Suzi. Fucking. Quatro.

I lost my virginity when Suzi Quatro won Rear of the Year in 1982. The news came via the Daily Mirror and was read out by my brother, in the tone of a military officer trying to console a grieving war widow.

We were big Felicity Kendall fans in our house, and the decision smacked of more than just human error.

‘It just doesn’t make sense’ I said, staring out of the window. This was when Rear of the Year really meant something; in terms of cultural weight it was up there with the Booker Prize and the Baftas.

‘Suzi Quatro?! Suzi. Fucking. Quatro.’

‘You do know it’s a jeans thing don’t you,’ said my brother, from behind the paper. ‘It’s not a proper competition. More like an advert, you know, to get us to buy Wranglers or something’.

This was a genuine moment of lost innocence, the point at which the corporate touched the personal. I’m only half joking when I say that the story of Rear of the Year is the story of our times.

It wasn’t that Suzi Quatro’s arse was unworthy of recognition, far from it. It had a certain outré quality, wrapped in black PVC as she cranked out her faux dangerous-biker-girl schtick. But by 1982, any suggestion of authentic rock goddess had all but disappeared. The final nail in that particular coffin came when she appeared as Dennis Waterman’s girlfriend in Minder.

Felicity Kendall, on the other hand, was something else entirely: her arse spoke to a generation of pubescent suburban boys in a way that Quatro couldn’t hope to replicate.

But it’s here that memory and Wikipedia come to blows. In my mind’s eye I recall Kendall as a multiple, back to back winner of the great trophy, in the style of the Liverpool teams of the seventies and early eighties. This reading doesn’t bear close scrutiny however: according to the records, Kendall won only once – in 1981. And what’s more, Rear of the Year only became an annual award in that year, having first been won by Carry On star Barbara Windsor in 1976 (Barbara Windsor’s arse…I know, I know. Absurd).

This was when Tony Edwards, the PR man behind the Rear dynasty, launched it as ‘just a bit of fun’ (I love that quote, hinting as it does the suggestion of seriousness to come).

Today Edwards sits atop a cheeky empire, and each year nominees are invited to a swish London hotel, where showbiz reporters and photographers wait outside for that all important money shot of the winner looking back at us over their shoulder. This photo never fails to make it in to even the most serious papers. No celebrity is capable of declining the offer when it comes – the normally very up-standing Fiona Bruce was more than happy to be seen bent over in tight ‘Wizard’ jeans (who they?).

The Rear legacy has been profound, beginning my ‘journey’ from wide-eyed ingénue to a cold-hearted cynic. The question it asked, is the one this blog asks: can you see the joins, the point at which the cash has changed hands?

Most of the examples of this creeping commercialism are pretty harmless, and sometimes even useful. We need the money after all.

The real battlefield is not sport or music or even the arts, it’s the stuff that really matters. As the state recedes from view, under pressure to make back the budget deficit, the next decade will see commercial messaging intrude into areas previously thought sacrosanct, provoking some difficult questions for politicians, who may or may not be up to the job of answering them.

If I’m honest, I don’t much care about Manchester United’s shirt sponsorship, or whether the IOC’s TOP programme is offering sufficient return on investment. Sport is a distraction from real life not the stuff itself. But I suspect what has happened in sport sponsorship will be the model used by schools, hospitals and other public services.

The usual response to these questions follows the line of, why don’t you just grow up’. We need the money and will have to make compromises. That would be the ‘grown up’ thing to do. But being a grown up mostly sucks.

If you don’t like the blog, blame Suzi Quatro, and her lying arse.