Just What The Doctor Ordered

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Last Friday saw me on my annual pilgrimage to Butlins, Bognor for a weekend of 80’s music, fun and frolics. I had arranged to interview Clive Jackson, lead singer of Dr. & The Medics, later that evening, but it was by pure chance that I became aware of his arrival on site.

The balcony of our hotel room (I once made the mistake of staying in the “cheap seats” – never again!) overlooked the vehicle entrance to the park, offering a great vantage point for people watching. I was on the balcony, bemoaning the fact that the 2 hour spa session we’d just finished (it’s a hard life, I know) had made my hair return to its natural, huge, wild 80’s style state, when a car pulled up to the entrance barrier. The driver had hair bigger and wilder than my own and, even without his make-up, was instantly recognisable as the Doctor. Can you see where one oversized hairdo ends and the other begins in this photo???

We met after the band came off stage, which gave me chance to see their performance first. I hadn’t known what to expect. It was a safe bet that “Spirit In The Sky” would be played at the end, but what about the rest of the set? A fabulous diversity of songs was the answer.Fronting a line up of the Angelow brothers (Dan and Matt) on guitar, Jon Randle (bass), Ade Hill (drums), Melissa Weekes (vocals) and Wenda-Kate Randle (band dancer – think of a Gothic, corset-wearing version of Bez!), Dr. Jackson delivered an impressive performance on a variety of tracks, including “Proud Mary”, “The Ace of Spades” and their current single, a cover of Dead Or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”. Not only was every song musically and vocally superb, the band looked like they were having a great time too. The fun continued backstage…

As I entered the band’s dressing room, I could hear a strange noise. “What’s up?” asked Clive. “Haven’t you ever seen a Dalek being deflated before?” I then noticed the stage prop slowly shrivelling in one corner of the room. It was a bizarre start to what has to have been one of the funniest, and definitely funnest, interviews I’ve undertaken. It became a real group effort, with contributions from all band members, especially when I asked what had been Clive’s worst fashion mistake of the 80s. The answer will appear in “Your Eighties”, to be published later this year, and will leave you with an inerasable image in your mind!

Until then, I shall leave you with the band’s latest video. Enjoy.

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The Musical Youth Of Today

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A couple of years ago, I saw Musical Youth perform at Butlins in Bognor, on the final evening of an 80’s-themed weekend. Exhausted by three days of reliving the excesses of the decade, and having seen more neon and legwarmers during that long weekend, than I had throughout the whole of the Eighties, I was feeling slightly frayed around the edges. Audience numbers were down considerably on the previous two nights, some partygoers having already departed, to return to their jobs the following morning. It is fair to say that the atmosphere of the venue wasn’t exactly buzzing, and I certainly wasn’t expecting the best and most enjoyable performance of the whole weekend to happen that evening. Yet, when Musical Youth came on stage, that is exactly what took place. Besides performing their own crowd-pleasing hits “Pass The Dutchie” and “Never Gonna Give You Up”, the band also treated us to an impressive reggae set, topped by an outstanding rendition of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff”.

Interviewing Dennis Seaton

Interviewing Dennis Seaton

So, you can imagine how excited I was last Friday to be seeing the band perform again, this time in Camber Sands, East Sussex. What’s more, prior to their set, I was able to interview lead vocalist, Dennis Seaton, and keyboard player, Michael Grant for my next book, “Your Eighties”.

As the two remaining members of the original line up of the band, Dennis and Michael have known each other for over three decades, something that becomes increasingly apparent throughout the interview, as the pair look to each other for confirmation of their recollections, argue light-heartedly, and (just about) fall short of finishing each other’s sentences. The eldest by two years, Dennis comes across as the calm and measured leader of the band. An elder sibling myself, I couldn’t help but recognise his sense of responsibility for his Musical Youth family. That’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy his position in the band: “We’re not even fifty yet, but we’re thirty years into the business. I enjoyed it back then, and I enjoy it now.” With memories of playing air hockey with Stevie Wonder, and sharing a plane journey with Phil Lynott, it’s hardly surprising Dennis looks back on the early years with great fondness. Today, he maintains that “I do what I love,” which includes having his son Theo (the band’s trumpet player), perform alongside him. “I’m immensely proud,” Dennis tells me, “but he’s there because of his ability, not because he’s my son.”

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Michael Grant looking as cheeky as he did in the ’80s

Michael adds that he too will encourage his sons to play in a band. Although, as his twin sons were born last November, it will be some time before they will be joining him on stage. The duo’s family circumstances are not the only thing to contrast. Excitable and easily animated, Michael appears to be the little brother whose cheeky cuteness would have got him out of many a scrape. However, talk to Michael for a couple of minutes, and you soon discover his serious side, and some insightful views on the music industry. Easily discussing topics from radio stations to band management, record labels to the X-Factor, which he states “killed the industry for originality”, Michael is both persuasive and eloquent in his opinions. Dennis agrees that the Saturday evening programme is culpable for a generation of blandness.

With Michael and Dennis

With Michael and Dennis

“It’s what I call the “McDonald’s Effect”,” he explains, comparing the show’s vapid musical offerings to the inability to describe the flavours produced by the fast food chain. “I know it when I taste it, but when I’m not eating it…” Dennis shrugs, almost in despair. A broad grin then spreads across his face, as he adds “The fries are good though, and the apple pies are even better” – a reference to Musical Youth’s video for “Youth of Today”, which starts with Dennis grabbing, and running off with guitarist, Kelvin’s pie, who then shouts “Dennis, come back with my apple pie!”

A knock at the door, as the rest of the band make their way over to the venue, signals the imminent end of our interview. We have been chatting for almost an hour, and it is only as we arrive backstage that I realise the band have about ten minutes before they are due on stage, at 11pm. I should also point out that Dennis had arrived in Camber less than half an hour before we met, but offered to do the interview then, rather than after the set, so I wouldn’t have to wait around for him – a true gent!

Adding to my list of interviews with musicians from Birmingham (this was my second in as many weeks), and backing my growing belief that Brummie boys have an unbeatable charm, Dennis went on to dedicate the following song to me, during that night’s show – look out for his big wave when he spots me filming him. Now, just so I can confirm my Brummie boy theory, if someone could give me Ali Campbell’s ‘phone number…!

“Your Eighties” is due to be published by Fabrian Books later this year.