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!

Logan’s Running Back On Track

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While the media is bursting at the seams with coverage of the imminent local and general elections, it is important we do not forget about a much more entertaining evening of voting which takes place in under two weeks’ time. I am, of course, referring to the Eurovision Song Contest which will take place later this month on 13th May.  Who better to comment on the forthcoming popfest than Mr Eurovision himself, Johnny Logan? Having twice won the contest for Ireland during the Eighties with ‘What’s Another Year’ in 1980 and the self-penned ‘Hold Me Now’ in 1987, the singer/songwriter went on to write the 1992 winning entry ‘Why Me’, sung by Linda Martin. It is no wonder he jokingly told me “Someone once asked me what it was like to win the Eurovision. I said ‘I don’t know, I’ve never lost one!’”

Johnny Logan (11 von 120)

Photo: Manfred Baumann

My memories of Eurovision are predominantly of the Eighties, when what seemed like a golden age of songs and fun dominated. It feels like a far cry from today’s predictably political scoring and uninspiring entries.

“It’s still great fun to watch if people can look at it for the fun of it,” answers Johnny “and just vote for the countries you like, but even the songs that are written are no longer written by people from their own countries. I think the Irish entry this year is written by a Swedish guy. It’s just a group of songwriters who get together and write songs for all over Europe. There was a time when you had to have a song written from your own country, and couldn’t release it before the contest. It wouldn’t really be heard before the contest, it wouldn’t be played before the contest. Now, all that’s gone.”

I suggest that it is part of a bigger picture in which we are very much part of a ‘fast food’ culture, where no one is prepared to wait for anything.

“That’s just where we are,” he replies. “That’s just the world we live in now. There are lots of things about the old way I miss, but there are lots of things about the new way I like. I think I’m a bit like an á la carte human being. I like to look at the menu and be able to choose what I want.”

Choosing what he wanted was something Johnny was able to do when putting together ‘It Is What It Is’, his forthcoming album, which is out on 5th May.

“I think, what I’ve had the chance to do with this album is, what I’ve discovered over the years, is the music I really enjoy playing for my audience. The stuff that’s fun to play and I can have fun with the audience, and I can actually express myself.”

That expression is not limited to his choice of tracks but also how the album will be made available, reflecting Johnny’s opinion of the current state of the music business, an industry which has strangled artists’ ability to make a living through recording music.  It “really needs people like me and people with a career in the industry to fight and try to get some of the music industry back for the artist,” he says. “When I did this album, I funded it myself and I’m releasing it now through Universal. They will distribute it but I will have my own record label [Shake It Easy] and it will not be streamed. You will have to buy the album in its entirety from Amazon or my website johnnylogan.com. There will be a web shop open on the 5th [May].  I’m going to make a limited edition of vinyl, but just need to discuss with the pressing plant the best way of doing this. First of all, I wanted to set my record label up and make sure it was ready on the 5th for all the fans in Scandinavia and Germany, and all over Europe. I want the same option to be available in England and Ireland as well because it’s been so long since I had music out there. It would be nice to have it out and if anyone wants to buy it, that’s great.”JL Ireland Flag

I am sure those of us who remember his Eurovision successes will be only too eager to purchase Johnny Logan’s latest tracks. As the man says: “It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done, to be honest, and I’m really very, very proud of it. It is what it is.”

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Read more on Johnny’s thoughts and memories of Eurovision and the Eighties in The 80’s Annual, vol. II, to be released later this year.

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.

 

Listen Back To Simply 80s

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On Valentine’s Day, Hebden Radio broadcast an interview I did fohebden-radior Dean Wilkinson’s Simply 80s show. In it, we discuss growing up in the Eighties, the music of the decade and The 80’s Annual, all of which is followed by my favourite Eighties’ track The Kane Gang’s ‘Closest Thing To Heaven’.

The interview is currently available on Listen Back so if you’ve got a spare ten minutes, why not have a listen? The interview starts approximately 32 minutes in.

 

The Year After You

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Writing extensively about the Eighties means I sometimes have to be more analytical than reflective. Holding up a mirror is not enough. You have to examine things in microscopic detail. However, irrespective of whether I’m writing about an historic event, a backstage anecdote or a fond recollection, there is an underlying fundamental thread that often defies methodical analysis. The people involved in these events.

I could write reams on the political significance and worldwide implications of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but just one image of the revellers celebrating its demise atop the landmark, shortly before its collapse, says so much more than I ever could. The revelation, during my interview with Ranking Roger, of David Bowie turning delivery boy ahead of his Milton Keynes gig in 1983, to ensure Saxa had his cans of White Stripe, only serves to emphasise the star quality of the man behind the legend. Even something as simple as recalling the first single we bought can evoke strong emotions, not only because of the music but the people associated with it too: the artist, the person who was with us when we bought the record, who we sang, danced or cried with to that track. Memories may be made of the sights, sounds and even smells of our past but the truth is, without people they are nothing. That is why it hurts so much to lose someone who has been an integral part of those memories.

Last April, after a cruel battle with a particularly aggressive form of lung cancer, Lee, my best friend and soulmate of 25 years lost his fight with the disease, at the age of 51. The months that followed are really just a blur, in which I honoured existing obligations on autopilot but have no clear memory. Photos from that time are the only tangible proof I have of my existence then. In most, I have a familiar big smile, but when I look at my eyes I see someone who truly did not know what day of the week it was. It wasn’t until the end of July when, thanks to the help of some wonderfully supportive friends, I began to write again. Although prior to that, I had begun to write poetry for the first time since my late teens.

A couple of months ago, I shared one of those poems, ‘The Year After You’, with Peter Coyle, who later told me “I only read the first two verses and I had to stop. It made me cry and so I had to walk away and come back to it later. It was very emotional and that is why I wanted to try and put it into a song. Even then it was difficult. It hurts just listening to it for me, because the words are so raw and sincere. There is a real beauty and strength to them. They have a direct link to the heart.”

That song was waiting for me when I arrived home one Saturday afternoon last November. I had been to London for a radio interview to promote The 80’s Annual, and had then gone on to interview Soft Cell’s David Ball for my next book. Coming home to discover one of The Lotus Eaters had turned one of my poems into a song perfectly topped off the kind of day my teenage self could have barely dared to dream about. ‘The Year After You’ is a deeply personal poem I wrote about losing Lee, so it will come as no surprise to know I was in tears when the track finished playing. Peter admits that in writing the song “I was very scared because the words to ‘The Year After You’ were so real and intimate, but it just gripped me and wouldn’t let go. It is so special to open up and allow someone else’s personal feelings and emotions to be expressed in the music, even when they are difficult emotions, but it is harder singing someone’s words because you have to assimilate them as though they come from your heart. You just hope that the writer sees that you are trying to reflect her honesty.”

I had only to hear the emotion in Peter’s voice, as he sang the words I had written, to know that. However, I was still uncertain when he suggested the possibility of releasing the song. It had taken a lot of deliberation before sharing the poem with him, so the thought of it being in the public eye was quite overwhelming. Understanding my reticence, Peter left the decision with me. The song was a gift to me, so it was up to me who should hear it.

Eventually, I decided there could be no better tribute to the man who had been by my side for most of my adult life, and whose loss had changed it forever. Besides, who was I to stop anyone from hearing this gorgeous creation, which may have arisen from sadness but has finished as a beautifully crafted message of hope?four.jpg

So, early December saw Peter in the studio, mixing the song which I am pleased to announce will be released on 3rd February. Currently, the track can be pre-ordered from iTunes and will also be available from various outlets such as Amazon and Spotify.

To find out more about Peter Coyle and his music, visit his website: www.petercoyle.com.

 

The Word On The Street

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Flicking through the pages of the recently released winter edition of Street Sounds, I was delighted to come across this fantastic review of The 80’s Annual.

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If you too want to be kept in “a nostalgic 80s-gasm for hours” you can order a copy of the annual from online retailers, including Amazon and The Book Depository.