Those Were The Jamie Days

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My special guest on this week’s My 80s radio show, choosing his Favourite Five 80’s tracks is Jamie Days. As a young boy in the Eighties, Jamie started to keep a diary, and has already published his daily musings from 1984. He has contributed excerpts from his diaries to The 80s Annual, vol.II, due out this November. I asked Jamie a few questions about his diaries and growing up in my favourite decade. 1984 Summer

What made you start to keep a diary at the tender age of eleven?

My nana bought me a tiny Grange Hill diary for Christmas in 1983. I’d had a little Paddington one before, in 1982 or 1983 I think, but I never stuck to it. But something in 1984 made me keep going.

How many years did you write your diaries for and how difficult was it to keep them going for that long?

I kept a diary from 1984 to 1986 and then for a couple months in 1987, then started again towards the end of 1989 up until the end of 1994. It was hard to keep them going and I didn’t always write every day, sometimes I’d write a few days at a time or catch up on the week at the weekend.

How did you feel when you first began to read the diaries in adulthood?

I’d always re-read them on and off, particularly those from ’84-‘86. For example in 1992, for some reason, I started to type them out, but it was only recently I re-visited the late ‘80s early ‘90s ones. It’s these later ones that really make me cringe. The detail I went into and how I went on and on about what friends said and did and how I felt about everything…*groan!* In terms of the ones from the 80’s they really make me laugh. It’s almost like they’re not by me; just this innocent boy entering into, but at odds with, this adult world. They’re also quite a good reminder of what is important to teenagers, and where their heads are, which can help bring some perspective when dealing with my own kids.

Why did you decide to publish your diaries?

A number of reasons really. Mainly, it is that I had a friend who kept diaries in the 80s and she planned to publish hers. I was helping her work out how she might go about this and started to share my diaries with her. I’d always thought they wouldn’t be interesting to anyone else, but she loved them. Sadly, she died before she got chance to realise her ambition. However, as we were working through it, we discovered other people who were blogging or tweeting their old diaries and I just loved them! They were hilarious and moving and I wished I could have the whole lot to read. So after I’d typed out all of 1984, I thought why not? I’ve always had ambitions to be a writer but never seem to get round to finishing anything. But I have written diaries, which are a form of book, so why not?!

How did it feel when you first let someone else read your diaries? Was it scary making the entries public?

I guess it felt quite daring, to assume anyone else would be interested. Diaries are by their very nature self-indulgent and individualistic, so why would they appeal to anyone else? In terms of revealing myself, it was all so long ago it doesn’t bother me. That said, letting the people I was at school with, who are in the diaries, read them has been weird – and I haven’t let my Mum and Dad read them all!! Whilst I’ve fessed up to quite a lot of what I got up to, that they had no idea about at the time, they’re not ready (or I’m not ready) for the whole truth!!

You’ve had some fantastic feedback from people who have read the diaries. How does that make you feel?

It’s brilliant and really touching in many ways. I recognise they won’t be for everyone. A lot of people get more pleasure from the now and the future, rather than looking back, but for those who tell me they’ve had them laughing ‘til they had tears in their eyes, that’s just amazing.

Some of your entries are hilariously candid. Do you think a lot of readers, especially the guys, can relate to the situations you found yourself in?

Potentially yes. I’ve talked to a couple of guys who’ve read them and, particularly in reference to those more candid elements, they’ve said things to me like you think at the time it’s just happening to you, but reading my experiences makes you realise it’s the same for everyone. Also, that a lot of what I wrote about is normal, yet it doesn’t get talked about, so it’s refreshing to have it out there. But more broadly, I think we all have teachers we don’t like, friends we fall out with, music we fall in love with and struggles with our changing bodies and environments!

Are you still mad about Madonna? Did you keep any memorabilia?

Not really. I still have huge affection for her because she was a massive part of my growing up, and her songs bring back great memories. She also broadened my horizons into art and cultures I don’t think I would have found without her (I’m still convinced that I managed to scrape a B in my General Studies A Level due to my essay on censorship and freedom of speech, which centred heavily on the banning of the Like A Prayer video and the content of a Channel 4 season called Banned!). However the musical genres she explores on her records these days aren’t ones that appeal to me as much. I still buy the albums but find there are only a handful of great songs on them. I had masses of memorabilia, but as her career progressed there was too much to collect, so I narrowed my collection to UK only releases and magazines with her on the cover. I had over 2000 at one point but eventually sold virtually everything on eBay. I managed to pay for a loft conversion out of it though! I still have some bits, the more sentimental items, but nothing like I used to.

You mention Smash Hits magazine throughout your diaries. Have you kept any copies from the Eighties?

Well, as you’ll get to find out in the diaries, I ended up cutting up all the original copies I bought for my Madonna scrapbooks. Then I would buy them again from charity shops, jumble sales and off friends, cut them up for swaps etc. But now, thanks to the internet, I’ve acquired every issue from the very first one, up to the early 2000s. They’re great to look back on. It was truly an iconic publication!

Judy Blume and Sue Townsend were your favourite authors as a boy. Whose books do you enjoy reading now?

Without a doubt my favourite writer is David Sedaris. He’s recently published extracts from his diaries, and I love them. I also really love Andrew Kaufman, JD Salinger and Alan Bennett. I spend two hours a day on a train commuting so I read a lot. I love books about life and people, so I am fond of memoir, autobiography and fiction that is character driven.

You’ve published your 1984 diary, with 1985 coming out in October. Are there any more diaries to follow?

Yes, I’m definitely going to publish 1986, hopefully next year. It’s probably my favourite, and I may well publish the others from 1989-1993. However I was 16 – 20, so the content is very different!!

What is your favourite year of the Eighties and why?

1985, without a doubt. It was a real coming of age year for me. I started to get into music properly and the music was great. Arguably, the music in 1984 is better, but from a nostalgia perspective I remember a lot more of the music in ’85. I started getting Smash Hits, started writing down the charts, started listening to Radio One properly and religiously. And, of course, there was Madonna! How amazing was she that year?!

End pic 1If you could return to 1984 and give your 11-year-old self any advice, what would it be?

I’d tell him not to worry about stuff because it all works out brilliantly in the end. I’d also tell him to buy multiple copies of every magazine with Madonna on the cover, all her limited editions and special releases and to keep them in immaculate condition as they’ll be worth a fortune!!

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Jamie Days 1984 Diary is available on Amazon.

Follow Jamie on Twitter: @1980sDiaries

 

 

 

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I’d Rather Jack Up The 80s

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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.

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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’!

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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Bruce Foxton, Paul Young and Leo Sayer

To say that meeting Leo Sayer was a pleasure is an understatement. P1000179 (800x787)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.

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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 malfunctionP1000308.JPG 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 haveP1000313.JPG 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 straighP1000557 (800x607)t 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 beenP1000580 (738x800) 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.

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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?

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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, inP1000744.JPG 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’ becameP1000861.JPG 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.P1010009.JPG 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 (8P1010047 (573x800)), 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.

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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!

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Some of the outfits worn by Jack Up The 80s festival-goers

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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’.

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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.

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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.Bad Manners.jpg

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’.Bad Manners 2.jpg

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.

 

 

Flash Back To The 80s

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As I work to meet a writing deadline, I have been a bit quiet on my blog recently. However, I had to take five minutes out to post about Grandmaster Flash’s DJ set on Saturday night, at Dreamland, Margate.IMG_20160820_193552995.jpg

We arrived about 15 minutes before the hip-hop pioneer was due on stage, and quickly made our to the middle of the gathering crowd, to shield us from the cold wind blowing in from the East Kent coast. People standing ahead of us began to drift away for one reason or another, and by the time the DJ stepped onto the stage, I found myself stood at the front, just feet away from where he would work his magic.

During the summer of 1984, my first summer as a teenager, I had spent countless hours at Dreamland. I can vividly remember one sunny afternoon, flying through the air on the Umbrellas as “White Lines” bIMG_20160820_195548105y Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel blasted out of the operator’s kiosk. To be back there, standing feet away from the American Rapper as he played and sang along to the track was pretty special. It was only surpassed by his special farewell to me. As he stepped off the podium to exit the stage, I caught Flash’s eye and held out my arms in a congratulatory gesture. He strode towards me and grabbed both my hands, as I told him how fantastic his set had been. I was definitely in the ‘fan zone’ by this point, and unaware of the 7,000 strong crowd behind me surging forward to get close to the Master, until I almost face-planted on the stage, under the force!

Luckily,  I survived unscathed and can share this with you. Enjoy…

1984 – The Perfect Year?

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Maybe it was because it was my first year as a teenager, or perhaps it was because it was the year my favourite song of the decade, The Kane Gang’s “Closest Thing To Heaven” was released. It could have been the diversity of the music that filled the charts – everything from Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” to Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” to Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours” to Howard Jones’ 1984“Hide and Seek”. The release of films such as The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters and Footloose (which was so good, I went back to the cinema a couple of days later, to watch it again!), and reading S. E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” for the first (of many) times certainly help. As does finishing the year with the ground-breaking Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. All these things, plus more too numerous to list, are the reason why 1984 is my favourite year of the Eighties. I’d love to know what is yours and why…

Ganging Up For The Kane Gang

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To name your favourite song of an entire decade is no easy task. When that decade is the Eighties, the decision becomes even harder as we were, at times, spoilt for choice. For me, the summer of 1984 was the pinnacle of the Eighties. With Frankie Goes To Hollywood topping the charts, and acts like Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel rubbing well-padded shoulders with Nik Kershaw; as well as OMD talking loud and clear alongside Echo & The Bunnymen, music was at a diverse high. The summer of ’84 was also my first summer as a teenager, and evokes memories of lazy, sunny days at the beach, and trips to Dreamland in Margate, when it could still boast to have the biggest Big Wheel in Europe. It was also a time when I began to write prolifically.

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L-R Dave Brewis, Paul Woods, Martin Brammer

For all that associated nostalgia, but more importantly because it is an amazing, soulful track, my all time favourite song of the Eighties is “Closest Thing To Heaven” by The Kane Gang. Peaking at number 12, the song spent 8 weeks in the UK Top 40. During that time, I wrote to the band, asking what were their favourite Soap Operas (I like to think my interview questions have improved slightly since then!). Despite being at the height of their success, and having overloaded, hectic schedules at the time, a few weeks later I received the above publicity photo, along with a handwritten reply from band member, Dave Brewis. For those of you desperate to know what their favourite soaps were in the Eighties, the letter will appear in my next book, as will the answers to a number of questions I was able to put to Dave a couple of weeks ago.

One thing that did emerge from my recent quizzing, and something I’d like to share with you now, is the band’s current status. The band reformed last September, for a one-off charity performance at Dave and Martin’s old school, Northlea in Seaham. The following month, a 3 CD edition of “The Bad & Lowdown World of The Kane Gang”, featuring demos, remixes and live performances, in addition to the 1985 album, was released. However, with all three band members working full time individually within the music and media industries, there are no current plans for any more live performances by the band. I am sure I’m not alone in feeling disappointed at being denied the opportunity to listen to their blue-eyed soul first hand, so I have a cunning plan…Maybe, just maybe, if The Kane Gang get enough “Likes” on Facebook and followers on Twitter (@TheKaneGang), they will be persuaded to give us another gig or two?

For now, to remind you just how good they sound, and because I need no excuse to play this track, here is “The Closest Thing To Heaven”.

Back To Boomtown With A Bang

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As I write this, I am listening to The Boomtown Rats’ self-titled first, and in my opinion their best, album. Although it was released in 1977, I bought my copy in 1982 (aged 11) around the time that Mr. Geldof and a certain presenter of The Tube moved to my home town. As Bob and Paula became familiar faces around town, The Rats’ music became a firm favourite in my vinyl collection, with “A Tonic For The Troops” (released in 1978) soon coming a very close second to my favourite Rats’ album.

Despite living within swearing distance of the Irish punk rocker, I had never seen him perform live. Until this weekend. I had booked my tickets for Rewind South before the line up had been announced. With more than twenty acts from the Eighties performing, I knew I would have a great time regardless of who would be appearing. You have no idea of the sheer delight I felt when I discovered The Rats would be playing. I had waited over thirty years for this!

I made my way through the crowds in plenty of time to secure a place a couple of rows back from the stage, where, in spite of my lack of height (I’m 5′ 1″) I had a great view. As Bob and the rest of the band (Pete Briquette on bass, Garry Roberts on guitar, and Simon Crowe on drums) took to the stage, I had a moment of doubt as to what they would play. Their best music, and indeed their hits, had all been in the Seventies. There was no brass section, so it was unlikely they would play the rather brilliant “Drag Me Down”, from their 1984 album “In The Long Grass”. I needn’t have worried.

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Alongside crowd-pleasers like “Someone’s Looking At You” and “Rat Trap”, early Rats’ tracks such as “Lookin’ After No. 1”, “She’s So Modern” and “Like Clockwork” were performed with an energy and fervour evocative of the band’s punk roots. When Bob sang “Mary Of The 4th Form”, he was again the angry young front man, not somebody’s granddad. However, no one was in any doubt of his status as a family man, during his performance of “I Don’t Like Mondays”. His pensive pause, following his delivery of the line “And the lesson today is how to die” was heartbreakingly emotional. Shouts of “We love you, Bob” soon erupted from the crowd, a display of support en masse. I wasn’t the only one to shed a tear then.

As proceedings were brought to a close with the recently penned “The Boomtown Rats”, I was both elated, that the performance had by far exceeded my expectations, but sad too that it was coming to an end. It had been wishful thinking that my favourite track, “I Can Make It If You Can”, would be performed. Admittedly, it is better suited to being played in some dark, smoky bar than on a sunny stage in Henley-on-Thames, but I would have still been swaying with my arms in the air! Similarly, I had hoped they would play “I Never Loved Eva Braun” – in fact The Rats’ first two albums in their entirety would have been great. As it was, I loved every single minute of the performance, and will be booking tickets to another of their gigs soon. I can’t wait to go back to Boomtown again.

 

 

 

 

Revision of Eurovision

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Listening to Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show this morning being broadcast from Copenhagen, in preparation for tomorrow’s Eurovision Song Contest, I was reminded of past entries, about which I thought I had completely forgotten. One of my favourite UK entries was in 1982, when Bardo sang “One Step Further”. They were beaten to the prime position by Germany’s Nicole, singing “A Little Peace”, another song that was etched in my memory. However, it wasn’t until this morning that I was reminded of Sweden’s 1984 entry, The Herreys singing “Diggiloo Diggiley” and Norway’s Bobby Socks singing “Let It Swing” in 1985. Catchy, cheesey pop at its very best!

Even those songs I knew I had stashed in my memory held a little surprise for me. No one was more shocked than I, when I sang along word-for-word to Johnny Logan’s 1980 winning entry, “What’s Another Year?” The more I listened to Ken’s show this morning, the more I realised how much I had absorbed from the Eurovision of my youth. Most of it is Eighties-based, although I can’t write about my Eurovision favourites without mentioning Brotherhood of Man. I may have only been 5, when they won the contest with “Save All Your Kisses For Me” in 1976, but I remember learning and practising the dance routine to the song, with my Auntie Sharon (who will probably disown me now!).

Another Eurovision dance routine I used to know off by heart was the routine to “Making Your Mind Up” by Bucks Fizz, the UK’s 1981 winning entry. This one was ‘performed’ with friends rather than family members though. I’m sure we weren’t the only kids singing and dancing, pretending to be Cheryl, Mike, Bobby and Jay, or maybe living in a remote, rural community meant that we were more likely to make our own entertainment. Whatever the reason, it was a time when Eurovision was still fun, and we still stood a chance of winning. Yes, the Scandanavian countries would vote for each other; yes, we could always rely on Malta for douze points, but a good performance and a good song would still find its way to the top of the scoreboard. Now that the competition is heavily dominated by an Eastern European mutual appreciation society, a return to that scenario is unlikely.

Despite our chances of winning being as likely as Russia giving Ukraine top marks (no reflection of the quality of Molly’s rendition of “Children of The Universe”), I will make a long-overdue return to watching Eurovision tomorrow evening. My enthusiasm for the contest has been re-ignited by this morning’s blast from the past, and with promises of a bearded lady and a Greek rap entry, what’s not to like???