Much Moore Than The Competition

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As I sat at the table on Saturday afternoon, waiting for my cup of tea, I became aware that I was in a situation many ladies of a certain age would envy. The reason for this was that the man doing the honours in the kitchen was former Brother Beyond and Worlds Apart frontman, Nathan Moore. I met the singer ahead of his performance at a 48 Hour Party Weekend at Camber Sands, East Sussex, to discuss his memories of my favourite decade, for my next book ‘More Eighties’.

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Nathan and me after the interview

Looking remarkably youthful for his 51 years,  Nathan recalled his time fronting one of the most popular boy bands of the late Eighties, and talked about being invited to dinner by Madonna, the band’s rivalry with Bros, and the impact Stock, Aitken and Waterman had on Brother Beyond. You’ll be able to read about this and more, when the book is released early next year, as well as Nathan’s thoughts on being part of the increasingly popular 80’s circuit.

I asked Nathan what material he will be performing later that evening.

“I like to give them what they want,” he answers, before surprising me by continuing “I’ll give them ‘Living on A Prayer’ and ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. It’s about having a rocking night. That’s what they’re here for. That’s why I don’t do obscure album tracks from Brother Beyond, because the evening would just go a bit flat.”

I am intrigued by the idea of one of pop’s pin-ups channelling his inner rockstar, and can’t wait to see his performance.

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Nathan about to go on stage

Later that evening, as I make my way through the venue to meet Nathan backstage, I have no doubt that he has read the crowd well. There appears to be an Ancient History theme to the fancy dress being worn, with Centurions and Egyptian Hieroglyphs mingling with crowds of toga-wearing partygoers, all ready for a fun Saturday night. Unfortunately, the act Nathan has to follow is an Elton John tribute, with a penchant for performing tracks such as ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘Candle In The Wind’. The subdued set was better suited to a mellow Sunday afternoon. It was going to be no mean feat whipping up this audience into a frenzy. However, whip it Mr. Moore did – and then some!

Opening with ‘Be My Twin’, and performing an eclectic mix of songs which, as well as the rock tracks, included ‘Footloose’, fellow Hit Factory performer Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up and a cheeky rendition of Bros’s ‘I Owe You Nothing’, alongside Brother Beyond hits ‘The Harder I Try’ and ‘He Ain’t No Competition’, the singer delivered a set that not only proved his versatility, but had the crowd going wild.

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Driving ’em wild!

An on-stage remark that people in Camber Sands didn’t appear to be as raucous as those he had encountered the week before in Southport, soon saw Nathan in receipt of a bra, thrown at him with gusto. This was followed by lots of grabbing by the women in the front two rows, whenever he ventured towards the stage barriers, which was often. Like I said before, he knows his audience and just how to please them.

Talking of which, I mustn’t neglect to mention what was, for me, the highlight of his set, a cover of Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’, the perfect showcase for Nathan’s vocal talents, and conclusive proof that he is so much more than a pretty face in a boy band. Oh, and he makes a lovely cuppa too!

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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…

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.

A Tribute With Attributes

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In general, I’m not a big fan of tribute acts. Often, in an attempt to pay homage to the act they admire, they actually end up verging on the wrong side of parody. Beware the 80’s tributes with “Bootleg” in their name. There’s a good reason why the word has negative connotations! One band that has changed my complete dismissal of all tribute acts is Complete Madness, a Madness and Ska tribute band.

I saw the Yorkshire nutty boys perform at Pontins, Camber Sands last Friday. The venue may not have been too impressive, but that didn’t stop Mark Keegan and Co. creating a Ska party to remember. From the minute they set foot on stage to final note of their encore, there wasn’t a still foot in the place. As well as Madness favourites like “It Must Be Love”, “Baggy Trousers”and “Night Boat To Cairo”, the band also performed Ska classics such as “Too Much, Too Young”, “Lip Up Fatty” and my personal favourite, “Monkey Man”.

Saxophonist, Dan Johnson displayed not only talented musicianship, but a sense of balance most ice-skaters would envy, spinning round in circles whilst continuing to play, à la Lee Thompson.

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Frontman Mark Keegan exhibited an incredible energy as well an incredible voice, which adapted apparently effortlessy to the vocal demands of the set. Here is a man who clearly loves what he does, and the audience love him for it.

ImageIn fact, it is the synergy between the band members, under Mark’s lead, that sets Complete Madness above the rest. Individually, they are all talented musicians who would give their Madness counterparts a run for their money – Derek Wood on guitar and backing vocals, Dave Potter on keyboards and Jeff Thompson on drums. However, together they make for an exceptional act, with which even the most ardent Madness fan would struggle to find fault (although, for me, Jeff would have to wear a Woody mask to properly emulate to my favourite member of Madness!).

You don’t have to take my word for it. With a busy schedule of gigs running through to next year, there is bound to be one near you. If there isn’t, it’s worth going that extra mile to see one – you won’t be disappointed. Details of Complete Madness gigs for 2014 are available at: http://completemadness.net/gigs/2014-2/