Romancing The Eighties

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A defining period in Eighties’ music, the emergence of the New Romantics saw the visual vying for attention with what we were hearing. Arguably, more than at any other time before or since, image, style and fashion became an integral expression of creativity for artists and fans alike.

I was still at prsteve-strangeimary school when Adam Ant and Boy George entranced me with their glamorous outfits and perfect make-up. The fact that I loved their music too seemed almost incidental. Fascinated and inspired by them and the Blitz Kids, over whose pictures I would pore for hours, I first attempted emulating them when I was 11. During the summer holidays, between finishing primary and starting secondary school, I used a ‘Wash-In, Wash-Out’ plum hair colour, which lasted considerably longer than the name suggested. I was hooked! It was at least a decade before my hair returned to its natural colour, as I worked my way through every shade the shelves in Boots had to offer. Not to mention a few ‘unique’ hues too, the result of changing my mind and my hair colour too often.

My hair was short during the early Eighties, an homage to the Human League girls. Unfortunately, due to my natural curls, I tended to look more like Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore than Susanne Sulley. I may not have perfected  her look, or any of the other stars I saw on TV or in magazines, but I had great fun trying. Which is why I am thrilled to have been included in the following Trailblazers episode. Featuring commentary by Rusty Egan, Jeremy Healy, Princess Julia and Marilyn, the programme gives an insight into the New Romantic scene from those who were at the heart it. Enjoy.

My 80’s Non-Stop Oldies

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Recently, I was part of a discussion about radio stations playing 80’s music (quelle surprise!). The conversation soon got round to Sara Cox’s “Sounds of The 80s” show, which airs on Radio 2 every Saturday evening. I was reminded of the show’s launch, back in October 2013.

Ahead of the show’s debut, I was asked to prepare a playlist of my favourite Eighties’ tracks, to be played on Steve Wright’s show, during the Non-Stop Oldies feature, the day before Sara’s first show. I was to choose at least 15 tracks, although less than half of the songs would be played in the half hour time slot – oh, the pressure!

Days of deliberation resulted in a playlist I loved, and which I felt best encompassed my favourite decade – a delicate mix of pop, excess, camp and class! On the day of the show, I eagerly awaited to hear which of my tracks had been chosen. I wasn’t disappointed. It was fantastic to hear some of my favourite 80’s music being played again on national radio. A couple of tracks were omitted, which I would have liked to have heard: The Kane Gang’s “Closest Thing To Heaven” and Big Sound Authority’s “This House”, but I still enjoyed the selection. For anyone who missed it first time round, I have finally managed to upload a recording I made of the broadcast:

Apologies for the abrupt beginning and ending – my editing skills remain firmly in the Eighties, taping off the radio with my cassette recorder!

My 80’s Non-Stop Oldies:

Party Fears Two – Associates

War Baby – Tom Robinson

Come Dancing – The Kinks

My Favourite Waste of Time – Owen Paul

New England – Kirsty MacColl

Calling Your Name – Marilyn

The Bitterest Pill – The Jam

Band Aid 30

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It’s funny how today’s return to Sarm Studios, to record Band Aid 30, has brought memories of the recording of the original Band Aid single flooding back. The unprecedented collaboration of some of the biggesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAt names in music, and some of the biggest egos too, had me enthralled from the very beginning. Watching the news that evening in November 1984 was an overwhelming exercise in star-spotting, as the likes of Duran Duran, Paul Young, Spandau Ballet, George Michael, Sting and Boy George crossed my TV screen. As Paula Yates came into view, with a big 80’s bow in her hair, carrying baby Fifi Trixibelle, I felt so envious of her behind-the-scenes access. It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that I was first in the queue to buy the video of the making of the Band Aid single, to add to my collection of 7″ and 12″ singles, and Feed The World t-shirt.

Unfortunately, my family had chosen the loser in the VHS/Betamax video battle, so I’m no longer able to watch my video. I live in hope that one day I’ll find a working Betamax video player that does not cost a fortune, or is not sitting in a museum somewhere!

Band Aid Dolls

Those of you who are familiar with my writing, will know how having Mr. Geldof living nearby influenced my teenage years. However, you may not be aware of how far-reaching that influence became . I think describing my behaviour around that time as “obsessive” would not be an understatement. How many 14 year olds do you know who would spend hours creating a replica of the Band Aid line up out of wooden peg dolls??? All worth it though, when it won first prize a few months later at the Geldofs’ summer fête, and I was congratulated by Bob himself!

My obsession did have a less flippant side though, when it came to the Band Aid single itself. This manifested itself in me band aid VATorganising a petition, calling for Margaret Thatcher’s government to waive the VAT on the single. Remember, this was 1984, so no clicking online to “sign” a petition. I spent a week approaching strangers in Canterbury city centre and my home town of Faversham, as well as canvassing signatures at school, until I finally had over a thousand signatures, which I then sent to the Iron Lady.

The letter opposite was the reply I received from HM Customs & Excise in February 1985, in response to the petition. A long-winded way of saying “No”, the contents of it are summed up in its second paragraph: “The suggestion that either VAT should not be levied or that an amount equivalent to the VAT should be contributed to the relief  has been given very careful consideration by the Government but the conclusion reached is that it would be neither possible in practice – nor indeed right – to treat this fund-raising operation as a one-off case…If the principle of relief was extended generally, it would lead to a major commitment of taxpayers’ money which would have to be recouped by increases in taxation elsewhere.”

Thankfully, today’s recording will not be subject to such draconian judgement. Chancellor George Osborne confirmed this morning that VAT will be waived on the Band Aid 30 single, meaning every penny raised will go towards fighting the Ebola virus. With that in mind, I will again be one of the first in line to buy the single, even if it means having to watch the X Factor on Sunday night, when the single has its world premiere. The lengths I go to for Sir Bob!