Superfans in the sixties.
I don’t suppose I fit the requirements to be called a superfan, well, unless you count having a cheeky wank to a Kate Bush video when I was much younger. Probably not. But I did once (all too briefly) date a tall blonde David Bowie superfan, who probably only ever went out with me because of my passable impression of the Thin White Duke. My vocal dexterity was convincing enough for this dear sweet girl to demand I serenade her with one or two of her favorite Bowie songs during our more intimate moments. I knew it could never last. There was only so long I could sing “The Laughing Gnome” without losing my ardor.
Back in January 1984, Smash Hits music magazine went in search of a selection of typical eighties superfans. They discovered a band of girls and boys who had an overwhelming passion for all things Bowie, Presley, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Madness, Staus Quo, and even Marillion. These young things gave some sweet and occasionally strange answers as they tried to explain exactly what it means to be a “superfan.” Their answers were compiled into a strange format—as if the writer was attempting to cram in as many words as possible into one sentence without thought for punctuation or even explaining who exactly was talking (Me). But that’s not so important as we do get to hear what it meant to be young(-ish) and obsessed with music in the 1980s.
Smash Hits 5-18 January 1984.
NAMES: TRACY PARKES & KIM GREVILLE
AGES: 15 & 14
“I (Tracy) liked them when they first came out. She talked me (Kim) into going on Duran Duran ‘cause I liked Dexys. She told me to take down all my DMR stuff, give it away and stick up Duran Duran. We have about the same amount of stuff. Tracy has more scrapbooks but I’ve got more on the wall—about 50 different things. We don’t get anything. We only get things if we like them. If it’s a really gonkified pic of Simon le Bon we won’t get it. You don’t put gonks on your wall do you? There’s sort of levels of being a fan. We’ve got a friend who is a real fan but we think she prefers football. She only puts up little pictures on her wall. Even if we see a little one when we’re walking up the street, we’ll be screaming. There was one time she went totally mad on Wham!. We didn’t talk to her for about three days. Then suddenly she went back to Duran. All the lost Duran Duran fans are Wham! fans. We visit Roger’s mum and we’ve been up to Nick and John’s parents’ houses. The first time we went to Roger’s we interviewed his mum for a school project and we found out a few facts that no-one else knew. She told us he was tone deaf and that his favourite toy was a glove puppet. And that his favourite meal is Welsh Rarebit. We’ve been up twice now. No three times. The last time she invited us. His dad was there decorating. We had our pictures took with his dad, his mum and the dog. I think people who go mad and sleep on the grass outside are cruel. OK, you might see him but he isn’t going to ask you out and that is what a lot of fans expect. Some of the girls say they are going to meet John Taylor one day. He’s going to swirl them round to the dinner table—with chocolates and everything—and ask them to marry him. We know that isn’t going to happen. I (Tracy) would love to be in one of their videos. Yeah (Kim), even if we were only standing at the bus stop. Anything. The only thing we have in common is that we’re Duran Duran fans. I’m (Tracy) quiet; she’s noisy. I (Kim) say the wrong things; she doesn’t”
STATUS QUO FAN
NAME: TONY SCHAILER
HOME: BATTERSEA, LONDON
“I like Quo because they’re ordinary people. They’re not ‘I’m a millionaire and live in Surrey’ and all that lark. Everything is like one big family. They involve you and you feel wanted. you don’t feel you’re being taken for a ride. The only one that’s different is [Rick] Parfitt. [Francis] Rossi and the other blokes—you can imagine meeting them in Sainsbury’s [a supermarket]. I’ll tell you a funny story: I was working at my sister’s laundrette one Sunday and this woman tells me I’ve got psychic powers. She looks at my hand and goes: ‘There’s someone in your life and it’s got an F on your hand’. I thought of my brother Kevin, my brother Peter, my sister. My parents are both dead. She goes, ‘Think—it’s got to be something to do with music’. Wallop. I think of Francis straight away. weird, eh? Now I’ve got a problem, I’ll talk to him as if he was in the room with me. It’s got to the stage where they’re just my life. If I lost my job, it wouldn’t bother me. as long as I’ve got Status Quo, there’s something worth carrying on for. I once met Francis at a soundcheck in Brighton. He shook my hand, asked me where I came from and all that lark. My eyes just filled with water. He just said: ‘It’s OK mate. Don’t worry about it’. It was the best moment of my life so far.”
NAME: SUE WARREN
HOME: TELFORD, STAFFS
“I got into Madness in a really big way after ‘Baggy Trousers’. And I first started knitting them all gloves—it was just after ‘Cardiac Arrest’ came out and they wear them in that video, so I thought I’d send them all a pair of fingerless gloves in different colours. I did cardies in May ‘82. If I had time I’d knit jumpers for all of them with their names on but I don’t know their sizes. Mike Barson usually wears suits so, for him, it would be something smart like a V-neck slip-over, or a Fairisle perhaps. I think Suggs and Carl would like chunky jumpers. Perhaps for Lee a balaclava with a M-man [logo] on the back. He’s been in touch with the most but I like them all really. And I think they are very good to their fans. There are a lot of groups I could have knitted things for and never heard anything from them. I remember when Lee wrote and said he could get me guest passes for the concert in Birmingham in February. And I met him there in the foyer. We were waiting at the box-office and I heard someone shouting at me and turned round and it was him. I thought, he’ll get mobbed, but he was just stood there…with his gloves on. It was great.”
NAME: PETE PEARCE
“I collect T-shirts, badges, posters, records, tapes…everything. I have 33 bootlegs, 100 albums, 250 singles and video tapes. The most important item is a ‘Rubber Band’ single that Bowie personally gave to the manager of a club in Gosport. I got that for £15 and it’s worth £40. I got a pretty good deal as this is a demo copy and he actually handled it. There’s no fingerprints on it, though I’ve looked. I’ve seen him fifteen times. The first time was the best. Believe it or not, I didn’t go until 1978. My stomach was going. I had the shivers. He always keeps you waiting. I was feeling worse and worse. Then when you see him up there you feel like he’s doing something you wish you were doing. That he’s doing it for you. He does feel like someone you know until you realise he’s not, that I can’t get to him. In Birmingham we got pretty close. We actually got to the door of his room. We got a look in the hotel register and saw which room he was in. We sneaked up there, got to the door, knocked. Then we heard a little scuffle inside, then it all went quiet. Next thing we know, one of his chauffeurs came out and got rid of us. All we wanted was five minutes. We waited ‘til he came out of the hotel. I got within a couple of feet of him but suddenly all these other fans appeared and he was quickly pushed into a car. My mate managed to get a ‘B’ of an autograph. Most of my friends like him but there’s only about four of us who are fanatical. I’m the only one who has tried to look the part. I used to come in for some gyp when I’d wear make-up and a green plastic jumpsuit. This was while everyone else was into bondage trousers. Nobody would talk to me. Even my friends didn’t like to hang around with me.”
NAME: TONY BRENNAN
HOME: RICHMOND, SURREY
“When I was 13, I used to go to classical concerts a lot. When I heard Marillion I thought this is something rather more musical than your average chart stuff. I’ve seen them 19 times so far and in The Marquee once a 50-year-old bloke said: ‘It’s like those born-again Christians, isn’t it! They go round from door to door talking about the coming of God. It’s like that with this group. You’ve just got to tell people how good they are.’ At school the trendy crowd who listen to U2 and Simple Minds take the mickey out of me. I’ve put up with a hell of a lot.”
ELVIS PRESLEY FANS
NAMES: THERESA & BILMA SANGAN
AGES: 14 AND 34
HOME: AMERSHAM, BERKS.
‘I’ve (Bilma) been a fan since I was eight. I’ve got 100 albums—that’s a very small collection—but I’ve got all the Elvis Annuals except the first one which was ‘62. Also missing are ‘71, ‘72 and ‘75. I’ve (Theresa) got about 200 badges. I used to wear them 70 at a time. I’ve got a favourite one from ‘68. I’ve got a Teddy bear in a shiny blue jumpsuit with a cape. The teddy’s got black hair and blue eyes and so it had to be called Elvis. I was only eight when he died. I remember I was ever so upset but I didn’t really understand it. I heard the news from my Mum who was screaming upstairs. It didn’t really hit me (Bilma) until I went to the convention. There were people literally collapsing on the floor, breaking right down. Since he’s died things have changed for the better for fans in this country. There weren’t as many events before as there are now. I’d like to have gone to one of his private parties. We’ve got tapes of some of them. He seems to be a funny person. I (Bilma) would like to have gone to the concert he did in Hawaii in 1972. I’d also like to have gone to the New York Press Conference because I’ve got a thing about his eyes. In the film of that they just don’t stop moving. They really do sparkle. Oh, his eyes are fantastic.”
CULTURE CLUB FAN
NAME: MARGO BOVELL
“I first saw Culture Club play at the Lyceum in London on November 2, 1982. Oooh God, from then on I’ve just been addicted to them. And Boy George. Ooooh, it was instant love. I first met my friend Melanie at that gig and now we go all over the country to see them. We’ve slept a few nights rough. One night we slept in a police station. Usually we slept on railway stations. We’ve spent hundreds of pounds on Culture Club. We’re always buying them presents and making them cakes. We made a huge Christmas card which has George as Father Christmas and John, Mickey and Roy as angels looking up to heaven. Once we bought tins of paint and paint brushes to paint George’s wall outside his house after some stupid people covered it with graffiti. One of the worst times was the last tour. I took all my holiday off work so I could go round the country with them and John broke his finger and the whole tour was canceled. Oooh God, I was upset. There is a special wall we call the Fan Club Wall with cuttings from newspapers, ten sun visors we made ourselves, all our tickets, John’s drumstick and the top of George’s microphone that’s got lipstick on it. I haven’t neglected my friends but I do find Culture fans more interesting. I just can’t help it now.”
Via Shane Marais.