We’re getting ready for Owen & the 80s in Herne Bay

Standard

Last night I announced on My 80s Radio Show the lucky winners of tickets to see Owen Paul this Saturday (5th May) in Herne Bay. They are: Tony Dalli, Beverley Poole, Sheryl Pratt, Phillip Robinson and Timm Rutland.

Big thanks to all those who entered the giveaway. Tickets can still be purchased for the event directly from the King’s Hall. I will be there to see My Favourite Waste of Time so if you are coming along to the gig, do come and say ‘Hi’ to me. You never know, I might even be taking requests to play on My 80s!

Da2PLcPXcAErpMX

Advertisements

From Top of The Pops to Tour Bus

Standard

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.

dsc00635

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.

DSC00657.JPG

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.

beat-dates

This Is Ska

Standard

Last year, I managed to persuade Arthur Kitchener to come out of his Ska retirement and perform with Kent-based band Skatacus, as part of the House of Ska event I had organised. It was a highlight of my gigging year, as I watched the Balham boy sing “Limehouse Lady”, a track he first recorded as Arthur Kay & The Originals.

I’m pleased to say that since then the “unsung hero of Ska” has been busy recording in Germany, and with a number of live performances, including the London Ska Festival in March. He has also recently announced a ‘Mark The Mods Ska & Soul Night’ on 2nd September. With live music from Arthur Kay & The Originals and Toot ‘N’ Skamen, the event also features a Northern Soul DJ set, as well as a few other treats which I’m not at liberty to divulge (yet!).

All proceeds will be donated to Pilgrims Hospices, and with tickets at just £10.00 it looks set to sell out quickly. Tickets are available online or from the local outlets shown below.

I look forward to seeing you there…

13490679_1607773202884631_6109398179061491908_o

Roger’s Ranking High For Me, Full Stop!

Standard

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 topicsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA, 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!

Welcome To The House Of Ska…

Standard

Nearly a year ago, I wrote about my newly-found regard for tribute acts, inspired by a Complete Madness gig. Since then, I have seen the Yorkshire-based Madness tribute band play a few times, and with each performance has come an elevated appreciation of their talents. Having seen a number of other tribute acts during the past year, including an unlikely looking One Direction (more like Wrong Direction!), and an Olly Murs who reappeared later in the show as Bruno Mars, I still believe that Complete Madness are one of the highest calibre tribute acts you will encounter.

Comprising of founding members Mark Keegan (lead vocals) and Derek Wood (guitar), alongside Dave Potter (keyboards), Jeff Thompson (drums), and relative new boy, Tom Regan (saxophone), one of thOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAe main reasons they achieve such a high standard is that the band emulate rather than imitate, ensuring that each show is indeed a tribute to the original Nutty Boys. Where it is not uncommon for some tribute artists to sing along to a digitally-enhanced backing track, usually whilst performing a dodgy dance routine, Complete Madness are musicians who play live. As for dodgy dance routines? The only dodgy thing you’ll find when they are on stage is Derek’s knee!

With this in mind, you can imagine my excitement when they agreed to perform at my House of Ska evening (see below for details) on 9th May, in Ashford, Kent. Maintaining the high quality of music throughout the evening, Complete Madness will be supported by my favourite local band, Skatacus. Based in Kent, they are a seven piece band which plays a broad mix of covers, from traditional Ska numbers through to popular Two-Tone classics. They also perform their own original material, such as “Ska Wars” and “Let’s Skank”, written by guitarist, Neil Hughes. Led by Mark Chappell (drums/vocals), the band also features Paul Friend (keyboards), Justin Homewood (bass), and a powerful brass section, in the form of Delia Hazrati (saxophone), Jon Hone (trumpet) and Alex Oliver (trombone). If that’s not enough to make you want to channel your inner rude boy or girl, there is also a strong possibility that a special guest or two may make an appearance!

Located in the centre of Ashford, Revelation St. Mary’s is an10003927_755288591157691_454993643_n functioning church, which has also operated as a music and arts venue since 2011. Playing host to a wide variety of artists, from The Orb (pictured) to Courtney Pine, Toploader to The Lightning Seeds, Revelation St. Mary’s offers not only a unique quirkiness but, with nearby parking (free after 6pm), and Ashford International Station a short walk away, it is ideally situated too.

Tickets are on sale now, available online or from the outlets shown below. We look forward to seeing you there!

House of Ska poster

 

 

Back To Boomtown With A Bang

Standard

As I write this, I am listening to The Boomtown Rats’ self-titled first, and in my opinion their best, album. Although it was released in 1977, I bought my copy in 1982 (aged 11) around the time that Mr. Geldof and a certain presenter of The Tube moved to my home town. As Bob and Paula became familiar faces around town, The Rats’ music became a firm favourite in my vinyl collection, with “A Tonic For The Troops” (released in 1978) soon coming a very close second to my favourite Rats’ album.

Despite living within swearing distance of the Irish punk rocker, I had never seen him perform live. Until this weekend. I had booked my tickets for Rewind South before the line up had been announced. With more than twenty acts from the Eighties performing, I knew I would have a great time regardless of who would be appearing. You have no idea of the sheer delight I felt when I discovered The Rats would be playing. I had waited over thirty years for this!

I made my way through the crowds in plenty of time to secure a place a couple of rows back from the stage, where, in spite of my lack of height (I’m 5′ 1″) I had a great view. As Bob and the rest of the band (Pete Briquette on bass, Garry Roberts on guitar, and Simon Crowe on drums) took to the stage, I had a moment of doubt as to what they would play. Their best music, and indeed their hits, had all been in the Seventies. There was no brass section, so it was unlikely they would play the rather brilliant “Drag Me Down”, from their 1984 album “In The Long Grass”. I needn’t have worried.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alongside crowd-pleasers like “Someone’s Looking At You” and “Rat Trap”, early Rats’ tracks such as “Lookin’ After No. 1”, “She’s So Modern” and “Like Clockwork” were performed with an energy and fervour evocative of the band’s punk roots. When Bob sang “Mary Of The 4th Form”, he was again the angry young front man, not somebody’s granddad. However, no one was in any doubt of his status as a family man, during his performance of “I Don’t Like Mondays”. His pensive pause, following his delivery of the line “And the lesson today is how to die” was heartbreakingly emotional. Shouts of “We love you, Bob” soon erupted from the crowd, a display of support en masse. I wasn’t the only one to shed a tear then.

As proceedings were brought to a close with the recently penned “The Boomtown Rats”, I was both elated, that the performance had by far exceeded my expectations, but sad too that it was coming to an end. It had been wishful thinking that my favourite track, “I Can Make It If You Can”, would be performed. Admittedly, it is better suited to being played in some dark, smoky bar than on a sunny stage in Henley-on-Thames, but I would have still been swaying with my arms in the air! Similarly, I had hoped they would play “I Never Loved Eva Braun” – in fact The Rats’ first two albums in their entirety would have been great. As it was, I loved every single minute of the performance, and will be booking tickets to another of their gigs soon. I can’t wait to go back to Boomtown again.

 

 

 

 

A Tribute With Attributes

Link

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.

Image

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/