The Week That Was

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It has been quite a week, with the publication of More 20170516_122253Eighties on Tuesday, a radio interview on Thursday, a gig on Friday, and throughout all of that trying to learn the art of vlogging – no mean feat for a Luddite whose technical prowess peaked at the vertically split black and white TV screen, when adjusting the tracking on our Betamax video recorder!

As I mentioned in my last post, I marked the new book’s launch with a celebratory lunch with some fabulous friends. While we were in Dover, I visited Banksy’s latest offering and could not resist a little step up the ladder. I also recorded one of my vlogs there, which you can see below, along with the one I recorded at the gig featuring Jona Lewie and The Blockheads. All my vlog posts are available via my  YouTube channel or my website, which also includes the link to the recording of my radio interview. Enjoy …

 

Books & Bank Holiday Treats

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The final book in my trilogy on Eighties’ popular culture ‘More Eighties’, out on 16th May, is now available for pre-order. See my website for more details. Those of you pre-ordering the Kindle version this weekend may also want to add ‘Your Eighties’ to your basket as it will be FREE for the entire bank holiday weekend (29th April to 1st May). There is no need to miss out if you haven’t got a Kindle. Simply download the Kindle conversion app to read ‘Your Eighties’ on PC, Mac and mobile.

Have a great weekend!

A Heavenly Exclusive!

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Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Martyn Ware. With an extensive and impressive career in music, from his early work in The Human League to creating soundscapes via Illustrious, a company he formed with Vince Clarke in 2001, Martyn knows a thing or two about what makes good music. Now, while you will have to wait until April, when More Eighties is published, to discover what it was like for him working with Tina Turner and why he is now warming to Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s output in the Eighties (yep, you really did just read that!), I can reveal a little ‘exclusive’ which came up during our chat.

I had asked the BEF founder member about his inspiration for pushing musical boundaries and continuing to innovate. He told me “We’ve created a new track with Heaven 17, which nobody’s heard yet, which will be coming out soon, called ‘Clouds Or Mountains’. Where we’ve been experimenting with Heaven 17, it sounds amazing. With Glenn Gregory’s voice, it sounds like Scott Walker. That’s an exclusive.” h17

I ask if that have a release date yet.

“No, we’ve got to discuss it. We’ve got a special deal going with Bowers & Wilkins. They’ve got this thing called Society of Sound, where they release high definition audio. They’ve got this subscription thing where you subscribe and every month they send you an album digitally, in the highest possible format. It’s downloadable for a month and then that’s it, it’s gone. This is going to be their February one. It’s like a work in progress version of the new album, so it includes all the existing singles. It’ll be on their service for a month and then it’s gone, until we release the album.”

The concept of providing a limited availability teaser for fans is one which appeals to Martyn, as a remedy to the constant influx of music which now prevails.

“There’s no wait nowadays. You can stream everything everywhere. I read today that Prince’s entire output is going to be available on all the streaming services from February 16th. That’s like about a hundred hours of stuff. It’s just ridiculous.”

However, there’s nothing ridiculous about wanting to hear the latest Heaven 17 material. Society of Sound, here I come!

 

Let’s Get Physical

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Having heard me bemoaning the fact that I was having to squeeze into my jeans, following the excesses of the festive period, Nikki, an old school friend suggested I join her on the ‘couch to 5k’ venture upon which she was about to embark. This would involve us meeting at 8am three times a week to jog, and eventually run, ourselves back to fitness. It sounded like a great idea apart from a couple of problems: I hate running and I don’t do mornings! Knowing I would be setting myself up for failure by agreeing to it, I declined. However, I said if she could find a dance class we could go to, I’d happily join her.

Nikki must have known she was onto a winner when she told me about an 80’s dance class she had found,  15 miles from my home and held on Tuesday nights. We went to our first class this week, and I loved every minute of it. From our warm up to Wham!’s ‘Club Tropicana’, through our routines to the likes of ‘Relax’, ‘Come On Eileen’ and ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, to our cool down to ‘Tainted Love’, I had the biggest grin on my face. As we grapevined our way across the floor of the hall, I had a flashback to our old school dance lessons; Nikki in her shiny green lycra leotard and tights (I had never strayed beyond our regulation grey shorts and white aertex top, embroidered with my initials).

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How I imagine our routines look!

So, we might have gained a few pounds and wrinkles since then, but at least there was no rushing to get changed in time for our maths lesson afterwards. This was fun. In fact, I’m sure the Fitbit said we had exercised enough to have a glass of wine after our workout, if not positively encouraged us to!

Even better was the fact that the next day, I didn’t wake up feeling old and arthritic, as I had half expected to. It looks like this dancing back to fitness idea has everything in its favour. I can’t wait until next week. Now, where did I put my legwarmers?

Everything You Can Imagine Is Real

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Imagine a world where the works and words of Picasso are brought to life through music, performance, dance and poetry, against a backdrop of art representing some of the most recognisable faces in British history. That is exactly what happened last Friday evening at London’s National Portrait Gallery. In a scene reminiscent of the film Night At The Museum, where the past is brought to life in full technicolour and stereo, historical heritage played host to the Picasso-inspired Everything You Can Imagine Is Real. Curated and produced by Martyn Ware for Illustrious, the late shift event drew in an vast and diverse crowd, as eclectic as those performing.

Whilst I did manage to catch some of the other 28 acts from the packed programme, such as brilliantly astute poet Luke Wright, I was there for Peter Coyle’s performance at the end of IMG_20170121_005214.jpgthe evening. Those of you who read last week’s blog will know that Peter’s next single, to be released on 3rd February, uses one of my poems as its lyrics. I have been privileged to hear both the first recording and the final master of that track, so I know how beautiful and pure Peter’s voice sounds even when it has been untampered. I couldn’t wait to hear him perform live the songs he had written to incorporate Picasso’s poetry. I wasn’t alone.

An impressive bunch of 80’s artists had gathered for the former Lotus Eaters’ contribution to the evening, including Brian Nash (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), David Ball (Soft Cell) and Nick Van Eede (Cutting Crew). A short time into Peter’s performance, I saw him glance over and smile at the person who had just stood come and next to me, Holly Johnson.

I don’t know if I can do justice in describing not only what I heard but saw, as an exquisitely delightful interpretation of the work of one of Spain’s greatest exports was delivered by one of Liverpool’s finest. Sublime. Immersive. Emotive. All of the above, yet so much more.

At some point in the future, I believe footage from Peter’s performance will be available via his website. In the meantime, here is a recording I took of him during soundcheck earlier in the day. Enjoy…

 

The Word On The Street

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Flicking through the pages of the recently released winter edition of Street Sounds, I was delighted to come across this fantastic review of The 80’s Annual.

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If you too want to be kept in “a nostalgic 80s-gasm for hours” you can order a copy of the annual from online retailers, including Amazon and The Book Depository.

The Only Way Is Nub

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Tonight sees the launch of Nub TV, an hour long show “aimed at the 40 plus audience who are being starved of the music they love”. Hosted by TV veteran Steve Blacknell, it airs at 10pm on Sky 212, Freesat 161, Freeview 254 and globally online at Showcase TV. Joining Steve in the Millbank studios over the next few weeks will be an array of familiar faces from the Seventies and Eighties, including Joan Armatrading,  Leee John, Rick Buckler and the first show’s special guests John Otway and John Altman. Add to that the lovably eccentric house band The Pocket Gods, a selection of the latest video releases and a small but perfectly formed studio audience, and you have the ideal way to round off your weekend’s television viewing.

I was invited to appear as a guest on the programme, alongside Eighties’ favourites Owen Paul and Junior Giscombe. Our show, which airs on 27th November, was fantastic fun to record as you can see from the photos below. Knowing the music, chat and laughs that are in our show, I can’t wait to see tonight’s debut broadcast.

Photos: cjansenphotography.com