

Soon there would be Sonic The Comic, and his television show was so good that even though it was shown at 6.30am on Channel Four, me and my sister used to watch it religiously. His likeness would appear on Formula One cars, football shirts and everywhere else in between. In a short period of time Sonic had conquered the world.

He was also a hero to me as despite being able to run as fast as the speed of sound, a misled assumption that hedgehogs couldn’t swim by one of his creators meant Sonic freaks out when he gets near water, just like myself. However he can use his speed to run across large bodies of water, whereas I just splash around trying to keep myself afloat.

Despite this flaw Sonic and his buddies would continue to save the world throughout the decade, and has been voted numerous times as everyone’s favourite computer game character. This popularity continues to grow as recently more Sonic games have been released and his legacy continues.

Whilst many of the other stars of the 1990s have disappeared without a trace, even though he is a cartoon character Sonic will live on forever, and generation after generation will be able to enjoy the wonders of the spiky little fella. Now, time for another hour of collecting rings and keeping that Robotnik guy at bay…

Gladiators

I couldn’t face the challenge of the champions, didn’t have the courage of a hero or the will and the skill, but I did feel the power of the Gladiators every Saturday night. Beefed up men and women would hit each other with spongy sticks, climb up rock walls and chase each other around an arena in lycra, and I loved it.

The show began in 1992 and was presented by the unlikely couple of Ulrika Jonsson and John Fashanu, a strange choice of presenter as he was still a footballer at the time, and a mediocre one at that. Today’s equivalent would be Titus Bramble giving it a go, and with his terrible concentration levels that could only be a recipe for disaster.

But somehow Fash the Bash got through it, and the show would become a huge success, mainly thanks to the antics of some of the nastier Gladiators, including the legendary Wolf. His snarling, mean attitude often led to many a confrontation with the contenders, and would have to be tamed by referee John Anderson and his whistle.

The games themselves were amazing, but the warnings about not trying it at home were needless. After all, who has as a Scalextric set or loads of rings hanging from their ceiling, or a couple of giant balls to roll around in? We did used to copy a couple of games which usually involved throwing tennis balls at people, but only ended in pain.

It was also famous for the scandal surrounding it. Tales of cocaine, steroids, guns and horrific injuries flooded the national tabloids, and there was even a fling between Hunter and Ulrika. I’d love to see her other old flame Sven Goran Eriksson take on Hunter in the arena, it would be funny to see him get ripped apart for a change rather than his defences.

The show always ended with the Eliminator, which pitted the two contestants against each other in a race, and was always very exciting. After climbing up cargo nets, hurtling along a handbike and zooming down a zipline you would have to face the toughest challenge, the Travelator, which meant that even the biggest of advantages could be wiped out.

After running for eight years and featuring many spin-offs, the show ended in 2000. It was recently brought back on Sky One but struggled to live up to original’s high standards, and rather than being like a Wolf, the big man just looked like one of those scabby stray dogs you see in foreign countries.

It may be that we never see the likes of Gladiators again in this health and safety obsessed nanny state, meaning our chances of wielding a pugil stick in anger at a jacked-up beefcake are sadly over before they even had a chance to begin.


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About me

Hi I'm Jonny, creator of this blog. Like most people in my generation, I feel that the 90s were indeed an epic decade and this is my tribute to all the things that made it great!