Throughout the 1970s it was not uncommon -- in Britain at least -- to encounter children sitting on a large orangey-brown ball-like object which had snailish horns and a large grinning face: this was the space hopper. Much as kids in the year 2000 will do anything to get hold of a silver scooter, or those in 1981 had to have a Rubik's cube, in the early 70s the space hopper was an essential part of childhood.

The basic idea was to simply sit on the thing and bounce around on it. Unfortunately due to its shape this was nearly impossible, and generally people just ended up sitting on them before making a few feeble attempts at moving, then falling off. Despite some serious research I've been unable to discover who invented these things, or even why. They still occasionally turn up, usually deflated and tatty, at car boot sales or in people's attics.

Scary as it may sound, there is a new breed of space hoppers around. There's a stall selling them at Spitalfields market in London. Not horned, smiling and orange any more, they are pale pastel bright colours, all tasteful and suitable for the loft-living offspring of wallpaper* readers. They are rather shiny, and look less tough than the old version. Can't believe they'd stand up to the round the block space hopper races we used to have when I was a little 'un. Modern life is rubbish.

But Spacehopper, from Julian Cope's 1987 album Saint-Julian, is likely to make you bounce up and down much like the grinning orange beasty that iain has described. It's daft, but has ferocious happy energy.

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