Tonight, BBC4 aired the second of two episodes of Pop Quiz: The Comeback. Featuring original host Mike Read, the shows were a must-watch for all fans of the Eighties. With teams comprising of some of the decade’s best known faces, such as Steve Norman, Leee John, Mari Wilson, Ranking Roger and Toyah Wilcox, and favourite questions like the lyrics and intro rounds, the shows have been a delightful blast of nostalgic past. Unfortunately and unbelievably, only these two episodes have been recorded to date. An injustice if ever there was one!
So, I have set up a petition asking the BBC to record a full series of Pop Quiz, featuring 80’s artists. You can add your signature and support to the petition by clicking on this link. Let’s bring back Pop Quiz!
As you may have guessed from my previous post, last Friday I had the pleasure of interviewing Ska and Two-Tone luminary, Ranking Roger. As The Beat’s only remaining original member, Roger has performed with the band on and off for the past 36 years, since joining them in March 1979, at the age of 16. He heads a current line up of Steve Harper (guitar), Andy Pearson (bass), Matt Godwin (saxophone), Ocean Colour Scene’s Oscar Harrison (drums), and joining Roger on vocals is his son, Ranking Junior. Having witnessed the high energy and powerful dynamism between father and son, when they played The Quarterhouse in Folkestone later that evening, I can’t help but feel that Roger’s view “It’s great on stage. I’ve got no complaints. He backs me, I back him,” is typically understated.
Within minutes of meeting the Brummie musician, he has apologised for the late start to the interview, something for which he can hardly be held responsible. The band’s arrival in Kent was delayed by a traffic accident; the interview Roger gave to BBC South East Today, prior to mine, overran. Oh, and it was Friday the thirteenth! During the interview, we cover a range of topics, from politics, racism, and social change, to music, the 80s, and performing, plus much more in between. The full interview will feature in my next book, “Your Eighties”, out later this year, so you will have to wait until then to discover the errand David Bowie ran for Saxa, when The Beat supported the stylish singer on his Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983; or to find out what happened when, as part of Special Beat, Roger played to a crowd of “so-called Nazi Skinheads” in the former East German city of Jena. Believe me, the recollections are well worth the wait.
As we talk, it becomes apparent that Roger places great value on the fact that he remains without any sign of an inflated ego, despite spending over three decades under the scrutiny of the public eye. “I could never be rich enough to be a bighead, so therefore, I’m glad that I didn’t become a millionaire,” he reflects, as the pounding of drums, pulsating through the venue, signals the beginning of The Beat’s sound check. Not wanting to add to the band’s already time-pressured schedule, I reluctantly bring the interview to an end shortly afterwards. I was later to discover that I wasn’t the only one who felt the interview had ended prematurely.
About an hour later, Roger rang me to ask if I wanted to talk some more, now that the band had finished sound checking. Which is how I found myself to be in the somewhat surreal situation of sitting in a pub on Folkestone seafront, with Ranking Roger, at the same time as the BBC interview he had given earlier aired on the pub’s large TV screen! Regardless of what had the potential to be a flashing neon alert to Roger’s presence, we were able to continue chatting uninterrupted. It was only as we returned to The Quarterhouse, that queuing fans inside the venue began to stare in disbelief, as they noticed the man they were lining up to see, strolling along the street. Earning the title of Most Grounded Man In Music, Roger then chose to enter the venue through its main entrance, talking with members of the waiting crowd, en route to his dressing room – there are no stage doors or airs and graces for this man.
This was further proven during that evening’s gig, when security failed to stop a merry, middle-aged Skinhead jumping up on the stage, during the band’s performance. When a security guard did finally make it to the stage, Roger stopped him from removing the uninvited guest, telling him to “let him dance with the band.” When they had finished performing the track, Roger put his arm around the stage invader, and announced to an elated crowd, “This is what it’s about…Rasta and Skinhead together.”
Then, of course, there was the music. With all The Beat’s classic tracks from “Hands Off She’s Mine”, “Too Nice To Talk To” and “Mirror In The Bathroom” to “Tears of A Clown”, “Rough Rider” and “Save It For Later”, alongside tracks from some of Roger’s other projects, such as “Return Of The Dread-I”, as well as Ranking Junior’s own creation “My Dream”, there was something for everyone. Looking at the audience, “everyone” was there – not only Skinheads, Rudeboys and Rudegirls, but people of all ages, out for a fun evening of good music. All I can say is, if you’re looking for the same, then The Beat are top ranking, full stop!
Some memories remain as clear as the day they were made. One such recollection I have dates back to 13th July, 1985. A blistering hot, sunny day, one which I would have normally spent topping up my tan, was spent sat in front of the television, watching the musical extravaganza that was Live Aid. You can imagine my excitement last week, when I got to interview someone who had been an integral part of that historical occasion.
Steve Blacknell, TV presenter of the BBC’s “Riverside” and “Breakfast Time” during the Eighties, was the man who got to interview Phil Collins during his transatlantic flight on Concorde. The flight enabled Collins to perform on both Live Aid stages, Wembley Stadium in London, and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Although the live radio broadcast of the interview was barely audible in parts, as a 14 year old girl, obsessed with the music industry, I was mesmerised by the apparent glamour of the event. Steve recalls the reality of his trip across the pond as being in stark contrast to my imaginings. You will have to wait until the full interview is published in my next book, “Your Eighties”, for the details. However, with a view on everything from Mike Score’s haircut (Steve was responsible for signing A Flock of Seagulls to Jive Records in 1981) to Bruce Springsteen: “a pub singer”, I can assure you that Steve’s candour in all his responses, means the wait will be well worth it.
Steve is currently working on his autobiography which, from the snippets I gleaned during our interview, promises to be a revelation in more ways than one. Having enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle in the Eighties, alongside some of the biggest names in entertainment, the expectation will be for some celebrity gossip. What most may not expect is the vulnerability of the man who, despite being surrounded by excess, won his battle with bulimia, and now uses his own experiences to help fellow sufferers. If the book offers only a fraction of Steve’s roller coaster life, I want a ticket to ride!
In the meantime, I will leave you with this little gem I found of Steve and Phil, as the pair are about to board the plane. Click Here to watch.
BBC Music recently announced the results of their “Greatest Covers” poll, the winner of which was Pet Shop Boys’ “Always On My Mind”. The usual suspects, such as Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” and Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” were featured towards the top of the list of 50, with tracks like the rather superb “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill edging into the bottom half of the list.
Although the list was an unusual mix of predictability and surprises (I never realised Elvis Costello’s “Good Year For The Roses” was a cover), there was one glaring omission. That was one of my favourite covers, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Born To Run”, from their “Welcome To The Pleasuredome” album. Not only does the track perfectly capture the raw energy and attitude of the band, Holly Johnson actually sings the lyrics rather than slurring and mumbling his way through the song (cue the Springsteen fans’ complaints!).
I am sure many of you will look at the list, only to find your own favourite cover is missing: