From Top of The Pops to Tour Bus

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For many of us growing up during the Eighties, Top of The Pops was eagerly awaited Thursday night viewing. Some performances remain as fresh in our minds as the day we first saw them. Who can forget Culture Club’s debut on the show, and the subsequent discussions about Boy George’s gender the following day at school? Then there was Adam Ant’s performance of Goody Two Shoes, when he danced across the studio from stage to stage wearing those red leather trousers. For me, The Beat’s appearance in May 1983, when they first performed Can’t Get Used To Losing You on the programme, has always held a special place in my heart. As a 12-year-old girl watching Dave Wakeling perched on a stool, looking down the camera with a cheeky glint in his eye, I was left with an indelible imprint on my memory. You can imagine then how I was feeling when I stepped onto The English Beat’s tour bus to interview him for my next book.

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On  board the tour bus with Dave Wakeling

Any nerves I may have had soon disappeared as we got chatting … and chat we did, covering everything from politics, racism and Greenpeace to his Vox teardrop guitar, musical influences and songwriting. In fact, there wasn’t much we didn’t cover in our hour and a half interview, all of which you will be able to read about next year when More Eighties is published. Having finished our interview, I was delighted when Dave invited me to the band’s gig that evening.

Based in California, The English Beat were in Folkestone, Kent to headline the Skabour festival, as part of their current UK tour. Fronted by the Brummie singer, the band comprises Matt Morrish on saxophone, Kevin Lum and Minh Quan on keyboards, Nucci Cantrell on drums, Brad Engstrom on bass and, with apparently limitless energy, King Schascha toasting.

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After The English Beat’s gig at Skabour, Folkestone

Bringing us all The Beat’s favourites, such as Mirror In The Bathroom, Stand Down Margaret, Too Nice To Talk To and Save It For Later (or Save It, Fellator according to Dave’s schoolboy humour!), the band delivered a top notch set that had everyone singing and dancing along. So much so, that I didn’t hesitate to accept an invitation to the band’s gig the next night at The Forum in Tunbridge Wells.

A more intimate venue than the previous evening, it was the perfect setting to perform new material Never Die. One of the tracks from a forthcoming album to be released next year (I’ve heard a preview of a few of the tracks and they are A-Ma-Zing!), Dave wrote the song in memory of his late father. Beautiful both lyrically and melodically, the song demonstrates not only a huge songwriting talent but a rare insight into love and life. It’s already a firm favourite with me.

The English Beat still have a week left of their UK Tour, so try to catch them before they head back over the Atlantic. The music is first class, the vibe is great and Dave Wakeling still has that twinkle in his eye.

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Angel Pale Is Just Outside Of Heaven

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Fans of the Eighties will be pleased to know that one of the most distinctive voices of the decade makes a welcome return to the world of music today, as Ian Donaldson  releases his solo single “Angel Pale”. On his return, the former lead singer of H2O says:

“I went into different areas with my voice … maybe higher at times than I have done in the past. I think people will remember a baritone, but I’ve explored a top range. Again, no limitations there, but I’d like to think tonally people will recognise it, and not be disappointed.”

I can guarantee you will not be disappointed and, although a diversification from the recordings of three decades ago, there is no hiding the mesmerising tones that brought us the Top 40 hits “I Dream To Sleep” and “Just Outside of Heaven”.

But don’t take my word for it, head on over to iTunes and download your copy today!

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Romancing The Eighties

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A defining period in Eighties’ music, the emergence of the New Romantics saw the visual vying for attention with what we were hearing. Arguably, more than at any other time before or since, image, style and fashion became an integral expression of creativity for artists and fans alike.

I was still at prsteve-strangeimary school when Adam Ant and Boy George entranced me with their glamorous outfits and perfect make-up. The fact that I loved their music too seemed almost incidental. Fascinated and inspired by them and the Blitz Kids, over whose pictures I would pore for hours, I first attempted emulating them when I was 11. During the summer holidays, between finishing primary and starting secondary school, I used a ‘Wash-In, Wash-Out’ plum hair colour, which lasted considerably longer than the name suggested. I was hooked! It was at least a decade before my hair returned to its natural colour, as I worked my way through every shade the shelves in Boots had to offer. Not to mention a few ‘unique’ hues too, the result of changing my mind and my hair colour too often.

My hair was short during the early Eighties, an homage to the Human League girls. Unfortunately, due to my natural curls, I tended to look more like Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore than Susanne Sulley. I may not have perfected  her look, or any of the other stars I saw on TV or in magazines, but I had great fun trying. Which is why I am thrilled to have been included in the following Trailblazers episode. Featuring commentary by Rusty Egan, Jeremy Healy, Princess Julia and Marilyn, the programme gives an insight into the New Romantic scene from those who were at the heart it. Enjoy.

Freebie Time!

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For many children it’s back to school today, which means some of us find themselves with a little extra free time on their hands. What better way of making use of those bonus minutes than claiming a freebie? Today, ‘Your Eighties’ is available in Kindle version for FREE!  You don’t need a Kindle to read it either, simply download Amazon’s Kindle Reading App to read the book on your computer, tablet or mobile.

So, if you’re a fan of the Eighties, download your free copy from Amazon today.

Click to find the book on Amazon

The Vinyl Word In Fashion

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My love of vinyl means I have sometimes held onto to records out of sentimentality, simply because I cannot bear to be parted from the shiny, black discs, even though they are far beyond ever being able to produce a coherent tune again. Scratched copies of Steve Walsh’s ‘I Found Lovin” and ‘Now Those Days Are Gone’ by Bucks Fizz nestle beside albums such as Ultravox’s ‘Quartet’, an LP I played so much in my early teens that the grooves wore down to almost nothing. Yet these prized possessions remain in their rightful place in the collection I have built up over the last 35 years.IMG_20151225_184213.jpg

Some have mustered up more strength than I have been able to, and put their old vinyl to good use. Artists, like those exhibiting at the Vinyl Resting Place on 16th September, use the records as a support for their artwork. This piece I have by the late Terry Sue-Patt beautifully illustrates how music can be come art in more than one way. For your chance to purchase some similarly fantastic vinyl art, head on down to Monty’s in London’s Brick Lane, from 6pm.

There are also a number of people creating clocks from their redundant vinyl collections, and then there is always the option of going completely retro, warming and shaping them into dishes and bowls. However, I recently came across a wonderfully innovative use for these precious pieces of plastic which I think is amazing.

Wendy Norris of Forever Vinyl uses albums (handbags), 7″singles  (purses and bags) and 12″ singles (clutch bags) to create an eye-catching range of original fashion accessories.Vinyl 1

The sumptuously padded interiors are lined with various fun and patterned fabrics, and some of the bags incorporate the record sleeve into the design.

Based on the Isle of Wight, Wendy had a stall at this year’s Jack Up The 80s festival on the island. Her bespoke creations were first brought to my attention by Kim Bailey, whose partner Russell Hastings was performing there with From The Jam. Kim had purchased a beautiful shoulder bag, fashioned from an Ella Fitzgerald album. Unfortunately, by the time I made my way to the stall the following day, those designs had sold out, but I shall be first in the queue next year!

Wendy regularly updates her stock and produces new styles. To find out more, take a look at the Forever Vinyl Facebook page.