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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On My Radio

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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…

Sunny’s Sad Story

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Many songs in the Eighties carried a message or told a story, even if it wasn’t immediately obvious or fitting to the music. Nik Kershaw’s “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” was about the threat of nuclear war, although you could be forgiven for not making a connection between the subject matter and its synth pop accompaniment. In some cases, the meaning of a song’s lyrics has only become apparent years later. As I was only 9 years old when The Vapors released “Turning Japanese” in 1980, it was at least a decade before I came to realise the alleged story behind the song!

The Seventies saw a lyrical dearth, which only ended with the advent of Punk, but the Sixties set the bar for storytelling lyrics. That is one of the reasons I love listening to Radio 2’s “Sounds of the Sixties” show, on a Saturday morning.

Last week, as Brian Matthew introduced the track “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb, he relayed the sad tale of how the song had come to be written. Harold “Hal” Hebb, Bobby’s older brother by six years, had been murdered in a mugging 48 hours prior to writing it, the song being an outpouring of Bobby’s grief.

Listening to the song, knowing the circumstances in which it had been created, was like hearing a brand new song, both in the lyrics and in the emotion of the vocal. What do you think?

Siouxsie Sioux Versus The Beatles

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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?