This is an exclusive feature from the now sold-out Issue 4 of Yours Retro. For more nostalgia, check out the latest Retro at www.greatmagazines.co.uk
We remember the magazine that became the unlikely bible for generations of young teenagers
January 11, 1964 was an auspicious day for adolescent girls in the UK: the first ever edition of Jackie magazine hit the newsstands. At last there was a magazine just for us, with pin-ups of our favourite stars and advice on everything from how to kiss to what to wear. Plus romantic illustrated stories full of long-haired girls who all shared a flat in London and fancied dishy boys.
Until then there had been nothing between Bunty and Judy, with their smudgy schoolgirl stories, and Woman's Own, full of housewifely advice.
Sixties Britain was changing and it was a sedate Scottish publisher based in Dundee, D C Thomson, that realised there was a huge untapped market of young teenagers. Not that their readers knew they were in Scotland – if you wanted to write in there was a trendy London address. So we imagined Samantha (letters page), Pete (pop gossip) and, of course, Cathy and Claire (problem page), sipping frothy coffee in the Kings Road with Cliff or Ringo, before visiting Carnaby Street to check out the latest fashions for us.
Of course, now we know none of them existed. Cathy and Claire were a whole team of problem solvers coping with the up to 400 letters a week that poured in, while the first editor was Gordon Small, a fatherly former RAF engine fitter – about as uncool as you could get. And according to Wendy Rigg, Jackie's fashion editor in the Seventies, there were just two phones in the entire office – one on the editor's desk and another in a cubicle. You had to make calls after 2pm when it was cheaper!
For 10 years – with its biggest sales in the mid-Seventies – Jackie was the bestselling teen magazine in the UK. If you flick through old issues you’ll see a letter from a young Emma Thompson asking them to publish a photo of her Magic Roundabout father Eric Thompson, who she thought was better looking than most popstars! In the true-life photo-stories, popular in the Seventies and Eighties, you can spot a 15-year-old Fiona Bruce, who answered an ad for models
in the window of her local newsagent – not to mention the young Lesley Ash, Hugh Grant, George Michael and even Nick Clegg. Everybody read Jackie – including, secretly, boys, which is how Vic Reeves came to win a Jackie competition after entering a drawing of Marc Bolan under his sister's name.
At a time when there were no others, Jackie was a bible that united adolescent girls (and their brothers) from all classes and parts of Britain.
Back then we only saw our favourite stars once a week on Top of the Pops, so their posters were a big part of its appeal. The first issue had Cliff on the cover, while other pretty boys down the years – Davy Jones, Barry Ryan, Peter Frampton, David Essex, David Cassidy and Donny Osmond – were frequent pin-ups.
Jackie also came up with the clever idea of printing your favourite star in three parts over three weeks – not only did you get an extra large poster to kiss goodnight, the magazine made sure you bought it every week. Their best-ever selling issue was a special edition that coincided with the 1972 tour of David Cassidy.
But pin-ups were only a part of the appeal. There were the personality quizzes, the horoscopes (made up in the office!) and the popular free gifts – blue eyeshadow, anyone?
We dedicatedly followed the fashion page, which until 1977 was illustrated. Mini and maxi skirts, bell bottoms and Afghan coats all drawn on long-legged, doe-eyed girls, happily called dolly birds (as feminism was never part of Jackie's appeal).
Then of course there was the beauty advice, a lot of which centred around getting rid of, or disguising, spots. After nearly taking off the top layer of skin with Phisohex, you then applied a thick layer of Rimmel Hide ‘n’ Heal medicated pan stick. In the evening you wiped it all off with Anne French cleansing milk, which seemed to be mentioned every issue. Jackie was very clear – nothing bad could happen to you if you always took your make-up off at night.
And there would be no problem with you doing that because you always went to bed alone. S-E-X never really got much beyond kissing in Jackieland. That was the official line anyway. In fact, the majority of letters that poured into Cathy and Claire wanted information about this tricky subject. But while the team ended up producing a series of leaflets they could send out, the questions on the problem page itself generally played it safe.
It was only when the magazine got its first female editor, Nina Myskow, in 1974, that they finally introduced a Dear Doctor column to address what were called ‘below the waist’ concerns. But Jackie never really moved on, and when tastes got more explicit in the Eighties, sales started to decline steeply. When circulation had dipped to 50,000 – from a high of over 600,000 – in the early Nineties, the plug was finally pulled.
But anyone going through puberty in the Sixties or Seventies will probably own one of the Jackie compilation annuals that re-appeared recently and became runaway bestsellers.
Once a Jackie girl, always a Jackie girl…