The release of the first personal stereo in America in 1980 sparked a huge craze, and coincided with - and contributed to - the peak of the roller disco craze. Here's Snoopy, wired for sound.
What a decade for Snoopy and the Peanuts gang the 1980s turned out to be! From Snoopy making his debut on home video and computer games (anyone for Snoopy Tennis?), and the opening of Camp Snoopy at Knott's Berry Farm, to Snoopy stepping out as Flash Beagle, Joe Vice and Boy George, and the continuing cycle of life amongst our favourite American comic strip characters as the strip roared towards its fortieth birthday in 1990, the 1980s were a glittering time for the world's best-loved beagle and his friends.
And they brought new challenges - mostly from new heroes and anti-heroes of the comic strip world, Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield. But Snoopy and co were well able to hold their own and, indeed, the authors of the newcomers acknowledged Charles Schulz's wondrous creations as an inspiration for their own works.
The Snoopy "1980 Collection" mugs. Just how different for America would the decade have been if Snoopy had been elected president in 1980, not Ronald Reagan?
1981 - and Hallmark released a charming series of Peanuts mini-photo frames. Snoopy - "A Real Inspiration", Snoopy love heart, and "Let The Good Times Roll" and Lucy - "Perfect Like Me" - were part of the series.
Camp Snoopy at Knott's Berry Farm opened in 1983. Snoopy looks great as a cowboy!
Continuing the cowboy theme, Snoopy says "Howdy!" This is very similar to a picture I had in my room in the 1980s, with the red and black background and orange frame, but the straw was absent from the mouth, the phrase was "Howdy, Pardner!" and the smile was wider and cheesier - more like a film star stereotype.
I adore Snoopy. As I set out on my life's journey in the early 1980s, I was given a small framed picture of Snoopy, dressed as a cowboy, with his thought bubble proclaiming "Howdy, Pardner!". I put it up on my bedsit wall. It was a comforting and encouraging presence in the room, and I found it very cheering. Now, with my 50th birthday just past, I have the May 1982 strip below framed on my hall wall. Isn't it fabulous? Snoopy is truly for the whole of your life, from the juvenile jollity of the cowboy pic to the oh-so-true advice for the rather more mature below, Snoopy hands out comforting hugs and sometimes pithy but always excellent advice to everybody. Forget the expensive jollop. There's really only one way to look younger...
Why is Peanuts such a worldwide hit? You don't have to speak English to enjoy it. It's been translated into many different languages, been a huge success in many different lands.
The reason doesn't take much pondering.
It's because Charles Schulz's work is so human. And if you're a human being it's for you.
Well, my favourite character, Snoopy, is, of course, a dog.
But such a human dog, with his fantasy life and zany personality.
I've always been a bit theatrical myself, singing, dancing and experimenting with various characterisations throughout my life.
Life's too short (and reality sometimes too grotty) to just be one person.
So I identify with Snoopy.
I'm also given to low periods in which my self esteem plummets and life becomes one long worry.
So I identify with Charlie Brown.
There are times when I ponder the mysteries of existence, search for the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything and come up with some quite kooky ideas. So kooky, I could suck my thumb for comfort.
So, I identify with Linus.
Many times I feel small and insignificant, totally swamped by the vastness of the world, the universe, and so on. And yet I have my life, my personality, my own pressing issues.
So I identify with Woodstock.
And sometimes, when I'm tired or unwell, I can rant and gob-off a lot.
So, I (occasionally) identify with Lucy.
1983 - and our very own Boy George's fashionable music loving friend, Boy Snoopy, appears as a cuddly toy. Was there ever such a trendy beagle as Snoop?
Fads and new technology came thick and fast in the 1980s: in the wake of Flash Dance, Snoopy became Flashbeagle and got into aerobics; there was an outbreak of "temperament" on the tennis court in 1982, after John McEnroe had shaken up the staid atmosphere of Wimbledon in 1981; Lucy got some designer jeans; beanbags proliferated; Marcie attempted to give Peppermint Patty a very '80s hairdo - and Patty succumbed to some other weird do's during the decade (anyone for mousse?); Valley Speak invaded Peppermint Patty's schoolwork when her essay was graded "grody"; the aforementioned Peppermint P got a personal stereo; Trivia (as in Trivial Pursuit) briefly ruled; Woodstock got a beagle blaster - and was the only one in the neighbourhood to have a satellite dish; Charlie Brown discussed yuppies; Sally waited for Halley's Comet; computers began to accelerate into the everyday life of certain characters; and poor lonely Spike wrote to some of the female cast of Dallas to request signed photographs.
One of my favourite pop culture inclusions from the decade came when Snoopy wondered if his old enemy, the Red Baron, might like a Garfield birthday card. Beautiful.
The Great Pumpkin was revisited on the animated screen in the 1980s Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. Linus, Sally (she was there for her "sweet baboo", of course) wait... Sally's "sweet baboo" was not impressed by her presence. It seemed that it was going to be another long, cold and fruitless vigil..
... but then something came hurtling across the pumpkin patch... Had Linus's faith been rewarded at last?
Linus, my second favourite Peanuts character, continued to be a (I mean THE) dedicated disciple of The Great Pumpkin in the 1980s, and found that his evangelical fervour could be lucrative. In 1986, the Great Pumpkin actually appeared (for us, not for Linus) and gave us a quick burst of Sinatra, whilst Peppermint Patty introduced other concepts - such as The Great Secretary, and became an involuntary pumpkin wearer.
The 1980s posed big questions for Linus - like how would he fare with a "younger woman" and (GASP!) could he give up his beloved powder blue blanket? No spoilers here!
The 1984 Snoopy Flashbeagle radio.
The sometimes harsh realities of life from an average kid's point of view were often present in Peanuts, but there were many "ups" in the continuing saga, and when Peppermint Patty succumbed to terrorizing herself over thoughts of the End of the World in 1980, good friend Marcie was there to comfort her. And it was touching. It's that same Marcie who called Peppermint Patty "Sir", and let her down when the two became "Mallies" (trendy hangers-out at shopping malls) by actually doing some shopping and being pursued by a certain beagle "punker". But at the end of the day, Marcie was always there for Patty.
Yep, it was touching - but without being schmaltzy.
Friendship can flip into temporary bouts of hatred, particularly when you're a kid, and Marcie and Peppermint Patty's ongoing rivalry for Charlie Brown's attentions actually caused Marcie to resort to hair-yanking violence on one occasion in 1987. There had been minor spats between the two friends before, and there were after. But this particular incident revealed an angst-ridden, passionate soul lurking behind Marcie's somewhat geeky exterior, and it was sad to note that her relationship with Charlie Brown was largely all in her head (CB didn't really reciprocate), just as it was with Peppermint Patty's pash for CB. But, with rivalry reaching boiling point, it was almost like the kids were reaching early teenage-hood at times.
But, of course, they weren't.
This particular strip marked a turning point in my perceptions of the Marcie character, it made her more real, took her beyond being just a quirky and rather cute regular. I found myself promoting her to a favourite character. A couple of years later, parental expectations and the stress this induced in the girl rounded her out even more.
1984 - and Snoopy - a legend in his own mind, is off to the Olympics with a terrific range of PVC figures. A little word about dating Peanuts merchandise here. Some will be dated to the year of manufacture, like the mugs and photo frames at the top of this post, but both dated products and others will probably also feature old copyright dates - 1958, 1965, etc. Bear this in mind as it can be puzzling to find merchandise copyright dated before the character depicted (Peppermint Patty, etc,) even existed, or with characters indulging in popular trends which postdate the copyright date(s) stamped on the item.
Some people think that Snoopy, whose character evolved more than somewhat in the 1960s, he of the Walter Mitty style fantasies, rather spoiled the reality of the strip. There's no doubt that the early years of the strip were grittier and somewhat darker at times. But latter-day Snoopy was wonderful. I wouldn't change a thing about him. I loved his caring relationship with Woodstock and his fantasies. But it always came back to reality - with Snoopy on his doghouse, often waiting for his supper. He always seemed a very heartening character to me, making the best of a rather boring existence. And overcoming the handicap of not being human and being able to fulfill his dreams with his fantasies.
At one point in the 1980s, Charlie Brown decided to devote his life to making Snoopy happy. He couldn't keep it up, and he couldn't, of course, read Snoopy's mind as Snoopy replied to Charlie's outpouring of regret at not being able to live up to his aim. Snoopy was already happy. Naturally. His fantasies transported him far away from the mundane realities of his suburban canine existence.
1984 - and with VCRs beginning to appear in more and more homes (in England still only around a quarter of the population had them in 1985), Snoopy's Home Video Library appeared in the States. Viewers could enjoy the exploits of the gang - including the awesome Lucy snatching the ball away from Charlie Brown - whenever they pleased.
What made America great? In the 1980s, we discovered that Peppermint Patty believed it was peanut butter sandwiches. I find it interesting that most of the classroom comic strips from that decade feature Peppermint Patty and Marcie, rather than the older established characters. Of course, Peppermint P was SO interested in her education, she couldn't help nodding off!
In the hi-tec '80s, Snoopy made his debut in computer games - like this Game And Watch Panorama Screen...
... and this Nintendo Table Top Snoopy game..
Here's the game in action - with Snoopy, Schroeder (at his piano, of course!), Lucy and lots of little Woodstocks.
Of the characters who fell by the wayside as the strip evolved, early years nasty girl Violet Gray made a few appearances in the 1980s - including an un-indexed one which appears on page 126 of the 1981-1982 Complete Peanuts volume, in which she is, predictably but enjoyably, snooty to Pigpen - another former regular from the early years.
Violet's role as nasty girl was taken over by Lucy Van Pelt, who was rather more likable (well, it wasn't her fault she had crabby genes!). I thought Violet's loss was a shame in some ways - Lucy couldn't "do" snooty at all! But, taken all in, I wouldn't have been without Lucy, she was a far more rounded character, and I suppose her presence meant there was little space in the stories for Violet.
A brief blow-in in the mid-1980s was a character called Tapioca Pudding, whose father was "in licensing" and, it seemed, wanted to use his daughter's image on various products. As well as that popular cutesy dolly Strawberry Shortcake, this reminded me of a 1960s Bewitched story, in which Samantha created a doll based on her own daughter - "The Tabitha Stephens Doll" - to get her husband out of trouble with the advertising company he worked for.
There's now't as queer as folk, as we say here in England.
Probably the ultimate piece of 1980s Snoopy imagery - Charles Schulz gave us Joe Vice in 1986. Forget the Miami version, Crockett and Tubbs? Pah! Snoops and Woodstock were the real deal!
This poster is from a 1986 Peanuts strip - featuring the ever-trendy Snoopy getting down to some serious aerobics, courtesy of a video. Jane Fonda eat your heart out! We love ya, Snoops!
Wow - how's this for a 1980s Peanuts cardigan?! Woodstock, Snoopy and Marcie are indulging in a little chatline chat. Chatlines were a great innovation - hugely enjoyable - until your parents got the phone bill. Peanuts was marketed to the max for decades. But that was OK, because the strip had soul.
So, which era is my favourite for Peanuts? Is it the 1980s? Well, funnily enough, although the 1980s are when I first came to really appreciate the strip, I would have to say no. Much as I love the 1980s Snoopy gang's exploits, having read the Complete Peanuts books, which feature every strip from its beginning in 1950, I would have to say that the 1950s and 1960s take the prize. Reading the debut and evolution of Peanuts has been a tremendous pleasure for me. In the 1970s and 1980s the strip was fully formed and up-and-running. And whilst the 1980s contain probably my favourite Peanuts strip ever ("Don't be born so soon"), and I certainly don't think the strip ever "flagged", I find the first fifteen to twenty years tremendously exciting to read. And re-read. What I missed! Still, I'm glad I wasn't born any sooner (!), and thank heavens for the Complete Peanuts series!
Here's more pearls of wisdom from the 1980s Peanuts strip - this time from Marcie. Charles Schulz was a wise man!
Sadly, Charles Schulz died in the year 2000 and Peanuts came to an end just before his death. But the characters have lived on through republished strips and merchandising and we're shortly to see the new Peanuts Movie.
Snoopy's a cowboy again in this 1987 collection of Peanuts comic strips, complete with neon cacti.
Here in England, Peanuts inspired The Perishers comic strip, which appeared in The Daily Mirror for many years. But while I loved Maisie, Marlon, Wellington and Boot, I loved (and still love) Snoopy far more. National boundaries or oceans were no challenge for Snoopy. He simply ignored them, flew over them (probably in his Sopwith Camel), and stole my heart away.
Legal beagle Snoopy in England - depicted in this wonderful 1986 lamp, with one of our iconic old-style telephone boxes. If I'd known he was coming, I'd've baked a cake - or some of his beloved chocolate chip cookies!