This Is Ska

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Last year, I managed to persuade Arthur Kitchener to come out of his Ska retirement and perform with Kent-based band Skatacus, as part of the House of Ska event I had organised. It was a highlight of my gigging year, as I watched the Balham boy sing “Limehouse Lady”, a track he first recorded as Arthur Kay & The Originals.

I’m pleased to say that since then the “unsung hero of Ska” has been busy recording in Germany, and with a number of live performances, including the London Ska Festival in March. He has also recently announced a ‘Mark The Mods Ska & Soul Night’ on 2nd September. With live music from Arthur Kay & The Originals and Toot ‘N’ Skamen, the event also features a Northern Soul DJ set, as well as a few other treats which I’m not at liberty to divulge (yet!).

All proceeds will be donated to Pilgrims Hospices, and with tickets at just £10.00 it looks set to sell out quickly. Tickets are available online or from the local outlets shown below.

I look forward to seeing you there…

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Rock ‘n’ Rain

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Late Saturday morning saw me doing my best Girl Guide impression as, fully prepared for what the elements might throw at us, I trekked across fields, laden with everything I might need for the day. Okay, so the fields were Sandwell Country Park in West Bromwich, and my ‘load’ was a festival chair, umbrella, waterproof jacket and several layers of clothing, but as a fairweather festival-goer, and with rain forecast  throughout the day, this was me out of my comfort zone.

I was undeterred by the prospect of a downpour, as the main reason I had chosen Let’s Rock Birmingham as my first festival of the year, was the opportunity to see Tiffany live, and she didn’t disappoint. Hearing her sing live was worth getting a soaking. Besides which, the sporadic showers meant my normally straightened hair reverted to its natural curly/frizzy state. I achieved an authentic Eighties look without even trying!

From the moment Tiffany came on stage, singing the chart-topping “I Think We’re Alone Now”, she gave a first class performance. Including “Right Here” from her new album “A Million Miles”, and a superb rendition of “Sweet Child of Mine” in her set, my personal favourite was “Could’ve Been”, a beautiful track I’ve loved since its release in ’88. Standing a few feet away from the singer, as Ms Darwish delivered the song note perfect, was one of the day’s highlights for me.

I say one because, with so many fantastic acts performing, it was an impossible task to choose an outright favourite. Jimmy Somerville was outstanding; Five Star gave a flawless, polished song and dance set. Go West’s Peter Cox was gorgeous and gravelly-voiced, as always; Martin Fry stylish and classy, treating us to ABC’s 80’s hits, as well as “Viva Love” from the “Lexicon of Love II” album. Dr & The Medics kicked the day off to a great start, and had the crowd singing along and dancing within seconds of playing; Holly Johnson provided a fabulous finale, performing Frankie Goes To Hollywood classics and solo tracks, including this year’s earlier release “Ascension”. As I said, impossible to choose.

If you were there, let me know what you thought about the day’s performances. Likewise to those of you attending any of this summer’s forthcoming retro festivals. Looking forward to hearing from you…

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The Trials of Trailblazing

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As much as I love interviewing people for my books, I find transcribing the recorded interview excruciatingly painful at times. The reason for this is not because of the attention to detail required in undertaking such a time-consuming task, but the process necessary to ensure accuracy. The recording can be unclear at times, meaning I have to listen to the same few seconds over and over before I am certain of what has been said. In doing so, listening to my part in the conversation is often unavoidable. Now, despite what some may say, I really don’t like the sound of my own voice. You can imagine the panic I felt last Friday, when I received an email saying the first of the 80’s music programmes I had recorded for Sky Arts earlier this year, Trailblazers of Nuclear Protest, was being aired that evening. Recorded voice and face. Yikes!

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Photo: @Keithredhead68 on Twitter

Not having Sky TV, I was unable to view Trailblazers when it was broadcast, and had no idea what the finished product would be like. However, returning home late on Friday evening to a number of encouraging messages and tweets, I was eager to watch it, even if it meant peeking through my fingers when I came on screen. Thanks to being sent a link by OMD super fan, and fellow contributor to the programme, Neil Young I was able to so last night. I am so glad I did.

Set against the soundtrack of my early teens, the show detailed the very real threat of nuclear war during the Eighties, and how that threat manifested itself in the lyrics of some of the best known songs of the decade. Featuring recollections and observations from a number of the era’s leading influencers of music, including Trevor Horn, Ranking Roger and Billy Bragg, it was exactly  the kind of show I would choose to watch myself. I am incredibly pleased to have been part of it.

The series is set to run for a further two months, and goes out at 9pm Fridays on Sky Arts. I will also make an appearance on TrailBlazers of… Songs of Conscience (29th July) and New Romantics (12th August).

To watch Trailblazers of Nuclear Protest via Neil’s link click here.