Bring On The BRITs

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Wednesday brings us the annual BRIT Awards, an event I have watched in eager anticipation since 1985, when it was first broadcast by the BBC. Known then as the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) Awards, and held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, the ceremony that year was hosted by Noel Edmonds. Like many of those presenting and receiving awards, he wore black tie for the occasion. Even champions of double denim, Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi, wPrince Brits 1985ere suited and booted.

Set against a backdrop of silver and white sparkles, the message to the viewers was this is where the glamour was to be found. Any doubts we may have had were dispelled as soon as Prince took to the stage, to receive his award for Best International Solo Artist. What he lacked in words, he more than made up for in fur and frills. No wonder I fell in love with the ceremony, and have watched it every year since, albeit with a diverse variety of memories.

Despite surviving on approximately two hours sleep a night, due to my daughter being only 9 weeks old, I remember the 1994 ceremony as being mainly about Take That. Although this could be because they still had hero-like status in my eyes, having topped the charts with “Babe” on the day she was born, saving my little girl from being born when Mr. Blobby was at Number 1. This was no mean feat, as the pink prankster had occupied the top slot both the week before she was born and the week after.

My son arrived at the beginning of 1996, and as my world increasingly centred around the likes of the Telebubbies and Tots TV, The Brits became almost symbolic for me, a reminder of my first love – music. However, with acts like the Spice Girls and All Saints featuring heavily, the latter half of the Nineties saw me mostly interested in the Outstanding Contribution award, the winners of which included David Bowie, Eurythmics and The Bee Gees.

I continued to tune in each year, even when I was pretty clueless as to who half the nominees were. By the mid-Noughties, the kids were helping me differentiate between Busted and McFly (I was obviously ahead of the bands with the McBusted idea!). When the 2008 awards came around, I found myself enjoying parts of the event almost as much as I had back in the day. Okay, so Earls Court was never going to measure up as a venue. Ditto to the sweary Osbornes as hosts. However, the look on Paul Young’s face as the Arctic Monkeys, dressed in country squire attire, walked past him to collect their award for Mastercard Best Album was priceless. Then there was Mark Ronson’s performances with Adele, Daniel Merriweather and Amy Winehouse. The Brits was getting its act back together.

Whilst I may never view The Brits with the same enthusiasm I did in the Eighties, this year I will be rooting for James Bay, whose ‘Chaos And The Calm’ album is a current favourite of mine. I shall also be enjoying the combination of nominees, the strangeness of which remains reassuringly unchanged over the years. Perhaps the best example this year is those nominated in the British Group category: Blur, Coldplay, Foals, One Direction, and Years & Years. I can’t wait to discover who emerges victorious from that curious ensemble.

 

 

Siouxsie Sioux Versus The Beatles

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Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend an interview given by Jenny Boyd, author of “It’s Not Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Formerly married (twice) to Mick Fleetwood, and the sister of Patty Boyd (whose ex-husbands include George Harrison and Eric Clapton), Jenny’s writing reads like a Who’s Who of rock. It was Clapton who first inspired her to write the book, when he was “drinking fiercely”, and appeared unable to handle his musical talent. When asked by Jenny if he drank because his “gift” was too much for him, Clapton replied “Yes. It’s like staring into the face of God.” Intrigued as to the extent such talent could influence a musician’s behaviour, Jenny embarked on researching her book, originally her psychology PhD dissertation.

The book is a fascinating insight into the lives and minds of some of the most talented musicians of our time, and something I recommend anyone, who is even remotely interested in music, should read. However, what I want to share with you today is Jenny’s recollection of the time she spent in India, alongside her sister, Donovan (for whom Jenny was the inspiration for his number 5 UK hit “Jennifer Juniper”) and the Beatles, for transcendental meditation sessions with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in 1968.

Jenny recalled watching the Beatles sitting on the roof of their bungalow in India, writing the White Album – something she describes as “creativity at its peak”. She also detailed how Mia Farrow’s sister, Prudence, fell into a drug-induced “psychotic trance” which went on for days. Members of the group tried a number of things to bring her out of the trance, including Jenny playing the flute, and John Lennon playing the guitar and singing to her. The latter is how “Dear Prudence” came to be written.

Although I have heard the original, I must confess that my initial exposure to this song was in 1983, through Siouxsie and the Banshees, and remains my favourite version. Knowing the background to how the song came about, I think Siouxsie Sioux, Budgie and co. captured the essence of the song beautifully. What do you think?

Hillsborough Remembered…

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Whilst I have a lot of happy memories of the Eighties, today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most tragic events, and the saddest memory I have of the decade. Few will have failed to notice that it was 25 years ago today that 96 fans of Liverpool F.C. lost their lives at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium. For those of us who remember that fateful Saturday, our compassion and sympathy seem inadequately hollow, alongside the pain still felt by those haunted by memories of that day. Speaking to the BBC today, Bruce Grobbelaar recalls “It all happened right behind my goal. I can see those images today, if I think about it. They will never leave. It doesn’t get removed from your mind. I will never forget.” Perhaps those who have continued to spout vile comments, based on lies, online today should listen to those who were actually there.

Despite being born and bred in Kent, I have been a Liverpool supporter for as long as I can remember, probably due to my Nan, who was also an ardent fan. In 1986, thanks to Smash Hits magazine, I gained a Scouse penfriend, John. He came to visit me at the end of that year, along with a few of his friends. It was the first of many meetings between us, both down south (or France, as they refer to Kent!) and up north (I can remember the first time we took the ferry ‘cross the Mersey like it was yesterday) and the beginning of a number of friendships that have stood the test of time. As with all good friendships, they became part of the family – my Nan was never happier than in the company of her “Liverpool Lads”. It has continued through the generations too, as Wayne (the only one old enough to drive on that initial visit) is godfather to my son.

Both Wayne and John would regularly attend Liverpool’s matches, so when news of the disaster broke on 15th April 1989, I was desperate to know they were safe. These were the days before social media provided a second by second commentary on the world, and I sat glued to the television screen, in a state of disbelief at the scenes we were being shown. At one point, the camera honed in on part of the crowd being crushed against the fence. I was convinced I had seen John in that crowd. I have no coherent memory of the day after that, and cannot recall how I came to discover that neither Wayne nor John had been at the match. It’s not something I’ve ever felt the need to probe – just knowing they were safe was enough.

The family and friends of those who died that day were not as fortunate, and it is with them that my thoughts are today, as they are every time I hear  “You’ll Never Walk Alone” being sung. Let us hope that the current inquest, being held in Warrington, will eventually show the world the truth about the tragedy, and there will finally be Justice For The 96.

 

Adamant About Adam Ant

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The first record I ever bought was Adam and the Ants’ “Stand And Deliver”. I was 10 years old, and madly in love with the dandy highwayman, with the white stripe across his face! By the time Prince Charming was released as a single a few months later, along with its accompanying video, featuring Diana Dors, I was completely hooked by the beautiful man in make-up. So, it’s no surprise that whenever I hear the first “aah, hah” as the song begins, I’m immediately transported to pre-adolescence.

Last week, I happened to hear Prince Charming three times in one day; on my MP3 player on the morning commute, at work on Radio 2, and in the evening listening to Absolute 80s Radio. Hearing the song so frequently prompted a childhood memory. I can’t remember why, but I remember being sent to my room for some wrongdoing. At the age of 10, I was fortunate enough to have an old record player in my room, and sought solace by playing Prince Charming. For those of you old enough to remember them, my record player was one where you could stack the records on the spindle, where an arm held them in place. The arm had a dual purpose, in that if you pulled it back, the record that was playing would play again (or in my case, again and again and again!). Yes, I was so incensed at being sent to my room, that I left the arm back, and let the record play repeatedly, for the whole time I was being punished. I know I missed the whole of The Dukes of Hazzard whilst I was in my room, so that’s got to be at least 15 consecutive plays of Prince Charming, at the highest volume my record player could go to! I laugh now, but at the time it was me and Adam against the world, as I sang “ridicule is nothing to be scared of” at the top of my voice. Such passion and angst in one so young. It lasted at least until I was called downstairs for my tea!

Song Sung Wrong!

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It all began with a harmless question a few weeks ago. “I’ve found a pub that does karaoke,” said my friend. “Do you fancy giving it a try?” Little did I realise what I was letting myself (and the good people of Whitstable) in for, when I agreed to go. What started off as a laugh has now become a bit of an obsession, in which I seem to be attempting to ‘perform’ every 80’s track in the landlord’s book of karaoke tracks!

My first choice, a duet of Don’t You Want Me, was quite credible. Imitating Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall’s bored, flat vocals came fairly naturally – like rediscovering the rebellious, disinterested teenager in me. Armed with my newly discovered singing talent, my next choice, made in a fit of overconfidence, was perhaps a bit too ambitious. Another duet (I hadn’t yet worked up the courage to fly solo!), I chose Islands In The Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Unfortunately, the poor guy I’d roped in to sing with me (whom I’d met some ten minutes previously) didn’t appear to have ever heard the song before. Add to that the fact that, although I’ve heard the song hundreds of time before, I hadn’t realised just how high Ms Parton’s part goes. At one point, I was almost on my knees, trying to draw breath from reserves that I didn’t have! Needless to say, our performance was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.

So, have I learnt my lesson? Have I, heck! I have since decimated the likes of Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again, Wham!’s I’m Your Man and a couple of 70’s rock classics, Bohemian Rhapsody and Bat Out of Hell. I can’t bring myself to write about what happened when I tried to bring myself a bit more up to date. All I will say is The Real Slim Shady is harder to perform than you would think! Best to stick to the Eighties, I think. I noticed Tiffany’s I Think We’re Alone Now in the book last week. Maybe I can sing that this weekend? I could even have moves to match the lyrics: “running just as fast as we can…”.