Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's just like the 80s only fatter and older.

So, in the words of the Blues men, I woke up this morning and turned on the national morning news programme on the BBC to be greeted with the sight of three fat Yorkshire men sitting on the comfy sofa extolling the virtues of that 80s horror show, Spandau Ballet. These slightly over-the-hill Yorkshire boys turned out top be members of a Spands tribute band, Highly Strung. Now what was so laughable about all this was that the original band saw themselves as svelte peacocks who represented the peak of 80s desirability and here were their loyal impersonators looking like the lovers of the chip with a singular lack of style. In short a pretty fair representation of what the 80s stood for and the media world of today; and the way the band looks now.

I have to declare a prejudice here; I hated Spandau Ballet. I despised Gary Kemp's protestations of true working class credentials and his modern soul boy posings. I had nothing but disdain for their embrace of Thatcherite culture, and the singer Tony Hadley's embrace of Tory politics, and their belief that playing in a band was a "career choice" rather than a calling. Their music was the ideal soundtrack for the 80s in that it was vacuous, insipid and fussy. Tony Hadley held his microphone like some panty-waisted Holiday Inn bar entertainer who provides the backing track for fat sweaty businessmen as they pawed young women and dribbled saliva and gravy down their pampered double chins.

I'm not alone in this. Michael Hann wrote a great piece in The Guardian pretty much pointing out the same thing as I am doing; it was the comments that people made after the article that make for the best reading as nutters of various shades queue up to agree or froth at the mouth.

After the band broke up Gary Kemp achieved a degree of rehabilitation with his vocal support of the protest movement trying to organise opposition to Thatcher's divisive social strategies but it was an uphill struggle. The rot had set in and the youth had followed the lead from the likes of the Spands and Duran and eschewed political thought and embraced the vapid "cocktail culture". They took at face value the phoney sophistication and frilly shirted power dressing pushed out by this non-musical musical movement and gave us Blair, son of Thatcher. Soon we'll have Groovy Dave, son of Blair, and like John the Baptist we have Spandau Ballet reforming.

Why? I hear you ask. This is a group of people who fought a vicious and nasty case through the courts as the three dim ones from the band tried to lay claim to writing royalties they had had no hand in creating, except for having been in the same room when Gary showed them how it went. Hadley, Norman and Keeble laid claim to something, years after the event, that was never their's in the first place and like the financial culture that was spawned from the 80s they wanted something for nothing. Their case crashed and burned and in the end Gary Kemp owned their souls, or at least, in John Keeble's case, the drum kit. It is said that when the sad trio went out gigging as The Other Three from That New Romantic Band™ they were obliged to ask Gary if they could use the equipment because, as they had no money to pay his court costs, he owned it all.

Now we are expected to believe that all these differences have been buried and this cheesy band of brothers are all mates and that the music they make will be relevant and exciting. No it won't. It never was. It was never soul music, it was never vital and, most of the time, it was never of any value whatsoever. So I guess it's going to fit in perfectly with the onset of the New 80s.

Welcome to hell.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Punk rock and beer.

Last weekend I went to see an old friend playing guitar with The Vibrators. The gig was at a small pub venue in Camden called the Fiddler's Elbow. It was one of the best nights out I've had in ages, probably since Luche Libre at least.

I'd had a call earlier in the evening from a good friend who's family were out of town for one reason or another and he wondered if I had plans. Now this person was one of that rare breed of young Americans in the late 70s who through college radio helped break punk in the States and opened a whole new generation to the fact that music could be instant and brash, and didn't have to have songs that went on endlessly. In fact it turned out that he'd been at a show my band had played in Paulo Alto and years later we met because our young kids went to the same school. Very punk.

So Cesca and I dragged him off to Camden where he had the pleasure of being weirdly hassled by a deaf guy in the bar and got quite drunk. The Vibrators were great.

Now we all know that these aren't young men we're talking about here. Like me they've been around the block several times and carry a lot more weight and grey hair than we used to, but they can still make music that fires you up, doesn't hang around being boring and as a band they can still throw shapes that put the present crop of panty waisted fringe boys to shame. In particular the Finnish bass player, Pete, throws his bass around with great beauty and fervour. It was real.

The next day my friend called me up, feeling somewhat groggy and said "that was one of the best fucking nights I've had in ages".

Age will not wither us.