Festival Life’s A Beach

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Back in the summer, I spent  a week in Looe, Cornwall and I fell in love with the place. We didn’t have the best of weather. The average temperature was ten degrees lower than my native Kent I’d left behind, and we had rain and fog on ctcmdjcxgaa7qjga couple of days. Yet, offering the friendliest of welcomes and boasting picture postcard views, not to mention a bountiful supply of crab, pasties and cream teas, this beautiful Cornish town won me over. I could not wait to return at the end of September, to cover the Looe Music Festival.

I did consider the possibility that, with thousands of music lovers descending upon Looe, the town I remembered may not be the one I would be greeted with a couple of months later. However, that fear was soon allayed on Friday morning as I watched the final preparations being made for the first night of the festival. In addition to the main stage, which is situated on the town’s golden, sandy beach, there are a number of venues located throughout the town, hosting the 90 acts playing over the three days. Experience combined with necessity means the festival management and its team run as a finely honed machine, to ensure events run smoothly, on time and, most importantly, enjoyably.

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Interviewing Neville Staple

With so much to choose from, it was inevitable that some clashes arose, as was the case on Friday night. The following day, a number of people told me how good Ferocious Dog had been when they performed  on the main stage. However, I hadn’t made it down to the beach until the evening’s headliner, Wilko Johnson, made his appearance. He far exceeded any expectations I had, and seeing his live performance of  “Roxette” is a memory I will cherish.

The reason I had not made it to the main stage until the former Dr. Feelgood guitarist was giving it his all was due to my penchant for 80’s music and ska. The NeDSC00672.JPGville Staple Band were performing in the Champion Marquee, so it was obvious where I was going to be. Add to that the opportunity to interview the Original Rude Boy himself, and it was a complete no-brainer.

The band’s performance, despite a few technical hitches, went down a storm with the crowd. A real highlight for me was dancing (I hesitate to call the moves I made skanking!) to Concrete Jungle, just feet away from the band. I should also mention that the backing vocals from keyboard player Joe Atkinson, on Ghost Town, need to heard to be believed.  As close to the original recording as you could ever hope to hear.

On Saturday, I was determined to experience as many of the variety of acts as possible, and immerse myself in the musical diversity on offer. I made a good start when I went to watch Bideford Pies and Drams at Portbyhan Hotel in West Looe. They began with songs traditionally associated with the bagpipes, such as Amazing Grace, and I thought they were joking when they asked if anyone had any requests. The next thing I knew, I was listening to a somewhat different, but splendid, version of Queen’s We Will Rock You. It perfectly set the tone for the most brilliantly eclectic day of music I could ever imagine.

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En route to the main stage, we encountered a number of talented street musicians, some of them playing by the Busk Stops scattered throughout the town. You will be pleased to learn that I refrained from inflicting my own vocal talents on passers by, when I found a vacant stop!

Billed as having not “only ‘white hot’metal blood running through their veins [but] a passion of the most intense kind in never ending abundance,” local band King Creature had me intrigued before they had even set foot on the stage.

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Dave Kellaway and Matt Karl Vincent

After powering their way through ‘Dead Inside’ the Cornish rockers, comprising of lead singer/bass player Dave Kellaway, drummer Jack Bassett and guitarists Matt Karl Vincent and Dave Evans, had me hooked.  Pure, unadulterated rock played loud, raw and fast, with the obligatory power ballad ‘Can You Forgive Me?’ the jewel in King Creature’s crown, their set was not only high-octane and dynamic but irresistibly seductive. Needless to say, they have a new fan in me.dsc00726

In stark contrast, the next act to take to the beach-side stage was Scottish singer and song writer Eddi Reader. The former lead singer with Fairground Attraction appeared almost ethereal as the breeze blew in off the sea,  and sang “The Patience of Angels” – a truly heavenly experience. Delighting us with little anecdotes in between favourites such as ‘Perfect’and ‘Find My Love’, the flame-haired songstress was as entertaining as she was talented. A totally feel good performance.

A divergence in musical styles again, Hersham boys Sham 69 were next to play. I loved the incongruity of me sipping Prosecco as I sang along to tracks like “If The Kids Are United” and “Hurry Up Harry”. Although I wasn’t quite so enamoured with the decline in weather, as the band came to the end of their performance. Taking refuge in the nearby Boscarn pub as the rain came shooting down, I only heard snippets of Seth Lakeman’s set on the few occasions when I stucimg_20160924_225222k my head out to check if the weather had improved.

It was still bucketing it down five minutes before Bryan Ferry was due on stage at 9pm. However, determined to see the former Roxy Music frontman perform on the eve of his 71st birthday, we made our way onto the sodden sands. By the time he emerged, 40 minutes later than scheduled, I thought I had reached saturation point. I was wrong. After only three songs, two of which were 80’s hits ‘Slave To Love’ and ‘Don’t Stop The Dance’, we became part of a mass exodus from the beach, as torrential rain flooded the streets of Looe and put paid to any notions I had of watching that night’s performance until the end.

Waking up on Sunday morning, a pile of soggy clothes and hair like Robert Smith’s were the only reminders I had of the previous night’s drenching, as the sun shone brightly in the cloudless, blue sky. Arriving back at the main stage around lunchtime, shortly after Alex Hart had begun singing, I sat down with a little beach picnic of freshly made Looe crab sandwich and a glass of Prosecco (there’s a bit of a theme going here!), as the autumn sun beat down on my face. This was my kind of festival.dsc00776

The day got even better when 80’s psychobilly band King Kurt took to the stage later that afternoon. Slightly tamer than their gigs of three decades ago – thankfully, there were no cat entrails to dodge or haircuts given to the crowd mid-set – it was still one of my favourite performances of the weekend. I found myself grinning from ear to ear as they brought us tracks like ‘Zulu Beat’, ‘Do The Rat’ as well as their 1983 Top 40 single ‘Destination Zululand’, and was not alone in singing “Ooh wallah wallah” for a considerable time afterwards.

I returned to the main stage for Sunday’s headline act, Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Fronted by the incredibly cool Huey Morgan, they did not disappoint as they delivered UK Top 30 hits ‘Scooby Snacks’, ‘King of New York’ and ‘The Fun Lovin’ Criminal’. However, my day was made by an earlyDSC00796.JPG evening performance in the Champion Marquee.

Sixties’ actress and singer Anita Harris treated us to a variety of songs, including ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, ‘Memory’ and ‘All That Jazz’, plus a number of tales from her long showbiz career. For me, the highlight of the evening came when Anita told us how Dusty Springfield gifted her a song written by the late singer’s brother, Tom. That song was ‘Just Loving You’, a track I know word-for-word thanks to listening to my parents’ vinyl collection from a young age. I never thought I would one day get to see it performed live, so it was a very special moment for me, and one which proves how the diverse mix of music on offer at Looe Music Festival ensures there is more than something for everyone. I can’t wait to return next year.

 

 

 

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Memory Chips

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One of the things I looked forward to at primary school was when the latest Chip Book Club magazine was given out. I loved browsing through the pages, seeing the latest titles on offer, then eagerly awaiting the arrival of my book of choice. Although the Puffin book club brought me delights such as Meg’s Eggs, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Owl Who Was Afraid of The Dark, and Mrs Pepperpot’s Outing, it was the offerings from Chip which I preferred. None more so than the Chip Club Diary.

A few weeks ago, I found my diaries from 1980 and 1981. Although I hadn’t written much in them on a daily basis, I had completed the information pages in the front of the books, which I thought I’d share with you. Remember, I was only 9 years old in 1980!

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As much as I would like to believe that I’ve evolved since I was in single figures, gypsy tart is still one of my favourite foods, I still support Liverpool (although I’m no longer confused by having blue and white as my favourite colours), and my favourite animal is still a cat. I’d probably still have a chuckle at The Benny Hill Show too if I’m honest!

My tastes had not really changed much the following year, although Elvis had replaced John Travolta as my favourite film star. I think that may have been due to his films being played throughout the summer holidays. Also, Mum is a huge fan of The King so my sub-conscience was probably being influenced by overexposure to his music.

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One of the entries I find interesting is my favourite film. Cactus Jack was a short film starring Kirk Douglas as a cowboy. In the days when going to the pictures involved seeing such a film before the main screening, I had watched it on a family trip to the cinema. I can’t remember what main film we had gone to see, but this spoof Western remains firmly ingrained in my memory.

The 1981 Chip Club Diary contained an additional section I had completed. Now, although my shoe size hasn’t changed since I was 10 years old, I think I may have a modicum of modesty more than I did at that age (see Special Features and Good Points/Bad Points).

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I think my artistic talents may have developed a tad more too!

 

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.

 

Hello To A Mad Affair

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As I popped the CD into the player, I wasn’t sure what to expect. ‘Mad Affair’ is the first solo album by Bob Bradbury, former frontman of Glam Rock band Hello, whose hits “Tell Him” and “New York Groove” graced the UK Top 10 during the mid-Seventies. I hit the Play button on my stereo, and sat down to write. Some chance of writing!

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L-R: Vic Faulkner, Bob Bradbury, Keith Marshall & Jeff Allen

 

From the very outset, as ‘Coloured Me Censored’ belts you straight between the ears, this album demands your full attention. Mr. Bradbury doesn’t make background music, and despite him being very much a face of the Seventies, his music has a fresh fearlessness that sounds as if it’s straight out of the Eighties. Regular readers to my blog will know that I am a fan of Matthew Rudd’s Forgotten 80s radio show on Absolute 80s. Well, this whole album is like an Eighties’ gem, long forgotten or even undiscovered until now, embodying everything that was good about the music of the Eighties and very late Seventies.

There are touches of Ian Dury, The Members, and even a hint of the B52s (on ‘She Got A’), along with heavier rock tracks like ‘Something Out There’ and ‘Climb On’, all offering a reassuring familiarity that makes you think this really could be a misplaced album from your existing collection. Yet, Bob’s distinctive vocals and track arrangements ensure a very definite originality, perfectly exemplified by the title track.

Opening with a sunshine style reminiscent of The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’, it’s not long until ‘Mad Affair’ plunders into some power rock, before finishing with an exquisite guitar solo. Then, there is my favourite track, ‘Every Week’. A drum-loaded salute to the transition of Seventies into Eighties, Punk to New Wave, which ends with the spoken lines:

“Oi guv, got any spare change?”

“F**k off – buy your own lottery ticket!”

But there’s no need to take my word for it. The following video offers a few snippets of the album, which can be ordered from Bob Bradbury’s website.