Why Adam Will Always Be My First Man

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One of my treasured discoveries from Operation Declutter has been this Adam Ant exercise book. It was part of an Adam Ant stationery set I bought in 1981, which also included a notebook, ruler, pencil sharpener and rubber. I’m proud to say I still have all of these, as well as a matching Adam Ant scrapbook.IMG_20160424_161706042

The scrapbook makes an appearance in the Sky Arts programme I filmed back in February, due to be aired in September, and holds a wealth of clippings from the early Eighties. However, apart from being defaced by my scrawl on the front (done to confirm my ownership) the above book is pristine, as is the notebook.  The rubber is still in its cellophane wrapping, such was my obsession with all things Adam.

Then, there was the music. The first single I ever bought was ‘Stand & Deliver’. I can still remember the excitement of being 10 years old, and going to Woolworths on a Saturday morning to buy it. It was to be the first of many, and thanks to an older boy at primary school, who knew all there was to know about the Dandy Highwayman, I found myself seeking out his back catalogue, and discovering Mr. Goddard’s earlier offerings. I was hooked.

Little wonder then that Saturday night, when I saw Adam & The Ants perform at the Brighton Centre, will remain a life highlight for me. Met with rapturous applause as he came on stage, and launching straight into ‘Dog Eat Dog’, Adam performed the ‘Kings of The Wild Frontier’ album in its glorious entirety. Thirty five years faded away as the Burundi Beat blasted through me, and I lost myself in the music and the performance of an often underrated pioneer.

Lasting almost two hours, the set included both of the band’s Number 1 singles as well as Adam’s solo chart topper ‘Goody Two Shoes’. Other solo offerings to make the show were ‘Desperate Not Serious’ and ‘Vive Le Rock’, but unfortunately not ‘Friend or Foe’, a favourite of mine. However, my forgiveness was swiftly forthcoming as the omission made room for early tracks such as ‘Zerox’, ‘Never Trust A Man (With Egg on His Face)’ and ‘Cartrouble’ to be IMG_20160528_210823811played. As the singer told us the latter was written with his childhood trips to Kent in mind, I found myself letting out a loud cheer, the idea of him visiting my county being far too much!

All too soon (although my knees would beg to differ, having taken a non-stop pounding throughout the gig), it was time to go. With just a handful of photos on my mobile – I was too busy enjoying the gig to snap away – but a mind full of memories, I made my way out of the venue, with a huge smile on my face and the knowledge that Adam Ant (still) rocks!

 

 

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Treasures & Trash

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The last couple of months have seen me undertake a much needed major declutter. Having trawled through over forty years of paraphernalia and memories, I am left with an empty loft, a garage that can now accommodate my car, and a house that, unburdened from the weight of unnecessary possessions, must have risen at least six inches from the ground. The process has been cathartic, emotional and intriguing, as I uncovered long forgotten keepsakes and boxes unopened017 for over two decades.

From ticket stubs, programmes and letters to old diaries, drawings and school books, there is a well-documented record of every aspect of my life; the result of inheriting the hoarding gene from my dad. Whilst documentation forms a large part of this squirrelling behaviour, such tendencies are not limited to paperwork, as proven by these embroidered coasters I made in primary school. Set in rural Kent, and with enrolment never exceeding 70 pupils, the school boasted a broad education, including ‘handwork’ lessons on a Friday afternoon. When the weather permitted, we took these lessons outside, and I can clearly remember sewing these whilst sat under a tree, on a warm, sunny day. Idyllic.

While I have uncovered plenty of reminders of wonderful memories, there have been some tinged with sadness, such as birthday cards from those no longer with us. Then, there were items that made me question why I had kept them for so long. Some, like the theatre programmes for shows of which I have no recollection, had followed me through four house moves, yet meant nothing to me at all. Others were just downright weird, such as the plaster cast from when I broke my wrist in 1990. Needless to say, anything falling into these two categories went straight into the bin.

Those mementoes that have survived the cull (and believe me, I was ruthless) are now neatly packed away in three medium-sized boxes, which, for me, is nothing short of a miracle. However, one of the advantages of having stockpiled a lifetime is finding hidden gems amongst the detritus, some of which I will be sharing here over the next few weeks. I hope you’ll share some of your treasures from the past too.

 

A Passing Memory?

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I heard the news that fateful afternoon.

Momentarily,

My world came to a halt.

Those with no one to love, to hold, to lose,

Looked only for who was at fault.

The scenes of horror soaked my fearful mind.

None of the tears I cried that day

Could wring out what I saw.

Terror, death and terror

Will remain forever more.

Fears increased.

The need to know.

My call connected. But what to say?

“Had he been there? Please say ‘No’.

Only I’m sure I saw him in the crowd.

No? Oh, Thank God!”

A tide of warmth envelopes me.

Nothing more is heard.

Replacing the receiver, I laugh then cry.

How absurd!

Overwhelmed by ecstatic relief,

I return to watch the reports.

Realisation that many aren’t to be so lucky,

And my happiness retorts.

Kept alive by the slightest chance,

(He couldn’t afford the ticket)

My friend remains in body and soul,

While others just in spirit.

What of those others and those they leave behind?

Beautiful children, budding adults, young and old,

But all were of one mind:

To give support to their team, the reds.

How were they to know

That day they’d meet their deaths?

But how soon will you forget their loss?

Leaving the mourning to those who care,

To those the dead saw as ‘their own’.

Leaving them to show those innocents

                       “You’ll never walk alone.”

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I wrote the above poem in April 1989, a few days after the tragedy at Hillsborough. An LFC fan since I was six, thanks to my Nan, I had watched in horror as events unfolded on TV that afternoon. This soon turned to blind panic, when I became convinced I’d seen my friend John in the crush. He lived in Warrington, and regularly  attended Liverpool’s matches. Thankfully, I eventually discovered he hadn’t been able to afford to go to that Saturday’s game.

I stumbled upon my poem, now somewhat battered with age, during a declutter the day after the BBC’s documentary on Hillsborough aired. It made reading something I hadn’t seen for over 25 years all the more poignant. As always, thoughts are with those we lost on  15th April 1989, their families, friends and loved ones.

You’ll Never Walk Alone.

 

The True Tone of Two-Tone

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At the end of April, I went to see The Selecter’s Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson perform with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, at Margate’s Winter Gardens. Having previously seen The Selecter play live to their Ska and Two-Tone fan base, I was eager to see how this collaboration would work, playing to a diverse audience in a seated venue.

Opening their set with The Ethiopians’ ‘Train To Skaville’, the duo left us in no doubt in which direction we were heading. As Ms Black told us to “mind the Gaps”, he, in his inimitable style, wanted us to “wind up your waist”; it became impossible to sit still. Looking around me at the rest of the audience, who remained firmly in their seats, I pondered the etiquette of climbing over my neighbours, so I might dance in the aisle. Having to content myself with a bit of chair dancing as the pair launched into ‘Secret Love’, a track which beautifully showcases Pauline’s vocal talents, against Hendrickson’s top-tapping toasting, I could hold back no longer. I was up and at ’em!

By the time they performed The Selecter favourites ‘Too Much Pressure’ and ‘On My Radio’, even the unlikeliest of characters were up and moving, if not quite skanking. All testament to the energy and frisson coming from onstage Two-Tone team. It was almost unbelievable that these were the same people I had been talking to a couple of hours before the gig.

Pauline had agreed to be interviewed for my next book ‘More Eighties’. I must confess, I was more than a little nervous as I arrived at her hotel. Not only do I consider the Queen of Ska to be a musical great, but as one of the few strong female role models of the Eighties, I had afforded her semi-iconic status since I was in single figures. I needn’t have worried. Walking across the hotel foyer, looking as impeccably stylish as ever, Pauline greets me with a warmth that immediately puts me at ease.

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As we begin the interview, we’re joined by Gaps, someone whose dynamic, high-octane stage persona bears little resemblance to the softly spoken, laid back man who tells me he still considers it an “honour” to be in his position, performing and writing songs.

Pauline is poised and eloquent as she explains how their song writing has evolved over time, with the pair now having the freedom to encompass a broader range of musical influences. What hasn’t changed is their commitment to quality. Determined not to fall on the retro/revival bandwagon, The Selecter continue to produce and perform new material which, whilst maintaining the band’s distinctive sound, delivers a fresh, contemporary take on Two-Tone. Listen to last year’s ‘Subculture’ album, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

We covered a host of topics during our conversation, from perilous tours to Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’, multiculturalism to that Michael Putland photograph, all of which will feature in ‘More Eighties’, to be published next year.  Every question I posed was given a full, considered answer, offering an insight into The Selecter’s music and history, but also glimpsing the real people behind the band. By the end of the interview, I was left with a real appreciation of two people, whose natural creativity and musicianship can be sometimes lost amongst the performance elements of the band, and its Two-Tone image. I was also left with a little bit of a crush on the unassuming, off-stage Mr. Hendrickson!

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Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson are touring throughout the UK with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra until the end of the year. Click here for tickets.