80s By Default

Last Sunday – to David B and Anna S’s flat in Archway to be filmed. It’s for another video for his band, the New Royal Family. Well, one of his bands. Much fun had. I am asked to ‘dress 1980s’. So I just get dressed.

The props for the video include some specially mocked-up covers of 80s pop and style magazines, with David and the other band members pasted in the place of Adam Ant and his ilk. Charley S points out one of the fake headlines is particularly spot-on: ‘INSIDE: STING – ALL ABOUT ME.’

Also knocking around are genuine publications from the era. I leaf through a copy of Smash Hits where Neil Tennant reviews a Grandmaster Flash single. He confidently predicts that rap music won’t last. It’s 1983.

Songwords for the issue – those glossily-presented singalong lyric sheets of that week’s hits – include Modern Romance’s ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’. Charley and I can sing it instantly, but it must baffle the younger participants at the video shoot (Alex S, Anna S, Miriam, Seaneen, Mel). It’s one of those hit songs that’s neither ‘cult’ nor ‘classic pop’ nor even ‘guilty pleasures’ style kitsch. Just a slightly ho-hum ditty that does its job at the time.

It must have some abiding worth in the well-crafted catchiness stakes, though, if I can instantly recall its entire verse and chorus melody 25 years later. And I definitely haven’t heard it since 1983. I find it worrying that I can remember every note of this song, yet I can barely remember what I did, say, the Tuesday before last. It’s Proust in a puffball skirt. And I guarantee you won’t read THAT phrase anywhere else today. No extra charge.

Another lyric is Wham’s ‘Young Guns Go For It’, with its unlikely refrain of ‘Death by matrimony!’ I believe Mr George Michael has indeed stood by that particularly credo, though possibly not in the way the song suggests. Or does it…? There’s also an interview with Wham! inside. Seems strange to read about a 19-year-old George M being introduced to the world.

I’m delighted the issue additionally contains the lyrics to Orange Juice’s ‘I Can’t Help Myself’. It’s their follow up to ‘Rip It Up’, and really should have been a hit. But no – that was it for Edwyn C and the Top 20 until ‘A Girl Like You’ ten years later. Excellent use of the word ‘trite’ in a jaunty pop tune:

‘Nothing worth finding
Is easily found
Try as we might
That was supposed to sound
Very profound
It probably sounds trite
Just like the Four Tops
I can’t help myself…’

Ah, and good old YouTube has the band playing the song live on The Old Grey Whistle Test. How can anyone watch this and NOT want to play guitar like Edwyn does here is beyond me. That scratchy chacka-chacka style, trying to sound like Chic and Talking Heads at once, but accidentally inventing cute indie pop:


Really, it’s so tempting to turn this diary into a study of 80s issues of Smash Hits for the rest of my life. But one must get on with the Now. Whatever that may be.

But how Now is Now? Biggest thing out there today – the movie of ‘Watchmen’. A film based on a 80s comic, and set in the 80s. Best years of our lives, at least for this weekend. Though I don’t think Modern Romance are on the soundtrack.

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Side-effects of the Ban

Thursday eve: To the Bullet Bar in Kentish Town Road, to see the band The New Royal Family, comprising Charley Stone, David Barnett, Jen Denitto and Rob Whose-Surname-Is-Unknown-To-Me. It’s Rob’s 30th birthday. He’s wearing a floppy blond wig and handing out free toy plastic dinosaurs. I’m not sure why (perhaps the answer is ‘why not?’). They’re enjoyable and fun and more like rock stars than many of those who do it for a living, frankly.  They also do a pretty faithful cover of Adam Ant’s ‘Young Parisians’, which is as old as Rob – from 1978.

The band on before them are outrageously loud and tuneless and depress the hell out of me when I enter the venue. I wonder if I’m Too Old, or they’re just Too Loud, or both. Thankfully the Bullet is one of those bars who’ve had to sprout a ‘beer garden’ from nowhere (really a back yard), in order to retain their smoking clientele. This way, not only can people sit down and have a cigarette with their drink, but they can actually hold a conversation without having to shout in each other’s ears over a loud band (or a loud jukebox, or loud football on TV). You can’t smoke AND listen to the bands, of course, but it’s a small price to pay for the ‘quiet carriage’ of the garden, in my book.

I read recently that outdoor music festivals are now more popular and lucrative than ever. So I wonder if the smoking ban is at least part of that equation, too.

Among others, I chat to Vicki Churchill, Seaneen M, Anna S, Alex S, and Rhoda B. Charley wasn’t sure if she could get me on the guest list, but as it turns out the gentleman on the door knows me anyway, and simply waves me inside on sight alone. I suppose I’m an Old Face On The Scene to some. And I recall that Fosca played the Bullet Bar in its previous incarnation as The Verge.

I’m listening to a friend’s mix tape of new-ish music, and one track I really enjoy is ‘Busy Doing Nothing’ by Love Is All. I Google them and discover they’re from Gothenburg. In fact, they used to be the band Girlfrendo, whose records I bought and loved while they were going. Love Is All is a world away from that unabashed twee / C86-inspired incarnation: they’re now very much of the CSS / Franz Ferdinand school: muscular and rhythmic. I know so many bands sound like that at the moment (with that slurping disco um-CHUH um-CHUH beat, as ubiquitous now as the ‘Funky Drummer’ style was in 1989), but they do it better than most:

Love Is All – Busy Doing Nothing (Video)

The hired Fosca-mobile is coming to pick me up at 5.30am. Then it’s off to Gatwick, and Madrid.

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