John Hughes and Hamster-eating Aliens. Day 4 of the International Week of the Popper

Hello and welcome to day 4 of the increasingly inaccurately titled week of the Popper. After finding out how the Popper spent his time with the other (or same) sex during his or her romantic moments and getting to know this counter-counter youthculture’s preferences in intoxication, today we’re going to have a look at his/her relationship with the mass media. Back in the early eighties, before the advent of multi channel cable TV and the internet in every household (though some people were already online with their Sinclair QL and an acoustic coupler, scaring the proprietors of the local Bulletin Board Systems shitless) access to the media was obviously dictated by the large state broadcasters, the local cinema and the news agent around the corner. ‘The Face’, ‘Smash Hits’ and the German trend magazine ‘Prinz’ were essential to gauge the newest fashion and music trends 3 months before they became mainstream and to impress one’s friends. The TV unfortunately didn’t offer many moments of brillance: Miami Vice and ‘V’ where highlights (no, really) and the Cosby Show was the funniest thing on the tube (no, really. Honestly). The cinema offered mainly John Hughes (I am pretty sure that I am still able to recite ‘Weird Science’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ from beginning to end), Ivan Reitman and John Landis. For the more culturally attuned there was always ‘Amadeus’ and ‘Diva’. For some reason or the other the female member of the species seemed to throng the cinemas to watch Highlander. Unexplainable.

So, were there any intentions of engaging in any, you know, serious literature or maybe even -gasp- the theatre?

No. You can neither drink nor smoke in these buildings and nobody sees what you’re wearing most of the time.


Booze and Fags: Day 3 of the international week of the Popper

So by now we know how the popper dressed, got about and targeter his/her mates. But was there ever any, you know, intoxication?

Very little.

Well, if I say very little, there used to be the odd experimental vomit due to accidental overdosing of Curacao Bleu, but apart from that the Popper itself was a rather harmless being when it came to sex, drugs and rocknroll. Well, none of these really.

For intoxication and brand consciousness there were Dunhill cigarettes:The nice thing about them was of course not the taste. No, it was the packaging. If you’d open one of these babies, two gold-paper wrapped chambers full of cigarettes would stare at you, making the act of getting the fags out even more delicious. AND they had a gold ring around the filter. What’s not to like. AND they were longer than other fags.

For more serious intoxication (but not that serious. That would be uncool) there was alwas beer. And Amaretto. Mixed with apple juice, this was mana from heaven and could invigorate even the coolest popper. In a very measured way of course.

Anything else? Well, if you’d try dope or get terribly pissed, you’d loose your Popper status, as loss of control was of course hugely frowned upon. The only thing to get really excited about was a new colour in the polo shirt range of Lacoste.

Sylvia Plath and George Michael: Day 2 of the international week of the Popper

Today we are going to explore the romantic side of the Popper. When not in Benetton shops or making fun of people in Levis jeans, the Popper would be either hanging around fashionable cafes or host his or her peers at home. If there was romantic interest involved, candles and plum flavoured tea would be an important ingredient to set the mood, as of course was the music. As mentioned before, Italo Disco was one of the import ingredients, and Gazebo was one of the more successful artists of the period. Born Paul Mazzolini he was unusually talented for an Italo Disco performer, though his videos have unsurprisingly aged not very well.

Hello? You’re still with me? Great. So if that didn’t work there was always ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael. See how he had pretty much the proto-Popper hairdo? No wonder he was so popular.

So, what happened if Gazebo and/or George Michael didn’t work, the plum tea was cold, it was getting past 8 pm and there was no still no snogging to be initiated (anything more serious would have involved sweating and removal of clothes, and all these activities were deemed only worthy of the proletariat and removable Benetton or Lacoste tattoos were not yet invented, so very little actual sex actually happened in these days)?


There was no shame in using a well placed bit of Sylvia Plath and if that didn’t work there was no reason to get upset, as there was always the Benetton shop to visit next day.

The international week of the Popper

Hello good people,

inspired by all sorts of brouhaha about punk and the counter culture of the seventies and eighties, let me celebrate this week the German counter-counter culture phenomenon that was the ‘Popper’. No, I don’t mean the ‘attractive but risky’ recreational drug amyl nitrite but the short lived youth culture of the German middle- to upper class that haunted (ok, bored) society in the early eighties. Apart from some selfcongratulatory bullshit in some German qualities there is few material out in the webosphere, so let me enlighten you a bit. According to the lore, the Popper scene spread via osmosis from the affluent suburbs of Hamburg through the rest of the affluent suburbs of the bored German ‘comfortable’ ones. In generously designed detached houses with well-manicured gardens  a new breed of adolescent was being socialised: bored by the general political upheaval within the Republic, driven by long haired, slightly smelly political activists who would march on the weekend, eat muesli and fight the system, some kids chose to spend the evenings and weekends in a sort of civilised cafe society with a strictly enforced dress code. Instead of the knitted jumpers and silly jeans of their more politicised peers they would wear kashmir jumpers, polos shirts and colourful Benetton trousers. Necessary accessories were a Vespa Ciao, Dunhill or Davidoff cigarettes and a if at all possible access to a big wallet (daddy’s would do).

...Dutch can be so uncool.

So after investing numerous hundreds of Marks into the outfit, the aspiring popper was allowed to join his or her peers. Likely to be found in fashionable cafes during the day or in the wine cellar of somebody elses parents, the whole Popper (btw, the name likely to root in ‘Pop Music’. Remember, the leather jacket, motorcycle touting brutes of that area were called ‘Rockers’. Likely due to their affinity to Rock music) thing was mainly about being seen, flaunting dad’s wealth and listening to the right music. Matt Bianco, Sade, The Style Council, early Italo Pop, New Romantics and early synth pop a la Yazoo were very much the music to listen to and on the weekend some poor parent would have to put up with dozens of the little darlings in their houses, moderately but very politely drunk and generally very civilised.

That’s exactly what riled the rest of society: without any typical adolescent intent to rile against the system and quite content to roll with it, Poppers were ridiculed by adults and the rest of their peers for their enforced conformity and lack of interest in anything political. Most wanted to be lawyers or doctors.

These days I am happy to acknowledge to have been one of those precious few Poppers in my little town. Happy to enjoy each others company, happy to ignore the rest of a very angry world around me. I knew life was bound to be getting more complicated very soon, so for a few years I was content to be an apolitical bloke with funny clothes, expensive cigarettes, an underpowered moped and a string of girlfriends with Benetton jumpers.  It could have been much worse. So, to celebrate these few years, I will feature a little piece of Popper world for one week only.

And with ABC’s ‘Poison Arrow’ I hereby declare the international week of the Popper  inaugurated.