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23.6.09

The Scotch Skeleton Ads: "Re-Record Not Fade Away"

A December 1985 TV Times magazine advertisement for "New Scotch Extra High Grade Tape", designed for "when you want to watch something again and again and again".

The Scotch skeleton TV ads were launched in 1983 when less than a quarter of UK households had a VCR. The skeleton didn't sing in the original ad - he fell off his chair instead! The 1983 ad was set in the year 2021, and the premise was that a Scotch video tape bought in 1983 was still perfectly usable for re-recording in the 21st Century!

In 1985, came the famous "Re-record, not fade away, re-record, not fade away..." slogan. The ads ran for years and were highly popular.

If I remember correctly, Deryck Guyler (Corky the policeman from Sykes and the caretaker from Please Sir!) was the voice of the skeleton.

Great.

The skeleton idea was indicative of the manufacturer's confidence that the Scotch tapes were amazingly durable and could well outlast the buyer. And if every recording wasn't as good as the first, they'd give you a new video cassette. Good, eh?

Video technology had been around for ages, but by the 1980s domestic VCRs had not. In 1980, only 5% of UK households had a video recorder. They were hugely expensive for the average household to buy. Renting was not terribly popular either because, in those financially-stressed times, further commitments were unwelcome in the majority of homes. Also, as most people had never even seen a VCR, there simply wasn't the interest.

And on top of the dosh considerations, there was the confusion over which make to have - Betamax? Video 2000? VHS? My well-off aunt bought a Betamax machine circa 1983, and soon regretted it bitterly. Betamax video tapes were still on sale for several years after VHS won the sales battle, and, determined to get value for money, Auntie used her Betamax machine for taping films and Brookside until it finally conked out!

I recall, when my mother first rented a VCR in 1983, we considered ourselves very posh indeed. In that year, the year of the very first Scotch skeleton ad, nearly 20% of UK households had a VCR. The Steve Wright In The Afternoon Book, published in 1985, the year of the first "Re-record, not fade away" skeleton ad, informs us that the proportion had grown to 25% by that time.




A Scotch skeleton ad from the series' launch year - 1983 - very cleverly set in the 21st Century (then the distant future), with the video cassette featured bought in 1983 and still in use! Amazing to think that under 20% of UK households had VCRs in 1983!



The original 1985 "Re-Record, Not Fade Away" Scotch Skeleton ad.

27 comments:

  1. AnonymousJune 24, 2009

    I remember when these ads began back in 1983 - and only some posh people in the end house (which was bigger than the rest) in our street had a VCR then!

    It's amazing. I was twenty-five years old!

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  2. Chloe WrightJune 24, 2009

    What amazes me is that only 5% of UK households had a video recorder in 1980, and only nearly 20% by 1983! Amazing times. I loved the skeleton ads. They ran all the way from 1983 into the 1990s. Brilliant to see the Betamax cassette in the ad. The VHS/Betamax war was over a year or two before, but the Betamax was still a seller because quite a lot of folk had made the wrong choice! I love the 1980s mail order catalogue pages featuring the Betamax and VHS machines in your other post, too!

    This is great because you actually feature material from the time - and it shows just what a load of nonsense is twittered about the 80s in some other quarters! Lovely to see things as they actually were!

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  3. Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.

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  4. What a great post! I remember back in the early 1980s just how poor we all were with the recession and nobody I knew had a video. 5% of Uk households in 1980... it doesn't surprise me! I really thought they'd never take off because they were so expensive, and then we rented one in about 1984.

    I remember smiling at the 1983 Scotch Skeleton ad because it was so clever - the skeleton said he bought the cassette in 1983 - and he was in 2021 and STILL using it! In those days, we thought people would be having holidays on the moon and living in plastic houses by the Year 2000! Planet 80s - it was a different world!

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  5. AnonymousJune 25, 2009

    I wish I could catch a Tardis back to 1983. Things were a lot nicer and far less complicated!

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  6. AnonymousJune 25, 2009

    Terrific to see the 1983 ad, but the 1985 "rerecord" was the classic! It became a real catchphrase down at my local pub!

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  7. The skeleton series was great - some of the best ads of the '80s.

    Considering VCRs were not widespread until well into the 1980s, the ads now seem thoroughly nostalgic - dating back to a time when the concept of being able to tape TV programmes seemed new and exciting. If you could afford a VCR!

    You state 5% of housholds in 1980 had VCRs and 25% in 1985... still only a quarter! And the machines were still very pricey in 1985.

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  8. I have received an enquiry about the debut date of the first skeleton ad: Yes, I'm sure it was 1983 as the whole point of the humour of that ad was the mention of the year "1983" from the perspective of 2021! I was surprised at how early the original ad was as I associate the skeleton with later in the decade - probaby due to the impact of the 1985 "Re-Record, Not Fade Away" ad.

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  9. I'm only 31, but I remember both the skeleton ads featured here.

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  10. Fiona Wallace, BrightonJune 25, 2009

    I've read some comments from people elsewhere saying "ooh, weren't the Scotch skeleton ads horrible? They scared me when I was a child! But what can we expect from the '80s? What a horrible decade!" How pathetic! There was no outcry at the time, people loved the ads and they ran from '83 to around '93. People are just dead priggish about the '80s. If something debuted in the '80s, there are always people ready to turn their noses up.

    I have loads of videos of TV programmes from '83 to the early '90s with skelly ads in the breaks and I think they were brilliant. When I was a kid, I remember Dr Who featuring giant spiders and maggots - a damn sight worse than a whimsical skeleton!

    Deryck Guyler was great. I was a huge fan of his. His voice added a great deal of charm to the ads. And the aanimation was very clever by '80s standards. It was done by the same people who did Morph and started the Wallace and Gromit films in 1989.

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  11. AnonymousJune 25, 2009

    We actually rented a video for the very first time in 1983 (they were far too expensive to buy) and were greatly amused by the Skeleton adverts as they started at the same time!

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  12. This blog is tremendous - by using real 1980s material, you cut through the nonsense - so many other on-line, TV or book retrospectives are works of fiction, not the past as it was, more as the writers want it to be. Keep up your top-notch research, and those scans/videos of 80s material. Sublime to see Skelly again! The 1983 advertisement is good, but the 1985 is simply the best - as Tina Turner once said!

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  13. AnonymousJune 26, 2009

    The 1985 ad with the Betamax cassette and that slogan rerecord slogan is the dog's doodahs! BRILLIANT!

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  14. The '80s were a classic era for ads. I love the Scotch Video Tape skeleton and BT "Ology" best of all! Mind you, Gotta Lotta Bottle was fun!

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  15. I wonder what the percentage of households have video recorders now ? back down to less than 20% ?

    I just threw away the last of my Scotch tapes last year. We don't have a VCR anymore so I couldn't use them. It would have been great to test them out, anyone still using them from those days?

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  16. I have had this advert in my head since the eighties because I loved the backing track. Is it based on a real chart song do you know?

    Thanks.

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  17. Hi, Kathy! The jingle is based on the Rolling Stones 1964 song "Not Fade Away".

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  18. Johnny TwoRiversSeptember 10, 2010

    Hi Andy. And the Stones 1964 single was based on the 1957 Buddy Holly original which he wrote. Anyhow... back to the 80s theme. It seems odd now that people used to rent VCRs and video tapes - I remember being part of a video library in 1981 which was operated by post - you sent off your order, presumably with a cheque (I don't remember), and within days your chosen tape arrived for a week. Before long there were video shops but it was rare to actually buy a movie. Just thinking - how long will it be before I have to explain to someone how a cheque worked!

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  19. Thanks for that! Yes, the 1980s seem like a different planet now. It's funny, but the video rental shop near us, which opened in 1984, used to do a roaring trade...

    It's long gone - the shop now sells mobile phones!

    And thinking of cheques, Barclays brought out the first UK debit card, the Connect Card, in 1985 - and it was after this that so many people got into money-by-card - including me...

    Another world...

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  20. I am 48 years old now and remember when we were told that computers would make our lives so much easier as they would do all the work and we would have so much more leisure time. Yeh right! I've lost track of the number of times I've heard people say "must just check my emails from work"
    Would love to go back to the 1980's a much more innocent, and better, time to live

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  21. well they said we could still use the VHS by 2021, this is 2012, but vhr's has gone extinct...what a shame! wish i could still make use of my empty scotch video albums (E90).. Ive plenty of them... plenty! who ever wants them can reply me..

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  22. I still have many Scotch VHS tapes from 1988 that play perfectly now like the day they were recorded! A few have suffered from creasing and other mechanical damage, but there's no sign of oxide shedding, stickiness or fading as yet...

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    Replies
    1. So you can re-record, not fade away? :)

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  23. I exclusively used Scotch vide tape for many years. I found that they were the best for SVHS punch-outs after some experimentation. This is where you drilled out the little hole in the appropriate place in the cassette shell so that the VCR thinks you have an SVHS tape in the deck. Not as quite as good as proper SVHS tapes which were very expensive - but far better than VHS in quality.

    I was really disappointed when they stopped making them - though they were available for a considerable amount of time after manufacture ceased.

    More recently, I moved to live in Wales and could actually see the 3M factory in Gorseinon where Scotch tapes were made from my house.

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  24. AnonymousJuly 28, 2013

    Hey, I'm only 11 and I think the Scotch adverts are so much better than today's ads. Today's ads are just autotuned robots and autotuned singers.

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    1. I agree. Those were brilliant ads!

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  25. The 1985 advert with the memorable harmonica background audio and rhyme is the one I recall, I'm 34 so I'm certain this advert must have been repeated at some point in the early 90's. Great blog!

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