Ladies That Launch

Standard

Tomorrow sees the launch of the third and final book in my trilogy on 80’s popular culture, More Eighties. Available in paperback or kindle version, the book exCover imageplores how the decade provided a backdrop against which creativity and individuality flourished, the social and political factors which shaped the music of a generation, the changing role and influence of record companies, and why the era remains a golden age for so many of us.

Reflecting the diversity of the UK charts during that time, More Eighties offers recollections, insights and observations from those at the forefront of British music during the most exciting, transitional period in its history, and features interviews with David Ball (Soft Cell), Martyn Ware (Heaven 17), Dave Wakeling (The Beat), Pauline Black (The Selecter), Eddi Reader (Fairground Attraction) Rusty Egan (Visage), Jona Lewie, Suzi Quatro, Junior Giscombe, Ian Donaldson (H2O), Karel Fialka, Andy Kyriacou (Modern Romance) and Nathan Moore (Brother Beyond), along with a foreword and commentary by Peter Coyle, former lead singer of the Lotus Eaters, songwriter, and the man responsible for introducing karaoke to the city of Liverpool, completing the eclectic mix. Having recently received and read his copy, Peter remarked that More Eighties “is a gem of a book”. I hope you will think so too.

To mark the book’s release, I will be having a celebratory ‘launch lunch’ tomorrow with friends, whose support has been invaluable during the writing of More Eighties, followed by more radio interviews later in the week. Details and photos to follow on social media.

Advertisements

More Eighties

Standard

Few authors will confess to having a favourite amongst their own books. It’s almost an unspoken rule that such an admission is akin to admitting to having a favourite child. (On the off-chance either of my kids are reading this, I love you both the same!) However, with the forthcoming publication of my next book, I can show no such impartiality in my work, as this has been the most interesting, rewarding and fun to research and write.

The final book in my trilogy on Eighties’ popular culture, More Eighties will be published by Fabrian Books on 16th May, 2017. Featuring interviews with Eighties’ artists including Dave Ball, Martyn Ware, Pauline Black, Dave Wakeling, Eddi ReadCoverer, Suzi Quatro, Rusty Egan, Jona Lewie, Junior Giscombe and Nathan Moore, the book explores how the decade provided a backdrop against which creativity and individuality flourished.  The role and influence of the record companies is also examined, along with a look at why music from the era has not only endured but grown in popularity.

In addition to contributing his insights, anecdotes and recollections of the Eighties, former Lotus Eaters lead singer Peter Coyle has written the foreword for More Eighties, perfectly capturing the core of the book’s objective. Another reason this book is top of my list.

I will keep you posted about details such as when it becomes available for pre-order and outlets, but I am happy to be able to reveal the cover for More Eighties today. Look out for it coming your way soon.

 

 

I’d Rather Jack Up The 80s

Standard

Some summers remain firmly fixed in our memories, as vivid as the days we experienced them. For me, my first teenage summer in 1984 was long, hot days spent soaking up the sun, set against a backdrop of some of the best music of the decade: Prince, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and my favourite track of the Eighties, The Kane Gang’s ‘Closest Thing To Heaven’. Ten years later, the music had taken a backseat and cooling shade had become my best friend, as I enjoyed my first summer with my baby daughter. Fast forward to 2016, when both my adult children had flown the nest, and I found myself travelling back three decades, listening to the music of my youth in glorious sunshine.

The reason for this fabulous blast from the past was the Jack Up The 80s festival on the Isle of Wight. Now in its fourth year, the event was held on 13th and 14th August. Set in beautiful countryside on the outskirts of Newchurch, it was blessed with fantastic weather as well as some outstanding performances.

P1000096.JPG

Fun in the sun at Jack Up The 80s

Strolling across the festival field when I arrived on Saturday, I was greeted by the sounds of local band High School Never Ends. The duo, who were also the opening act the next day, brought us some great rock classics from the likes of Billy Idol and Twisted Sister. Although I’m not too sure about their inclusion of Partners In Kryme’s ‘Turtle Power’!

P1000091 (800x534)

Ska’d For Life’s Charissa Bartram (Sax), Ben Bartram (trombone) & Russ Osman (trumpet)

From Rock to Ska, both days saw local band Ska’d For Life take to the stage next. Delivering all the favourites from the likes of The Specials and Madness, the band went down a storm with the crowd who, by the end of the set, were more than ready for what the rest of the day had to offer.

Saturday saw Light of The World kick off things for the 80’s acts. Dressed in sharp silver suits, reminiscent of my clubbing days, Nat Augustin and Gee Bello looked as good and smooth as they sounded.

Montage 2.jpg

L-R: Nat Augustin, Gee Bello, Myles Kane, Jimmy Chambers & Jimmy Helms

The same can undoubtedly be said for Londonbeat, who were next in the running order. Dressed in brilliant white, the trio, led by the ever-youthful Jimmy Helms, delighted us with a pitch perfect acapella rendition of ‘9 A.M. (The Comfort Zone)’ ahead of a soulful and upbeat set, which included their 1990 No. 2 hit ‘I’ve Been Thinking About You’.

P1000183 (800x684)

Clark spies me behind the camera

A short break as instruments were set up on stage, and then we saw Johnny Hates Jazz make an appearance. A well-balanced mix of old and new, we heard 1987 hits ‘Turn Back The Clock’ and  ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Hero’ alongside contemporary tracks like the 2013 release ‘Magnetized’. I had interviewed lead singer Clark Datchler earlier in the day, but was nonetheless surprised when he spotted me taking photos at the front of the stage, during the band’s performance of  ‘Shattered Dreams’.

As the set drew to a close, I made my way over to Phil and Bruce, a couple of twenty-somethings I had interviewed earlier for The 80’s Annual, who were working on the Pizzeria van.

P1000106 (800x515)

Bruce (L), Phil (centre) and the Pizza boys

Returning with my takeaway food to the backstage tent, skillfully designed by Jo Monck in a Royal Wedding theme, I found it to be empty except for one other person. And that is how I came to be eating pizza on a sunny August afternoon, as Paul Young snoozed on the sofa behind me. I did toy with the idea of waking him, to inform him of the interesting fact that his birthday is the day after mine, but knowing what I am like when I’m tired thought it best to let sleeping singers lie!

The arrival of From The Jam and Leo Sayer on site soon saw the backstage buzz return, and it wasn’t long before we were presented with the opportunity to photograph three musical greats together.

P1000206 (800x559)

Bruce Foxton, Paul Young and Leo Sayer

To say that meeting Leo Sayer was a pleasure is an understatement. P1000179 (800x787)After this photo was taken, we spent some time discussing the writing talents of Billy Nicholls, who wrote the singer’s 1978 No. 6 hit single ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ and whom I had met the previous month, when he performed with old friends Slim Chance. Saturday’s headliner treated us to tracks from across four decades, including ‘One Man Band’, ‘More Than I Can Say’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’, and more than deserved his top billing. However, for me, it was the preceding two acts who ranked highest.

Rounding off the afternoon’s performances in style was Paul Young, who was joined by fellow Los Pacaminos member, guitarist Jamie Moses. Anyone who has witnessed them playing in the side project they founded in 1992, will be familiar with the camaraderie between the pair. As the singer launched into some of the hits from his solo career, including ‘Love of The Common People’, ‘Every Time You Go Away’ and ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’ that friendship was never more evident. Perhaps more used to having underwear thrown at him during the Eighties, Paul looked somewhat bemused when a woolly hat landed at his feet. He placed the winter attire on the head of guitarist Dale Davis who, unable to remove the knitwear whilst playing, continued to wear it for a number of tracks, much to the amigos’ amusement.

PY

Dale Davis wears the woolly hat that put a smile on the faces of Paul Young and Jamie Moses

The hilarity reached even greater heights after a wardrobe malfunctionP1000308.JPG occurred during the performance of ‘I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down’. Sitting on the edge of the stage to deliver the second half of the song, the singer leaned back to put even more power behind the vocal. I think he must haveP1000313.JPG felt something snap at this point, because when Paul stood up, those of us close to the stage could see his belt had broken.

Anyone who was not aware of the situation was soon put fully in the picture, thanks to Jamie’s on stage antics, as shown in the video below. Ever the professional, Mr. Young left to make a swift costume change, returning sporting a new, shiny belt.

Clothing capers and band chemistry aside (although the latter is undeniably an integral feature that only serves to enhance the overall performance) this was an amazing set of classic Paul Young tracks, which all his fans in the audience (including me) will treasure. It was only surpassed, by the very tiniest of margins, by that of From The Jam.

Featuring a current line-up of Bruce Foxton, Russell Hastings, Mike Randon (drums) and Andy Fairclough (Hammond organ) the band went straighP1000557 (800x607)t in for the kill, opening with their 1982 chart topper ‘A Town Called Malice’. Hit after hit followed, including ‘David Watts’, ‘Going Underground’, ‘Beat Surrender’, ‘That’s Entertainment’, ‘Eton Rifles’ and an encore of ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’. Totally mesmerised by the band playing just feet away from me, I remained in my photographic vantage point at the front of the stage throughout the whole performance.

Whilst there, I noticed a change in the chants emanating from behind me. Cries of “We love you, Paul” had beenP1000580 (738x800) replaced by gruff, one-word shouts of “Bruce” and “Russell”. Glancing over my shoulder, I took in the now predominantly male contingent stood at the barriers. This is what they had been waiting for all day long, and who could blame them?
Russell Hastings fronts the band in a way we would have thought inconceivable during the Eighties, spitting out lyrics with a force and passion of which Weller himself would be proud. Bruce Foxton retains his iconic status in my eyes, a genius bass player who twice performed his famous mid-air jumps during the set.

FTJ.jpg

One of the most animated drummers I have ever seen live, Mike Randon plays with a fervour better associated with musicians whose instruments afford them mobility around the stage, as was the case with Andy Fairclough. Watching him furiously strike the keys, it felt almost as if he was imprisoned by his keyboards, his frenetic playing his only chance of escape.

The whole effect was an explosive, exciting and capivating display of some of the best songs to come out of the Eighties. How would Sunday compare?

P1000613 (3) (800x695)

Mike Randon, Andy Fairclough, Russell Hastings & Bruce Foxton after From The Jam’s set

The second day of the festival saw the 80’s artists begin with Nathan Moore who, inP1000744.JPG addition to singing the Brother Beyond tracks ‘The Harder I Try’ and ‘He Ain’t No Competition’ brought us The Gap Band’s ‘Oops Upside Your Head’. In no time, huge rows of festival-goers were sat on the ground,  floor-dancing to the Rowing Boat Song. A crowd pleaser if ever I saw one.

Next on stage was a man whose No. 3 single ‘My Favourite Waste of Time’ becameP1000861.JPG synonymous with the Summer of ’86. It is hard to believe that 30 years have passed since then, but as Owen sang the catchy track and the sun shone down, I was once again 15 years old.  The Glaswegian singer, who also performs alongside his brother, ex-Simple Minds drummer Brian McGee, in the band XSM included in his set ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ and ‘The Living Years’, a song he perfected during his time spent with Mike and The Mechanics. He handed over a well warmed up audience to Phil Fearon.

The Galaxy frontman, who featured dance floor acrobatics in his 80’s appearances, may have put his backflips on hold but little else has changed in the past three decades.P1010009.JPG Looking considerably younger than his 60 years, Phil sported that 80’s favourite fashion combo of t-shirt and suit, as he delivered a feel good set of disco tracks such as ‘Everbody’s Laughing’, ‘I Can Prove It’ and ‘Dancing Tight’. He set the scene perfectly for Bizarre Inc. vocalist Angie Brown.

Accompanied by sons Cuba (11) and Charlie (8P1010047 (573x800)), the singing sensation showed she had lost none of her extensive vocal range over the years, as she powered out ‘I’m Gonna Get You’, watched proudly by her boys from behind the stage curtains. They gave no clue when I photographed them that minutes later they would be joining their mother for a rendition of Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’. Performing obviously runs in their genes, and as the mini entertainers returned backstage, I remarked that it looked like they had enjoyed themselves, to which Cuba replied “Yes, that’s why I do it for no charge.” A star in the making, surely. A little while later, Charlie, who has to be the most eloquent 8-year-old I have ever encountered, engaged me in conversation. Flitting between topics such as his ambition to be an Olympic gymnast or a dancer, and favourite annual events (he argued a very convincing case for Hallowe’en), I was only reminded of his young age when he burst into a fit of giggles, upon hearing Denise Pearson working through her vocal exercises at the far end of the tent.

Boys.jpg

Stars in the making: Angie Brown’s sons Cuba (left) and Charlie

Five Star were due on stage after tribute band Abba Chique. While the faux Swedish singers performed, I chatted with more of the colourful crowd. From families to groups of friends, forty-somethings and older to my kids’ generation and younger, everyone was brimming with praise for the festival. Whether it was the provision of children’s lunch boxes, reasonably priced catering or simply “bloody good music”, the general consensus was a big thumbs up for Jack Up The 80s. I have to say, I agree.

As with any retro festival, the weekend also presented us with more than a smattering of neon and a plethora of fancy dress. I spoke to Mr. T. a.k.a. Michael Bending from Northampton. The 46-year-old has appeared at Jack Up The 80s dressed as The A-Team’s B. A. Baracus for the past four years. At least he never had to get on no plane for the 300 mile round trip!

Fancy dress.jpg

Some of the outfits worn by Jack Up The 80s festival-goers

P1010091 (693x800).jpg

Buster Bloodvessel with his copy of ‘Your Eighties’

Returning to the backstage area, I discovered that Bad Manners had recently arrived. Having greeted the band, I gave Buster Bloodvessel a copy of my book ‘Your Eighties’, for which I had interviewed him almost two years ago. Much to the group’s amusement, I then made the mistake of asking “Can I have a photo of you holding it?” Naming no names, but a certain saxophonist has a particularly smutty mind!

Leaving the boys to enjoy their backstage banter, I returned to the front of the stage to await Five Star, who were minus Doris that day. In her place was Kerry, who sang and danced with the same highly polished quality we have come to associate with the Pearson siblings.

Opening with their 1986 Top 10 single ‘Can’t Wait Another Minute’ and finishing with their biggest hit ‘Rain or Shine’, the quartet also featured a number of superb cover versions in their set, such as Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’ and Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’.

five star.jpg

Feeling the love at Jack Up The 80s: Five Star’s Stedman, Delroy and Denise Pearson

Looking every bit as good as they sounded, and executing each dance routine in complete synchronicity, it was apparent that their dedication to achieving entertainment perfection was equal to their dedication to each other.

P1010255.JPG

Bad Manners drummer Mark Hamilton

Minutes after Five Star left the stage, drummer Mark Hamilton was warming up backstage ahead of his performance with Bad Manners. Ripples of anticipation spread amongst the crowd as Ska fans made their way forwards, eagerly awaiting Sunday’s headliners.

Before you could say “Lip Up Fatty”, the band bounded on stage and the party started. Buster saluted the audience with his pint of lager before transporting them back to the early Eighties with tracks like ‘Special Brew’, ‘Walking In The Sunshine’ and ‘Fatty Fatty’, alongside later material such as the 1992 release ‘Feel Like Jumping’. And jump they did.Bad Manners.jpg

Like a bunch of tequila-fuelled schoolboys, the band bounced, ran and laughed their way through the final show of the weekend, and we loved them for it. Watching the crowd, arms aloft, singing and dancing along, with the biggest of grins on their faces, I could think of no better choice of act to finish this nostalgia-fest. More than the skilled musicianship, which these guys have in heaps, this was about fun with a capital ‘F’.Bad Manners 2.jpg

That evening, I left the festival field feeling years younger, having gained some very special memories, not to mention some special friends. What better motivation for you all to descend on Isle of Wight next August, for Jack Up The 80s Volume 5? I’ll see you there.

 

 

Announcing The 80’s Annual

Standard

After months of researching and writing, today I can finally reveal the project on which I have been working. The 80’s Annual is a fun mix of everything we loved back in the day, combined with news and views from 80’s artists on 2016 and beyond. As a huge fan of the decade, I have endeavoured to put together something I would want to read, so I’m hoping it will appeal to all you 80’s fans too.

Here’s the publis1980s annual cover (2)her’s blurb to tell you a bit more about it:

A full-colour retrospective of the year, with more than a nod to the teenage magazines of the era, The 80’s Annual embodies the excitement felt by the generation who grew up receiving an annual at Christmas. Featuring celebrity commentary on 80’s popular culture, 20 Question interviews, Top Tens, with contributions from Bruce Foxton, The Selecter, Johnny Hates Jazz, Musical Youth, Londonbeat, Then Jerico, Phil Fearon, Brother Beyond, Modern Romance, John Parr, Paul Hardcastle, Hazell Dean, Steve Blacknell, Garry Bushell, Matthew Rudd and more. Not forgetting the obligatory cheesy photo story, 80’s fiction, crosswords, puzzles, and quizzes including Lyrically Challenged, Pop Quiz and Which 80’s Group Are You? The 80’s Annual offers the perfect combination of nostalgia and new. A great read for every adult 80’s child. Going back to the 80s has never been so much fun!

The 80’s Annual will be published by New Haven Publishing on 1st November, and is currently available for pre-order from Waterstones.

 

 

Much Moore Than The Competition

Standard

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’.

DSC00037 (2).jpg

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.

DSC00040.JPG

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.

DSC00061.JPG

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!

Going Ga Ga For Radio

Standard

Well, the snow held off for my birthday, and I’ve had the most fantastic weekend celebrating it. Saturday was spent being thoroughly spoilt by my kids, then an evening of karaoke – my birthday rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody was indeed a treat for everyone present! Yesterday (or my Birthday Boxing Day, as we call it in our family) was a somewhat surreal experience, as the radio of my teenage years became real life.

Arriving in Camden for the Great British Radio Reunion at The Jazz Cafe, I was twenty minutes early so popped into a nearby coffee shop to keep warm and check I looked presentable. As I stood in the small queue for the single, unisex toilet that served the cafe, I noticed a group of gentleman sat inches away from me. I don’t know what you call a collection of radio DJs. A broadcast? A transmission? Whatever it is, I had stumbled upon one of the best – Paul Burnett, Mike Read, Ian Damon  and Tim Jibson. Paul invited me to join them, and as I sat down with the group, Showaddywaddy’s Dave Bertram turned up! Like I said, surreal.

We arrived at the venue at the same time as a number of other DJs, including Andy Peebles and Roger Day, who tried to convince the doormen I was his wife, in a futile attempt to get me indoors more quickly. The guest list hadn’t arrived at the door, and without a BBC pass to flash at security, I was amongst those having to wait a minute until we were given the go ahead. Still, I was in good company, and for the rest of the day, I was Roger’s pseudo wife!

DJs

Clockwise from top left: Roger Day, Johnnie Walker, Adrian ‘Ade The Shades’ John, Adrian Juste, Mike Read, Paul Burnett and David ‘Kid’ Jensen

As more and more guests arrived, I soon found myself surrounded by voices of the airwaves – Kid Jensen, Graham Dene, Tony Prince, and Shaun Tilley, who always seemed to be on hand whenever I needed someone to take a photo – thanks Shaun! I also managed to grab conversations with the two Adrians, Juste and John, both an integral part of my Radio 1 listening during the Eighties. Then, there was the man who everyone wanted to meet, Johnnie Walker. Magnetically charismatic, he seemed to have the ability to attract people from across the room, regardless of who they were. I won’t name names, but I wasn’t the only guest to have a big grin on my face when they met him. And what an eclectic bunch, the guests were.

Representing the 80’s music contingent were Brother Beyond’s Nathan Moore, Dr. & The Medics’ Clive Jackson, Martin Fry, Phil Fearon, Owen Paul, David Van Day, and Eddie Lundon of China Crisis, with the 70’s and earlier being represented by Tina Charles, Linda Lewis, Jimmy Helms, Hello’s Bob Bradbury, The Foundations’ Clem Curtis, The Searchers’ Frank Allen, and Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry, to name but a few.

Music

Clockwise from top left: Nathan Moore, Clive Jackson, Eddie Lundon, Adrian Juste, Owen Paul, Dave Bartram, Jona Lewie, Tina Charles, Graham Fenton, Jimmy Helms, David Van Day,  and Linda Lewis.

Amongst an onstage celebrity Pop Quiz, which saw Jona Lewie, Eddie Lundon and Sally Geeson take on Dave Bartram, Stephanie de Sykes and Beverley Craven,  a tribute to Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart, and numerous performances by a plethora of singers and musicians, there were two personal favourites for me. First was Graham Fenton of Matchbox singing Rockabilly Rebel and When You Ask About Love, which immediately transported me back to a time when I was at primary school, and still in single figures. The second was Angie Brown performing Bizarre Inc’s 1992 hit I’m Gonna Get You, a track synonymous with my clubbing days. Although, I never dreamt that I would be watching Angie performing it live, whilst dancing away between The Reverend Doctor and Sixties’ songstress Billie Davis. What a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon – I can’t wait ’til next year!

Click here to see the full list of presenters and performers at this year’s Great British Radio Reunion.