Festival Life’s A Beach

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Back in the summer, I spent  a week in Looe, Cornwall and I fell in love with the place. We didn’t have the best of weather. The average temperature was ten degrees lower than my native Kent I’d left behind, and we had rain and fog on ctcmdjcxgaa7qjga couple of days. Yet, offering the friendliest of welcomes and boasting picture postcard views, not to mention a bountiful supply of crab, pasties and cream teas, this beautiful Cornish town won me over. I could not wait to return at the end of September, to cover the Looe Music Festival.

I did consider the possibility that, with thousands of music lovers descending upon Looe, the town I remembered may not be the one I would be greeted with a couple of months later. However, that fear was soon allayed on Friday morning as I watched the final preparations being made for the first night of the festival. In addition to the main stage, which is situated on the town’s golden, sandy beach, there are a number of venues located throughout the town, hosting the 90 acts playing over the three days. Experience combined with necessity means the festival management and its team run as a finely honed machine, to ensure events run smoothly, on time and, most importantly, enjoyably.

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Interviewing Neville Staple

With so much to choose from, it was inevitable that some clashes arose, as was the case on Friday night. The following day, a number of people told me how good Ferocious Dog had been when they performed  on the main stage. However, I hadn’t made it down to the beach until the evening’s headliner, Wilko Johnson, made his appearance. He far exceeded any expectations I had, and seeing his live performance of  “Roxette” is a memory I will cherish.

The reason I had not made it to the main stage until the former Dr. Feelgood guitarist was giving it his all was due to my penchant for 80’s music and ska. The NeDSC00672.JPGville Staple Band were performing in the Champion Marquee, so it was obvious where I was going to be. Add to that the opportunity to interview the Original Rude Boy himself, and it was a complete no-brainer.

The band’s performance, despite a few technical hitches, went down a storm with the crowd. A real highlight for me was dancing (I hesitate to call the moves I made skanking!) to Concrete Jungle, just feet away from the band. I should also mention that the backing vocals from keyboard player Joe Atkinson, on Ghost Town, need to heard to be believed.  As close to the original recording as you could ever hope to hear.

On Saturday, I was determined to experience as many of the variety of acts as possible, and immerse myself in the musical diversity on offer. I made a good start when I went to watch Bideford Pies and Drams at Portbyhan Hotel in West Looe. They began with songs traditionally associated with the bagpipes, such as Amazing Grace, and I thought they were joking when they asked if anyone had any requests. The next thing I knew, I was listening to a somewhat different, but splendid, version of Queen’s We Will Rock You. It perfectly set the tone for the most brilliantly eclectic day of music I could ever imagine.

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En route to the main stage, we encountered a number of talented street musicians, some of them playing by the Busk Stops scattered throughout the town. You will be pleased to learn that I refrained from inflicting my own vocal talents on passers by, when I found a vacant stop!

Billed as having not “only ‘white hot’metal blood running through their veins [but] a passion of the most intense kind in never ending abundance,” local band King Creature had me intrigued before they had even set foot on the stage.

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Dave Kellaway and Matt Karl Vincent

After powering their way through ‘Dead Inside’ the Cornish rockers, comprising of lead singer/bass player Dave Kellaway, drummer Jack Bassett and guitarists Matt Karl Vincent and Dave Evans, had me hooked.  Pure, unadulterated rock played loud, raw and fast, with the obligatory power ballad ‘Can You Forgive Me?’ the jewel in King Creature’s crown, their set was not only high-octane and dynamic but irresistibly seductive. Needless to say, they have a new fan in me.dsc00726

In stark contrast, the next act to take to the beach-side stage was Scottish singer and song writer Eddi Reader. The former lead singer with Fairground Attraction appeared almost ethereal as the breeze blew in off the sea,  and sang “The Patience of Angels” – a truly heavenly experience. Delighting us with little anecdotes in between favourites such as ‘Perfect’and ‘Find My Love’, the flame-haired songstress was as entertaining as she was talented. A totally feel good performance.

A divergence in musical styles again, Hersham boys Sham 69 were next to play. I loved the incongruity of me sipping Prosecco as I sang along to tracks like “If The Kids Are United” and “Hurry Up Harry”. Although I wasn’t quite so enamoured with the decline in weather, as the band came to the end of their performance. Taking refuge in the nearby Boscarn pub as the rain came shooting down, I only heard snippets of Seth Lakeman’s set on the few occasions when I stucimg_20160924_225222k my head out to check if the weather had improved.

It was still bucketing it down five minutes before Bryan Ferry was due on stage at 9pm. However, determined to see the former Roxy Music frontman perform on the eve of his 71st birthday, we made our way onto the sodden sands. By the time he emerged, 40 minutes later than scheduled, I thought I had reached saturation point. I was wrong. After only three songs, two of which were 80’s hits ‘Slave To Love’ and ‘Don’t Stop The Dance’, we became part of a mass exodus from the beach, as torrential rain flooded the streets of Looe and put paid to any notions I had of watching that night’s performance until the end.

Waking up on Sunday morning, a pile of soggy clothes and hair like Robert Smith’s were the only reminders I had of the previous night’s drenching, as the sun shone brightly in the cloudless, blue sky. Arriving back at the main stage around lunchtime, shortly after Alex Hart had begun singing, I sat down with a little beach picnic of freshly made Looe crab sandwich and a glass of Prosecco (there’s a bit of a theme going here!), as the autumn sun beat down on my face. This was my kind of festival.dsc00776

The day got even better when 80’s psychobilly band King Kurt took to the stage later that afternoon. Slightly tamer than their gigs of three decades ago – thankfully, there were no cat entrails to dodge or haircuts given to the crowd mid-set – it was still one of my favourite performances of the weekend. I found myself grinning from ear to ear as they brought us tracks like ‘Zulu Beat’, ‘Do The Rat’ as well as their 1983 Top 40 single ‘Destination Zululand’, and was not alone in singing “Ooh wallah wallah” for a considerable time afterwards.

I returned to the main stage for Sunday’s headline act, Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Fronted by the incredibly cool Huey Morgan, they did not disappoint as they delivered UK Top 30 hits ‘Scooby Snacks’, ‘King of New York’ and ‘The Fun Lovin’ Criminal’. However, my day was made by an earlyDSC00796.JPG evening performance in the Champion Marquee.

Sixties’ actress and singer Anita Harris treated us to a variety of songs, including ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, ‘Memory’ and ‘All That Jazz’, plus a number of tales from her long showbiz career. For me, the highlight of the evening came when Anita told us how Dusty Springfield gifted her a song written by the late singer’s brother, Tom. That song was ‘Just Loving You’, a track I know word-for-word thanks to listening to my parents’ vinyl collection from a young age. I never thought I would one day get to see it performed live, so it was a very special moment for me, and one which proves how the diverse mix of music on offer at Looe Music Festival ensures there is more than something for everyone. I can’t wait to return next year.

 

 

 

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From Top of The Pops to Tour Bus

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For many of us growing up during the Eighties, Top of The Pops was eagerly awaited Thursday night viewing. Some performances remain as fresh in our minds as the day we first saw them. Who can forget Culture Club’s debut on the show, and the subsequent discussions about Boy George’s gender the following day at school? Then there was Adam Ant’s performance of Goody Two Shoes, when he danced across the studio from stage to stage wearing those red leather trousers. For me, The Beat’s appearance in May 1983, when they first performed Can’t Get Used To Losing You on the programme, has always held a special place in my heart. As a 12-year-old girl watching Dave Wakeling perched on a stool, looking down the camera with a cheeky glint in his eye, I was left with an indelible imprint on my memory. You can imagine then how I was feeling when I stepped onto The English Beat’s tour bus to interview him for my next book.

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On  board the tour bus with Dave Wakeling

Any nerves I may have had soon disappeared as we got chatting … and chat we did, covering everything from politics, racism and Greenpeace to his Vox teardrop guitar, musical influences and songwriting. In fact, there wasn’t much we didn’t cover in our hour and a half interview, all of which you will be able to read about next year when More Eighties is published. Having finished our interview, I was delighted when Dave invited me to the band’s gig that evening.

Based in California, The English Beat were in Folkestone, Kent to headline the Skabour festival, as part of their current UK tour. Fronted by the Brummie singer, the band comprises Matt Morrish on saxophone, Kevin Lum and Minh Quan on keyboards, Nucci Cantrell on drums, Brad Engstrom on bass and, with apparently limitless energy, King Schascha toasting.

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After The English Beat’s gig at Skabour, Folkestone

Bringing us all The Beat’s favourites, such as Mirror In The Bathroom, Stand Down Margaret, Too Nice To Talk To and Save It For Later (or Save It, Fellator according to Dave’s schoolboy humour!), the band delivered a top notch set that had everyone singing and dancing along. So much so, that I didn’t hesitate to accept an invitation to the band’s gig the next night at The Forum in Tunbridge Wells.

A more intimate venue than the previous evening, it was the perfect setting to perform new material Never Die. One of the tracks from a forthcoming album to be released next year (I’ve heard a preview of a few of the tracks and they are A-Ma-Zing!), Dave wrote the song in memory of his late father. Beautiful both lyrically and melodically, the song demonstrates not only a huge songwriting talent but a rare insight into love and life. It’s already a firm favourite with me.

The English Beat still have a week left of their UK Tour, so try to catch them before they head back over the Atlantic. The music is first class, the vibe is great and Dave Wakeling still has that twinkle in his eye.

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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.

 

 

This Is Ska

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Last year, I managed to persuade Arthur Kitchener to come out of his Ska retirement and perform with Kent-based band Skatacus, as part of the House of Ska event I had organised. It was a highlight of my gigging year, as I watched the Balham boy sing “Limehouse Lady”, a track he first recorded as Arthur Kay & The Originals.

I’m pleased to say that since then the “unsung hero of Ska” has been busy recording in Germany, and with a number of live performances, including the London Ska Festival in March. He has also recently announced a ‘Mark The Mods Ska & Soul Night’ on 2nd September. With live music from Arthur Kay & The Originals and Toot ‘N’ Skamen, the event also features a Northern Soul DJ set, as well as a few other treats which I’m not at liberty to divulge (yet!).

All proceeds will be donated to Pilgrims Hospices, and with tickets at just £10.00 it looks set to sell out quickly. Tickets are available online or from the local outlets shown below.

I look forward to seeing you there…

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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.

Ready To Launch

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With just over a week to go until ‘Your Eighties’ launch party, my life is currently a surreal mix of stress and excitement, with only the finest of lines between the two. Whilst any angst has manifested itself in the unlikeliest situations – yes, it really did matter that I had neon balloons to decorate the venue – my moments of elation have been somewhat more predictable.

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The arrival of the copies for the party put a huge smile on my face, and knowing a copy of ‘Your Eighties’ was making its way to the archives of the British Library left me grinning from ear to ear. The evening’s entertainment: live music courtesy of Skatacus, and Erkan Mustafa (Grange Hill’s Roland Browning) DJing an 80’s disco, plus guests making their way to Kent from all over the UK, are further reasons for me eagerly anticipating what promises to be a fantastic evening.

For a chance join in the fun and win a pair of tickets to my book launch party on 28th November, tell me about the best party you went to during the Eighties, in the comments box below.

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‘Your Eighties’ is available now for pre-order in paperback or on Kindle. Published by Fabrian Books: 28th November.

All Will Be Revealed…

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The past two weeks have been busy for me. As the publication date of ‘Your Eighties’ draws ever closer, I have found myself juggling a number of tasks with non-negotiable deadlines. Yesterday, all that time spent tweaking text, stressing over outcomes, and generally having a nervous breakdown every other day were blown into oblivion when I received my proof copy. Like the pain of childbirth disappearing as soon as a mother holds her baby, the hours I spent locked away from the outside world, in a blur of words, swearing under my breath (and more often out loud), faded to a distant memory as I held the fruits of my labour in my hands.

This Sunday (8th November), you will be able to see one of the reasons why I was so excited, when the book’s cover is revealed. ‘Your Eighties‘ will also be available for pre-order from Sunday, prior to its publication on Saturday 28th November. I eagerly await publication day as it is also when my book launch party will be held. With live music from Kent-based Ska band Skatacus, and an 80’s disco with none other than Erkan Mustafa (Grange Hill’s Roland Browning) on the decks, it promises to be a fantastic evening. It will also give me the chance to meet Natalie Owen, the talented designer of the book’s cover, and to catch up with neglected friends and family, who have commented on more than one occasion that they “need an appointment just to speak” to me!

One enjoyable aspect of my hectic schedule this week has been my interview with the Write Romantics. Last year, I contributed a short story to their anthology of Winter Fiction, published to raise funds for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust. This week, the Write Romantics invited me to talk about ‘Your Eighties’, and they are due to publish the interview on their blog this Saturday (7th November). They have the ability to tease out previously unrevealed disclosures from me, so I will be reading it with some trepidation! Let me know your thoughts…

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P.S. The Kindle version of ‘My Eighties’ is currently FREE on Amazon until ‘Your Eighties’ cover reveal on Sunday.