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.
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.
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.
Some summers remain firmly fixed in our memories, as vivid as the days we experienced them. For me, my first teenage summer in 1984 was long, hot days spent soaking up the sun, set against a backdrop of some of the best music of the decade: Prince, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and my favourite track of the Eighties, The Kane Gang’s ‘Closest Thing To Heaven’. Ten years later, the music had taken a backseat and cooling shade had become my best friend, as I enjoyed my first summer with my baby daughter. Fast forward to 2016, when both my adult children had flown the nest, and I found myself travelling back three decades, listening to the music of my youth in glorious sunshine.
The reason for this fabulous blast from the past was the Jack Up The 80s festival on the Isle of Wight. Now in its fourth year, the event was held on 13th and 14th August. Set in beautiful countryside on the outskirts of Newchurch, it was blessed with fantastic weather as well as some outstanding performances.
Fun in the sun at Jack Up The 80s
Strolling across the festival field when I arrived on Saturday, I was greeted by the sounds of local band High School Never Ends. The duo, who were also the opening act the next day, brought us some great rock classics from the likes of Billy Idol and Twisted Sister. Although I’m not too sure about their inclusion of Partners In Kryme’s ‘Turtle Power’!
Ska’d For Life’s Charissa Bartram (Sax), Ben Bartram (trombone) & Russ Osman (trumpet)
From Rock to Ska, both days saw local band Ska’d For Life take to the stage next. Delivering all the favourites from the likes of The Specials and Madness, the band went down a storm with the crowd who, by the end of the set, were more than ready for what the rest of the day had to offer.
Saturday saw Light of The World kick off things for the 80’s acts. Dressed in sharp silver suits, reminiscent of my clubbing days, Nat Augustin and Gee Bello looked as good and smooth as they sounded.
L-R: Nat Augustin, Gee Bello, Myles Kane, Jimmy Chambers & Jimmy Helms
The same can undoubtedly be said for Londonbeat, who were next in the running order. Dressed in brilliant white, the trio, led by the ever-youthful Jimmy Helms, delighted us with a pitch perfect acapella rendition of ‘9 A.M. (The Comfort Zone)’ ahead of a soulful and upbeat set, which included their 1990 No. 2 hit ‘I’ve Been Thinking About You’.
Clark spies me behind the camera
A short break as instruments were set up on stage, and then we saw Johnny Hates Jazz make an appearance. A well-balanced mix of old and new, we heard 1987 hits ‘Turn Back The Clock’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Hero’ alongside contemporary tracks like the 2013 release ‘Magnetized’. I had interviewed lead singer Clark Datchler earlier in the day, but was nonetheless surprised when he spotted me taking photos at the front of the stage, during the band’s performance of ‘Shattered Dreams’.
As the set drew to a close, I made my way over to Phil and Bruce, a couple of twenty-somethings I had interviewed earlier for The 80’s Annual, who were working on the Pizzeria van.
Bruce (L), Phil (centre) and the Pizza boys
Returning with my takeaway food to the backstage tent, skillfully designed by Jo Monck in a Royal Wedding theme, I found it to be empty except for one other person. And that is how I came to be eating pizza on a sunny August afternoon, as Paul Young snoozed on the sofa behind me. I did toy with the idea of waking him, to inform him of the interesting fact that his birthday is the day after mine, but knowing what I am like when I’m tired thought it best to let sleeping singers lie!
The arrival of From The Jam and Leo Sayer on site soon saw the backstage buzz return, and it wasn’t long before we were presented with the opportunity to photograph three musical greats together.
Bruce Foxton, Paul Young and Leo Sayer
To say that meeting Leo Sayer was a pleasure is an understatement. After this photo was taken, we spent some time discussing the writing talents of Billy Nicholls, who wrote the singer’s 1978 No. 6 hit single ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ and whom I had met the previous month, when he performed with old friends Slim Chance. Saturday’s headliner treated us to tracks from across four decades, including ‘One Man Band’, ‘More Than I Can Say’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’, and more than deserved his top billing. However, for me, it was the preceding two acts who ranked highest.
Rounding off the afternoon’s performances in style was Paul Young, who was joined by fellow Los Pacaminos member, guitarist Jamie Moses. Anyone who has witnessed them playing in the side project they founded in 1992, will be familiar with the camaraderie between the pair. As the singer launched into some of the hits from his solo career, including ‘Love of The Common People’, ‘Every Time You Go Away’ and ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’ that friendship was never more evident. Perhaps more used to having underwear thrown at him during the Eighties, Paul looked somewhat bemused when a woolly hat landed at his feet. He placed the winter attire on the head of guitarist Dale Davis who, unable to remove the knitwear whilst playing, continued to wear it for a number of tracks, much to the amigos’ amusement.
Dale Davis wears the woolly hat that put a smile on the faces of Paul Young and Jamie Moses
The hilarity reached even greater heights after a wardrobe malfunction occurred during the performance of ‘I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down’. Sitting on the edge of the stage to deliver the second half of the song, the singer leaned back to put even more power behind the vocal. I think he must have felt something snap at this point, because when Paul stood up, those of us close to the stage could see his belt had broken.
Anyone who was not aware of the situation was soon put fully in the picture, thanks to Jamie’s on stage antics, as shown in the video below. Ever the professional, Mr. Young left to make a swift costume change, returning sporting a new, shiny belt.
Clothing capers and band chemistry aside (although the latter is undeniably an integral feature that only serves to enhance the overall performance) this was an amazing set of classic Paul Young tracks, which all his fans in the audience (including me) will treasure. It was only surpassed, by the very tiniest of margins, by that of From The Jam.
Featuring a current line-up of Bruce Foxton, Russell Hastings, Mike Randon (drums) and Andy Fairclough (Hammond organ) the band went straight in for the kill, opening with their 1982 chart topper ‘A Town Called Malice’. Hit after hit followed, including ‘David Watts’, ‘Going Underground’, ‘Beat Surrender’, ‘That’s Entertainment’, ‘Eton Rifles’ and an encore of ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’. Totally mesmerised by the band playing just feet away from me, I remained in my photographic vantage point at the front of the stage throughout the whole performance.
Whilst there, I noticed a change in the chants emanating from behind me. Cries of “We love you, Paul” had been replaced by gruff, one-word shouts of “Bruce” and “Russell”. Glancing over my shoulder, I took in the now predominantly male contingent stood at the barriers. This is what they had been waiting for all day long, and who could blame them?
Russell Hastings fronts the band in a way we would have thought inconceivable during the Eighties, spitting out lyrics with a force and passion of which Weller himself would be proud. Bruce Foxton retains his iconic status in my eyes, a genius bass player who twice performed his famous mid-air jumps during the set.
One of the most animated drummers I have ever seen live, Mike Randon plays with a fervour better associated with musicians whose instruments afford them mobility around the stage, as was the case with Andy Fairclough. Watching him furiously strike the keys, it felt almost as if he was imprisoned by his keyboards, his frenetic playing his only chance of escape.
The whole effect was an explosive, exciting and capivating display of some of the best songs to come out of the Eighties. How would Sunday compare?
Mike Randon, Andy Fairclough, Russell Hastings & Bruce Foxton after From The Jam’s set
The second day of the festival saw the 80’s artists begin with Nathan Moore who, in addition to singing the Brother Beyond tracks ‘The Harder I Try’ and ‘He Ain’t No Competition’ brought us The Gap Band’s ‘Oops Upside Your Head’. In no time, huge rows of festival-goers were sat on the ground, floor-dancing to the Rowing Boat Song. A crowd pleaser if ever I saw one.
Next on stage was a man whose No. 3 single ‘My Favourite Waste of Time’ became synonymous with the Summer of ’86. It is hard to believe that 30 years have passed since then, but as Owen sang the catchy track and the sun shone down, I was once again 15 years old. The Glaswegian singer, who also performs alongside his brother, ex-Simple Minds drummer Brian McGee, in the band XSM included in his set ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ and ‘The Living Years’, a song he perfected during his time spent with Mike and The Mechanics. He handed over a well warmed up audience to Phil Fearon.
The Galaxy frontman, who featured dance floor acrobatics in his 80’s appearances, may have put his backflips on hold but little else has changed in the past three decades. Looking considerably younger than his 60 years, Phil sported that 80’s favourite fashion combo of t-shirt and suit, as he delivered a feel good set of disco tracks such as ‘Everbody’s Laughing’, ‘I Can Prove It’ and ‘Dancing Tight’. He set the scene perfectly for Bizarre Inc. vocalist Angie Brown.
Accompanied by sons Cuba (11) and Charlie (8), the singing sensation showed she had lost none of her extensive vocal range over the years, as she powered out ‘I’m Gonna Get You’, watched proudly by her boys from behind the stage curtains. They gave no clue when I photographed them that minutes later they would be joining their mother for a rendition of Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’. Performing obviously runs in their genes, and as the mini entertainers returned backstage, I remarked that it looked like they had enjoyed themselves, to which Cuba replied “Yes, that’s why I do it for no charge.” A star in the making, surely. A little while later, Charlie, who has to be the most eloquent 8-year-old I have ever encountered, engaged me in conversation. Flitting between topics such as his ambition to be an Olympic gymnast or a dancer, and favourite annual events (he argued a very convincing case for Hallowe’en), I was only reminded of his young age when he burst into a fit of giggles, upon hearing Denise Pearson working through her vocal exercises at the far end of the tent.
Stars in the making: Angie Brown’s sons Cuba (left) and Charlie
Five Star were due on stage after tribute band Abba Chique. While the faux Swedish singers performed, I chatted with more of the colourful crowd. From families to groups of friends, forty-somethings and older to my kids’ generation and younger, everyone was brimming with praise for the festival. Whether it was the provision of children’s lunch boxes, reasonably priced catering or simply “bloody good music”, the general consensus was a big thumbs up for Jack Up The 80s. I have to say, I agree.
As with any retro festival, the weekend also presented us with more than a smattering of neon and a plethora of fancy dress. I spoke to Mr. T. a.k.a. Michael Bending from Northampton. The 46-year-old has appeared at Jack Up The 80s dressed as The A-Team’s B. A. Baracus for the past four years. At least he never had to get on no plane for the 300 mile round trip!
Some of the outfits worn by Jack Up The 80s festival-goers
Buster Bloodvessel with his copy of ‘Your Eighties’
Returning to the backstage area, I discovered that Bad Manners had recently arrived. Having greeted the band, I gave Buster Bloodvessel a copy of my book ‘Your Eighties’, for which I had interviewed him almost two years ago. Much to the group’s amusement, I then made the mistake of asking “Can I have a photo of you holding it?” Naming no names, but a certain saxophonist has a particularly smutty mind!
Leaving the boys to enjoy their backstage banter, I returned to the front of the stage to await Five Star, who were minus Doris that day. In her place was Kerry, who sang and danced with the same highly polished quality we have come to associate with the Pearson siblings.
Opening with their 1986 Top 10 single ‘Can’t Wait Another Minute’ and finishing with their biggest hit ‘Rain or Shine’, the quartet also featured a number of superb cover versions in their set, such as Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’ and Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’.
Feeling the love at Jack Up The 80s: Five Star’s Stedman, Delroy and Denise Pearson
Looking every bit as good as they sounded, and executing each dance routine in complete synchronicity, it was apparent that their dedication to achieving entertainment perfection was equal to their dedication to each other.
Bad Manners drummer Mark Hamilton
Minutes after Five Star left the stage, drummer Mark Hamilton was warming up backstage ahead of his performance with Bad Manners. Ripples of anticipation spread amongst the crowd as Ska fans made their way forwards, eagerly awaiting Sunday’s headliners.
Before you could say “Lip Up Fatty”, the band bounded on stage and the party started. Buster saluted the audience with his pint of lager before transporting them back to the early Eighties with tracks like ‘Special Brew’, ‘Walking In The Sunshine’ and ‘Fatty Fatty’, alongside later material such as the 1992 release ‘Feel Like Jumping’. And jump they did.
Like a bunch of tequila-fuelled schoolboys, the band bounced, ran and laughed their way through the final show of the weekend, and we loved them for it. Watching the crowd, arms aloft, singing and dancing along, with the biggest of grins on their faces, I could think of no better choice of act to finish this nostalgia-fest. More than the skilled musicianship, which these guys have in heaps, this was about fun with a capital ‘F’.
That evening, I left the festival field feeling years younger, having gained some very special memories, not to mention some special friends. What better motivation for you all to descend on Isle of Wight next August, for Jack Up The 80s Volume 5? I’ll see you there.
Writing my latest column for the Canterbury Times, I was reminded of just how great radio was in the Eighties. I would always take a transistor radio out with me on family trips, lest my world be bereft of music. I can remember travelling home from my grandparents’ home in Eastbourne, on a grey and rainy Sunday afternoon in 1983. Our Hillman Imp didn’t have a car radio (unsurprising when I tell you that whoever sat behind the driver had to hold onto the driver’s door whenever we turned left, to stop the door flinging wide open!), so I spent the journey waving my little yellow radio around, in an attempt to catch snippets of the Top 40, in between blasts of loud, crackling interference.
Later on in the decade, in the summer of ’85, I was listening to Laser 558 whilst my parents, brother and I lay sunbathing on the beach at Camber Sands. Our trips to the Sussex coast would always be almost military-like in their preparation. The picnic would be made the night beforehand, so that when we got up early the next morning “to make the most of the day”, everything could be whisked away into a giant coolbox, and packed into the car with the rest of the day’s paraphernalia, including windbreaks, beach mats and the obligatory frisbee, as quickly as possible. It is that swift departure which I blame for a ‘slight oversight’ one sunny, June day. You see, it was only as we were basking in the sunshine, listening to the pirate radio station, that the day’s significance became apparent. Yes, it took a DJ wishing all the dads a Happy Father’s Day, for Mum, my brother and I to realise we had forgotten something! We hadn’t forgotten completely – the cards and presents were at home – but the lazy haze of summer had got the better of us. Dad’s reaction to our shocked faces, and hastily muttered apologies, had simply been “I wondered when one of you would realise”.
So, to say “Sorry” again, but also as a “Thank You” for introducing me to their ‘High Tide And Green Grass’ album before I had even reached double figures, here are The Rolling Stones with ‘Paint It Black’. Enjoy, Dad…
Today sees David Bowie celebrate his 68th birthday. Although the chameleon-like performer has seen a number of character transformations since his 1967 release of “The Laughing Gnome”, the song has remained in my consciousness, thanks to its lyric “then I put him on a train to Eastbourne” (my Dad’s home town). This gimmick track may have been my first exposure to Bowie, but it didn’t deter me from exploring his subsequent releases, and becoming a huge fan in the process.
Although I appreciate the genius of his Ziggy Stardust period, my favourite Bowie music is that released around the time of his 1983 “Serious Moonlight” Tour. Stylish and sophisticated, Bowie’s appearance not only echoed the class of his music, but the time in which it was written. In recognition of the birthday boy’s brilliance, here is my favourite track from that time, “Modern Love”.
In the frantic blur that is the countdown to Christmas, it can be all too easy to forget to enjoy the festive season. With cards to write, presents to wrap, and a seemingly endless list of festive chores to tackle, taking time out to enjoy what is happening in the moment can feel like an ill-afforded luxury. Then, amongst the tangled tinsel and Christmas chaos, something happens to stop you in your tracks, and before you know it, you’re transported back to a time when Christmas was more than just one big “To Do” list to be completed before the big day.
My moment of clarity came as Culture Club’s “Victims” began to play on the radio. Without warning, I suddenly found myself not only remembering Christmas 1983, but feeling as I did then – excited and happy, not frazzled and stressed. As Boy George advised us to “push aside those who whisper never”, I recalled the steely determination the lyric instilled in me three decades ago, when individuality could be hard to carry, in a society where the emphasis was to conform. Such depth of thought took me by surprise, but made me recognise the insignificance of today’s seasonal errands, and the futility of agonising over such matters.
So, this year the cards may be sent out later than usual, the presents wrapped less neatly, and (horror of horrors!) I may even forget something. What I won’t forget is to enjoy Christmas. I’ll start now by sharing the inspiration for my newly-found serenity…
One of the simple pleasures in my life is listening to Popmaster on Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show. Having listened to the quiz for a few years, I woke up one Thursday morning last year and thought I would give it a go. I have heard stories of listeners trying for years to get on the show, so you can imagine my surprise when my call was answered first time. Even more amazing was answering the qualifying questions correctly, then receiving a call shortly afterwards, to say that I would be contestant number two!
I was fortunate that the questions fell right for me and, with 27 points, I beat my opponent. Next, I had to face the dreaded “3 in 10”. As anyone who has ever listened to Popmaster knows, naming three hit singles, by a particular artist, in ten seconds is no mean feat. Often, the first two roll off the tongue, but the elusive third title remains unspoken. Luckily, I had to name three hit singles by Paul Young. A fan of his since “Wherever I Lay My Hat” charted in 1983, I named that track, “Love Of The Common People” and my favourite song of his, “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down”. The digital radio was mine!
This post gives me the opportunity to share the montage of photos I took a when Paul Young played at an Eighties’ weekend in 2010, set to my favourite (and winning!) track:
View From A Hill released “I’m No Rebel” in 1987, the year of my ‘O’ Levels, during which I spent many an evening holed up in my bedroom, revising into the early hours. There was always music playing, and the later it got, the more soulful it became. For me, the story “I’m No Rebel” tells evokes imagery reminiscent of that created by S. E. Hinton in her book “The Outsiders”, when Dallas Winston (played in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 film of the book by Matt Dillon) is fatally wounded. Both the book and the film, which boasted a stellar cast, including Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Leif Garrett and Diane Lane, were hugely influential upon my young, teenage self. Although this track is entirely unrelated to either, it will in my head always be inextricably linked to both.
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.
Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend an interview given by Jenny Boyd, author of “It’s Not Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Formerly married (twice) to Mick Fleetwood, and the sister of Patty Boyd (whose ex-husbands include George Harrison and Eric Clapton), Jenny’s writing reads like a Who’s Who of rock. It was Clapton who first inspired her to write the book, when he was “drinking fiercely”, and appeared unable to handle his musical talent. When asked by Jenny if he drank because his “gift” was too much for him, Clapton replied “Yes. It’s like staring into the face of God.” Intrigued as to the extent such talent could influence a musician’s behaviour, Jenny embarked on researching her book, originally her psychology PhD dissertation.
The book is a fascinating insight into the lives and minds of some of the most talented musicians of our time, and something I recommend anyone, who is even remotely interested in music, should read. However, what I want to share with you today is Jenny’s recollection of the time she spent in India, alongside her sister, Donovan (for whom Jenny was the inspiration for his number 5 UK hit “Jennifer Juniper”) and the Beatles, for transcendental meditation sessions with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in 1968.
Jenny recalled watching the Beatles sitting on the roof of their bungalow in India, writing the White Album – something she describes as “creativity at its peak”. She also detailed how Mia Farrow’s sister, Prudence, fell into a drug-induced “psychotic trance” which went on for days. Members of the group tried a number of things to bring her out of the trance, including Jenny playing the flute, and John Lennon playing the guitar and singing to her. The latter is how “Dear Prudence” came to be written.
Although I have heard the original, I must confess that my initial exposure to this song was in 1983, through Siouxsie and the Banshees, and remains my favourite version. Knowing the background to how the song came about, I think Siouxsie Sioux, Budgie and co. captured the essence of the song beautifully. What do you think?