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80s ‘Superfans’ talk about their obsessions for Bowie, Boy George, Duran Duran & Elvis

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Superfans in the sixties.
 
I don’t suppose I fit the requirements to be called a superfan, well, unless you count having a cheeky wank to a Kate Bush video when I was much younger. Probably not. But I did once (all too briefly) date a tall blonde David Bowie superfan, who probably only ever went out with me because of my passable impression of the Thin White Duke. My vocal dexterity was convincing enough for this dear sweet girl to demand I serenade her with one or two of her favorite Bowie songs during our more intimate moments. I knew it could never last. There was only so long I could sing “The Laughing Gnome” without losing my ardor.

Back in January 1984, Smash Hits music magazine went in search of a selection of typical eighties superfans. They discovered a band of girls and boys who had an overwhelming passion for all things Bowie, Presley, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Madness, Staus Quo, and even Marillion. These young things gave some sweet and occasionally strange answers as they tried to explain exactly what it means to be a “superfan.” Their answers were compiled into a strange format—as if the writer was attempting to cram in as many words as possible into one sentence without thought for punctuation or even explaining who exactly was talking (Me). But that’s not so important as we do get to hear what it meant to be young(-ish) and obsessed with music in the 1980s.
 
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Smash Hits 5-18 January 1984.
 
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DURAN FANS

NAMES: TRACY PARKES & KIM GREVILLE
AGES: 15 & 14
HOME: BIRMINGHAM

“I (Tracy) liked them when they first came out. She talked me (Kim) into going on Duran Duran ‘cause I liked Dexys. She told me to take down all my DMR stuff, give it away and stick up Duran Duran. We have about the same amount of stuff. Tracy has more scrapbooks but I’ve got more on the wall—about 50 different things. We don’t get anything. We only get things if we like them. If it’s a really gonkified pic of Simon le Bon we won’t get it. You don’t put gonks on your wall do you? There’s sort of levels of being a fan. We’ve got a friend who is a real fan but we think she prefers football. She only puts up little pictures on her wall. Even if we see a little one when we’re walking up the street, we’ll be screaming. There was one time she went totally mad on Wham!. We didn’t talk to her for about three days. Then suddenly she went back to Duran. All the lost Duran Duran fans are Wham! fans. We visit Roger’s mum and we’ve been up to Nick and John’s parents’ houses. The first time we went to Roger’s we interviewed his mum for a school project and we found out a few facts that no-one else knew. She told us he was tone deaf and that his favourite toy was a glove puppet. And that his favourite meal is Welsh Rarebit. We’ve been up twice now. No three times. The last time she invited us. His dad was there decorating. We had our pictures took with his dad, his mum and the dog. I think people who go mad and sleep on the grass outside are cruel. OK, you might see him but he isn’t going to ask you out and that is what a lot of fans expect. Some of the girls say they are going to meet John Taylor one day. He’s going to swirl them round to the dinner table—with chocolates and everything—and ask them to marry him. We know that isn’t going to happen. I (Tracy) would love to be in one of their videos. Yeah (Kim), even if we were only standing at the bus stop. Anything. The only thing we have in common is that we’re Duran Duran fans. I’m (Tracy) quiet; she’s noisy. I (Kim) say the wrong things; she doesn’t”

 
More superfans discussing their love of Staus Quo, Madness, Elvis Presley and David Bowie, after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.26.2017
09:46 am
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The Magnificent Seven: Watch Madness in their autobiographical film debut ‘Take It or Leave It’

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In 1981, Madness the greatest septet since The Magnificent Seven—no, not that crappy remake, the original with Yul Bryner—starred in their very own feature film Take It or Leave It.

Now, Take It or Leave It is not the catchiest of titles I know, but one, I suppose, that reflects the band’s attitude to whether you like their music or not….or even if you like this movie. Or not.

Thankfully—nearly everyone in the whole wide world loves them some Madness so this film could have been called Pig Fuckers from Hell and millions would still have queued to catch a glimpse of their heroes. Mind you, I suppose that’s not really saying much as millions would probably queue to go and see a film called Pig Fuckers from Hell even if Madness had nothing to do with it, or at least watch it on their laptops—I know I would.

And don’t go by that Nouvelle Vague-looking poster above, the original poster was the Nutty Boys draped with reels of shiny celluloid and surrounded by cans of film all against a dazzling red background—which probably gives a better flavor of what this film is all about.
 
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The original movie poster.
 
Anyway.

What is this thing all about?

Well. If you’ve ever wondered what’s it like to be in a band or ever considered the strange quirks of fate and character that bring together a group of disparate talents to form a band in the first place, then this film will answer your questions.

Take It or Leave It is a very likable comic docudrama that tells the story of seven individuals who manage to come together through trial, error, hard work and ambition to form a band called Madness. Rather than have some young look-alikes play the band members, Madness step up to the mark and play themselves from earliest beginnings in 1976 to all-out success in 1981.

It looks almost like a documentary and includes some exceptional footage of the boys playing gigs in local pubs and clubs with quite a few tracks that haven’t been or were not released until very recently. The story as such is a series of episodic scenes telling the story of Chris Foreman, Lee Thompson, Mike Barson, Suggs, Dan “Woody” Woodgate, Mark Bedford, and Chas Smash—the fine bunch of wayward characters who together make up Madness. There was a script of sorts but there was also a fair bit of ad-libbing. Some of these scenes were true and some were not—like Chris didn’t work at the post office but it kinda felt right and is a funny scene. The acting gets better as the movie goes on and by the end, I was thinking, their acting is so much better now than at the beginning that this is where maybe they should have reshot the first part of the film.

But wait.

The acting’s not the important thing here. What is important about Take It or Leave It is that it’s probably the best music film ever made about being in a band. It’s like a cinéma vérité counterpoint to that seventies rock classic Flame which starred Slade. Both of these movies presented a side to the music business too often excised at the script stage or removed by producers during the edit. Add into this fine mix an album’s worth a classic Madness tracks, then the whole thing is a bit of a joy to watch.
Watch Madness in ‘Take It or Leave It,’ after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.25.2017
10:50 am
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Ska, Ska, Ska: The Specials, Selecter & Bad Manners: Cool photos of the bands & their fans 1979-80

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Jerry Dammers basically ran 2 Tone Records out of his bedroom. It was a do-it-yourself label started in 1979 to record his band The Specials and promote a bunch of other ska groups—mainly friends and colleagues in and around Coventry, England.

2 Tone was the start of a ska revival. At one point nearly every new British ska band was on Dammers’ label—The Specials, Madness, Selecter, The (English) Beat, Bad Manners, The Bodysnatchers and even an indie act named Elvis Costello.

The world was turning black and white. Quite literally as it turned out when The Specials toured America. At the Whisky a Go Go in February 1980, the whole exterior of the building was painted in black and white checks.

That summer was the last great high for the ska revival. The UK pop charts were crammed with ska music. The Specials scored another top ten hit with their fourth single “Rat Race.” They were recording their second album and played a sell-out seaside tour of England with support from The Bodysnatchers. They had also made a legendary appearance on Saturday Night Live with “Gangsters” which according to some was a performance that stands out as one of the best in the show’s history. The Specials also toured Japan where their opening gig at Osaka sent the audience into a frenzy of ecstasy. The audience rushed the stage and mobbed the band. As a result of this, the band’s manager was arrested and their further shows canceled. In Japan audiences were forbidden from standing or dancing at concerts—something these young fans found all but impossible to do.

Yet for all the success, the Specials were falling apart. There was infighting between lead singer Terry Hall and guitarist Roddy Radiation and loud disagreements between Dammers and other band members over the new direction the Specials’ music was heading. At the end of the year, Lynval Golding was brutally stabbed in a racist attack outside a concert in London. It began to look like the great multicultural pop movement represented by the Specials and all the other ska bands was coming to an end. The following year, the Specials split. Ska was replaced by the New Romantics and synth-pop.

These photographs capture the bands and fans of 2 Tone during 1979 and the summer of 1980 when ska united a nation.
 
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Neville Staples and Jerry Dammers of The Specials, circa 1979.
 
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Sarah Jane Owen of The Bodysnatchers, 1980.
 
More memories of the summer of ska, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.17.2017
10:36 am
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‘My name is my cocaine’: That time Michael Caine had a hit with a song about an IRA informer
11.02.2016
11:24 am
Topics:
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Apparently, the easiest way to improve your Michael Caine impersonation is to say:

My name, is my cocaine.

See. It works.

Now, Peter Sellers used to do a superb Michael Caine impression which began something like that and then going on to detail some utterly trivial boring fact (a bit like the one above…) before finishing, “Not a lot people know that.”

“Not a lot of people know that…” became the catchphrase most associated with Caine though he never actually said it. However, the great movie star did say “My name is Michael Caine” for a top ten chart hit by band Madness in 1984.

Anyone who has seen Caine’s stellar performance in the movie Little Voice will know that he is not the world’s greatest singer. Thankfully no singing was required with the song “Michael Caine.” When first approached by London’s nutty boys Madness to add his voice to their single, the great actor knocked it back. But then he had a change of heart as he explained to William Orbit in 2007:

My daughter, who was 10 at the time, said: ‘You’ve got to do it, dad, it’s Madness!’ I did it for her.

 
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Caine as he appeared on the back cover of the single ‘Michael Caine’ by Madness.
 
Written by Madness sometime vocalist and trumpeter Carl Smyth (aka Chas Smash) and drummer Daniel Woodgate “Michael Caine” might at a first listen sound like some strange hybrid pop song about spies and celebrity and wanting a photograph or something or other. But the song is actually far more complex than its catchy little tune suggests.

I recall it was the NME that first highlighted the deeper (darker) significance of the song “Michael Caine” in its inky black pages. The NME revealed Madness’ eighteenth single was in fact about an IRA informer “forced to live under an assumed name.” When the strain becomes too great for this unlucky chap—he “cracks under the pressure” and all he has as a reminder of his past life is a photograph.

The lyrics are certainly oblique enough to disguise any direct correlation between a world class movie actor, spying, the IRA and “The Troubles”—which was the rather twee term used to describe the war in Northern Ireland between 1968 and 1998. Anyhow, the lyrics go as follows:

He’s walking where I’m afraid I don’t know
I see the firemen jumping from the windows
There’s panic and I hear somebody scream

He picks up useless paper
And puts it in my pocket
I’m trying very hard to keep my fingers clean
I can’t remember tell me what’s his name

And all I wanted was a word or photograph to keep at home
And all I wanted was a word or photograph to keep

The sun is laughing its another broken morning
I see a shadow and call out to try and warn him
He didn’t seem to hear
Just turned away

The quiet fellow follows and points his fingers
Straight at you
He had to sacrifice his pride yes throw it all away

His days are numbered he walks round and round in circles
There is no place he can ever call his own
He seems to jump at the sound of the phone

Staring out the window there’s nothing he can now do
All he wanted was to remain sane
He can’t remember his own name

 
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Madness.
 
It’s obvious from these lyrics the song’s about something nasty in the woodshed. But wait—this was Madness who weren’t exactly known for putting out deep political songs. They were considered “a singles band” which was greatly unfair considering the magnificence of their fourth studio album The Rise & Fall—which is to be frank is their Sgt. Pepper moment—a literal classic. But yes, Madness was seen as a jolly, happy, fun bunch of guys whose ska-influenced music was deeply joyous entertainment.

But then again “Michael Caine” wasn’t the band’s first foray into politics…

Watch ‘Michael Caine,’ after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.02.2016
11:24 am
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‘An experiment waiting to happen’: A brief history of ‘Two Tone Britain’

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Jerry Dammers: the father of Two Tone records
 
Two Tone was a specifically British, or more accurately English, musical genre that came out of punk and ska in the late 1970s. The roots of Two Tone can be traced back to the arrival of West Indians to England—the so-called “Windrush Generation”—under the British Nationality Act of 1948. This act gave British citizenship to all people living in Commonwealth countries and full rights of entry and settlement in the UK. With the arrival of these Commonwealth citizens came ska and reggae music, which was slowly adopted by the white working class.

Most youth music is exclusive—it’s old versus young; hip versus square; mod versus rocker; slacker versus yuppie; black versus white. Few musical genres are totally or even try to be totally inclusive—there is a built-in snobbishness that comes with the package. The osmosis of ska and Afro-Carribean culture into the white British culture pointed a way towards a truly inclusive musical genre—Two Tone. It was, as Two Tone singer Pauline Black once said, “an experiment waiting to happen.”

During the 1960s, Skinheads took ska as their own—but the growing racism of the skinhead movement led to their ostracization. Reggae replaced ska—but the skins hated reggae’s laid-back, spliffed-up vibe. Skinheads became suedeheads. Popular music moved onto glam rock, heavy metal, and prog rock. Then punk arrived in 1976. A new generation of youngsters saw that the means of music production could be theirs.
 
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Two Tone pioneers The Specials.
 
Jerry Dammers was a young musician in Coventry. He had been a fellow traveler in various youth movements—a hippie, a skinhead, a punk—but his first love was ska. Dammers took the energy of punk with the rhythms of ska and created a new genre of music known as Two Tone—an inclusive, socially aware, “danceable earfest.” Dammers formed the Specials AKA with like-minded youngsters and the best of local talent. The Specials pioneered Two Tone music. They got a record deal that allowed Dammers to set up his Two Tone record label. Its first release was The Specials with “Gangsters” on the A-side and Pauline Black and the Selecter—a band made up in the studio—on the B-side. Dammers quickly signed up the Beat (a.k.a. the English Beat), London band Madness, Bad Manners, the Bodysnatchers and even Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

Two Tone’s iconic black and white label design (an image created by Dammers that was loosely based on a photograph of Pete Tosh from the Wailing Wailers) was a standard for the fans’ style—a mix of Rude Boy and Mod—baggy suit, white shirt, black tie, and porkpie hat. Two Tone brought black and white together and although The Specials could sometimes be didactic—they sent out a political message that united the young.

The whole story is well told by those at its heart and from those who were most influenced by it in Two Tone Britain—a thoroughly enjoyable documentary that makes you realize what at its best music can achieve. (The video embedded below looks suspiciously unavailable, but we assure you, as of the time of posting, you can click on it and watch it!)
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.25.2016
12:40 pm
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Madness: Ska’s original Nutty Boys in concert from 1980
10.21.2012
06:43 pm
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Madness are now as loved as the Queen Mother was once adored by London cab drivers. Understandable as they have been making people happy with their infectious music for over 30 years.

This is Madness live in Nottingham from 1980. Originally recorded for the BBC, it’s a great show, and although the audio isn’t perfect, it’s difficult not to watch without a grin on your face.

Madness Graham ‘Suggs’ McPherson, Mark ‘Bedders’ Bedford, Lee ‘Kix’ Thompson, Carl Smyth (aka Chas Smash), Dan ‘Woody’ Woodgate, Chris Foreman (aka Chrissy Boy), Mike ‘Barso’ Barson

Set list:

01. “Night Boat To Cairo”
02. “E.R.N.I.E”
03. “Mistakes”
04. “Close Escape”
05. “Crying Shame”
06. “Razor Blade Alley”
07. “Baggy Trousers”
08. “My Girl”
09. “Land Of Hope And Glory”
10. “Embarrassment”
11. “On The Pete”
12. “The Prince”
13. “One Step Beyond”
14. “Madness”

Madness will be touring for the release of their 10th studio album Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da (with a cover by Peter Blake), which is out on October 29th, more details here.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.21.2012
06:43 pm
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‘Dance Craze - The Best of British Ska Live!’ ft Madness, The Specials, The Beat & more

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There’s no need to explain why this film is such a corker. Joe Massot’s Dance Craze is 84 minutes of absolutely mint performances from the best British ska acts of the early 80s, featuring 27 tracks from Madness, The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers.

All the bands were signed to the iconic 2 Tone label, who also put out a soundtrack album featuring some of the best cuts from the film. I have that record and it’s excellent, but seeing the footage for the first time in full really puts it in perspective.

The energy, the passion, the clothes, the diversity and yet the sense of community, it’s no wonder ska was the biggest youth movement in the UK after punk. These gigs look great, and it’s a pity more modern live experiences aren’t as communal and just such goddam fun.

I mean, how could you possibly go wrong with a tracklist like this:

“Nite Klub” – The Specials
“The Prince” – Madness
“Ne-Ne-Na-Na-Na-Na-Nu-Nu” – Bad Manners
“007 (Shanty Town)” – The Bodysnatchers
“Three Minute Hero” – The Selecter
“Ranking Full Stop” – The Beat
“Big Shot” – The Beat
“Concrete Jungle” – The Specials
“Swan Lake” – Madness
“Razor Blade Alley” – Madness
“Missing Words” – The Selecter
“Let’s Do the Rock Steady” – The Bodysnatchers
“Lip Up Fatty” – Bad Manners
“Madness” – Madness
“Too Much Too Young” – The Specials
“On My Radio” – The Selecter
“Easy Life” – The Bodysnatchers
“Rough Rider” – The Beat
“Man at C&A” – The Specials
“Inner London Violence” – Bad Manners
“Night Boat to Cairo” – Madness
“Twist and Crawl” – The Beat
“Wooly Bully” – Bad Manners
“Too Much Pressure” – The Selecter
“Mirror in the Bathroom” – The Beat
“One Step Beyond” – Madness
“Nite Klub” – The Specials
 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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04.24.2012
09:27 pm
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