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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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.

Why Adam Will Always Be My First Man

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One of my treasured discoveries from Operation Declutter has been this Adam Ant exercise book. It was part of an Adam Ant stationery set I bought in 1981, which also included a notebook, ruler, pencil sharpener and rubber. I’m proud to say I still have all of these, as well as a matching Adam Ant scrapbook.IMG_20160424_161706042

The scrapbook makes an appearance in the Sky Arts programme I filmed back in February, due to be aired in September, and holds a wealth of clippings from the early Eighties. However, apart from being defaced by my scrawl on the front (done to confirm my ownership) the above book is pristine, as is the notebook.  The rubber is still in its cellophane wrapping, such was my obsession with all things Adam.

Then, there was the music. The first single I ever bought was ‘Stand & Deliver’. I can still remember the excitement of being 10 years old, and going to Woolworths on a Saturday morning to buy it. It was to be the first of many, and thanks to an older boy at primary school, who knew all there was to know about the Dandy Highwayman, I found myself seeking out his back catalogue, and discovering Mr. Goddard’s earlier offerings. I was hooked.

Little wonder then that Saturday night, when I saw Adam & The Ants perform at the Brighton Centre, will remain a life highlight for me. Met with rapturous applause as he came on stage, and launching straight into ‘Dog Eat Dog’, Adam performed the ‘Kings of The Wild Frontier’ album in its glorious entirety. Thirty five years faded away as the Burundi Beat blasted through me, and I lost myself in the music and the performance of an often underrated pioneer.

Lasting almost two hours, the set included both of the band’s Number 1 singles as well as Adam’s solo chart topper ‘Goody Two Shoes’. Other solo offerings to make the show were ‘Desperate Not Serious’ and ‘Vive Le Rock’, but unfortunately not ‘Friend or Foe’, a favourite of mine. However, my forgiveness was swiftly forthcoming as the omission made room for early tracks such as ‘Zerox’, ‘Never Trust A Man (With Egg on His Face)’ and ‘Cartrouble’ to be IMG_20160528_210823811played. As the singer told us the latter was written with his childhood trips to Kent in mind, I found myself letting out a loud cheer, the idea of him visiting my county being far too much!

All too soon (although my knees would beg to differ, having taken a non-stop pounding throughout the gig), it was time to go. With just a handful of photos on my mobile – I was too busy enjoying the gig to snap away – but a mind full of memories, I made my way out of the venue, with a huge smile on my face and the knowledge that Adam Ant (still) rocks!

 

 

Adamant About Adam Ant

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The first record I ever bought was Adam and the Ants’ “Stand And Deliver”. I was 10 years old, and madly in love with the dandy highwayman, with the white stripe across his face! By the time Prince Charming was released as a single a few months later, along with its accompanying video, featuring Diana Dors, I was completely hooked by the beautiful man in make-up. So, it’s no surprise that whenever I hear the first “aah, hah” as the song begins, I’m immediately transported to pre-adolescence.

Last week, I happened to hear Prince Charming three times in one day; on my MP3 player on the morning commute, at work on Radio 2, and in the evening listening to Absolute 80s Radio. Hearing the song so frequently prompted a childhood memory. I can’t remember why, but I remember being sent to my room for some wrongdoing. At the age of 10, I was fortunate enough to have an old record player in my room, and sought solace by playing Prince Charming. For those of you old enough to remember them, my record player was one where you could stack the records on the spindle, where an arm held them in place. The arm had a dual purpose, in that if you pulled it back, the record that was playing would play again (or in my case, again and again and again!). Yes, I was so incensed at being sent to my room, that I left the arm back, and let the record play repeatedly, for the whole time I was being punished. I know I missed the whole of The Dukes of Hazzard whilst I was in my room, so that’s got to be at least 15 consecutive plays of Prince Charming, at the highest volume my record player could go to! I laugh now, but at the time it was me and Adam against the world, as I sang “ridicule is nothing to be scared of” at the top of my voice. Such passion and angst in one so young. It lasted at least until I was called downstairs for my tea!