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).

 

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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.

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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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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Big Country and the guitar bagpipe sound


This was Big Country performing on Channel Four’s Tube programme.  Every week, Paula Yates and Jools Holland would ramble pretentiously or incoherently with cues between presenters either deliberately fumbled or they were creating an edgy feel, who knows?  Paula Yates no longer with us of course and neither is the front man of the band, Stuart Adamson.  I adored this album at the time with the whining bagpipe sound on the guitars and it was an era when Scottish pop seemed to be everywhere.

The inexplicable Toyah


It’s a funny old thing – but looking back over my copies of the NME, Sounds, Smash Hits, Melody Maker, etc, etc….up pops Toyah.  All the bleedin’ time.  As late as April 1983, No 1 magazine is telling us that Toyah has released ONLY two singles that year – The Vow and Rebel Run and ONLY one album – Love is the Law.   Can’t say I remember a single note from these songs or that august album.

In 1983, she also acted for six months in a “wrestling play” called Trafford Tanzi – and, her people pointed out, she acted in it for every night for six months unlike that Debbie Harry who only lasted two weeks in the US version.  Hmmm….I’m with Debbie Harry.  Maybe she just had better things to do.

Toyah, for her part, was her usual bubbly self:  “1983 was a very good year for me, a very busy year, with Tanzi and everything.  I found it enjoyable but not my best year to date – I’m hoping 1984 will be.”

She then went on to say that it was very good that Maggie Thatcher had got re-elected (not very punk of her) and it was going to take time for her policies to work.  However, Toyah didn’t think Thatcher would win the next election.  Wrong on both counts then.

Toyah then announced that she’d been having a go at bodypopping (don’t visualise if you’ve just eaten).  But unfortunately “my physique’s a bit wrong”.   Surely not.