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Ten things you know if you grew up in Brum in the '80s or '90s

Written by
Jon Cook

To say that things have changed a lot in Brum over the last couple of decades is a massive understatement, with today's city centre almost unrecognisable from the 1960s-dream-turned-nightmare that anyone over the age of 20 will remember with equal parts fondness and horror.

The endless subways, indoor markets and shitty shops may have been replaced with pavements, malls and flashy designer stores, but for those that grew up here, the memories of 1980s and 1990s Birmingham aren't so easily forgotten.

Time Out's Alexi Duggins brings you ten things you'll know all too well if you were lucky enough to grow up in or around our fair city during that time...

1. It’s not 'Jeremy Kyle'. It’s 'Jezza'.
To the rest of the country, Jeremy Kyle’s ITV show might have seemed to burst out of nowhere. But as any Brummie who listened to BRMB in the late ‘90s knows, he’d previously spent years perfecting his mean-spirited trolling of the working classes on his ‘Late and Live’ radio show. Except that back then, it wasn’t ‘Jeremy Kyle’. It was ‘Jezza’. Or, as most of us affectionately knew him: ‘Turn this wanker off!’

2. The current Cult Clothing? Rubbish, mate.
God, it used to be so good, didn’t it? Time was that a trip to town meant meeting mates in Pigeon Park before spending five hours staring at the huge range of Eastpaks in Cult. Damn, it seemed cool. The perfect place for clothes whose irresistible mystique said: ‘I’m so edgy and interesting that later on, I’ll probably go to Ramshackle at The Sanctuary.’ Now? Reckon anyone’ll take you seriously at the Flapper if you bought your togs from a shop that’s surrounded by Pret A Manger and Make Your Own Teddy Bear shops? Well, probably, but that’s beside the point. 


3. Birmingham’s mechanics were really missing a trick.
Mechanics of Birmingham: why did NONE of you ever think to open a garage inside West Midlands Safari Park? Seriously, you could’ve coined it in. Not just due to the nutso ‘safari’ portion’s attempt to unite the species by demonstrating how much monkeys like to snap off car aerials and use them as javelins. But just think how excited those little primate tykes were whilst yanking out the rubber around windscreens and using them as hula hoops. Trainee mechanics in waiting, we bet

Mark Grafton

4. You should never take part in a radio stunt.
No way could you listen to BRMB in the ‘90s and not come up with the thought: ‘radio station stunts = poor life choice’. Remember when they married two total strangers, only for the woman to leave the guy and shack up with Jeremy Kyle? How about the time they challenged listeners to sit on blocks of dry ice, only for them to need surgery, skin grafts and months in hospital? So hands up who thought it’d be a good idea to take part in their 2011 ‘Naked Wedding’? None of us, right? Hmm, nearly... 


5. Bubble bath = Prank gold-dust
Hats off to them. We’ll never know who they were, but they were geniuses. Back in the ‘90s, a bunch of foamy renegades cottoned on to the fact that some cleverly poured bubble bath could turn the Floozy in the Jacuzzi into a great big, spuming mess. Oh man, it was funny. And it sure beat the hell out of foam parties at The Dome. Oh god, The Dome. Quick, let’s move on…



6. Teens love the ‘60s and the ‘70s
You’ve got a bunch of 18-year-olds out on the town. They’re drunk. They wanna dance. What do you play them? Their dad’s record collection! Or at least this seems to have been the thinking behind Snobs’ second room for most of the ‘90s. Boldly eschewing the popularity of garage, hip-hop and R&B, they instead opted for wall-to-wall ‘60s and ‘70s tunes. Still, to be fair to them, it didn’t really matter. 50p a shot, guys. 50p a shot.

7. You never ever name your kid ‘Kev’
Probably there was a time when the name ‘Kevin’ dripped sophistication and urbanity. But boy, oh boy, it wasn’t mid-‘90s Birmingham. It might’ve been all about chavs for the rest of the nation, but so unilateral an insult did the term ‘Kev’ and ‘Sharon’ become that anyone with said names would probably have done better to legally rechristen themselves as ‘dipstick’. You know how you never see them in those lists of ‘Top ten baby names in Birmingham’? Yeah, this is why.


8. Nothing beats a dinosaur
For Brummie kids, ‘Jurassic Park’ didn’t happen on Dicky Attenborough’s mysterious ocean-fringed island. It went down in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery every school holiday. Open the door to that big, central room and there he was! Teeth! Claws! Kids wishing they had a glass of water to hand so they could recreate THAT scene! Sadly it’s now been replaced by… well, who remembers? If it ain’t a dino, we ain’t interested. Why, museum guys? WHY WOULD YOU MAKE OUR DINO EXTINCT?

Dallas Krentzel

9. Nothing says ‘Ready to dance’ like a YSL shirt and leather shoes
Weird that you can get into clubs in town while wearing trainers and jeans now, isn’t it? For a good few years there, getting entry into a nightclub felt less like trying to join in a fun night of booze-fuelled party times than it did squabbling with your dad over appropriate dress for a relative’s funeral. Trainers? Sod off! Jeans? You’re having a laugh! Garish orange, untucked YSL shirt and black leather shoes? Now you’re talking! 

Duncan Hull

10. Just when you think your footie team has a crap kit, you realise it can get worse.
Ha ha! The kit that Blues wore in 1992! What was that pattern meant to be? A load of Lego someone had dumped into a vat of WKD? Ha ha ha! No matter how BAD it got for Villa, at least their kit could never be as godawful as that, right?


Oh shit.

By Alexi Duggins

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