Larks in the Park – pop in Liverpool’s big green space


Through the early 80s, Liverpool’s Sefton Park used to reverberate to the sound of some of the top bands from the north west. Hard to remember now but Liverpool ruled the pop waves at the time with combos like Teardrop Explodes, The Mighty Wah!, Echo and the Bunnymen, China Crisis, Flock of Seagulls, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, etc. They didn’t play this festival – think I’m right in saying. But some like Frankie did.

Here’s the festival mag for the 1985 event. It includes ads from some great nightspots of the time in Liverpool like Keith’s wine bar (we used to think that place was very posh), Jody’s (gay upstairs and futurist downstairs) and the Armadillo (a trendy eatery opposite Probe records).

 

WH Smith goes ska in 1980


IMG_62321979 and 1980 were the glory years of the so-called “second wave” of ska music – first wave in Jamaica twenty plus years before and now the 2Tone wave came crashing out of Coventry. The Specials seized the charts by the scruff of the neck with a string of hits. And even WH Smith felt the vibe as the his ad from 1980 shows.

But…by the end of 1981, political pop gave way to bubblegum pop. However, fans of bands like The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat have remained fiercely loyal to the present. And it would be remiss of me not to mention that I co-authored the biography of Neville Staple, front man in The Specials, titled Original Rude Boy.

Neville Staple playing Gangsters!


Neville Staple is still touring with The Neville Staple Band and I filmed this gig on my iPhone in Chelsea a while back. He puts on a great performance as you can see. Neville is not playing with The Specials anymore but treats you to all the classic songs. I worked with Mr Staple on his biography Original Rude Boy back in 2009.

David Bowie – it wasn’t always adulation


Well, for most of the time it was adulation in the 70s and 80s but Bowie wasn’t immune to criticism – particularly in the late 70s and early 80s when everything from his political views to musical relevance came under post-punk scrutiny. Here is flattering front page from the US new wave magazine Trouser Press but underneath is a less flattering letter in a British teen mag.

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When The Specials went to Northern Ireland


It was a brave pop band that went to Northern Ireland at the start of the 1980s and loudly advocated a non-sectarian message – but that’s what The Specials and The Beat did in 1981.

On the UK mainland, 2tone bands had made racial unity central to their musical message. When it came to the violence torn province, unity of Catholic and Protestant youth was their plea. I write about this tour in my biography of Neville Staple – Original Rude Boy. And below is a press clipping from my archives.

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Pop faces of the early 1980s


Three magazines from my huge archive of 80s stuff – Record Mirror featuring Blondie, My Guy with Steve Strange and No.1 magazine with the faces of 1983.  Record Mirror was a good music mag but it never inspired the tribal loyalty that attached to the NME, Melody Maker and Sounds. In the late 70s, it would publish painted images of pop stars, some of which I’ve framed as they were rather fetching. The mag closed down in 1991 but bizarrely, the name was bought by Giovanni di Stefano – an Italian lawyer most famous for being on Saddam Hussein’s legal defence team!

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David Bowie interviewed by Mavis Nicholson in 1979


Mavis Nicholson had an understated, hand holding interview style and unlike certain interviewers one could mention today, she was actually interested in her guests. This would be way too cerebral for a modern TV audience and I’ve no doubt would be branded ‘pretentious’ – the standard anti-intellectual cry.