When Eurovision Went One Step Further

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Continuing lasSATt week’s glimpse back at 80’s Eurovision with Johnny Logan, I was delighted to chat recently with Sally-Ann Triplett. Hugely popular amongst listeners of Absolute 80’s Forgotten 80s’ radio show, for her role as the female half of Eurovision duo Bardo, Sally-Ann first entered the contest in 1980 as a member of the group Prima Donna. I knew that her double appearance in the Eurovision Song Contest made her the perfect interviewee for a Eurovision feature in this year’s 80’s annual. However, until we spoke, I was unaware of the fabulous tales she had to tell about my favourite decade and some of its most famous faces.

Currently living in New York, the former pop songstress was walking through Central Park as she told me how she went from panto to Eurovision to the West End and Broadway. Those recollections are wonderfully entertaining, but then Sally-Ann went one step further (see what I did there??) and spoke about hanging out with Limahl, lending a helping hand to Samantha Fox, and snogging Sting. The fact that she also loves the Eighties as much as I do meant our interview was every bit as fun as you would expect from someone whose hip-wiggling, high-kicking dance routines were copied by a generation of forty-somethings.

Although you will have to wait until November, when The 80’s Annual, vol. II is published, to read Sally-Ann’s interview, you can see our 1982 Eurovision favourite in action in the video below. Just be careful you don’t pull something trying to copy the routine!

Added To Favourites

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I can’t remember the last time I played an album ‘to death’, but that is exactly what I have been doing with Cutting Crew’s latest offering ‘Add To Favourites‘. My first play of said album was travelling home from interviewing the band’s lead singer and songwriter, Nick van Eede, a couple of weeks ago. Driving along in tAdd To Favouriteshe spring sunshine, I lost myself in a roller coaster of emotions, listening to the wonderful sounds coming from the car’s speakers.

From the ridiculously catchy ‘Till The Money Run$ Out’ (I guarantee you’ll be singing ‘doo ra lan, doo ra lan’ in no time at all) to the skillfully crafted power ballad ‘As Far As I Can See’, to ‘Berlin In Winter’, a song that not only has an Eighties’ Cutting Crew sound, but has story-telling lyrics evocative of the decade, every track is finely honed to perfection. Each time I play the album, I choose a different favourite, although the pure elegance of ‘(She Just Happened To Be) Beautiful’ is always near the top of the list. But then, there is ‘Already Gone’, which has a style and vocal tenderness reminiscent of Roy Orbison, and not forgetting ‘Kept On Lovin’ You’, a jazz-infused track that takes me back to the early Nineties, when Curtis Stigers was riding high in the charts. It is impossible to choose a favourite from ‘Add To Favourites’, but then what else would you expect from the man whose talents brought us ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight’?

The day before I met Nick, h20170316_155832e had been presented with a BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) award for selling over 4 million copies of the 1986 UK Number 4 hit single. He had been due to collect the award four months earlier, but his attendance was thwarted by some home maintenance: “November last year was the official ceremony they had at The Dorchester [hotel],” explains Nick. “My all-time idol, ever since I was eleven or twelve, Sting, was being given the lifetime award or something. It wasn’t in the main ballroom but sort of a half ballroom, so it would have been like from here to that fridge away [a distance of about 30 feet]. Sting would have been on my table because I’m published by Sony, and I fell off a f**king ladder! Living here in the country and doing all the stuff … and I’m very proud about doing most of the stuff … I was up a ladder cleaning out the gutter, when I fell and smashed my knee to pieces, so I couldn’t go.” Not meeting his musical hero has not dulled Nick’s delight at receiving such an award,  as is clear from the above photograph. Well deserved recognition of a great song and songwriter.

Read how Nick has evolved his songwriting skills since Cutting Crew’s heyday, his early days in the music business, his thoughts on the Eighties and much more in The 80’s Annual Vol. II, due for publication this autumn.

 

The Live Aid Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Band Aid 30

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It’s funny how today’s return to Sarm Studios, to record Band Aid 30, has brought memories of the recording of the original Band Aid single flooding back. The unprecedented collaboration of some of the biggesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAt names in music, and some of the biggest egos too, had me enthralled from the very beginning. Watching the news that evening in November 1984 was an overwhelming exercise in star-spotting, as the likes of Duran Duran, Paul Young, Spandau Ballet, George Michael, Sting and Boy George crossed my TV screen. As Paula Yates came into view, with a big 80’s bow in her hair, carrying baby Fifi Trixibelle, I felt so envious of her behind-the-scenes access. It will therefore come as no surprise to learn that I was first in the queue to buy the video of the making of the Band Aid single, to add to my collection of 7″ and 12″ singles, and Feed The World t-shirt.

Unfortunately, my family had chosen the loser in the VHS/Betamax video battle, so I’m no longer able to watch my video. I live in hope that one day I’ll find a working Betamax video player that does not cost a fortune, or is not sitting in a museum somewhere!

Band Aid Dolls

Those of you who are familiar with my writing, will know how having Mr. Geldof living nearby influenced my teenage years. However, you may not be aware of how far-reaching that influence became . I think describing my behaviour around that time as “obsessive” would not be an understatement. How many 14 year olds do you know who would spend hours creating a replica of the Band Aid line up out of wooden peg dolls??? All worth it though, when it won first prize a few months later at the Geldofs’ summer fête, and I was congratulated by Bob himself!

My obsession did have a less flippant side though, when it came to the Band Aid single itself. This manifested itself in me band aid VATorganising a petition, calling for Margaret Thatcher’s government to waive the VAT on the single. Remember, this was 1984, so no clicking online to “sign” a petition. I spent a week approaching strangers in Canterbury city centre and my home town of Faversham, as well as canvassing signatures at school, until I finally had over a thousand signatures, which I then sent to the Iron Lady.

The letter opposite was the reply I received from HM Customs & Excise in February 1985, in response to the petition. A long-winded way of saying “No”, the contents of it are summed up in its second paragraph: “The suggestion that either VAT should not be levied or that an amount equivalent to the VAT should be contributed to the relief  has been given very careful consideration by the Government but the conclusion reached is that it would be neither possible in practice – nor indeed right – to treat this fund-raising operation as a one-off case…If the principle of relief was extended generally, it would lead to a major commitment of taxpayers’ money which would have to be recouped by increases in taxation elsewhere.”

Thankfully, today’s recording will not be subject to such draconian judgement. Chancellor George Osborne confirmed this morning that VAT will be waived on the Band Aid 30 single, meaning every penny raised will go towards fighting the Ebola virus. With that in mind, I will again be one of the first in line to buy the single, even if it means having to watch the X Factor on Sunday night, when the single has its world premiere. The lengths I go to for Sir Bob!