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.

2tone

The Cure supported by Classix Nouveaux


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.

Kraftwerk live in 1981 – Pocket Calculator


The Royal Wedding was about to happen and the riots in Toxteth – when me and my school mates went to see Kraftwerk play at the Lyceum in London.  I seriously think that barring Iggy Pop a year later, at his drug addled most bizarre, this was one of the best gigs I ever went to.  Enjoy.

Rush – Canada’s pointy headed rockers


RushPermRush 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.