Here’s an interesting front cover from a Sunday Times colour supplement in 1980 “celebrating” the first year of Thatcher in power. Me or my sister defaced Maggie’s face with a beard and moustache at the time! Around her head – framed like Joan of Arc – are winged angels representing (from left to right) Geoffrey Howe, Lord Carrington, Willie Whitelaw, Keith Joseph and Jim Prior. Down below is Michael Heseltine looking a little wistful. At that stage, Thatcher was embattled and rumours were flying that Heseltine had his eye on Number 10.
The Olympics were held in Moscow in 1980 when it was at the centre of the Soviet Union and under the thumb of President Brezhnev. By this time, the Soviet Union was in economic and political decline but that wasn’t immediately obvious to the rest of the world. What was only too clear was the growing hostility between Reagan’s America and the Kremlin. And the Olympics being in the USSR for the first time didn’t help matters.
In fairness to Reagan (and I’ll never use that phrase again) it was outgoing US president Jimmy Carter who urged a boycott of the Games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This was at a time when the West thought radical Islamist groups were our friends and allies against communism – what a difference three decades makes!
The Moscow Olympics was not just notorious because of the Afghanistan boycott, it was also the scene of so much doping that it was referred to as the Chemists’ Games. We all knew there was something a bit odd about those East German athletes who won gold medals but seemed to be of indeterminate gender!
The opening ceremony was a riot of communist era chic – a Stalinist fantasy. Looks a bit weird now but very much in line with the May Day parades that used to roar through the Kremlin while a bunch of geriatric bureaucrats waved from the government podium.
So I was racking my brain for 80s memories the other day when I suddenly thought – did I really see The Cure supported by Classix Nouveaux at the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road in 1980? And surely the answer came back – yes. Yes I did.
Here is a ticket stub to prove that gig happened.
Dominion Theatre has been playing host to the ghastly Queen musical for a while and the whole area round it is now being dug up for Crossrail. But one night in 1980, I went there with my buddy Alex and we saw The Cure. But I’m going to be very honest, though I loved The Cure – it’s the performance by Classix Nouveaux that really stuck in my mind down the years.
It’s infuriating when I know it should have been Robert Smith and not the high pitched Sal Solo that stayed in my memory – but hey ho. He must have put on quite an act. This video was recorded for the brilliant single “Is it a dream?” on a disgracefully low budget – looks like a back garden and a dry ice machine. But Sal Solo makes the most of it.
Oh my – this was before Simple Minds became a bloated stadium band. They were humble electro folk when ‘I Travel’ was released and I picked up my single in Small Wonder Records in Walthamstow. Might be wrong, but I thought Mr Kerr once said he would never play monster venues – but anyway, he did and his bank manager has been thanking him ever since.
So – an innocent and very young Simple Minds.
You know the kind of movie you’re ashamed to say you like and for some reason need to watch on DVD with the curtains drawn every three or four years – like Sliver or 13th Warrior for example. Well, Times Square also fits the bill. I mean, the story line is so arch that it’s hard to imagine how this got past the pitch stage.
Basically, two girls from a loony bin escape to New York though they are very different – one tomboy and one not – they form a punk band and start to enjoy success until the powers that be close in on them.
Bonkers film about bonkers people. But the soundtrack, which I remember having at the time, included some classics including the lovely Patti Smith singing ‘Pissing in the River’ – which I adored. Robert Stigwood was the brains behind it, having produced Saturday Night Fever which might explain the rather incongruous presence of a Bee Gees track in what’s otherwise a punk/new wave soundtrack for the movie.
Rush mixed lyrics of a ponderously Canadian nature with English whimsical prog rock and never looked back. Their early stuff – ‘Anthem’ and ‘Caress of Steel’ – were horribly thudding metal. But then the trio relocated from their native Canada to Wales and got influenced by the likes of Van Der Graaf Generator.
Drummer Neil Peart was the band’s lyricist and claimed to be influenced by the ‘genius of Ayn Rand’. This political writer was a huge influence on some right wing Americans with a mix of unashamed elitism, worship of capitalism, belief in selfishness, an aggressive individualism and, unusual for American right wingers, atheism. Peart has denied being right wing himself and I believe has even called himself left wing and libertarian. So there you go.
Their middle era albums like ‘Hemispheres’ were very prog rock in their pretentiousness and 2112 had a classic concept story that gobbled up one half of the vinyl. A complete heap of Rand infused guff about a young man trying to rebel against evil communistic priests….oh God, I can’t be bothered to describe the rest of this plot.
But in 1980, Rush decided they’d rather like some pop success. And so out came ‘Permanent Waves’. Short songs like ‘Spirit of Radio’ saw them climb the charts and I nearly fell off the family sofa when they appeared on Top Of The Pops.
During a brief flirtation with NWOBHM – I joined my school mates and went to see them in Hammersmith. Dare I say – I enjoyed the experience. But I’m still kind of ashamed. If people ask which bands I went to see in 1980, I’ll say the Dead Kennedys or The Specials before I say…..Rush.
Who could forget the spring of 1980 – May to be exact – when prog rockers Yes announced that they were to merge with electro-poppers, Buggles. Geoff Downes would take over Rick Wakeman’s role on keyboards while Trevor Horn would be lead vocalist instead of Jon Anderson.
I saw this musical calamity at Hammersmith Odeon, as the venue was called in 1980, and from the start – the mood in the audience was ugly as hell. The lights went up and the boys waved – goodbye might have been an idea.
I’ve never been to a gig where people shouted “Bring back Rick Wakeman!” but this was the one. Then my poor ears had to endure Trevor Horn struggling manfully – or not so manfully – to reach the falsetto highs of Jon Anderson.
The ‘Drama’ album wasn’t that bad. Tempus Fugit had a good bass line. But little wonder that when Anderson re-joined the band he didn’t perform the numbers from that LP.
The only good thing about this whole episode was that it finally killed off any warm residual feelings I had towards prog rock. Suddenly, they really were the sad and tragic dinosaurs that the NME had warned us they were since the dawn of punk.