One of the things I love spotting in ’80s music videos is classic red phone boxes. You could probably have guessed that, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time. The combination of ’80s music and the red phone box aesthetic makes a video several hundred percent better.
As I’ve discussed before, the UK started phasing out red phone boxes in 1985. The fact that so many are still standing thirty-four years later shows you how ubiquitous they were, and this was even more true in the ’80s, when they were still the standard UK phone box.
Tracey Ullman’s video for My Guy – her 1984 cover of Madness’ 1980 hit My Girl – is everything a 20th century telephone nerd could want in a music video. In addition to the aforementioned red phone box, there are classic phones a-go-go – none of them a GPO 746, sadly, but still very period-evocative. Let’s take a look!
At the start of the video, Tracey is dropped off at the bus stop in the rain by her boyfriend after an argument. This doesn’t involve telephones, but it does involve a super ’80s pimped-out car. Love that cadmium yellow colour!
Unlike many music videos to which I will be subjecting you all in the future, this video doesn’t actually contain a full-length shot of a classic red phone box. We get this close-up instead, where a cheery-looking individual is sabotaging Tracey’s phone call to her boyfriend with the help of some pliers. Those holes in between the red bars of the phone box are meant to have glass in them, incidentally (I believe this is known as a window). Music videos have never made any sense, and this one is no exception.
Back home, Tracey goes down to use the phone in the middle of the night, not realising that her mother has tampered with it. The phone in her mother’s house is a GPO 232, which was a type of GPO telephone issued between 1934 and 1957. You might wonder why the family still has such an old phone in 1984, but it’s probably for the same reason there’s still a ’70s-era GPO 746 sitting on the hall table in my parents’ house – i.e. it came with the house and it still works!
Again, no phones here, but I’ve always liked this girls-in-dinner-suits dance routine.
Neil first arrives at the end of the dance routine to partner Tracey in some kind of dance style that you don’t see on Strictly.
He then appears in a slightly more expected role, showing up to canvass at Tracey’s mother’s house. Side note: do party leaders actually go canvassing themselves during election campaigns? I know they at least sort of have to pretend that they’re still regular MPs in addition to spending a lot of time shouting at each other in the House of Commons.
Unfortunately, Neil’s bitten off more than he can chew with Tracey’s mother (also played by Tracey), who starts showing him all her photo albums. I love all the classic Labour slogan posters on the walls.
Neil shows up for a final time in the fast-food place where Tracey works, reading a paper. All the mosaic tiling and fancy plants look a little upmarket for a fast-food place. Maybe such places were just better in 1984.
Back to the phones! Tracey spends most of her work day waiting for the restaurant’s telephone to ring. I can’t place this model even after rummaging through a lot of databases on classic telephone sites, but it looks similar to a GPO 772 or 782.
The video ends without any resolution to the question of whether Tracey’s boyfriend is going to stop sulking and ring her back. They should have made a sequel.
Watch the full video: