DANCING ON THE VALENTINE: Smash Hits, April 26, 1984

Thirty years ago this week, when I was 12, I bought my first ever issue of Smash Hits. This is it.

1I found it baffling – full of in-jokes I didn’t understand and references to people I’d never heard of. But something about it drew me in. I immediately ditched my regular order for Roy of The Rovers and every second Thursday for the next four years had Smash Hits delivered instead.

This was a golden era for pop music – and crucially as far as Smash Hits was concerned – for pop stars. Of course every generation has its own great pop and everyone thinks the music they listened to growing up is the best, but it’s not always been the case that the artists behind the hits have been worth reading about.

In the mid-to-late-eighties, though, the pop world was overflowing with funny, interesting, controversial and outspoken people. Boy George, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Morrissey and Frankie Goes To Hollywood all had plenty to say for themselves, and Smash Hits was more than happy to provide them with a fortnightly platform to impart their “wisdom”. The writers clearly loved and understood pop, but the tone of their coverage was far from reverential or obsequious. The magazine enjoyed nothing more than poking fun at the pretentions of pop stars and ridiculing their pomposity but did it with a sense of humour and style – and, perhaps even more significantly, without any of the sort of cynicism that you’d expect today.

As the eighties progressed, Smash Hits developed its own parlance that started in the letters page (overseen by the mysterious Black Type) and soon seeped into the rest of the magazine. Much of the credit for this goes to the late Tom Hibbert, the brains behind the letters page.

Among the many Smash Hits inventions and obsessions of the mid-eighties were Sir Billiam of Idol, Lord Frederick Of Lucan, Uncle Disgusting, Um Bongo, foxtresses, various spellings of actually, the overuse of exclamation marks (!!!!!!!!!) and “inverted” “commas”, Mark Unpronounceablename of Big Country, Frightwigs (as sported by Tina Turner, Sigue “Sigue” Sputnik and Spagna), Fab Macca Wacky Thumbs Aloft and the phrase that somehow answered everything… Roland Orzabal and a kangaroo.

In 1984, under the editorship of professional Paul McCartney lookalike Mark Ellen, Smash Hits was just setting off down this road. Here’s a look back at some of the highlights of that first issue I bought exactly 30 years ago. For context, Hello by Lionel Ritchie was at number one in the UK charts, and the Top 10 also included Phil Collins, Queen, Thompson Twins, Duran Duran, Shakin’ Stevens, Kool & The Gang, Captain Sensible, Depeche Mode and OMD.

You can see the full issue (minus a couple of pages that turned out to be missing from my copy) here.



When Nena, the German foxtress with the hairy armpits, scored a number one single around the world with 99 Red Balloons, her record company bosses must have assumed that a glittering global career lay ahead of her. They were wrong. The follow-up  Just A Dream reached number 70 in the UK and the dumper was soon beckoning.


Song lyrics were one of the big selling points of Smash Hits, especially in the early days. Phil Collins sitting side-by-side with Sandie Shaw and The Smiths, summed up the eclectic nature of the magazine.



Sandie Shaw recorded Hand In Glove with The Smiths. So here she is on the news pages posing with her hand in a glove. Clever, eh? Meanwhile, Andy McCluskey of OMD claims Liverpool FC is one of his obsessions, then adds “Funny, because I never go to the games or anything”.


Fifteen posters for £3? Worra snip! Meanwhile, future Big Brother contestant Pete Burns coins the phrase “Gender Bender” to describe people who “look like him” ie Boy George and Marilyn.


Toni Basil, The Fraggles and Spear of Destiny, rub shoulders with The Cure, OMD and Echo And The Bunnymen on the album review (half) page. But who on earth remembers Bauhaus spin-off Tones On Tail?


David “call me Dave” Gahan of Depeche Mode reviews the singles. He likes the Cocteau Twins, Gene Loves Jezebel, Echo & The Bunnymen and, er, Marilyn. He doesn’t like King, the Flying Pickets or Alvin Stardust much. Or, surprisingly, Roland Rat. And Morrissey is “obnoxious and narrow minded” towards other songwriters…


Not sure that “young, free and single” teenagers having their names and home addresses published in a national magazine was a particularly clever move, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. The 80s was such an innocent era. Wonder how many responses the call for “actors, poets and Steve Wright fans” got. A pretty niche group, you’d imagine.


This was C&A fashion, 1984 style.


A brief history of the Eurovision Song Contest by Tom Hibbert. In the days before post-modern, irony it was simply mocked for being dreadful. The UK’s 1984 entry by Belle And The Devotions came seventh, although Belle would go on to have much greater success as one half of a fey, indie pop duo with the historical novelist Sebastian Faulks (Are you quite sure about this? – Ed)


By 1984, picture discs were soooo old hat. Shaped picture discs were, like, where it was at.


Want to know Green Gartside’s home address? Or where Jim Kerr does his shopping? Linda Duff (no relation) has all the answers for creepy stalkers.


Tape the Bluebells off the charts and sing along with this handy lyric sheet.


George Michael denies rumours of a “romantic link” with Hazell O’Connor, two members of Fiction Factory get on a tube train and a selection of football folk go to a George Benson concert. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan also gets an unlikely mention among the “hot” gossip.



Frankie says… 1984 was the year of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Three consecutive number ones singles (in the days when that actually meant something) and a million-selling double album, more controversy than you could shake a stick at and those swanky t-shirts. Oh, and the interview was by soon-to-be Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant, fact fans.


Nile Rogers did some fiddly bits in the studio and transformed a mundane Duran Duran album track into this stomping pop masterpiece. The single is also notable for some of the most impenetrable, meaningless, bonkers lyrics ever committed to vinyl.

You’ve gone too far this time
But I’m dancing on the valentine
I tell you somebody’s fooling around
With my chances on the dangerline
I’ll cross that bridge when I find it
Another day to make my stand
High time is no time for deciding
If I should find a helping hand

So why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it
Buy time don’t lose it
The reflex is an only child he’s waiting in the park
The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover isn’t that bizarre
Every little thing the reflex does
Leaves you answered with a question mark

I’m on a ride and I want to get off
But they won’t slow down the roundabout
I sold the Renoir and the TV set
Don’t want to be around when this gets out


Oh the reflex what a game he’s hiding all the cards
The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover isn’t that bizarre
Evey little thing the reflex does
Leaves you answered with a question mark

A few foaming beakers of Um Bongo were quaffed before that was written, you’d wager.

The letters page with Black Type. Soon, it would all get very strange.


If such a thing existed, would the Smash Hits of today carry a live review of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 (or their modern day equivalent)? I think it’s doubtful, Nice frightwig though.


Nick Heyward was slightly bonkers, what with all his talk of “giant onenesses” (whatever they are) and the like. He should have been a superstar.


A full page ad, but you do wonder how many Smash Hits readers bought this single by post-punk psychobilly rockers King Kurt, even with its free flexi-disc


And speaking of Mack The Knife…


Lastly, a life size poster of be-snooded pop pixie Nik Kershaw. Pin it up!!! Take it down!!!! Hours of fun guaranteed!!!!!



2 thoughts on “DANCING ON THE VALENTINE: Smash Hits, April 26, 1984

  1. Bloody hell, I actually bought that issue. As well as “The Reflex”, on 12″ single. Good times!

  2. Pingback: BERKSHIRE | One man and his tent

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