A Natty Eighties’ Design

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Regular readers of my blog will remember the competition we launched in the summer, to find the cover design for my next book “Your Eighties”. Today, I am delighted to announce the winner as 23 year old Natalie Owen.

Introduced to EightNatalie Owenies’ music by her parents at a young age, the Nottingham-based designer remembers dancing around the room to Altered Images’ “Happy Birthday” and Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” on repeat when she was about 3 years old. “My all time favourite song growing up was A-Ha’s “Take On Me”. The music video to it was the best,” enthuses Natalie.

A big fan of Eighties’ music, it was her Dad who told Natalie about the competition, then showed her some of his OMD and Midge Ure single covers, to inspire her winning creation. “I liked the bright colours, and wanted to design something that would make the book stand out to other books,” she told me.

Having studied graphic design at Nottingham Trent University, Natalie currently works as a design intern for Nottingham’s local magazine, The Left Lion, and as a marketing intern at the British Red Cross. Until “Your Eighties” is published at the end of November, you will have to take my word on how great Natalie’s design is, but her website shows other examples of her talent. An outstanding and vibrant composition, which perfectly captures the decade, both Fabrian Books and myself are thrilled her entry will be the cover for my next publication. I also look forward to meeting the young designer at the launch party in November, when she will receive one of the first copies of the book. No doubt, she will also join me on the dance floor when Erkan Mustafa (a.k.a. Grange Hill’s Roland Browning) will be DJing an Eighties’ disco, especially if he plays a certain track by his favourite songstress of the era, Clare Grogan!

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The Live Aid Legacy

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As a teenager in the mid-Eighties, I kept a diary from 1984 to 1986, recording in great detail the minutiae of daily life. Having recently stumbled across these journals, I have taken great delight in reliving the past of my youth. From watching “Morons From Outer Space” at the cinema on a Good Friday, to the changing shape of my favourite magazine: “Got my copy of Smash Hits, which was smaller than usual”; from drinking Martini and lemonade on a school trip to Germany, to the weather: “It’s very, very hot today, and I’m absolutely sweating buckets!”, every aspect of my teenage life had been documented in scrawly blue ink.

A self-confessed obsessive of Eighties’ culture, particularly the music of the decade, I was intrigued to see what I had scribbled as my entry for Saturday 13th July, 1985, when the “show that rocked the world” took place. Thirty years on, I can still remember the excitement I felt when I woke up the morning of Live Aid. This was going to be a show unlike any other, and I happily gave up the opportunity to top up my tan (unheard of for my teenage self), to sit in front of the TV in a darkened room. Excitedly turning the diary pages, in expectation of the lists of artists and their performances I had undoubtedly noted, along with long-forgotten titbits such as what colour over-sized bow Paula Yates had worn in her hair, I arrived at the relevant page. This is what I had written:

“I’ve been watching Live Aid all day. It’s 9.07 at the moment and I’ve seen all of it apart from 1½ hours which I taped [using our Betamax top-loading video recorder] and it’s all been really good. I aim to stay up until 4 o’clock tomorrow morning to watch the end of it.”

I cannot convey the disappointment I felt at my lacklustre description of a day that has held such a special place in my heart for the past three decades. Why hadn’t I written about the incongruity of seeing Charles and Diana’s stilted participation, as Status Quo opened the concert? Where was my rave review of Freddie Mercury’s fantastic performance with Queen, and reminiscences of how he had played up to the cameraman? What about the bit when Bob Geldof swore and told us to “give me your money!”? Surely I had noted that somewhere. Then, I realised that I had. The memories may not have made it to paper but, in my head, they were as fresh as the day they were made. Unlike those who make the mistake today of viewing a gig through their mobile ‘phones, and fail to enjoy the moment because they are too busy recording the event for posterity, I had mentally absorbed every last note and nuance of that day. This became even more apparent to me a few weeks ago.

I had interviewed 80’s TV presenter Steve Blacknell for my next book, “Your Eighties”. Some of you will remember Steve for his interview of Phil Collins during their transatlantic trip on Concorde, which enabled the Genesis frontman to make music history, by becoming the only musician to play at both Live Aid venues (Wembley Stadium in London, then JFK Stadium in Philadelphia). Whilst transcribing my interview with Steve, I tried in vain to find video footage of his ground-breaking Live Aid interview. I couldn’t understand why all I was able to find was the audio recording, set to video footage of Concorde flying through the clouds. After all, the image of Steve wearing one of his trademark gaudy shirts, whilst chatting away to Mr. Collins, was so vivid in my mind. Then, it suddenly hit me. My mind was the only place I would find that image. The technology for live, televised broadcasts from Concorde did not exist in 1985. The little video tape I was replaying was solely in my mind’s eye.

So, whilst it may be that celebrations of Live Aid’s 30th anniversary are somewhat more subdued than I believe such an event deserves, it lives on in the hearts and minds of a generation. Alongside the preceding Band Aid single in November 1984, Live Aid created a worldwide consciousness and responsibility for matters further afield than your own doorstep. It brought awareness to the masses, and made people believe that they could make a difference. Live Aid’s legacy lives on in ongoing charity fundraisers such as Comic Relief and Sports Aid, which have become a familiar and instantly recognisable means of raising money. So much so, that those too young to remember Live Aid may wonder just what all the fuss is about. Today, charity and entertainment form a reciprocal partnership, in which many are keen and happy to participate. A partnership that has its foundations in Live Aid, and the incredible performances it produced.

There was the battle of the big voices in Paul Young and Alison Moyet’s duet of the Marvin Gaye classic “That’s The Way Love Is”, not to mention the strut-off between Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, during their performance of “State of Shock”. Then we had Hollywood legends like Jack Nicholson, taking on cameo roles to introduce rock royalty, The Who. Not forgetting the all-star line up on stage at the Wembley finale, with David Bowie, George Michael, Sting and Paul Weller just a few of the Eighties’ finest singers joining Midge Ure and Bob Geldof to perform “Feed The World”. Just thinking about the day has made me want to see those performances again. Now, there’s an idea for a fundraising compilation DVD…

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!