Romancing The Eighties

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

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

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

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Trailblazers of Conscience Songs

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Below is the link for the second episode of Trailblazers I recorded for Sky Arts. It’s about songs of conscience or, as Billy Bragg says in the programme, the “kind of music that says something other than ‘I’m great, you’re shit. Do you like my socks?'”.

The Trials of Trailblazing

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As much as I love interviewing people for my books, I find transcribing the recorded interview excruciatingly painful at times. The reason for this is not because of the attention to detail required in undertaking such a time-consuming task, but the process necessary to ensure accuracy. The recording can be unclear at times, meaning I have to listen to the same few seconds over and over before I am certain of what has been said. In doing so, listening to my part in the conversation is often unavoidable. Now, despite what some may say, I really don’t like the sound of my own voice. You can imagine the panic I felt last Friday, when I received an email saying the first of the 80’s music programmes I had recorded for Sky Arts earlier this year, Trailblazers of Nuclear Protest, was being aired that evening. Recorded voice and face. Yikes!

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Photo: @Keithredhead68 on Twitter

Not having Sky TV, I was unable to view Trailblazers when it was broadcast, and had no idea what the finished product would be like. However, returning home late on Friday evening to a number of encouraging messages and tweets, I was eager to watch it, even if it meant peeking through my fingers when I came on screen. Thanks to being sent a link by OMD super fan, and fellow contributor to the programme, Neil Young I was able to so last night. I am so glad I did.

Set against the soundtrack of my early teens, the show detailed the very real threat of nuclear war during the Eighties, and how that threat manifested itself in the lyrics of some of the best known songs of the decade. Featuring recollections and observations from a number of the era’s leading influencers of music, including Trevor Horn, Ranking Roger and Billy Bragg, it was exactly  the kind of show I would choose to watch myself. I am incredibly pleased to have been part of it.

The series is set to run for a further two months, and goes out at 9pm Fridays on Sky Arts. I will also make an appearance on TrailBlazers of… Songs of Conscience (29th July) and New Romantics (12th August).

To watch Trailblazers of Nuclear Protest via Neil’s link click here.

Why Adam Will Always Be My First Man

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One of my treasured discoveries from Operation Declutter has been this Adam Ant exercise book. It was part of an Adam Ant stationery set I bought in 1981, which also included a notebook, ruler, pencil sharpener and rubber. I’m proud to say I still have all of these, as well as a matching Adam Ant scrapbook.IMG_20160424_161706042

The scrapbook makes an appearance in the Sky Arts programme I filmed back in February, due to be aired in September, and holds a wealth of clippings from the early Eighties. However, apart from being defaced by my scrawl on the front (done to confirm my ownership) the above book is pristine, as is the notebook.  The rubber is still in its cellophane wrapping, such was my obsession with all things Adam.

Then, there was the music. The first single I ever bought was ‘Stand & Deliver’. I can still remember the excitement of being 10 years old, and going to Woolworths on a Saturday morning to buy it. It was to be the first of many, and thanks to an older boy at primary school, who knew all there was to know about the Dandy Highwayman, I found myself seeking out his back catalogue, and discovering Mr. Goddard’s earlier offerings. I was hooked.

Little wonder then that Saturday night, when I saw Adam & The Ants perform at the Brighton Centre, will remain a life highlight for me. Met with rapturous applause as he came on stage, and launching straight into ‘Dog Eat Dog’, Adam performed the ‘Kings of The Wild Frontier’ album in its glorious entirety. Thirty five years faded away as the Burundi Beat blasted through me, and I lost myself in the music and the performance of an often underrated pioneer.

Lasting almost two hours, the set included both of the band’s Number 1 singles as well as Adam’s solo chart topper ‘Goody Two Shoes’. Other solo offerings to make the show were ‘Desperate Not Serious’ and ‘Vive Le Rock’, but unfortunately not ‘Friend or Foe’, a favourite of mine. However, my forgiveness was swiftly forthcoming as the omission made room for early tracks such as ‘Zerox’, ‘Never Trust A Man (With Egg on His Face)’ and ‘Cartrouble’ to be IMG_20160528_210823811played. As the singer told us the latter was written with his childhood trips to Kent in mind, I found myself letting out a loud cheer, the idea of him visiting my county being far too much!

All too soon (although my knees would beg to differ, having taken a non-stop pounding throughout the gig), it was time to go. With just a handful of photos on my mobile – I was too busy enjoying the gig to snap away – but a mind full of memories, I made my way out of the venue, with a huge smile on my face and the knowledge that Adam Ant (still) rocks!