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Archive for the ‘Music Nostalgia’ Category

1979 was a significant year for me in many ways. I turned 16, left school, lost my virginity (if anyone finds it, will you let me know), and went to my first gig. It’s difficult to say for sure which of these was the most significant, but the most relevant here is the last one.

Music had always played a big part of my life. The record player was on constantly – until it was upgraded to a “music centre”, when we could play cassettes as well! With a mother who liked music from the ‘50s and ‘60s, but also kept abreast of music trends, and three sisters with tastes in music varying from ABBA to Bowie, there were plenty of influences around. We also benefited from music introduced from a variety of other sources, as our house seemed to be a regular stopping point for friends.

So it came to pass that my own musical tastes were, as the saying goes, eclectic.

Darts seemed to come from nowhere late in 1977 with the medley Daddy Cool/The Girl Can’t Help It, and I strongly urge you to watch this video of them. If it doesn’t make you smile and feel energised, you may need to see your GP.

So Doo Wop became another part of the musical mix at home. The nutter who breaks into The Girl Can’t Help It is Den Hegarty. As you’ll have seen from the clip, they were a lively bunch, and a friend of my mum’s told me about going to see them when they toured in 1978. Apparently part way through the set, Hegarty decided to climb on to the balcony, something I struggled to imagine, but was nevertheless intrigued by.

So, when the sister and brother in law of my then girlfriend invited us to join them to see Darts on their 1979 tour, I jumped at the chance.

At the time I lived on the border of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire and the best venue local to us was De Montfort Hall in Leicester. I didn’t know this at the time, but years of experience subsequently taught me that it was actually one of the best in the country. To this day, I still think of it as the best venue I’ve been to for a concert.  The acoustics are terrific and the ability to get up close to the stage was second to none – I’ll give examples of this in future posts.

Back then, of course, Arena shows were virtually non-existent, so bands toured venues that were much smaller, and I’ve seen many great artists at De Montfort and other similar (and smaller) places. The shows were more intimate and generated a great atmosphere.

As it happens, when we went to see Darts, it turned out we were booked into balcony seats.  As a result, that atmosphere I later came to thrive on passed me by on this occasion.

What also passed me by was the opportunity to see Den Hegarty at work. Unfortunately, he left the band before this tour, and was replaced by Kenny Andrews  – here he is kicking off Duke of Earl.

While Andrews had the deep voice the band needed, he didn’t have the same apparently manic personality as Hegarty, so I didn’t get to see any lunatic climbing going on during the show.

Interestingly, Hegarty went on to lecture in Psychology – watch his performances again, and you’ll either wonder why or figure he’s a natural.

In spite of Hegarty’s absence, I thoroughly enjoyed the gig. As well as Andrews, Griff Fender, Rita Ray and Bob Fish were brilliant performers and it’s something of a mystery to me that the band don’t still get the airplay a lot of old groups do. Together with the rest of the band – too many to mention – they put on a show that was as lively and entertaining as you could hope for. Apart from the lack of Hegarty, my only disappointment was that sitting in the balcony did restrict your ability to dance to the music.  I’d like to say I never made that mistake again, but I’d be lying. I didn’t make it often though.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with The Boy From New York City.

 

Obviously, there will be more to say on this subject in the future. In the mean time, if you enjoy reading about music, you’ll find a wide range of items on Talk About Pop Music, and there’s a great series for the nostalgic on Hugh’s Views and News.

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A week has passed since the news came out. Rick Parfitt died at the age of 68. From what I know of his lifestyle, he packed a lot into those 68 years, and the real wonder is that he managed to survive this long. Even so, the news came as a blow.

I’m not noted for my attachments to people, especially those in the public eye. The constant flow of obituaries this year has been a surprise, and many have had some connection to my life – even if it was just watching The Two Ronnies – but only a handful have made me really sit up and take notice. Rick Parfitt’s passing is one of them.

In some respects, it shouldn’t matter. I haven’t seen Status Quo live for over twenty years, and I haven’t enjoyed much of their material since the late 1980s. And yet… there’s history there, a history that may bear repeating fully at some point, but now isn’t the time.

I first became aware of the band in the mid ’70s, when my musical interests were largely influenced by my mum’s tastes. There was more Middle of the Road stuff there than I generally admit to – Bread, Neil Diamond and the like – and a rather extensive collection of Elvis singles. At school, though, I was beginning to hear names that intrigued me – Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and Quo.

In all honesty, when I first heard Quo, I wasn’t sure if it was my kind of thing, but something made me listen again. Looking back on it, their brand of rock seems quite tame but I realise now they provided a gateway to other music.

When I bought my first house (at the ridiculously young age of 20), I wasn’t ready to be particularly domestic, so asked a friend (fellow Quo fan and terrific artist) to provide me with some murals. Jaws rising from the top of the toilet cistern was funny, but the pictures I was most proud of were reproductions of album covers on the living room walls, two of which were from the Hello! and Quo albums.

It was 1981 or ‘82 before I finally got to see them live (Hammersmith Odeon – a bit of a trek for young lads rom the East Midlands). By that time, I’d become a regular concert-goer and was used to the discrepancy between the sound created in a studio and live music. So it was something of a shock to hear something that sounded so similar to what I’d heard on their albums.

More importantly, I was surprised at the connection between artists and audience. When opening, Francis Rossi addressed the crowd with something along the lines of: “How are you then? All right?” Which seemed remarkably informal compared to other gigs I’d been to.  It was also part of the charm of the band. They were down to earth, a group of lads who were having a good time and wanted you to have one too. Their energy, humour and enthusiasm was infectious.

Francis Rossi, Alan Lancaster and Rick Parfitt of English rock group Status Quo performing on stage in the 80s

No wonder that I returned to see them (in the words of one of their songs) Again and Again. Leicester DeMontfort Hall (two nights running on one tour), Milton Keynes Bowl, Wembley Stadium, Castle Donington (Monsters of Rock).  I’ve got a feeling there was more than that, but those are the gigs that spring readily to mind.

Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi remained the core of the band throughout. Other founder members dropped out in the mid ’80s and, if I’m honest, I think their influence was missed. Subsequent new music tended to be more mainstream. Even in the ’70s they were mocked for each song sounding the same. As they reached the end of the ’80s they seemed to focus more on covers and the covers just sounded like Quo songs. This was largely why I drifted away from them. I still listen to their old music, but I don’t yearn to watch them.

As it happens, even if I had decided to go to a live show, I wouldn’t have seen Rick Parfitt any more.  Only a few weeks ago, he announced that he wouldn’t perform with the band again because of health problems.  Maybe that should have been the warning to take note of. His health history has not been good, but every time he’s returned to live music because that’s what he clearly loved doing.

As far as I’m aware, Francis Rossi still plans to continue with the band, but as the only original founder member, and as the partnership between him and Rick Parfitt was clearly so strong, I can’t help wondering whether this is really the end of the Quo era.

Whether it is or not, I am grateful for the music I’ve enjoyed and gigs I’ve experienced with them – and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

 

Rick Parfitt – 12 October 1948 – 24th December 2016

 

 

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So, it’s been a black Christmas.

Yesterday we saw sad news of another three individuals who’ve played a part in our lives – Liz Smith, Richard Adams and Carrie Fisher. A death at Christmas always seems more tragic than at any other time of year, and the reach of these people touches so many. When we add in Rick Parfitt and George Michael, it’s hard to imagine a Christmas that’s sent out such depressing ripples.

Not long ago I wrote posts about the loss of Robert Vaughn and Leonard Cohen.  As both Rick and George played their own parts in my life, I was already considering writing about them as well. Live music has been very significant to me over the years.  My outings are more sporadic now, but in the 1980s and 1990s I was a regular concert-goer.  A series of reflections on those times is on the cards – something encouraged by Steve at Talk About Pop Music – and I commented on my experience of watching Leonard Cohen after he died. Among those I did see in the 1980s were Wham! and Status Quo.

In Quo’s case, I started to draft a post a month or two ago, but realised one wouldn’t do them credit. Nevertheless, Parfitt’s death means I will soon make a start.

Where Wham! are concerned, I have only one story to tell.

Back in the early ’80s, I went to as many concerts as possible and, having a fairly eclectic taste in music, I wasn’t too picky about who I saw.  They ranged from Motorhead to Neil Diamond and took in a lot of points between.

I should also point out that I enjoy dancing. Not in that Strictly kind of way – my style is probably best described as free-form – but most dance music appeals to me. So I liked the songs Wham! were playing and when they announced a tour a friend and I made sure we got tickets. I can’t recall the exact year, but I’d guess it was 1983 or 1984, which means I was at least 20 at the time.

Now I’m not extraordinarily tall, but I’m not short either. My friend was possibly an inch or two taller. This fact didn’t seem particularly relevant to us when we booked the tickets, but became something of an embarrassment once we’d arrived at the venue and headed out into the crowd. Because the audience was largely 6 inches to a foot shorter than us (a rather different mix to those shown in the video below).

I’d never been to a concert where so many of the crowd were of school age, so it hadn’t occurred to me that this could even happen.  In the current climate, no doubt we would have been viewed with a great deal of suspicion by staff and any parents in attendance. I suspect we would also have left the building rather than expose ourselves to the risk of false assumptions being made about our intentions.

Eventually George and Andrew (Ridgeley) came on and put on a terrific show. It was a bit camp at times (still don’t get why they decided to wear white shorts and fire shuttlecocks out into the audience), and it was clear Ridgeley was there largely for support (he held a guitar, but barely strummed it).  Still, it was entertaining and the music was great.

By the time we left, my friend and I still felt a little awkward and self-conscious, but I’m glad we went and I look back on the evening as a fun event that still makes me smile.

I never saw George Michael live again, but I did appreciate his music and have danced to his records many times over the years.

2016 has been a terrible year for taking people away from us, and it occurs to me that a few of those are people who’ve had an influence on me at times. In George Michael’s case, it helped me make the decision to ensure I never go to what can best be described as extended children’s parties. Oh yes, and I’ve danced.

Of course, the year isn’t over yet, and there’s still time for us to lose a few more. But, please God, let’s hope not.

 

 

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