Shape Up and Dance Volume 4
Lifestyle Records LEG 7
“This is a vigorous warm up exercise that will firm up your waist and tighten up your bottom!”
The 1970s was a time when British people mainly lived off brightly coloured sugar-based foodstuffs : luminous purple Angel Delight, bright orange Fish Fingers, Day-Glo green blancmange, tinned vegetables in a variety of psychedelic hues and children’s sweets that could actually rot teeth through the newsagent’s window. It was a heady decade of culinary indulgence but inevitably, after all those dizzy food highs, the crash back to reality was loud and pronounced. As the decadent 1970s morphed into the 1980s the sweaty breathless people of Britain desperately needed to exercise. Lucky for them then that there were a multitude of over-enthusiastic lycra-clad women with wild hair and mad eyes ready and waiting to force all the lardies out of their custard-induced lethargy and start touching their toes.
Incredibly the desire to sweat off a decade of accumulated calories saw the aforementioned leotard wearing ladies even appearing on national television. Inspired by Olivia Newton-John’s bold decision to make headbands and thick woolly socks the major fashion accessories of the early 1980s, the newly launched British TV breakfast shows both had their own shouty fitness freaks to break up the monotony of news and travel advice. ‘Mad’ Lizzie Webb was the choice of TV-am, while Diana Moran aka ‘The Green Goddess’ kicked her legs in the air like a dying housefly on BBC1’s Breakfast Time. The same exercising fervour also saw the invention of the exercise video, a medium that meant Jane Fonda became more famous for wearing a leotard and waving her arms in the air than she ever was for acting. Exercise videos are commonplace now and every Christmas sees a succession of newly slimmed down soap stars and footballer’s wives releasing their fail-safe instructional aids to help us tone up and feel fit. Exercise videos are a familiar concept, they allow people to watch and follow simple stretches and routines without too much effort. But why would anyone buy an exercise record? Even if they did come with an eight page booklet and a celebrity in spandex…
The Shape Up and Dance albums were a minor 1980s phenomenon. Spanning ten volumes the records featured a series of non-threatening celebrity totty, such as Angela Rippon or Felicity Kendal, stuffed into a shiny leotard with their nipples diligently airbrushed for health and safety reasons. I like to think that had they been released in the 1970s the record covers would have seen the celebrities riding naked on a donkey or prancing through a field of corn in their pants. Hey I can dream… The celebrities would then nag and cajole the punters to exercise, as two sides of muted cheesy 1980s pop tunes tinkled and warbled away to very little effect in the background.
The celebrities were all safe cosy types that chubby mums or dads could fantasise over as they worked up a frantic sweat. Dads had the dishy Isla St Clair to scold them into a state of healthy bliss while mum could close the curtains and fantasise about getting hot and dirty with Peter Powell. For adventurous couples there was also an album that saw football legend George Best linking up with his then girlfriend, the Miss World winner Mary Stavin. This was the penultimate entry in the series and the sight of a bleary eyed George Best on the cover, looking more like Rab C Nesbitt with his headband and vest than a respectable fitness guru, surely spelled the end. By the time the record came out Best’s only regular form of exercise was lifting bottles of whiskey to his mouth and punching the occasional police officer. To listen to him slurring instructions for people to crunch their saggy abs was menacing more than reassuring. The days of the ‘Stand Up and Dance’ series were numbered and after one more recording by Patti Boulaye they disappeared from view into the bargain bins of charity shops everywhere.
Actress Suzanne Danielle was charged with performing the shouting on the fourth record in the series. Briefly famous/notorious for her major contribution in ending a long-running and successful British film franchise, Danielle starred as the eponymous sex-crazed diplomat’s wife in the excruciatingly joyless and laugh-free romp that was ‘Carry On Emmannuelle’. By the time she made this record Danielle was fading gradually into quiz show obscurity and only marriage to the zillionaire golfer Sam Torrance saved her from having to appear on Celebrity Squares or star in any more laugh-free romps such as the truly terrible Cannon and Ball classic ‘The Boys in Blue’.
The leg warmer-wearing Suzanne sounds relentlessly chirpy whilst issuing instructions to banish flabby arms, and seems overly obsessed with the vital need for tight bottoms. I don’t even think that she can act on a record sleeve let alone in a film, and it is a strange record to listen to as the dazed mullet haired dominatrix chirrups instructions and counts more enthusiastically than anyone has ever counted before or since. She never once seems out of breath or tired and perhaps I’m being bitter and cynical, but I suspect she never even left her chair in the recording booth while this record was being made. But if you like strange staring and not particularly famous celebrities telling you repeatedly how horrible and flabby you are, then this record is definitely for you.
“Turn off the lights, lie on your back, then tighten your buttocks and release!”