I remember Look-In Magazine for many reasons: its ITV programme listings with kid-appeal highlights; its heads-up to every fashionable fad that came into being (BMX-ing, yo-yos and skateboarding were a few crazes featured during the magazine’s run), its interviews, picture stories and competitions. But above all I remember the posters of television, film and pop stars; in particular the giant pull-out collection of the boys from a-ha. Morten was my favourite and I’m not embarrassed to tell you that I kissed his picture every night before I went to sleep. Ok, I’m slightly embarrassed, but I was only 10 when Look-In printed it. And Morten was gorgeous. I think he still is, but my husband has made me take the poster down now.
Look-In’s first edition appeared on 9 January 1971, with the secondary title of ‘Junior TV Times’. And that’s exactly what it was; a kids’ ITV guide to what was on each week, including the different television regions around the UK. The magazine covers from this time period were brilliant; one week it could be Leslie Crowther in an Aladdin costume, another week a giant lizard and then shortly afterwards - and perhaps my favourite ever - a picture of a woman (I imagine if I’d been alive in 1971 then I would know who she was) posing beside a waterway with the strap-line underneath ‘Make Sue’s dish-cloth vest: see inside!’ Never have I wanted to turn a page more. Or make an item of clothing out of something I normally keep under the sink.
Starring as a sort of unofficial ‘face’ of Look-In was Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart; who appeared in the regular feature ‘Stewpot’s Newsdesk’. Colin Shelbourn, editor of Look-In from 1975-1997 has said that the news was ghost written but they used Stewart as the face of it as he was a well-known and ‘great TV presenter’, although Stewart and his agent did put forward some items to give it a more personal touch. The second edition of the magazine had an exciting colour feature called ‘Stewpot in Morocco’, accompanied by a photograph of said man on a camel in an Arabian get-up and showing slightly too much bare leg to be totally appropriate for a children’s publication.
Later on the front covers had a cosmetic change. In a bid to make the look of the magazine a tad more exciting and give it a sophisticated edge the editor decided to employ illustrators to recreate action shots of popular shows. So if you bought Look-In on 2 October 1971 you’d have been confronted with the real Jimmy Tarbuck giving it a gormless thumbs up, whereas pop down the newsagent a week later, and you’d have a smudgy and fairly boss-eyed artistic impression of The Persuaders on the move. Going back to the Stewpot theme, on November 6 you were treated to a romanticised (and if I’m being picky ever so slightly jaundiced) etching of the man himself in a very fetching frilly shirt. The most frightening image of all however has to be the one adorning the edition that was published on 3 September 1977: a bronzed-faced, starey-eyed, bleached-teeth David Soul leering at you…
Of the artists used to bring the covers to life, Italian Arnaldo Putzu is the most widely remembered. He’d previously drawn for the Rank Organisation, a couple of Morecambe & Wise movies, the Carry On series, several Hammer Films and the Michael Caine vehicle Get Carter.
Look-In started to expand; sport articles were a big part of each issue, with a football focus from ‘On the Ball with Brian Moore’, and the world of music was ushered in during 1972, giving the magazine more of a pop look and feel. The middle of the magazine started hosting a poster, with the first being the legendary Marc Bolan from group T Rex, and going on to include pretty much every major icon from the entertainment world. Heartthrob Barry Sheene seemed to be featured a lot, although a high spot was obviously on 18 June 1977, when diminutive (read: shortarse) singer Leo Sayer got his own colour pin-up. Bet that made him feel like dancing….(that’s obviously a joke based on the only song that anybody can ever remember when asked to name something Leo Sayer sang – although admittedly that’s a question that probably doesn’t get asked too often).
In 1978 the UK was introduced to Smash Hits magazine; aimed at the Look-In audience but focusing entirely on pop. It soared in popularity and so in response Look-In underwent a makeover in 1981. A new, funkier logo appeared, along with a return to the photo cover. It being the 1980s there was a lot of denim, a lot of fairly dodgy make up, some really unacceptable hairstyles, and quite a lot of PJ and Duncan. There was also an explosion of new stars as we made our way through the decade - all featuring the above horrendous fashion sense - due to the introduction of the many soaps that infiltrated our screens; Brookside, Neighbours, EastEnders, Home and Away. I won’t mention Albion Market as even television buffs will struggle trying to think of anybody who ‘starred’ in it.
By the late 1980s Look-In was struggling. More and more teen magazines had hit the newsagent’s shelf and its sales were rapidly falling. In a last attempt to stay relevant the editorial team started pitching to a younger market by adding plenty of comic strips such as Garfield and Scooby Doo, as well as giving information on various topics in bite-size fact files. It didn’t stop the slide however and the last one hit the shops in 1994, but not before they’d managed to get Take That on pretty much every page in every issue. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it really did feel like the grinning faces of Gary, Mark, Howard, Jason and Robbie were everywhere you looked back then.
In 2007 and 2008 compilation annuals were released featuring the best of Look-In in the 1970s and 80s respectively – a one-hit nostalgia rush of everything that was great about the magazine. No pull-out posters however so I had to be content with the tiny picture of Morten in my purse instead. Don’t tell my husband.