All Mod Cons & More

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We have all had those moments during a gig when you realise you are experiencing something very special. The 1,200-strong audience joining Messrs Foxton and Hastings in asking “Didn’t we have a nice time?” during “To Be Someone” was the first of many such moments on Friday night. The second date of From The Jam’s “All Mod Cons” tour, celebrating 40 years since the album’s release, saw the band arrive on the South East coast at the Winter Gardens in Margate, a town historically associated with Mod culture and scooter runs. Little wonder then that shortly into the band’s set, we found ourselves immersed in something much more than sound, as we were transported back to a time when a generation first found their thoughts and lives being echoed in the music and lyrics of three angry young men from Woking.

Whether it was being part of a swaying crowd, singing along to “English Rose”, or feeling the apocalyptic ending of “‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street” assaulting you to the core, the entire performance was a sensory roller coaster, which left us on that unique, exhilarating high only quality live music can produce.

clRNb9Ad.jpgWhen the band had completed the album’s track list, they took us through  a variety of  The Jam’s huge back catalogue, playing songs including “Pretty Green”, “Smithers-Jones”, “A Town Called Malice” and “Going Underground” – truly something for every fan, no matter which Jam album is your favourite. Although, I would argue that trying to pick my favourite album of theirs is like trying to choose a favourite child – unfair and impossible!

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Anyone who has seen From The Jam live will be familiar with the band’s energy fuelling every show. Put together Bruce’s mid-air jumps, Mike Randon drumming out beats that hit your very soul, Andy Fairclough losing himself  in the keys of the Hammond organ, and Russell delivering the songs with a passion perfectly reflecting the attitude with which they were written, and you have a night to remember. Add the timeless “All Mod Cons” album, plus an array of tracks representing the band’s best output, and you have a night you will never forget.

Supporting From The Jam for most of the tour are the rather fabulous Nine Below Zero.  Joining founder members Dennis Greaves and Mark Feltham on stage, and proving that talent really does run in the family, was Sonny Greaves on drums. A formidable on-stage force, the band provide the ideal complement to the main event.

548G7g6mChatting with the guys after the gig,  I told Bruce how much I had enjoyed the evening and found it hard to believe it was only the second night of the tour. Resting his arm on my shoulder, and feigning exhaustion, he laughed “I’ve had a long time to practice”.

As they say, practice makes perfect – something I have to agree with after Friday night’s performance.

From The Jam are touring “All Mod Cons” through to the middle of December. Be sure to catch them while you can.

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For more information and to book tickets, visit the From The Jam website.

Follow From The Jam on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

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Wouldn’t It Be Good To Listen To Nik’s Favourite Five?

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Back in August, I interviewed Nik Kershaw for The 80s Annual Vol. II, which will be published next month. After our interview, he agreed to be a guest on the My 80s radio show, choosing his Favourite Five 80’s songs. We weren’t quite sure when that would be, as Nik had a busy couple of months ahead of him. However, I caught up with him towards the end of his tour, and we recorded Nik chatting about his Favourite Five ahead of his gig in Margate, at the beginning of October.

The interview will air on this Thursday’s My 80s 9-11pm on Mad Wasp Radio. It’s a good one, so be sure to tune in!

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Backstage with Nik Kershaw at The Royal Theatre, Margate

Flash Back To The 80s

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As I work to meet a writing deadline, I have been a bit quiet on my blog recently. However, I had to take five minutes out to post about Grandmaster Flash’s DJ set on Saturday night, at Dreamland, Margate.IMG_20160820_193552995.jpg

We arrived about 15 minutes before the hip-hop pioneer was due on stage, and quickly made our to the middle of the gathering crowd, to shield us from the cold wind blowing in from the East Kent coast. People standing ahead of us began to drift away for one reason or another, and by the time the DJ stepped onto the stage, I found myself stood at the front, just feet away from where he would work his magic.

During the summer of 1984, my first summer as a teenager, I had spent countless hours at Dreamland. I can vividly remember one sunny afternoon, flying through the air on the Umbrellas as “White Lines” bIMG_20160820_195548105y Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel blasted out of the operator’s kiosk. To be back there, standing feet away from the American Rapper as he played and sang along to the track was pretty special. It was only surpassed by his special farewell to me. As he stepped off the podium to exit the stage, I caught Flash’s eye and held out my arms in a congratulatory gesture. He strode towards me and grabbed both my hands, as I told him how fantastic his set had been. I was definitely in the ‘fan zone’ by this point, and unaware of the 7,000 strong crowd behind me surging forward to get close to the Master, until I almost face-planted on the stage, under the force!

Luckily,  I survived unscathed and can share this with you. Enjoy…

The True Tone of Two-Tone

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At the end of April, I went to see The Selecter’s Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson perform with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, at Margate’s Winter Gardens. Having previously seen The Selecter play live to their Ska and Two-Tone fan base, I was eager to see how this collaboration would work, playing to a diverse audience in a seated venue.

Opening their set with The Ethiopians’ ‘Train To Skaville’, the duo left us in no doubt in which direction we were heading. As Ms Black told us to “mind the Gaps”, he, in his inimitable style, wanted us to “wind up your waist”; it became impossible to sit still. Looking around me at the rest of the audience, who remained firmly in their seats, I pondered the etiquette of climbing over my neighbours, so I might dance in the aisle. Having to content myself with a bit of chair dancing as the pair launched into ‘Secret Love’, a track which beautifully showcases Pauline’s vocal talents, against Hendrickson’s top-tapping toasting, I could hold back no longer. I was up and at ’em!

By the time they performed The Selecter favourites ‘Too Much Pressure’ and ‘On My Radio’, even the unlikeliest of characters were up and moving, if not quite skanking. All testament to the energy and frisson coming from onstage Two-Tone team. It was almost unbelievable that these were the same people I had been talking to a couple of hours before the gig.

Pauline had agreed to be interviewed for my next book ‘More Eighties’. I must confess, I was more than a little nervous as I arrived at her hotel. Not only do I consider the Queen of Ska to be a musical great, but as one of the few strong female role models of the Eighties, I had afforded her semi-iconic status since I was in single figures. I needn’t have worried. Walking across the hotel foyer, looking as impeccably stylish as ever, Pauline greets me with a warmth that immediately puts me at ease.

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As we begin the interview, we’re joined by Gaps, someone whose dynamic, high-octane stage persona bears little resemblance to the softly spoken, laid back man who tells me he still considers it an “honour” to be in his position, performing and writing songs.

Pauline is poised and eloquent as she explains how their song writing has evolved over time, with the pair now having the freedom to encompass a broader range of musical influences. What hasn’t changed is their commitment to quality. Determined not to fall on the retro/revival bandwagon, The Selecter continue to produce and perform new material which, whilst maintaining the band’s distinctive sound, delivers a fresh, contemporary take on Two-Tone. Listen to last year’s ‘Subculture’ album, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

We covered a host of topics during our conversation, from perilous tours to Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’, multiculturalism to that Michael Putland photograph, all of which will feature in ‘More Eighties’, to be published next year.  Every question I posed was given a full, considered answer, offering an insight into The Selecter’s music and history, but also glimpsing the real people behind the band. By the end of the interview, I was left with a real appreciation of two people, whose natural creativity and musicianship can be sometimes lost amongst the performance elements of the band, and its Two-Tone image. I was also left with a little bit of a crush on the unassuming, off-stage Mr. Hendrickson!

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Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson are touring throughout the UK with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra until the end of the year. Click here for tickets.

Living In Dreamtime

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Growing up in East Kent during the 80s meant many a summer’s day spent at Margate’s Dreamland, or Bembom Brothers Amusement Park,11811464_10153477073223608_6241874286880118514_n (2) as it was known for the latter half of the decade. Catching the train from Faversham, and picking up friends in Whitstable and Herne Bay en route, we would arrive as the park gates opened at 10am, and stay until the sun went down and the fairground lights illuminated our screams and laughter.

A lot of the IMG_20160405_125242815.jpgrides from those halcyon days, such as the Looping Star, Mary Rose, Cyclone and the Water Chute, have long since departed the coastal town. However, firm favourites like the Scenic Railway, Big Wheel and Enterprise continue to stand proudly and operate in the park, since the its re-launch last year. You can imagine how excited I was when Dreamland agreed not only to let me undertake an 80’s photoshoot there, but allowed us to go on the rides too! So, as our photographer set to work with models Sophie and Robyn, I couldn’t resist giving the Scenic Railway a ‘test ride’, along with Deborah Ellis of Madam Popoff Vintage Emporium, our wardrobe stylist.

The shoot was 11807167_10206595824245903_8718379037010513288_ofor a photo story which will appear in a publication I have coming out later this year, and I marvelled as I watched my the story I had written come to life. Yes, the storyline may have been cheesy, but seeing as we had travelled back to 1984 for the day, it was apt.

When writing the story, I had integrated the rides and park features to the extent that removing them would have involved completely re-writing the plot. I had also worked on the assumption that everyone loved fairground rides as much as I do. Oops!

Fortunately, both photographer and model overcame their fear of going on the Big Wheel, in order for the storyline to progress as planned. Similarly, Mason, one of ouIMG_20160405_134155363.jpgr male models managed to stay upright in his roller boats long enough for us to get the shots we needed, without being knocked over by the speeding kids in the roller rink. I never entertained the possibility of a non-skater, when I wrote the story!

So, a few lessons learned and some top class work from everyone involved, and we ended up with the perfect shots, not to mention having a lot a fun in the process. I can’t wait to see the final published result.

Huge thanks to Dreamland for letting us have free reign in an iconic landmark, which holds a special place in my heart.  A big thank you too to models Sophie, Robyn, Oli and Mason, photographer Alan Langley and his assistant, Olivia, make-up and hair stylists Nina Gregory and Hayley Edwards, and to Madam Popoff herself, Deborah Ellis.

I look forward to joining Deborah at her Retro Party on 30th April, where I will be signing copies of ‘Your Eighties’ from 3pm to 5pm, alongside Punk Poet Garry Johnson and Bob Bradbury, lead singer of Hello. I hope to see some of you there.

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Girls (and boys) On Film

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The last 7 days have been filled with carrying out and transcribing interviews for the next book. I have had the pleasure of chatting to Modern Romance’s Andy Kyriacou, Punk poet and former Stone Roses’ manager Garry Johnson, and producer Kevin Porée, who recently worked with Gary Barlow on Paul Young’s contribution to the Fly album, ‘People Like You’. With some more great interviews lined up this weekend, I  almost forgot to mention another project with which I am involved.

Madam Popoff Vintage in Margate and I are collaborating on an 80’s photoshoot in the seaside town next month. If you, or someone you know, are aged between 16 and 25, and would like to take part in the shoot on 5th April, then send us a photo via social media or email: admin@my-eighties.co.uk, and we’ll be in touch. Thanks!

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Down To Margate

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As a teenager, I loved going to Margate. Half an hour’s train ride from my home town of Faversham, the summer holidays would see me at the seaside town as often as I could. Long, sunny days spent at Dreamland (or Bembom Brothers, as it became during the 80s), an ice cream on the sandy beach, and buying cheap sunglasses and t-shirts from the souvenir shops in Arlington Square are forever etched in my memory.

Margate may have changed in the last three decades, but with the renovation and re-opening of Dreamland last year, some fantastic artwork on display at the Turner Contemporary (Grayson Perry’s ‘Provincial Punk’ exhibition last summer was incredible), and an ever-expanding Vintage Quarter to peruse, that change is for the better.

I have been invited to attend a Retro Event at one of the vintage stores thriving in this area of Margate, and will be signing copies of ‘Your Eighties’ from 2-4pm at Madam Popoff, on Saturday 30th April.

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However, I plan to be there most of the day to meet the celebrity guests who will making appearances throughout the day. I am also looking forward to meeting up with my fellow New Haven Publishing author, Garry Johnson, who will be signing copies of his book ‘Punk Rock Stories and Tabloid Tales’, and with Bob Bradbury from Glam Rock band Hello, who will be signing copies of his first solo CD album ‘Mad Affair’. Full guest list and timings will be announced nearer to the event, but it plans to be a fabulous afternoon for anyone with an interest in all things retro and vintage, with clothes and accessories from the 1940s onwards available for purchase.

Entry is free, so come along and join in the fun – I look forward to seeing you there!