Over To You

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It has been a while since my last blog post as I have been kept busy with the My 80s radio show for Mad Wasp Radio. Following the popularity of the Christmas show’s Favourite Five, which was chosen by a listener, it was recently decided that more listeners should have the opportunity of sharing their choices. Therefore, starting this month, the Favourite Five in the last show of every month will be selected by a listener.

If you would like to share your Favourite Five 80’s tracks, and chat about them on air, just let me know what you think was the worst thing about the Eighties. It can be anything … fashion, music, TV, a world event … you decide, and let me know via Facebook, on Twitter or my website. Each month I will choose a listener to come on My 80s and talk about their Favourite Five and, of course, play the tracks on the show.

The only criteria for the songs you choose is that they must have been released during the Eighties, but they do no have to be Top 40 hits, and they can be album tracks. The rules may be simple but choosing the tracks is another matter. I know this from personal experience because this week I am choosing my Favourite Five.13920203_10209209306741332_983234055485719783_o

This Sunday’s show airs two days before my birthday, so I thought I would treat listeners to my my five all time favourite songs from the decade. I never knew what an agonising, decision-making task it would be! Joining me on this week’s show, and turning the tables on me by interviewing me, is Owen Paul. So, to hear not only my top tunes but Owen Paul in the DJ seat, listen in from 7pm on Sunday.

Speak soon!

 

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The Only Way Is Nub

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Tonight sees the launch of Nub TV, an hour long show “aimed at the 40 plus audience who are being starved of the music they love”. Hosted by TV veteran Steve Blacknell, it airs at 10pm on Sky 212, Freesat 161, Freeview 254 and globally online at Showcase TV. Joining Steve in the Millbank studios over the next few weeks will be an array of familiar faces from the Seventies and Eighties, including Joan Armatrading,  Leee John, Rick Buckler and the first show’s special guests John Otway and John Altman. Add to that the lovably eccentric house band The Pocket Gods, a selection of the latest video releases and a small but perfectly formed studio audience, and you have the ideal way to round off your weekend’s television viewing.

I was invited to appear as a guest on the programme, alongside Eighties’ favourites Owen Paul and Junior Giscombe. Our show, which airs on 27th November, was fantastic fun to record as you can see from the photos below. Knowing the music, chat and laughs that are in our show, I can’t wait to see tonight’s debut broadcast.

Photos: cjansenphotography.com

 

 

 

 

Launch Time

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A London launch party at the Vinyl Bar, hosted by TV presenter Steve Blacknell, celebrated the release of The 80’s Annual on 1st November. Guests including Jona Lewie, John Otway, Owen Paul, Modern Romance’s Andy Kyriacou and Department S joined me in an evening of nostalgia, as features from the annual were shared against a backdrop of some of the decade’s best music videos.

Huge thanks to everyone who came to the event and made it such a success.

 

Buy your copy of The 80’s Annual from the Book Depository, Amazon, Waterstones and independent book stores.

I’d Rather Jack Up The 80s

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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.

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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’!

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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

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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’.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Going Ga Ga For Radio

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

I Just Can’t Wait ‘Til Saturday

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With only a couple of days to go until ‘Your Eighties’ is published, and everything organised for the launch party, the excitement has started to kick in. As much as I’m looking forward to my book being unleashed on the public, I can’t wait to see my party guests. Friends old and new are making their way to east Kent, to join me in the celebrations.

Travelling down from the north west are my Scouse friends, who I first met in 1986. Anyone remember the penpal section in Smash Hits magazine? Well, my details appeared in an issue of the magazine earlier that year. I was inundated with replies from all over the world, and ended up with penpals in a number of countries, including Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Italy and France. However, My Favourite Waste of Time (we had been corresponding for a couple of months when the Owen Paul track was released) was a lad from Warrington, called John. We would usually reply the same  day we received a letter, so by the time we finally got to meet, just after Christmas ’86, we were old friends.

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L-R: John, Me and Wayne

John arrived with three of his mates, Wayne, Terry and Tommy in a Nissan Sunny driven by Wayne, the only one of the four old enough to drive. It was the first of many meetings which would see us together during the Eighties. Along with their visits to Kent were my visits north, the first of which was with my friend Kate, and involved us travelling on a National Express coach, and Wayne huffing and stamping his feet when we finally arrived over an hour late! These were the days before mobile ‘phones, and we had no way of letting him know we were held up in traffic. By the time 1989 arrived, I was the proud owner of an Austin Allegro, and we drove to see our northern friends. After a fantastic time, which saw us on the ferry ‘cross the Mersey, being given the lads’ guided tour of Toxteth (!), and hanging out with Kirsty from Brookside at a house party, we made the drive home. Thanks to mechanical problems with my prized piece of British engineering, it was an arduous 9 hour journey on a scorching hot summer’s day. That didn’t put us off returning though.

During other visits, we went to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the Brookside set (although unlike ‘normal’ sightseers, we accessed it by climbing through the adjoining woods!), and West Kirby beach to do handbrake turns in Terry’s black Manta! Although we have stayed in touch, I haven’t seen Wayne since 1996, and John and Terry a few years before that. So, the fact that the three of them are coming to the launch party, along with all my other fabulous guests, puts a huge smile on my face. Roll on Saturday!

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