And get it, we did. Every Wednesday, for the princely sum of 65p, we would hungrily consume the periodical above, which seemed to be hot-wired into the world of the rich and famous. “Posters! Advice! Stars! Gossip! Boys!” it gleefully promised in its tagline at the bottom. The last word was a bit odd- boys?! What boys? Surely not the boys we knew who were our age and frankly, prats. And how rude to think that the nicest thing they can find to say about Andre Agassi was that he was less boring than Boris Becker. Anyway, the boys Just Seventeen referred to in it pages were Ralph Macchio, Rupert Everett, the singer from Brother Beyond (please comment with name of that one, if you can remember? I bet one of you can!), Kiefer Sutherland Mark One (the Julia Roberts years), Pat Sharp, Jason Donovan, Rob Lowe (pre scandal), George Michael, Patrick Swayze , Peter Schofield, and the entire male cast of “Neighbours”. Every week there was a poster called “Phwooar!” usually of one of the above gently in a seductive pose- such as the Rob Lowe copyrighted look of chin tilted on a resting hand, other arm bent at the elbow beside the face. Just Seventeen were also clever in their use of chairs:
A numerology guide adorns the cover of February 15th 1989, which may be of some assistance to Kiefer Sutherland, who appears to be trying to count his own fingers by sticking them into his face. What other publication could grant you an interview with Rupert Everett and Barry from Brookside in the same edition? This is sheer publishing genius.
All of these “Phwooar!” posters ended up on my wall. At one point I had 19 of Kiefer Sutherland alone, in his late 80s, trademark, blue jeans, black suit jacket and white sneakers combo. We used to trade them at school – swapping “Phwooar!” posters like feverish World War Two traders dealing in black market cigarettes.
if you wanted to find out how to get the boy you want and also peruse an article on Martika on the same page, you bought Just Seventeen. An interview with Debbie Gibson, a Kevin Costner “pin-up” poster and advice on how to dress like Neneh Cherry sums up the August 30 1989 issue. For style and up-to-the-moment activities there was the glorious guide of the “What’s in, and what’s out column” (from my 1988 copy I have What’s In: “Eastenders and Mel and Kim.” What’s Out : “Coronation Street and Pepsi and Shirley”). For those who were tentatively beginning romantic adventures, there was the terrifying wonder at the “Position of the Week” on the penultimate page, which almost always involved two drawn stick people imitating sexual intercourse in a bathroom. Want to know whether Philip Schofield believes in love at first sight? Well, the January 6 1988 edition told you all about that. And then there were the unmissable reader’s makeover articles, where unsuspecting 15 year old girls from Aldershot were thrown at the mercy of the J17 stylist team, who would turn them into provincial Britain’s answer to Gloria Estefan, and they would be left at the end; a startled mass of L’Oreal Studio line hair products and gaudily-coloured bomber jackets. There were interviews with the latest blouson-jacketed Stock Aitken & Waterman prodigy who would be wearing either luminous green socks (the boys) or luminous yellow hair scrunchies (the girls). These were made up to appear unrelentingly innocent and to conceal the young readership from the vague nastiness of life on the road in a band. Stock, Aitken and Waterman weren’t called the factory for nothing. Every quote smacked of the manufactured production line. So, whilst the truth might be that “Brian caught a nasty disease from a girl in Doncaster”, Just Seventeen would print pictures of manufactured bands smiling in the van, with a caption that says “The boys hate it when Mark eats all the bananas!”
How prophetic that the tagline “What does the future hold for you” appears on the front cover of this edition from January 1989. Shortly before Brother Beyond and their pseudo-cowboy, buttoned up, 70% cotton shirts disappeared from the music scene altogether. And who can imagine the thrill of winning this week’s competition “a wardrobe full of denim”?
All of this made getting up on a Wednesday morning worthwhile. There were adverts for chemically questionable beauty products, such as “Bright Eyes”, which you would drop into your eyes before parties at tennis clubs, and which would produce such a vehement reaction that you were promised glittering, dripping and no doubt carcinogenic eyes all evening. “Does he fancy you!!?” “Will you snog?!” “Call 0898 4004000!!!” would glare out the adverts at the back, as if you would actually telephone the number listed and get a full point-by-point report of your personal future snogging calendar. Published fortnightly by the time I started buying it, it was untouched by Americanisms in its writing “What’s on telly over Chrimbo?” screamed the Christmas 1988 cover. They would trail the streets across the country, photographing teens who looked cool in the way they dressed and commenting on their Body Shop Morello Cherry lip balm. In 1990, with the Madchester oversized trousers-rage in full bloom, most of the pictures now look like people snapped walking down Chester High Street on their way to be a clown at a children’s party. These photographs were always associated with soundbites that summarized the subject’s personality. “Emma is 17, from Norwich, and likes Rimmel lipgloss, ice-skating and Young Guns”.
What did girls want for 55p on December 20th 1989? I tell you what they wanted – they wanted to know “What Girls Really Think About Boys” and for a black-suited Jason Donovan to turn up on their doorsteps and wish them happy yuletide. with an ISBN reference between his feet. The biggest news story in this issue is not that Jason wishes the snowman next to him was made of a very different kind of white powder, but that SHOCK! He doesn’t believe in Santa. Knock off two pairs of white socks you naughty, naughty, Jason.
Someone called Marty from “The Fear” is talking about being a Dad. As this is March 23rd 1988, Marty’s probably a grandfather putting in for his bus pass now. And – free badge! free badge! That sort of thing was rather exciting in the 1980s, you know. Like finding out that your mum and George Michael got their blonde highlights done at the same salon. And let’s not even engage with the lunacy that that might have been had Boy George actually managed to rule the world, his desire for which is proudly stated on the cover here.
If all of this wasn’t enough glamour and excitement for you, you could flip to the very back page to the photos of celebs “snapped” out on the town. Patsy Kensit with Dan Donovan, Amanda de Cadenet sitting on someone (she was always sitting on somebody), Emily Lloyd at a party, Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder looking pale and dressed in black, Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen smiling nervously, or a comical picture of Matt Goss pulling a goofy expression on his way out of Our Price on Kensington High Street. Michael J Fox always looks pissed. These shots would be captioned by a hilarious comment, in a bright orange text box, set at a rakish angle and words in size 10 Arial font like: “Emilio Estevez and his puppet Charlie take their ventroliquist show on the road – gottle of geer, boys!” or “Matt Goss doesn’t fool anybody – we know he buys his own records to keep sales up! Ha Ha!”
Oddly, I have kept a vast selection of this stuff, pasted into a photo album, which has a montage on its cover of – yes, you guessed it – a series of Kiefer Sutherland J17 posters. I even have an interview with Lou Diamond “La Bamba” Phillips during the time of the Young Guns press junket, in which Lou is resplendent in woollen knitwear on a Santa Monica beach, with his first of his three wives, telling that hilarious story about the time the Young Guns boys dressed a goat up in alluring clothing and left it in Charlie Sheen’s trailer. Nothing has changed since that article was printed in 1989. Lou is still working his way through a selection of blonde-tressed lady wives who have all been “fitness instructors” at his gym, and Charlie Sheen is still cavorting in trailers with various forms of livestock. Kiefer Sutherland – of whom a vast amount of column space is given during his two year relationship with Julia Roberts – is the same these days but with less hair gel. “I cry when we’re apart!” says Kiefer in March 1991 of Julia Roberts. Well, wait until June, when she calls off the wedding and bizarrely runs off to Ireland with a friend of yours called Jason. That’s when you’ll sob, my friend. “Are you about to get dumped?” asked the cover, somewhat rudely, in November 1990, before listing ten pointers inside of what to look out for if “you’re going to get chucked”. They should have given that edition to Kiefer Sutherland.
Want to dress like Bros? Of course you do! Here’s the mag on June 1st 1988 to tell you how. Does anyone else remember “The Grove”, Just Seventeen’s own soap opera? Who is Sebastian from Network 7 and why on earth have they sent him to China? And Snap! are going to Montreux? What on earth is happening? And how delightful to finally have Charlie Sheen “in colour”.
Of course, no one actually read Just Seventeen when they were actually seventeen. I mean, come awwwn….. You read Just Seventeen when you were 13, if you parents let you, which they probably didn’t. At 14 to 15 it was the norm. By 17, you hoped that you would have developed such ground-breaking sophistication that you would have gravitated on to Elle or Marie Claire , which are a lot less fun. Magazine reading was never so much fun again – mainly because we were bereft of cynicism, believed advertisements, were desperate to be grown up, and the world that it promised was fresh and new to us. In 1994, Just Seventeen was selling 260,000 copies a week. By 1996 it had shrunk down to 160,000, having been having been beaten to a pulp by Sugar magazine which was launched in the mid-1990s. Just Seventeen finally closed in 2004. It did, however, outlive all of its contemporary 1980s rivals, including My Guy and Oh Boy. Research tells me that Jackie magazine ran until July 1993, but I don’t remember that even crossing my teen radar. There was, of course, the huge Smash Hits, but if you were more interested in Hollywood Brat Pack than what jackets Simon Le Bon was wearing, Smash Hits always came a second runner to Just Seventeen. A cursory internet search will show just how little of this journalism has ever got online – there is precious little record of these magazines. So low is the availability of any of the information inside these editions that a rare copy from 1987 with the little known Pepsi and Shirley on the cover can be yours from Ebay for £10.00: http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/PEPSI-SHIRLIE-JUST-SEVENTEEN-MAGAZINE-UK-4-FEB-1987-/360318615253?pt=UK_Magazines&hash=item53e4a9bed5
This is mind boggling.. How on earth could Loadsamoney learn the facts of life? And if you see back of card for a newsagents order form, you too can win a day with Bros. You can swap white socks and ask them when you’ll be famous. The girl on the front is so depressed at the idea of having to spend the day with Bros that she has brought along her own rope to hang herself with first. Fortunately, the centrespread of Morten Harket returns J17 to its former glory. Still boosting about their colour printer possibilities, this week’s it’s Neighbour’s Guy Pearce “in colour” in their poster.
Flicking through this month’s Elle last night, there were articles on how to tell if you think your partner is cheating, how to stay healthy throughout the Christmas party season, and how to lose that tricky half a stone – essentially the same articles that magazines have been writing about women since about 1937. All in all, then, a Just Seventeen “Does he fancy me?” article for the grownups, with all the fun removed.
I want the fun back. Come on, who’s with me?! I want a free luminous pencil case with this week’s edition. I want a “Phwooar!” poster of Michael Jackson and Philip Schofield. I want tips on party hair and L’Oreal mousse and I don’t want tips on shopping (Just Seventeen was pretty bereft of this in its early days). I want my star sign to tell me how much fun my week will be if I wear those new shoes, not whether I’m battling energes with Uranus, frankly. I want a Brother Beyond poster of brylcreamed chaps, I want a Young Guns calendar. I demand that grown up ladies magazines are fun again. Isn’t it very true that girls still need “Blush-proof ways to ask him out!”? The world of such things has clearly not changed at all. The idea of “growing up” has been launched by conspiracy theorists who imply that that adult world of work and financial reality is something we seamlessly grow into, rather than the truth – that we are hesitant and recalcitrant for life to stop being a bit fun, and that it is completely unnatural to spend your life in another’s employ. It’s not immature to admit that the adult world is complete bullshit, in its failure to tell young people that nobody – nobody – actually wants to work anyway, that we prefer leisure and liberty, and that we would all rather get excited about a fun thing like sitting down and reading a good mag. I reckon young people have a better sense of what’s important anyway. Rob Lowe poster, anyone?
Unlike the glorious publication of Just Seventeen, the London Bluebird publishes on a Thursday, not a Wednesday. Please return on Thursday to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this.