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Posts Tagged ‘Live Music’

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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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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I woke up this morning to the news that Leonard Cohen had died.  It wasn’t shocking news, not like Bowie’s death earlier this year, or Phil Lynott’s back in the ’80s.  Cohen was 82 – not ancient, but at least it felt as if he’d lived a long enough life.

Still, even if it wasn’t shocking, it gave me pause to reflect, in the way that death often does.

For lot of people, his music represented depressing moods. On several occasions, I heard it referred to as music to commit suicide to. And I understand that.  I remember, at the age of 16 being filled with angst (isn’t every teenager at some point?).  I’d split up with a girlfriend earlier in the year so I could go out with another, and realised the mistake I’d made. Overcome with grief (I didn’t have the context yet to realise it wouldn’t kill me) and feeling self-destructive, I put a Leonard Cohen album on and raided my mum’s supply of cigarettes. I had the house to myself, and sank even deeper into my funk.

So, it’s definitely mood music when you’re feeling low.  And yet I normally find it uplifting. I don’t know whether it’s the finely crafted verses, or the sense of hope that seems to come out of the darker moments. There’s also a sense of humour in the choice of words.

I’ve tried to look back and recall whether I was aware of that before or after I saw him perform live, and I honestly can’t remember. I think so, but it was certainly more apparent when you saw him in the flesh.

The first time was in the ’80s, when he was promoting the album I’m You’re Man. I was a big concert-goer in those days, though the artists I saw were arguably more mainstream, so the people I’d normally go with weren’t really interested. Fortunately, a couple I knew were big fans, so the three of us headed off to Birmingham together. I can’t recall the name of the venue, I just know it was in the city centre.

Dave dropped Karen and I off outside while he went to park, and we headed in and found our seats.  When he caught up with us, he had a big grin on his face. “Did you see the sign outside?” We hadn’t. Apparently it said that the last time Leonard Cohen had performed there, he’d had them rocking in the aisles. It seemed “Mr Misery” might surprise us.

As it turns out, we didn’t head for the aisles, but it was a terrific performance from a class act. We sang along, we danced (there were a few you could dance to), and we laughed.

It would be nearly twenty years before I saw him again. This time I went only with Karen (sadly, she and Dave had subsequently gone their separate ways), but for the two of us the Birmingham gig had been something we’d enjoyed sharing and it seemed only right to share this one too.  The venue was The Opera House, Manchester, and it was sold out, packed with people of all ages.

When he walked on to the stage, the place erupted, the warmth towards him palpable. His smile was filled with pleasure and tinged with the sly, self-aware humour that continued throughout the night.

An example of his humour came from his performance of Tower of Song. There’s a section that goes:

I was born like this, I had no choice

I was born with the gift of a golden voice

As he sang the last few words, he put more emphasis on the gravelly sound he can produce, and the response from the audience was a massive cheer. We were all in on the joke and we loved him for it.

He was 75 when I saw him perform in Manchester, yet he had a charisma and ability to connect that left you in no doubt that the, often wild, stories of his past had to be true. What woman could resist that charm? I’d have been tempted myself.

I’d be lying if I said Leonard Cohen had transformed my life. But it’s been a gift to have his music there. I was asked a couple of years ago what my favourite lines from a song were and, again, they were from Tower of Song:

 Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey

I ache in the places where I used to play

Sadly, that pretty much describes my life now, but it’s good to have a sense of humour about it.

Leonard Cohen – 21 Sept 1934 – 7th November 2016

 

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