Back To Boomtown With A Bang

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As I write this, I am listening to The Boomtown Rats’ self-titled first, and in my opinion their best, album. Although it was released in 1977, I bought my copy in 1982 (aged 11) around the time that Mr. Geldof and a certain presenter of The Tube moved to my home town. As Bob and Paula became familiar faces around town, The Rats’ music became a firm favourite in my vinyl collection, with “A Tonic For The Troops” (released in 1978) soon coming a very close second to my favourite Rats’ album.

Despite living within swearing distance of the Irish punk rocker, I had never seen him perform live. Until this weekend. I had booked my tickets for Rewind South before the line up had been announced. With more than twenty acts from the Eighties performing, I knew I would have a great time regardless of who would be appearing. You have no idea of the sheer delight I felt when I discovered The Rats would be playing. I had waited over thirty years for this!

I made my way through the crowds in plenty of time to secure a place a couple of rows back from the stage, where, in spite of my lack of height (I’m 5′ 1″) I had a great view. As Bob and the rest of the band (Pete Briquette on bass, Garry Roberts on guitar, and Simon Crowe on drums) took to the stage, I had a moment of doubt as to what they would play. Their best music, and indeed their hits, had all been in the Seventies. There was no brass section, so it was unlikely they would play the rather brilliant “Drag Me Down”, from their 1984 album “In The Long Grass”. I needn’t have worried.

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Alongside crowd-pleasers like “Someone’s Looking At You” and “Rat Trap”, early Rats’ tracks such as “Lookin’ After No. 1”, “She’s So Modern” and “Like Clockwork” were performed with an energy and fervour evocative of the band’s punk roots. When Bob sang “Mary Of The 4th Form”, he was again the angry young front man, not somebody’s granddad. However, no one was in any doubt of his status as a family man, during his performance of “I Don’t Like Mondays”. His pensive pause, following his delivery of the line “And the lesson today is how to die” was heartbreakingly emotional. Shouts of “We love you, Bob” soon erupted from the crowd, a display of support en masse. I wasn’t the only one to shed a tear then.

As proceedings were brought to a close with the recently penned “The Boomtown Rats”, I was both elated, that the performance had by far exceeded my expectations, but sad too that it was coming to an end. It had been wishful thinking that my favourite track, “I Can Make It If You Can”, would be performed. Admittedly, it is better suited to being played in some dark, smoky bar than on a sunny stage in Henley-on-Thames, but I would have still been swaying with my arms in the air! Similarly, I had hoped they would play “I Never Loved Eva Braun” – in fact The Rats’ first two albums in their entirety would have been great. As it was, I loved every single minute of the performance, and will be booking tickets to another of their gigs soon. I can’t wait to go back to Boomtown again.

 

 

 

 

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Goodnight Vietnam

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Along with thousands, if not millions, of others, I am deeply saddened by reports today of the passing of Robin Williams. Young or old, there can be few people who do not have a favourite Williams’ character. My personal favourite was his portrayal of Adrian Cronauer, in the 1987 release “Good Morning Vietnam”. The role enabled him to show not only his dynamic energy, as he leapt from one mercilessly funny character to another, but allowed him to fully exhibit his acting talent through a range of emotions, both joyous and painful. We, his audience, felt his disbelief, anger and sense of betrayal, when he discovers his young friend’s true allegiances.

Williams’ ability to excel in the delivery of characters, beyond his better known comedy roles, was never better exhibited than in the 2002 release “One Hour Photo”. I found it incredibly uncomfortable to watch, as Williams immersed himself as Sy Parrish, a lonely photo lab technician, with an unhealthy fixation on the Yorkin family. Uncomfortable, but absolutely mesmerising.

I believe that in order to deliver such outstanding performances, an actor must have a strong empathy for the entire spectrum of the human psyche. That may come through an understanding of others, but can also come through an actor’s own life experiences. Sometimes, those life experiences manifest themselves behind the mask of comedy, as was the case with Robin Williams. He is certainly not the first master of comedy to hide behind the “tears of a clown”, which is why I have been surprised at the mass shock that his depression should result in him taking his own life. Anyone who has an addiction, has it for life, regardless of how long they have been “dry” or “clean”, and anyone who has suffered depression knows that it never really leaves you. It is always there, gnawing at the edges of your life. The trick is keeping it at bay, far enough so it doesn’t completely consume you. Unfortunately, even with all the love and support in the world, it is something the sufferer can only do for themselves. Sometimes, the struggle alone becomes too much to bear any longer. Let us hope Robin Williams has now finally found his peace.

Long Hot Summer

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My love for Summer is no big secret. As a rule, if the sun is shining and the temperature’s rising, I am happy. Perhaps that is why my childhood memories of the Summer Holidays are so cheery. In them, the sun was always shining, and I was always smiling (although my parents will beg to differ about the reality of these memories!).

One of my favourite summers was in 1983, during which we took a fortnight’s holiday to Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset. Rather aptly, The Style Council’s “Long Hot Summer” was in the charts. This, along with the likes of KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Give It Up”, Wham!’s “Club Tropicana” and Paul Young’s “Wherever I Lay My Hat”, provided the soundtrack for both my holiday and my summer. I had taped the charts off the radio the previous Sunday, painstakingly attempting to stop recording before Tommy Vance spoke over the end of the songs. During the seemingly never-ending journey from Kent to Somerset, in Dad’s khaki green Hillman Imp (suitcases tied precariously on the roof-rack), that C90 cassette was played continuously. Due to the fact that the car radio was unable to pick up a signal for longer than a few seconds, it also became the background music to our holiday sightseeing. In my mind, Glastonbury Tor, Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole all feature alongside tracks such as The Kinks’ “Come Dancing” and Eurythmics’ “Who’s That Girl?”. Little wonder then that any one of these songs can evoke such vivid memories for me.

My favourite track during that holiday, but one not often heard today, was Roman Holliday’s “Don’t Try To Stop It”. Hope you enjoy this video as much as I do, as it causes me to recall family midnight swims in the camp site pool, during the long, hot summer of 1983.