My 100 Best Albums of the 80’s (Chapter 41)

# 38

Dazzle Ships by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (1983)

“…These are the little children, the future in our hands.

When all God’s children on this Earth inherit all our plans.

These are the lies they tell us. But this is the only way.

When all God’s children on the Earth will evermore be saved.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (Genetic Engineering)

As I’d already written about this album in one of my very first blogs I was kind of stumped about what to say about it this time around. Those early blogs were before I started this now long-running countdown of mine. So here Dazzle Ships appears again … this time very proudly at number 38.

For my regular readers you may recall my previous effort (chapter 40 # 39) on Deacon Blue’s Raintown I make mention of bumping into Jonathan Tombs at the pub called Busby’s in Brackenhurst and hatching a plan to travel to England the following year. Well after publishing that little yarn I had some excellent responses by some of those involved in my story. Most notably from Albin Wagner, who is not a lawyer for nothing it seems. He has a truly remarkable memory for details and especially for events a great many years back.

Albin “the Punk” Wagner had this to say about my last blog …

Just read the Deacon Blue/Jon Tombs blog. Fantastic as usual (thank you) , some great flash-backs! What a treat’

The Punk then goes on to say … ‘I do remember that Busby night Beza*you were my driver! Okay so now I actually drove my car to Busby’s that night. I had forgotten this small, yet important fact … but it’s slowly coming back to me now …

* (Beza or Biza is what The Punk and Humps have always called me. It comes from the Sotho greeting “Eita Beza” meaning “Hey Sunshine” … because as you all know I’m always a complete “Ray of Sunshine“)

After Busby’s an intoxicated Beza heads towards his car with The Punk in tow … Albin continues with his recollection of the post-Busby events of much later that night, in fact it’s well into the next day by now … ‘First you couldn’t get your car key to fit into the door. When you did, only after getting some help from a passing youngster, you then pulled off straight into a metal pole‘ … Okay this sorry tale is not sounding so good as I read the Punk’s Whats App. (PLEASE NOTE : Parents of today should be very grateful someone invented Über)

Then we made a detour on the way home to my place … in totally the wrong direction!’ … and now for the very worst bit … ‘and then you parked outside Karen Lepora’s house at 2.30 a.m. Jumped out the car and started firstly singing and then intermittently shouting Karen you bitch, I LOVE YOU! I was cringing in the passenger seat, but luckily nobody came out.

Okay so all of these mortifying events had been completely banished from my memory banks … until Albin reminded me and it all came flooding back in all it’s cringe-worthy glory. No wonder Karen Lepora never called me again … hahaha …

Albin finished his story by explaining his own day-after … ‘I was meant to study the next day, but only managed to revive myself in time for the 1pm bus to Braamfontein (and not the planned 7am journey )

I don’t know why I tell these stories but anyway. Now I can remember it forever, hopefully. Finally if you are reading this … ‘I’m so sorry Mrs. Lepora (Karen’s Mom) for that night long, long ago when I stood shouting outside at your house shortly before breakfast one morning‘…

Part 2

And now on to Dazzle Ships … the fourth album by the fine Liverpool band, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Dazzle Ships is pop of the most fragmented kind, a concept album released in an era that had nothing to do with such conceits. On its own merits, though, it is dazzling indeed, a Kid A of its time that never received a comparative level of contemporary attention and appreciation. Indeed, Radiohead’s own plunge into abstract electronics and meditations on biological and technological advances seems to be echoing the themes and construction of Dazzle Ships (Ned Raggett, All Music Guide)

Most know OMD through their big hit singles that were played constantly on the radio and probably still are. There songs also appeared on countless 80’s compilation albums or CD’s over the last, almost four decades. Dazzle Ships finds them straddling the large crevice that lies between the hit singles, and other hand, the weird shit. The album does of course have the monster smash “Telegraph” on it. This breathtaking pop nugget is quite possibly one of my three favourite OMD singles of all time. Then there is “Genetic Engineering” which was the first single released off this album. It soars gracefully with its Speak & Spell toy vocals and an opening sequence that also sounds like the inspiration for Radiohead’sFitter, Happier,” for instance. It’s very strange that it wasn’t a bigger hit. “Radio Waves” to is one of the records more poppier moments.

Here I must mention two of the lesser know album cuts … “International” and “Of all the Things We’ve Made” which are both alluringly melancholic. In fact these last two completely make this LP for me. Originally a B-Side to the single release of “Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)“, “Of all the Things We’ve Made” was remixed and polished up for inclusion on this album.

OMD – Of all the things we’ve made
234,305 views since Oct 23, 2007
  • One of the saddest songs they did, always  brings a tear to my eye as I was not there when my father passed away,  this was on the radio of the taxi on the way to hospital (Peter Nicklin)
  • Fantastic song that I always think represent the end of the OMD era that I really love (the first four albums)(Ulf Björkland)
  • Simply a perfect song. Sublime in its melancholy and beauty and off of a near-perfect album. One of my favorite synth pop albums (and bands) of all-time.  This music is timeless. (Matt Jarvie)

International” starts up ominously with a spoken introduction using radio samples that goes something like this …

The youth and Anti-Imperialist Tribune was also addressed by a young girl from Nicaragua whose hands had been cut off at the wrists by the former Somoza guards …
Veronika Merko, of the German Federal Republic, had this to say: Also, ich habe eine Ausbildung gemacht als Industriekaufmann und wurde nach der Lehre nicht uebernommen

Translates to English as “Well, I had finished my training as an industrial clerk but was not taken up”. This is thanks to and not my supreme linguistic abilities. No matter what it means I just love how the song starts in such a grim fashion. From there the hypnotic electronic drum-beat and haunting bass synthesizer kicks in. The tune then gently rolls on into simple, yet pretty lyrics, which wrap themselves effectively around twinkling keyboards. This is also possibly one of Andy McCluskey’s greatest vocal performances. “International” is quite heart-wrenching … especially the ending …

She never thought he’d be this way. Her arms aloft, she holds. But now it’s all a memory.”

OMD International by PICASSO
17,433 views since Nov 22, 2010

Part 3


My guest on this edition is one John Rowberry who I’ve known since around 2006. He’d met a friend of mine Dominic while she was living and working in London. They’d met, fallen in love and he subsequently moved to South Africa to marry her. They had their ceremony down in Cape Town a few years later, and then settled in Morningside a smart, very up-market suburb of Johannesburg.

John Rowberry is certainly a music fan. That’s probably why we bonded so quickly when we first met all those years ago. He is however more a 90’s and beyond music child as he was only born in 1976. John’s main musical love is electronic and ambient type music. Not my favourite, but I usually get where he is coming from. Dazzle Ships is an 80’s “concept” album that made me think of him. It’s I suppose a pioneering album of the kind of stuff he loves. So here’s John “Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space” Rowberry in some of his glory …

Let me digress for a moment and mention what John said in response to my blog about Paul Simon’s Graceland album …

I have this funny feeling that Paul Simon’s Graceland is why I am here in South Africa. This album was the soundtrack to my youth, my Dad had it on vinyl. He has this totally gangster Bang & Olufsen Stereo which had both a record player and tape deck and three fader mixing controls . I would play the album over and over again to my pet hamster Hammy (who lived next to the stereo) and play with the three faders the whole time. The second reason I love this album is it has seen me thought the dark times. I remember my first day I went to boarding school in some horrible school full of posh kids that I did not fit in with. I was in the locker room sitting there thinking how am I going to get through this? Then on the TV came Chevy Chase with Paul Simon singing “You can call me Al ” and they both took me away from the horror of it all for a few minutes as only “You can cal me Al” can. I cannot think of a month in my life when I have not played this album, sometimes for the joy of listening or to get me through the harder times

Thanks for taking the time to send me that John. It’s a really nice reflection and memory to have of that classic record. I must ask though … could you not have thought of a better name for your hamster than Hammy?

John’s best albums of the

John’s selection is excellent, especially considering what he spends most of his time listening to these days. He makes mention in his list of three albums that narrowly missed being released in the 80’s themselves. The Boomtown Rats Fine Art of Surfacing from 1979 ; and then two 90’s LP’s – Chill Out by the KLF and Pills ‘n’ Thrills & Bellyaches by the Happy Mondays ; both which were released in 1990. His top ten 80’s albums (see below) include five that crack my top 100.

Q & A

  • How old were you on the 1st of January 1980 … 3
  • Year matriculated/finished school and what school … 1994 * I attended Royal Grammar School Worcester, which you probably don’t know is one of the oldest schools in the world and can trace itself back to 685 AD. Making it the 6th Oldest school in the world. Also we had black pear trees which some of you know is the emblem of Worcester cricket team and of the county. A little research gives two reasons. One because the Worcestershire Bowmen carried black apples at the battle of Agincourt (where we right royally thumped the French) in 1415 and in 1575 Queen Elizabeth was so taken by the quality of the fruit of Worcestershire she allowed it to be unpicked and granted an emblem of the three pears.
  • Worst memories of the 80’s  … Driving my plastic tractor down a very large pathway (it was if you were 3) that had quite a lot of swerves and a tree at the bottom. I hit the tree and cried a lot. (John was it a “fake plastic tractor”?)
That was then : Aah cute – little Johnny in the 1980’s
  • Most famous person/s you’ve met … Tony Wilson, the owner of Factory Records who came and gave a talk at Cardiff University. He basically said music’s a mugs game. Tony Wilson was immortalized in the movie 24 Hour Party People with Steve Coogan playing him. If you have not seen the movie watch it, it’s hilarious, poignant and sort of true.  Factory Records managed Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays all of whom appear on my top ten list. He also owned the Hacienda nightclub, (along with New Order I must add John. In fact almost all the money New Order made was pumped back into the Hacienda to keep it going. New Order were basically bankrupt through this period of squander) where everything happened in 1989-1990 with the new British electronic dance scene. Oh I could go on for hours about this but you know it really was the end of 1989 and early 1990 so I must stop.
Tony Wilson (left) and Steve Coogan (as Tony Wilson)
  • The achievements you are most proud of … My two children, my present life and how I got to where I am today
  • Last album you purchased (or was given) on vinyl and/or CD  … Selected Ambient Works Volume 1 by Aphex Twin 
  • Music that you listen to up until 2020… I have had a long and passionate love of electronic music starting with Kraftwerk, key stoned by a 30 year love of Underworld and everything that has come since and before. My current likes are Nicholas Jaar, Jamie XX , Jon Hopkins and of course Brian Eno.
  • Do you stream music? If so which platform? Apple, Spotify etc. Yes, Apple Music
  • What Radio station do you listen to now if any? … None
  • Favourite radio presenter/s … now or ever or both … John Peel. He was everything to me growing up. He introduced me to every type of music and a broad love of every genre there is. From West African to blues,  punk, Indie, Jazz and to Techno. Of course they are all one and the same and that was his great skill to make you fall in love with the smallest band in the world to the biggest bands in the world back to back.
John Peel – legendary BBC Radio 1 presenter
  • What work do you do? Who do you work for? I am currently experimenting with a post work lifestyle which I hope you will all enjoy one day. My days are spent parenting, trying to get fit, learning guitar and piano and producing electronic music. (what John is actually saying here is that he came into a vast sum of money and doesn’t need to work again …. the bastard!)
  • What did you mainly do during lock-down … I watched The Deuce all seasons, watched season 1 and 2 of The Wire, watched great old movies such as Gangs of New York, spent a lot of time with the kids playing a board game called Azul. Drank red wine
  • Favourite night-clubs in the 80’s …or  favourite pubs ?  (John of course only became a teenager in 1989 I really liked the Dolphin in Lee on Solent, my Dad would buy us a bottle of coke and some crisps and we would play on the swings and slides in the beer garden. We were not allowed in the pub and I do not remember the parents ever coming out to see us much. Times have changed
The John Rowberry of today, with his lads on the coffee mug
  • Bands or artists you’d like to see play live before they or you die … I’d like to see Underworld play in Japan at a festival. I would preferably like to have some really good quality ecstasy and a bottle of water and my mate Mark Wilson cause he would fucking love it! Taking pills and listening to techno. He might not know it yet but he would. And the love of my life Jordan (but she can’t come cause she does not like flashing lights and they give her a migraine). So it would just be me and Mark and loads of hot Japanese Women and relentless good vibes. (John I’ll ask me Mum if I can go with okay?)
  • All-time favourite movies … I really don’t know, I think it would be a Tarantino movie, probably Once upon a time in Hollywood, maybe the Godfather Part 3. I also love Maid in Manhattan or maybe and I think this is the one Meet Joe Black. Yes Meet Joe Black, I could watch it once a year forever so that must make it my favourite. (phew, glad we got there in the end John)
  • Last book you read and/or book/s you are reading currently … Currently reading I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I really like sci-fi and Margaret Atwood said that Never Let Me Go was her favourite dystopian book, and it is magnificent. Also I love history and economic books and people books. I tend to keep 5/6 books on the go (this confirms my worst fears, John must have ADD) and enjoy writers like Anthony Beevor, Ian M. Banks, Peter Jordasson. I also read the Economist every week.
  • All-time favourite TV series … The Wire, The Deuce, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder. Have I got News For You, The Young Ones. 
  • Favourite current TV series … Probably the Deuce, it’s underrated, there’s brilliant acting by all involved especially James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Also its about porn, prostitution, corruption and the seedy side of 5th Avenue of New York in the 70s and 80s (good old fashioned family viewing eh John?)
  • The song or songs you would like played at your funeral … I actually have a death playlist that I have made. On Apple Music its called Johns Death Playlist (John did list this mighty playlist of his but I’ll spare you the details for now … but yes there’s plenty of Underworld in it!!)
John’s favourite band … Underworld

So to finish this rambling blog on Dazzle Ships I must mention that I did think that techno-head Rowberry may find something of interest in an old Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark from the early 1980’s. He’s never listened to the record so I suggested he do so. Here’s what John came back with.

John Rowberry on OMD’s Dazzle Ships [editing, grammar and spell-check by Mark Wilson]

I was not expecting much from Dazzle Ships as I put it on my stereo for a drive to the Netcare in Pretoria East. I thought an early 80s concept album was appropriate for such a journey. Unfortunately I chose the 2008 re-release, which is filled with extra bonus tracks, and then accidentally put it on shuffle. Well let me tell you, I thought it was an unadulterated piece of poop. I was struggling with why would this have got into Mark’s 100 albums, why? In the car park of the hospital I texted our good buddy Trevor Pape who incidentally was too busy in a conference talking about rocks to talk to me (how rude) ; but he assured me that it was a piece of genius. I went home. I thought, I cogitated, I ruminated and then had a bowel movement. I thought no this is wrong, Mark’s not normally this far off the mark and if you combine this with the rock steady confidence of Trevor, perhaps it’s me? So I put it on again, but this time I put on the original release, with no extra bonus tracks, and this time played it in the right order.

Back again, second time around everything in its right place (see what I did their Radiohead fans?). I got it, it clicked, all I love about old synthesizer pioneers OMD and everything I love about modern electronics came together. It’s got it all these crazy Cold War samples, reminiscent of Coldcut who would produce the cut and paste album 15 years later when that set the scene. Homages to the gods of it all Kraftwerk, references to the Baltic fleet on Radio Waves. So you have to know this to my knowledge is only the second reference to the Baltic fleet in the canon of English speaking music. Oh please John tell us the other one, I can’t live another day without you telling me. Well children, it was in Prefab Sprouts “Faaron Young“. You can all breathe again. The interludes in Dazzle Ships bring the bleak depressing narrative of the Cold War to the fore.

Within moments of hearing “All the things we’ve made,” the last song of the album, it went straight into my 2020 playlist and conjured up moments of the slow ballads at the back end of all great Blur albums. The tiredness of Damon Albarn, of the exhausting nature of living in today with its repetitively boring worship of consumerism, or of another broken love. Modern life is rubbish. “This is a Low”, I know now Damon listened to Dazzle Ships! What a joy for me to have been given this album to listen to, and looking at it from a perspective of hearing it for the first time, 37 years after it’s release. Hearing the echoes of so many artists you love in it, and within it, the album is paying homage to their own heroes in turn. Thanks Mark for making my Saturday morning perfect.

John also told me something about this record I did not know (or possibly I forgot that I knew)… what are these Dazzle Ships of the title you may may wonder? … Well …

A dazzle ship

From Wikipedia … “Dazzle camouflage, also known as razzle dazzle (in the U.S.) or dazzle painting, was a family of ship camouflage used extensively in World War I, and to a lesser extent in World War II and afterwards. Credited to the British marine artist Norman Wilkinson, though with a rejected prior claim by the zoologist John Graham Kerr, it consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other.

Unlike other forms of camouflage, the intention of dazzle is not to conceal but to make it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed, and heading. Norman Wilkinson explained in 1919 that he had intended dazzle primarily to mislead the enemy about a ship’s course and so cause them to take up a poor firing position.”

So there we have it. The first Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark I ever bought and still my favourite one. OMD sadly do not appear again on my list of 100 favourite albums of the 1980’s.

For those that read this far … thank you. To John Rowberry for taking the time, and putting in so much effort to help me with this issue … a very big thank you.

I’ll see you back here for number 37. “In Music we Trust” … Mark Wilson

My 100 Best Albums of the 80’s (Chapter 40)

# 39

Raintown by Deacon Blue (1987)

They say that love might be the very thing / If only it could be / And making love is more than anything / And all these thing like buildings / And faces / And memories / And places / Don’t count for anything

Ricky Ross, Deacon Blue (The Very Thing)

Sometime in late 1987 I found myself one mid-week night at the Busby’s Pub in Brackenhurst, a sprawling suburb of Alberton. Busby’s was as good a local as any, and we spent many a fuzzy evening there over the decade or so of its existence. One night some friends had dragged me down there to try mend my broken heart. I’d recently been dumped by one Karen Lepora and found myself in a funk that was proving hard to recover from. Karen and I had dated for about a year and I’d say she was my first “grown-up” girlfriend. I was devastated when she broke the news to me … so stricken that I took to scrawling a verse from the great Bright Blue song “Weeping” on a wall in my bedroom.

It doesn’t matter now
It’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping

Bright Blue `Weeping’ – official music video
139,917 views since Oct 1, 2011

Even though the lyrics in Bright Blue’s song have nothing to do with the end of a romance they had struck a chord with me in my moment of deep sadness and bitter disappointment. Being dumped is never fun … but this one hurt like hell. I wasn’t quite weeping but I was struggling to find my sense of humour again that’s for sure. Mark Humphrey still to this day jokingly reminds me of those lyrics I scribbled on the wall all those years ago. So one night, sick of my Morrissey-like miserbalism, they all arrived to take me out for a few pints in an attempt to cheer me up. The gang who collected me probably included Stephen Knight, Albin Wagner and Mark Humphrey. Fat chance I thought of this helping I thought to myself, as I somewhat reluctantly drifted off with the lads into the Alberton night.

Sometime later that evening and numbed by a few helpful beers, I found myself perched on a stool at Busby’s sticky-floored main bar. I turned to see one Jonathan Tombs ordering something cold and large besides me. We’d been at school together, but had lost touch in the four years since I’d left, and he stayed on to repeat the year. While we chatted he mentioned he was off to the United Kingdom for a one month holiday the following year. “Oh yeah” I said … “that sounds cool. Wish it was me!” Jonathan then uttered the sentence he probably still regrets to this day … “why don’t you come with me? ” …

A more recent beverage fueled gathering, this time in Cape Town a couple of years ago … from l to r … Jon Tombs, Mark Wilson, Albin Wagner and Trevor Pape

So the road to my romantic recovery began that very night as I readily agreed to join Jonathan on his planned sojourn to England the following year. Plans were laid out and discussed. With mounting excitement I thought to myself … damn you Karen Lepora I’ll show you how much fun my life can be without you!! The self same Karen who had the strangest habit when watching the screen at the cinema. Her head turned almost fully in your direction as she watched the movie from out the corners of her eyes. I’m not joking here either. Man it was a bit weird and somewhat disconcerting … it would have normally been creepy, except I really fancied this girl, so didn’t mind at the time … this “look” of love now very much a thing of the my past!

Fast forward to March 1988. We’re in London and staying at Denise’s flat in Wembley. She’s so pleased to see me again. Not! The weather is wet and foul, so when we’re not out drinking beer or going to music gigs we are absorbed by British TV. This was before M-Net even existed in South Africa and as you may recall what was on the SABC was at best rubbish. Watching what is on the BBC is an early novelty of being in England for the first time. Among many other great shows we discovered the wonders of Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder. It’s the funniest show either Jon or I had ever witnessed and I remember almost wetting myself on many occasions. Jon and I spend a lot of our spare time annoying the life out of Denise with our constant drunken or even more worrying, sober giggling.

We tear up and down the length of England. A few nights are spent in Loughborough, a small university town near Leicester, where we stayed in Jonathan’s Gran’s tiny flat. Besides being the size of an extremely large kennel that you shouldn’t swing a cat in, it also didn’t have one single mirror in it. These days that wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest … but back then when I still had some hair it was a serious problem. Have you ever seen how weird you look in a toaster? Or even worse your reflection in the curve of the kettle? Besides that Jon’s Gran was an extremely sweet lady, and I’m still eternally grateful to her for putting up with us for those three nights or so.

Then on to Whitley Bay which is a seaside town on the north east coast of England. Pretty place but crikey was it cold and miserable when we stayed there. It’s near the city of Newcastle so we paid the place a visit. The most exciting thing that happened to us in Newcastle was driving past their famous football stadium which is called St. James Park. One day we even made a brief trip into Scotland to be able to say we’ve been there! We crossed the border, immediately parked the car, ambled over to a large rock that said England on one side, and Scotland on the other, then of course took pictures as proof of our visit.

Talking of football we also spent some time in the beautiful English town of Nottingham. While we were there we managed to go and watch our first ever English first division match. This was of course before it was known as the English Premier League (or EPL). It was also the days of Nottingham Forest being a force to be reckoned with in the English top flight. The game that Saturday we were in town was Forest v the mighty Liverpool at the City Ground in Nottingham. Liverpool were still very much cruising to the title that season so not much was really at stake that Saturday afternoon. Forest were in 3rd spot and my team Manchester United were lagging behind Liverpool in a distant 2nd place. So on 2 April 1988 Jonathan Tombs and I sat freezing our butts off and stood with the travelling Liverpool supporters. Thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia I read that 29,188 were at the City Ground that day, two of whom were a couple of very excited South Africans. In a very scrappy affair Forest won 2-1 with goals from an Alan Hansen own goal in the 24th minute and then Neil Webb in the 59th. A consolation John Aldridge penalty in the 70th minute was all us in Liverpool part of the stadium got to cheer that afternoon. Two days later Liverpool would draw 3-3 with Manchester United at Anfield to all but clinch the title that year.

Of course the two teams we watched play that day would meet each other again in a very ill-fated game in the FA Cup almost exactly to the day one year later. The Hillsborough disaster was a fatal human crush at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, on 15 April 1989. It occurred during the semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Ninety-four people died on the day; another person died in hospital days later and the final victim, who had been put into a persistent vegetative state by the crush and had never regained consciousness, died in 1993.

But what has any of this to do with Deacon Blue’s superb Raintown you may wonder? Well …

Deacon Blue was the second of three big live shows Jon and I saw together in London that summer in ’88. Raintown is the debut album of this, the then still reasonably unknown, sophisticated Glaswegian pop group. They formed in 1985 and had taken their name from a Steely Dan song. With the vocals of singer/songwriter Ricky Ross backed by jazz and soul-inspired melodies, Deacon Blue recorded several British hits in the late 80’s, notably 1988’s “Real Gone Kid,” which entered the U.K. top ten. From early on in 1987 they had slowly ventured into our consciousness back home in South Africa. Deacon Blue would soon became very popular with the young folk that heard them constantly on the radio. Many of us rushed out and bought their first record. Jonathan and I were therefore very excited to book tickets to their upcoming London show the very day we had landed in the (musical) capital of the world.

I remember not a lot from that night late in March when we saw them. I do know they were supported by the band Fairground Attraction who would go on to have a reasonably big hit with the single “Perfect” a little later on that year. Jon and I found ourselves standing in an excellent viewing position quite close to the stage at the superb Town & Country Club where they were playing. We were both completely hypnotized as they basically cruised their way through Raintown in it’s entirety. I recall falling completely in lust with Lorraine McIntosh, the gorgeous wee brunette who shared vocal duties with Ricky Ross. She was small in stature but with a prodigious mop of unruly curls that somehow sat atop her head. That night I’m sure Lorraine had on a flowery dress/blouse with jeans, or was she wearing a short black mini-skirt? Damn, my memory is not what it was, but I know for a fact she looked gorgeous. She had blue eyes that somehow sparkled on a pale face set off with seriously sexy red lips … YUM, just my type I thought as I watched her from almost touching distance … Karen (YOU BITCH!!) Lepora back home in Alberton was now certainly a faded and distant memory!

Besides my Lorraine fantasies I also remember having some bladder issues that night. My need for a pee started probably mid-way through their set. After about 15 minutes of clinging on to the six pre-gig pints that now wanted out I thought … do I lose my awesome place this close to Lorraine … or … do I just relieve myself right where I was standing? You’ll be pleased to know I eventually succumbed …. and headed to the distant toilets for some much needed relief. It’s funny what memories do stick in the old head. Plus somewhat surprisingly I somehow managed to negotiate my way back to Jon and our spot perfectly below the stage. “Oooooh Lorraine” …. “when will you make my telephone ring? …. “

Anyway I know many who read this blog are also fans of this band and their first-rate debut album. Not much more for me to say about it other than it’s a fine, melodically memorable collection of 80’s soft-rock/Scottish folk hybrids. Couple this with Ricky Ross’s tales of people and life on the streets of Glasgow then topped off by Lorraine McIntosh’s soaring backing vocals. “When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring)” and especially “Chocolate Girl” are the type of songs you’d happily listen to four or five times a day.

Deacon Blue – Chocolate Girl (Live)
115,180 views since Mar 3, 201

Then there is of course the wonderful title song “Raintown“, the lovely “Loaded“and my personal favourite … “The Very Thing” …

Deacon Blue – The Very Thing (Night Network 1988)
3,979 views since Aug 11, 2017

and of course ….

There’s a man I meet walks up our street
He’s a worker for the council
Has been twenty years
And he takes no lip off nobody
And litter off the gutter
Puts it in a bag
And never thinks to mutter
And he packs his lunch in a “sunblest” bag
The children call him “bogie”
He never lets on
But I know cause he once told me
He let me know a secret about the money in his kitty
He’s gonna buy a dinghy
Gonna call her dignity

DEACON BLUE – Dignity (Original Version) (1987)
152,421 views since Nov 13, 2014

Part 2

Oddly enough our guest this week is …


I vividly remember when Jonathan and his brother Nicholas Tombs arrived at Alberton High. Firstly because they were twins … that didn’t look much alike, in fact they couldn’t have looked more different! And then the fact that they were younger than me by a month. Suddenly I was no longer the youngest in my year and for some weird reason this made me feel better about myself. As teenagers, who only really think about themselves, we of course had no idea how hard it must have been for the twins to leave their country (the then Rhodesia) and install themselves in a totally foreign place and school. Here’s what Mr. Tombs replied when I asked him about his favourite memory of the the 80’s …

Having grown up in Rhodesia in completely different circumstances to SA children and arriving here with basically our car, household furniture and clothes, and with all my parents savings being frozen, it was a tough few years which don’t hold fond memories for me. It also did not help being one year younger than my class mates, and as a result I found it difficult to assimilate at school and was quite happy to just be by myself, although I found I was easily influenced by various people to do stupid thing, many of which I regret to this day.  Despite being a misfit at school and not really fitting in I do have fond memories of school days, as the good times far outweighed the bad. Towards the end of the era flea markets on Saturday mornings, bus trips into the JHB CBD and Hillbrow, who never had a Fontana chicken on the steps at High Point, and then living in Yeoville whilst attending Wits Technicon hold fond memories.”

Jon married his lovely Liverpudlian sweetheart, Stephanie Billingham in 1990 on St Patrick’s Day in the Yeoville Anglican Church. This was a pleasant surprise to the rest of us, especially those who were struggling to even find the right girlfriend… or any girlfriend for that matter! The two new wave soulmates had married young and soon started a family. I was also a bit envious when Jon and Steph moved to White River in 1999. Anyway it turned out to be a great move for them as Jon and his “Scouse Spouse” still live there happily today. Their kids are Samantha, who is now 29, a veterinary nurse and Andrew 28 who is studying through UNISA.

Jon’s Favourite albums of the 1980’s

Good choice by Jon … the Fiction Factory album is a personal favourite and narrowly missed my own list. He has chosen mainly compilation albums but also some great studio records, two of which have made my top 100. A nod to the excellent live Simple Minds release and The Cure’s Staring at the Sea, surely one of the greatest compilations of all time. Morrissey’s Viva Hate was on the short-list for my top 100 but also didn’t quite make it … Nice one J.T.

Q + A with Jon Tombs

  • How old were you on the 1st of January 1980 … 13
  • Year matriculated/finished school and what school … Bit of a long one here … I did matric 3 times. Failed miserably, along with another 21 pupils in 1983 !! (Gee I didn’t know that Jon, 22 failures, go Alberton High!! – I myself only just scraped through in ‘83, no idea how??) Passed 1984 Alberton High School, no exemption. Did Physical Science HG by correspondence whilst in the SADF and passed 1986 after supplementary exam to gain University Exemption. Passed 1987 N3 Technical matric with two distinctions, Germiston College (good work Jon)
  • Worst memories of the 80’s … National Service and being shelled on 3 occasions by SWAPO, the worst being the first time when we took 2 casualties. Oddly, that night is still such a clear memory (wow that’s some scary memories for sure … the Unforgettable Fire Jon?)
  • Most famous person/s you’ve metBruce Fordyce, ran and chatted with him on a Parkrun. Major Arthur Walker (South African Air Force) only recipient of the Honoris Crux (gold) and bar for 2nd award (Mr. Tombs is an avid collector of military medals, hence his excitement at meeting the rickety Major Walker)
  • The achievements you are most proud of …Being awarded Best Apprentice 1988 at AECI Modderfontein * Getting married in 1990, having two great kids * Running Hobby – never bailed on any of the following : Comrades (8 finished), Two Oceans Ultra Marathon (7 finished) * 12 international marathons – London, New York, Berlin, Paris, Dublin, Rome, Lochness, Marine Corps Washington, Wachau, Amsterdam, Brussels, Sydney
  • Last album you purchased (or was given) on vinyl and/or CD … No idea, haven’t brought anything in over 10 years, but it may have been The Temper Trap album Conditions on CD
  • Music that you listen to up until 2020 … Still only listen up to the 1990’s, mainly alternative British music
  • Do you stream music? If so which platform Apple, Spotify etc. … No
  • What’s best vinyl, CD or MP 3? Or just listening to the radio? … MP3 for convenience
  • What Radio station do you listen to now if any? … None
  • Favourite radio presenter/s … now or ever or both … Barney Simon and Neil Johnson
  • What work do you do? Who do you work for? … Instrument Technician for Sonae Arauco, a large Portuguese/Chilean Company with a factory in White River making MDF and Chipboard panels, basically the whole process is automated and we maintain the control systems and equipment
  • What did you mainly do during lock-down … Watched all 10 seasons of Friends, cataloged my medal collection, and then just potted around cleaning, clearing old junk and DIY jobs around the house. Was only off for 3 weeks and went back as an essential worker in May.
  • Favourite night-clubs in the 80’s …or  favourite pubs ? … Decodance, The Dome (on Wednesday nights), The Doors and The Two Brewers Pub in Edenvale
  • Best gig (live concert) that you went to in the 80’s … So many, but Erasure, Alison Moyet , Cranberries, James and Cure all left an indelible mark in my hearing
  • Bands or artists you’d like to see play live before they or you die … Oasis
  • All-time favourite movies … All movies feature brilliant sound tracks like – For Your Eyes Only (mainly because of Sheena Easton belting out the theme song), Brassed Off, Muriels Wedding, 24 Hour Party People
  • Last book you read and/or book/s you are reading currently … Constantly reading, mainly crime thrillers and historical novels and non-fiction military history, like the books written by Antony Beever   
  •  All-time favourite TV series … Cheers, Wings, Spin City, Night Court, King of Queens, Seinfeld
  • Favourite current TV series … Constantly changing with Netflix and Showmax, currently wading through The Handmaids Tale
  • The song or songs you would like played at your funeral … Housemartins – “He Ain’t Heavy” and Yazoo – “Only You”

A big thank you to Jonathan Tombs for taking part in my wee blog about the 80’s and sometimes beyond.


Jonathan had returned home from England after a month while I stayed on for another five. I then did my cricket thing for the rest of the Northern Hemisphere summer. There can be no nicer feeling than belting English bowling to all corners of those delightful, yet somehow still foreign cricket grounds I now found myself playing on. It was an awesome run-filled (and beer-fueled) English summer I can tell you. When my visa ran out I headed home to Johannesburg feeling like a new man of the world. At the back of my mind I was still kind of hoping to maybe run into Karen Lepora. I fancy I was ruminating she’d suddenly find me much more appealing after all my travels. Possibly she would also dump the much older dickhead she’d ditched me for and then leap lovingly back into my welcoming arms. But it was not to be … I never saw or spoke to her … and my life moved on. Like it always does.

In around 2015, or maybe 2016, I was negotiating my shopping trolley around the Pick n Pay in Lonehill. As I turned into a new aisle there she was … Karen … right in front of me … for the first time in almost 30 years. She looked almost the same, albeit slightly crinkled and worn, as I’m sure I appeared to her. We stopped for that brief, slightly awkward chat, that I’m sure most of us have experienced before. She’d lived in Lonehill for almost 10 years Karen told me. Virtually my neighbour and yet I’d never once seen her. Karen then said she was doing a final shop for essentials as she, her husband and kids, were all leaving for New Zealand the very next day. Yes they were emigrating for good, like so many others were. After more slightly stilted small talk I wished her good luck and said goodbye. She smiled back at me, said something similar in return, and then was gone again.

Thanks for reading …. as always I appreciate you taking the time and for getting all the way through it …

Much peace to you all … and some love (hopefully) …. Mark

That was then …

Deacon Blue
Ricky and (be still my beating heart) Lorraine

This is now …

Deacon Blue (Lorraine, now 56 and still gorgeous) Ricky Ross still cool at 62!
I so love this band … still going strong today with a great new 2020 album out

My 100 Best Albums of the 80’s (Chapter 39)

There are two sorts of people in the world: Those who listen and those who are thinking about what they are going to say next.

Paul Simon

# 40

GracelandPaul Simon(1986)

My Dad was born Dudley Wilfred Wilson way back in 1938. Most people just called him Doug. Later when all his grand-children started arriving on planet earth Doug became Duggles. As a young man he was a provincial swimmer and water-polo player, representing Eastern province. His sporting prowess came to a halt once he started having kids – and he had lots of them! Dad, who married twice, had seven children and then later his off-spring produced seventeen grand-kids. My old man loved his music. Growing up in Port Elizabeth in the early 70’s we heard him listening to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong … those kind of old timers. He also liked the more modern rock and pop music of the time to. Creedance Clearwater Revival, ABBA, The Beach Boys and of course the Beatles would often be played. For some reason he didn’t ever own anything by the Rolling Stones. I never got a chance to ask him why not, but it was probably because those guys were considered serious bad-asses! My younger brother Wayne and I would often sit at my Dad’s bar while he knocked back a few brandy and cokes. Music would always be playing while Dad regaled us with tales of his day. This would have been from the age of 6 until I was 10 or maybe even 11. Duggles also smoked in those days – Rothman’s – and lots of them. Like his music, my Dad’s cough is still indelibly printed on my brain.

Some of the songs I most remember of these evenings with our Dad were the following; “Mammy Blue” by Charisma (Roger Whittaker also did a version of it and my Dad was certainly a huge fan of Mr. Whittaker) … “Two Little Boys” by Rolf Harris … “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Me and Bobby McGee” by Kris Kristoffersen … and also “Where Do You Go To My Lovely” by Peter Sarstedt. Wayne and I loved these evenings with our old man … the music, all the chat and if we were lucky a little taste of beer. To this day I still love anything by Kris Kristoffersen and the tune mentioned above by Peter Sarstedt is forever a favourite. It’s always my late father I think of when I hear any of them, and it’s a wonderful memory to have I can tell you. Sarstedt was a British singer-songwriter born in Delhi, India in 1941. Oddly enough he died the same year as my old man, in 2017 at the age of 76.

Where Do You Go To My Lovelyfrom 1969 is in the style of a French chanson, à la Serge Gainsbourg or Jacques Brel, but sung in English by an English singer. It was a #1 hit in the UK for Sarstedt for four straight weeks. A new generation discovered the song, which tells the story of a young Sophia Loren-like socialite who rises from rags to riches, when it was used in the 2007 Wes Anderson film The Darjeeling Limited. It was also used in Jennifer Saunders 2016 film Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

But where do you go to my lovely When you’re alone in your bed? Tell me the thoughts that surround you I want to look inside your head, yes I do

Peter Sarstedt – Where Do You Go To My Lovely (1969)
16,259,600 views since Oct 4, 2008

Skip forward about a decade or so and we are now living in Alberton. The music bug has bitten me like a rabid dog that can’t be shaken off. Sitting listening to music with my old man is not the event it used to be. We still do occasionally but I now spend almost all my time listening on my own to whatever I can wrap my young ears around. Our taste in music has lost the common ground it may once have had. He didn’t buy many albums my Dad, but then one day he kind of surprised me, and came home with one on vinyl that even I fancied a little bit. It was by Paul Simon, the little guy usually holding the guitar in Simon & Garfunkel … and was called … Graceland.

With Graceland, Paul Simon hit on the idea of combining his always perceptive songwriting with the little-heard mbaqanga music of South Africa, creating a fascinating hybrid that re-enchanted his old audience and earned him a new one. It is true that the South African angle (including its controversial aspect during the apartheid days) was a powerful marketing tool and that the catchy music succeeded in presenting listeners with that magical combination: something they’d never heard before that nevertheless sounded familiar‘ (William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide)

Paul Simon’s transforming encounter with the popular music of South Africa first happened in the summer of 1984. A bootleg compilation cassette of South African township jive, Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, Volume II, caught Simon’s attention as he drove back and forth between Long Island and New York City. Listening to “Gumboots,” an instrumental track by the popular South African band The Boyoyo Boys, Simon began singing improvised lyrics over the music while he drove. The first of Simon’s collaboration with South African musicians, “Gumboots” with Simon’s improvised lyrics ultimately became the fourth track on Graceland.

I’d already heard some of the hit songs on the radio, but the early listens to the full album I had with my father completely blew me away. The rhythms, melodies, stories, just everything about this album fascinated me. I was transfixed by the way Paul Simon and his incredibly talented band of musicians were creating this sound. The way the lyrics were sung/spoken (see “Gumboots”) the bass lines on everything (especially the wonderful “Diamonds On The Souls Of Her Shoes”). The vocal sounds of Homeless … WOW! Is all I can say. Paul Simon’s lyrical genius is of course laced right through this record, but the South African aspect to the music was something I found completely intriguing. It was possibly also the first time in my life I felt “proudly South African” … sad considering I was already 20 years old, but those were dark times indeed.

Probably the most successful and rewarding collaboration took place between Simon and the Zulu isicathamiya vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, specifically his work with Ladysmith’s leader and lead singer, Joseph Shabalala. The songs that feature Ladysmith, “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “Homeless,” are two of the album’s strongest. The album was strongly influenced by the earlier work of South African musicians Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu, and the Zulu-Western pop crossover music realized in their band Juluka. Paul Simon even thanks them for their input and influence on my Dad’s album liner notes.

The Boy in the Bubble” was written by Simon and Forere Motloheloa (an accordionist from Lesotho), its lyrics explore starvation and terrorism, juxtaposed with wit and optimism. Graceland features the playing of bassist Baghiti Khumalo and guitarist ChikapaRay” Phiri. Simon remarks on the album’s original liner notes that it reminded him of American country music, and wrote: “After the recording session, Ray told me that he’d used a relative minor chord—something not often heard in South African music—because he said he thought it was more like the chord changes he’d heard in my music.”

Paul Simon – The Boy In The Bubble (Official Video)
3,215,354 views Jun 21, 2011

Khumalo and Phiri’s work across this record still blow me away as I listen to this record again today. Simon uses the bass guitar as a lead instrument throughout and he adds the world music elements strategically. As a bass player myself I am enthralled by the stylish quality of Baghiti’s playing on this LP. If I had to list my five best South African musicians of all time Baghiti would easily be one of them. To me he is as good as another of my fretless bass heroes Mick Karn of the band Japan. Khumalo’s playing combines elements of American Motown and jazz styles with traditional South African music. Baghiti Kumalo was born in Soweto, surrounded by relatives who loved music and actively performed. He purchased his first fretless bass, a Washburn B-40 model, because “it was the cheapest bass in the store . . . nobody wanted to play it.” Paul Simon has described Khumalo’s sound on this instrument as “enormous … almost like a horn, but so primal.”

Baghiti Kumalo

I am still so very proud of all our musicians on this record. From Forere Motloheloa’s superb accordion at the start of “The Boy in the Bubble” to Vusi Khumalo’s drumming across the songs he played on … plus of course Makhaya Mahlangu, The Boyoyo Boys, Isaac Mtshali, The Gaza Sisters, Ladysmith Black Mambazo etc. etc. …. it’s just wonderful that South African musicians were involved with such a great work of art. The political nonsense with Artists Against Apartheid etc. irritated me at the time – and still does – but I’ll leave it at that. Music and politics quite simply do not belong together. Also politics should not colour one’s appreciation of an album as lovely, daring and accomplished as this.

African music is just one element on this diverse album which also includes a healthy mix of country, Tex-Mex, and reggae influence throughout, while also maintaining some of the signature Paul Simon styles that he had developed throughout his long career.

The title song is about Simon’s marital problems at the time. The lyrics of “Graceland” centre on Simon’s real road trip to the Graceland mansion – which is the famous home owned by the legendary American musician Elvis Presley. The Graceland mansion is located in Memphis, Tennessee. Simon made that “pilgrimage” from Louisiana to Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee via Route 61 after the collapse of his marriage. The lyrics of the song are widely believed to be about Simon trying to use the famous road trip to give himself some solace, peace and comfort from the pain he felt after the end of his marriage to American actress Carrie Fisher. Simon and Fisher were married from 1983 to 1984. The nine-year-old traveling companion Simon mentions in the song is his son Harper Simon who was born to Simon and his first wife Peggy Harper in 1972. Harper, also a talented musician, became a successful solo recording artist in the early 00’s and on into the 10’s.

"Graceland" lyrics by Paul Simon

Facts about “Graceland”

  • “Graceland” was penned and produced solely by Paul Simon.
  • The song was released in November 1986 as the second single from Simon’s seventh solo studio album titled Graceland. The album not only won the Grammy Award for the Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards of 1987 but also sold over 15 million copies all over the world to become the most successful album of Simon’s entire career.
  • Upon writing the song, Simon titled it “Graceland” with the sole aim of changing it later. However, Simon somehow fell in love with and decided not to replace it.
  • In an interview Simon had with Larry King in 1993, he referred to this track as his favorite song.
  • In 2003, “Graceland” was included in the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” by Rolling Stone. In the list, the song was placed at the 485th position.
  • The song’s background vocals were sung by Paul Simon and the iconic American musical duo The Everly Brothers (Phil and Don Everly).
  • On the UK Singles Chart, “Graceland” peaked at number 98. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it managed to peak at number 81.

My final thought on the LP called Graceland is that it is truly one of those albums that every home should have. If you haven’t heard it for a while then do yourself a favour and go play it again. If you’ve never heard it before then stop everything you’re currently doing and seek it out immediately.

3,034,881 views since Nov 9, 2014

After about a year-long struggle with poor health my Dad passed away. It was October 2017, he was 79 years old. There would be no more music for my father. Nor would I ever be able to listen with him, or to try tell him about some band or artist I thought he might like. Sometime during his last years I had somehow convinced him to give Johnny Cash a go. I’d been surprised when he had told me he didn’t know the music of the ‘man in black’. Or maybe he had just forgotten about Johnny’s “Ring of Fire”? Or possibly like the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash was just too much of a drug-addled bad-ass? Anyway he seemed to quite enjoy the little bit off Mr. Cash I belatedly forced upon him. Dad had also recently bought himself one of those turntables that you could convert analogue vinyl into digital MP3 files. His plan was to be able to listen to all his old vinyl songs in his car. For an old guy he wasn’t scared of new technology and he was giving this new task a good go before he plain just ran out of time …

The last words I ever heard my Dad speak were …. “well I guess I’ve reached the end of my trails.” Not long after he had uttered that sentence our month-long vigil beside his bed at the Sunninghill hospital eventually reached it’s sad and inevitable conclusion.

A few months later my Mom asked me to take a look at my Dad’s record collection and take what I wanted. With much sadness I eventually agreed and began the process sifting through his battered old vinyls and compact discs. There amongst all the old Frank Sinatra and Roger Whitaker vinyl LP’s I found his copy of Graceland.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog about music, my Dad and Paul Simon.

Peace, love and understanding …… Mark Wilson June 2020.


We all love Graceland … Here are some other comments by various fans of this amazing album …

  • My mother loved this album and we listened to it so much when I was a little girl.  She is gone now and when I hear Paul say “don’t cry baby, don’t cry, don’t cry” I imagine it’s her speaking to me. Life is bewildering.
  • This song, and the whole Graceland album was my mother’s favorite. She played this album so much that I hated it. It took age and maturity to see that Graceland is a masterpiece. I miss my Mom
  • Paul Simon is a national treasure
  • The sweetest bass line ever. “…every generation throws a hero up the pop charts…” BRILLIANT
  • These are the days of lasers in the jungle” I don’t think I’ve heard such a short line that says so much
  • It’s insane that this song has 500,000 (The Boy in the Bubble) views and Katy Perry songs have 500,000,000 views
  • As if I never noticed the way she brushed her hair from her forehead…” I still get choked up. The album is a must own
  • Forget about motives. Good music speaks for itself. An immaculate record
  • An exceptional album. An astonishing work of art, and additionally it had a profound impact: this album is really what helped break the apartheid system in South Africa
  • Every human being walking this earth needs to have this album
  • I loved this album as a teenager and still love it today. Paul’s lyrics mixed with the South African style music is a magical combination

My 100 Best Albums of the 80’s (Chapter 38)

I own records that have the power to make me cry. These are truly precious possessions. It is the ambition of Dexys Midnight Runners to make records of this valueKevin Rowland (Dexys)

# 42

“Too-Rye-Aye” – Dexys Midnight Runners (1982)

After recently writing a long piece on Bruce Springsteen I’ve decide to slip in these two classic albums and move us on into the TOP 40 with some haste. So without further ado …

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you … the Celtic Soul Brothers and the Strong Devoted …

Kevin Rowland, the main man of Dexys Midnight Runners, is apparently a tyrant as a band leader and by all accounts a bit of a nutter. But besides these worrying traits he also has in his possession one of the best singing voices in all of 80’s pop music. He’s a proper singer with a soulful croon. Rowland possibly has one of the most distinct, unique voices out of all the vocalists in my list of favourite albums. A bold statement admittedly but I don’t think I’m too far off the mark.

Him and his band made soul music with the D.I.Y. attitude of punk , filtered through the instrumentation and musical forms of Ireland. Rowland, who was ethnically Irish, had split his childhood between London, Ireland, and Birmingham, and soaked up the influence of Irish folk and the so-called Northern soul music popular in the Midlands. The name of the band incidentally was derived after the stimulant Dexedrine, a popular drug on the Northern soul scene (despite the strict no-drinking-or-drugs policy Rowland later imposed on the band)

They are of course famous for quite possibly the most overplayed hit song of all time. “Come on Eileen” being the staple of most weddings, parties and anything in-between from the 80’s, through the 90’s and quite possibly beyond that. Strangely enough I never tire of hearing it, and yes, when I do all I want is to get up and dance – or at the very least sing along joyously! It’s a breathtaking jig of a tune that rides a wave of working class nostalgia and youthful pride, with the narrator trying to convince the titular Eileen that by pulling together and embracing music and sex they’ll break out of their crushing hometown and the chains put on them by their parents and the poor economy of the time. It’s quite possibly then the Celtic soul succession of Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” “Eileen” may have been reduced to wedding disco fodder over time, but back in 1982 it was one of the most original, uncompromising songs to top the singles chart.

Rowland also turns in some fine trademark ballads like “Old” and the vicious “Liars A to E“, but it’s when the tempo rises and he starts evangelizing that the album truly takes off. “Jackie Wilson Said” struts and swings with a glee that possibly betters Van Morrison’s original. A furious “Plan B” segues into “I’ll Show You” without missing a beat. “Let’s Make This Precious,” with it’s groovy opening horns is quite possibly the highlight of the album. It’s certainly my favourite on here. “Until I Believe In My Soul” equally flits between joy and torment, the singer painting himself as a troubled individual refusing to lose sight of all hope.

Do take the time to check out this rather excellent live version of “Let’s Make This Precious” from the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1982 … it starts with a pumping bass, Rowland’s rap and the band’s repeated refrain of ‘Kevin it’s time to move on’ … and then … be ready for the arrival of the horn section at about 1:54 = FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!

Dexys Midnight Runners – Let’s Make This Precious (Live Shaftesbury Theatre 1982)
149,915 views since Feb 18, 2012

If you liked this album back in the day then check out some of their other work. 1980’s Searching for the Young Soul Rebel and 1985’s Don’t Stand Me Down are both superb. When this last album, still considered by many his masterpiece, flopped, Kevin’s career nosedived, dramatically leading to bankruptcy and a spell in rehab. Kevin Rowland staggered on as a solo artist of sorts over the next few decades. In interviews, he spoke of prolonged periods of therapy to battle drug use and feelings of guilt about past behavior. In 1999, he released an album of cover versions called My Beauty on Creation Records, posing on the cover in drag. At that year’s Reading festival, he donned a white dress, stockings and lipstick to sing Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” to a bemused audience that responded with boos and bottles.

Then in 2012 he managed to somehow drag himself back from theses murky depths and reformed the band which he now simply called Dexys. They released the excellent One Day I’m Going to Soar that same year and then followed with Let the Record Show in 2016.

Dexys circa 2016 (or is it 1916?) (Lucy Morgan, Kevin Rowland and Sean Read)


I do my best work when I am in pain and turmoil … there’s no religion just sex and musicSting

# 41

Zenyatta Mondatta – The Police (1980)

Zenyatta Mondatta basically signaled the end of phase 1 of the Police. It’s here they start saying goodbye to their early reggae and punk sound and began featuring a few new musical elements on top of the core guitar, bass, and drums. This was their third album and followed the superb Outlandos d ‘Amour from 1978 and the even better Regatta de Blanc in 1979.

It was with this set of songs that the Police delivered the record that made them one of the biggest acts of the 80’s. The album proved to be the trio’s second straight number one album in the U.K., while peaking at number three in the U.S. Arguably the best Police album, Zenyatta contains perhaps the quintessential new wave anthem, the haunting “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” the story of an older teacher lusting after one of his students.

Isn’t it amazing what can happen to a wee ditty in forty years … “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” 1980: Fun little song about resisting the urge to date an underage pupil 2020: Public Service Announcement

The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me
29,005,845 views since Feb 23, 2010

The LP also saw the band’s lyrics turning towards political events, with Sting’s “Driven to Tears” commenting on poverty and Copeland’s “Bombs Away” referring to the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” observes the declining state of the world. These kind of themes became even more prevalent in the Police’s next album, Ghost in the Machine.

It also contains a radio friendly pop nugget of note and one of my favourite singles of the early 80’s. The lyrically rhythmic genius of “De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” complete with it’s magnificent hooks and great lyrics through the verses. I must admit though that I have however had one of the words in the song completely wrong for the last forty years. In the last line before Sting launches into the simple sing-along chorus I’ve always thought he sang … “their logic ties me up and arrests me” … but … 5 minutes ago, on the 5th of June 2020 I realize this is not the case (see below)

Don’t think me unkind / Words are hard to find / The only cheques I’ve left unsigned / From the banks of chaos in my mind / And when their eloquence escapes me / Their logic ties me up and rapes me … De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da … it’s going to be very hard for me to change a habit of a lifetime next time I stretch my vocal chords around that particular line.

I was trying to make an intellectual point about how the simple can be so powerful. Why are our favorite songs “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”? In the song, I tried to address that issue. But everyone said, “This is bullshit, child’s play.” No one listened to the lyrics. Fuck you! Listen to the lyrics. I’m going to remake it again and put more emphasis on what I was talking about. (Laughs) It’s very painful to be misunderstood.

Sting in 1988 Rolling Stone Interview

10 things you may not know about this album (thanks here to Wikipedia)

  • The band members have often expressed disappointment over it, going so far as to re-record two songs “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” during a brief, unsuccessful reunion in 1986.
  • The album’s total budget was £35,000 – more than twice the combined budgets of their first two albums, but still exceptionally cheap for a band who were established stars. Incidentally £25,000 of which was paid to the album’s producer Nigel Gray
  • “Bombs Away” was recorded on the same tape that Nigel Gray had just used with Siouxsie and the Banshees. Stewart Copeland said: “when Nigel first set up his home studio he got hold of a load of second hand tape which included some stuff by Siouxsie and the Banshees. ‘Bombs Away’ was written on a Siouxsie and the Banshees backing track. I changed the speed and did things to the EQ to change the drum pattern. So with the desk I can get my song playing, then press a switch and there’s Siouxsie singing away.”
  • It was recorded at Wisseloord Studios in the Netherlands as the band could not record at any British studio for tax reasons
  •  “Behind My Camel” was guitarist Andy Summers’ first entirely self-penned composition. As Sting refused to play on it, Summers recorded the bass line himself, overdubbing the guitar parts. According to Sting, “I hated that song so much that, one day when I was in the studio, I found the tape lying on the table. So I took it around the back of the studio and actually buried it in the garden.” Nigel Gray believed that the title was an in-joke by Summers: “He didn’t tell me this himself but I’m 98% sure the reason is this: what would you find behind a camel? A monumental pile of shit.” The song went on to win the 1982 Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance
  • Sting would later perform his own version of “Shadows in the Rain” on his debut solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles
  • Stewart Copeland said that the group arrived at the album’s title after deciding it should roll off the tongue. Zenyatta Mondatta are invented words, hinting at Zen, at Jomo Kenyatta, at the French word for the world (“le monde”) and at Reggatta, from the previous album’s name, Reggatta de Blanc. 
  • Zenyatta Mondatta reached #1 in Australia. In the U.S., the album spent almost three years on the charts.
  • In a contemporary review of the album, David Fricke of Rolling Stone favorably described its offering of “near-perfect pop by a band that bends all the rules and sometimes makes musical mountains out of molehill-size ideas.”
  • It is the only Police album not to obtain a spot on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

From straight pop fodder to ethnic boogie to spacey interludes, the Police’s common denominator is still the elastic interplay among Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. They seem determined to keep trying to stretch it. Never have so few done so much with so little. And made it all sound so damn easy.

David Fricke, Rolling Stone, 1980

Part 3 : 1980

All the following information taken from the TOP FORTY MUSIC ANNUAL (thanks to Neil Johnson)

The first UK singles chart of the decade5 January 1980. Top 10

  1. Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd
  2. I Have a Dream – ABBA
  3. Day Trip to Bangor – Fiddler’s Dream
  4. I Only Want to be With You – Tourists
  5. Brass in Pocket – The Pretenders
  6. Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
  7. Rappers Delight – Sugarhill Gang
  8. Walking on the Moon – The Police
  9. Que Sera Mi Vida – Gibson Brothers
  10. My Simple Heart – Three Degrees

The first UK album chart of the decade – 5 January 1980. Top 10

  1. Greatest Hits – Rod Stewart
  2. Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 – ABBA
  3. 20 Hottest Hits – Hot Chocolate
  4. Love Songs – Elvis Presley
  5. The Wall – Pink Floyd
  6. Peace in the Valley – Various Artists
  7. Regatta de Blanc – The Police
  8. 20 Golden Greats – Diana Ross
  9. Bee Gees Greatest Hits – Bee Gees
  10. ELO’s Greatest Hits – Electric Light Orchestra

The top three British acts, as reflected by the most weeks in the Singles Charts of 1980

  1. Madness – 46 weeks* (“One Step Beyond” 6 weeks, “My Girl” 10 weeks, “Night Boat to Cairo”8 weeks, “Baggy Trousers” 22 weeks, “Embarrassment” 12 weeks) *1980 only
  2. Bad Manners – 45 weeks
  3. The Jam – 40 weeks

On this day – 8th of December 1980

John Lennon is shot seven times by Beatles fanatic Mark David Chapman outside the Dakota apartment building on New York City’s Upper West Side. Having received Lennon’s autograph earlier in the day, Chapman returned later and as Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono crossed to enter their apartment, Chapman gunned his hero (??) down. The Lennon’s had just completed, and released their latest project, Double Fantasy which included the excellent single “(Just Like) Starting Over.” The song had been slipping down the charts and was at number 21 at the time of John’s death. The week after the tragedy it changed direction and leaped up to number 1.

Having long been a John Lennon fanatic it was an incredibly sad moment when as a 14 year old I first heard the devastating news. I can still remember the moment clearly when news broke of this tragic event .. I’d lost my first hero.

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.

John Lennon
John Lennon

“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”

John Lennon

Thanks for reading ya’all … see you next time as we stagger into my TOP 40

Peace, love and understanding … Mark Wilson

My 100 Best Albums of the 80’s (Chapter 37 * Lock-down final )

“I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream.” Bruce Springsteen

# 43

The River – Bruce Springsteen (1980)

Bruce Springsteen is a legend. His body of work is astonishing and his staying power over the many years he has been around is more than impressive. From when he stormed out of the gate in 1973 on Greetings from Asbury Park, as a word-drunk boho who spent as much time in Manhattan as he did on the Jersey shore ; up to filling the frame of an athletic 70-year old rocker who released a new LP called Western Stars in 2019 – there has just been no stopping the man we fondly call – Bruuuuuce! Factor in his up to 4 hour long live shows and you get my drift.

Springsteen is neither glamorous nor mysterious, and for some, he is simply just not cool enough. The commercial success of his 1984 smash hit LP Born in the USA, may have put a few people off him as he was catapulted into Madonna, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston territory. Few can doubt that he is however an extremely talented and important artist. Tom Waits described some of Springsteen’s songs as “little black and white films.” On his 1975 album Born to Run Springsteen openly stated that he was trying to make the greatest rock album of all time (later he clarified that what he was shooting for was Phil Spector producing Roy Orbison with words by Bob Dylan). Darkness on the Edge of Town from 1978 saw his lyrical focus darken as his sound became leaner. This was the record in which Springsteen saw economy as a storytelling virtue. Less was definitely more.

Which brings us to The River, Bruce’s 5th studio album and number 43 in my top 100 albums of the 80’s. Some consider The River to be the closing act of a three album “trilogy” – starting with the two albums mentioned above – as each of these follow Springsteen’s mythical characters during crucial periods of their lives. This album was originally intended as a single album with the working title “The Ties That Bind”, and an expected release date was set for late 1979. However as time went on Springsteen decided to add darker, more folk-influenced material and compiled a sweeping collection of songs of diverse genres.  He later said, “The original songs lacked the kind of unity and conceptual intensity I liked my music to have.” The album he now titled The River would become his first 2-LP set and his most ambitious work to date. The music on it also sounded leaner and more strongly rooted in rock & roll tradition. 

What about the songs you ask? Well it has his then highest charting single “Hungry Heart” leading the way and the one most people will know. The tune reached number 5 in the US charts and was popular all around the world. It’s a curious one in that it seems a tad mournful, but the overall message is a positive one. That driving, almost swinging, piano really stamps its identity upon the track. The melody it plays as the song begins to fade is almost beautiful in its simplicity.

The title track, “The River“, begins mournfully with the harmonica. The guitars and vocals of Springsteen come in a few bars later, where he details the strife of the American working class. This song hits me even harder now as we sit in the closing moments of this lock-down. A situation that is going to affect almost all of us due to a collapsing economy and with it a rapidly shrinking jobs market. This song affected me back when we had no real problems – now it has me blubbering almost uncontrollably.

[Verse 3]
I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well, mister, they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember
And Mary acts like she don’t care

[Chorus 3]
That sends me down to the river
Though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
My baby and I
Oh, down to the river we ride

A college media project of a music video for Bruce Springsteen’s The River.
112,991 views since Mar 1, 2010

On “Sherry Darling” Springsteen’s lead vocals seem to almost impersonate Elvis Costello while the backing vocals are meant to mimic a live bar-room, right down to the point where they are slightly off-time and a touch off-key. Some of the slower tracks on this album are my favourites. “Independence Day“, “Stolen Car” and “Wreck on the Highway” stand out for me especially. “Independence Day” which is introduced by an almost whistling melody and then some calm acoustic organ from Danny Federici. This father-and-son character sketch, where the son concludes that they will never agree and thus declares his “independence” unilaterally. The tinkling piano conveys real pain and sadness, but also the beauty in that despair.

Then there is the romantic rush of “Two Hearts” and later the sentimentality of “I Wanna Marry You.” All of which is followed by the grim truths of the title tune where nothing is easy or without consequence in Springsteen’s world, and the album’s themes of youthful ideals buckling under the weight of crushing reality are neatly summed up as Springsteen asks the essential question of his career, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true?

Drive All Night” is an epic tune clocking in at over eight minutes. It begins with a rim-shot beat, nice and simple, punctuated by piano and muted bass. The melody is melancholic but never maudlin. Despite being a slow one, Bruce’s vocals soar with real power with no need for rock and roll histrionics to accentuate it. Background organ gives it a gospel and soul feel while the narrator longingly searches for happiness. Though they’re separated by eight songs, “Drive All Night” is linked with “I Wanna Marry You” by a set of “my girl” refrains that don’t appear on the lyric sheet. Yet the shy, naive narrator of “I Wanna Marry You” (who sweetly and secretly yearns for someone’s estranged wife, whom he watches on the street every day) clearly isn’t the fortunate protagonist of “Drive All Night.” That man wins his wife back

Cadillac Ranch” is Byrds-like folk-rock complete with ringing twelve-string guitars. There are party numbers with lots of rock & roll (“Crush on You”, “I’m a Rocker” and “Ramrod“) and another superb Elvis Costello type vocal on “Fade Away.” I put on side 3 again and out of my speakers leaps “Point Blank” with it’s gorgeous Roy Bittan piano, subtle Garry Talent bass and a smidgen of Clarens on saxophone … it’s a beautifully perfect, sad song. I’m now thinking maybe this is my favourite on the album? To be honest every one of the 20 songs on this record is first class. There is not one dull moment among them and I can listen to this music for days on end. “The River” stands alongside “The Wall” and the Beatles “White Album” as the three best double albums I have ever heard.

I like what Rolling Stone magazine said of this album … The River is a contemporary, New Jersey version of The Grapes of Wrath, with the Tom Joad/Henry Fonda figure – nowadays no longer able to draw upon the solidarity of family – driving a stolen car through a neon Dust Bowl “in fear/That in this darkness I will disappear.” Quite often, he does. (Paul Nelson)

The River was Springsteen’s first number one album and was followed by a lengthy tour through 1980 and 1981. Springsteen called this album a “gateway” to a lot of his future writing, with Nebraska and Tunnel of Love directly picking up on stories and themes that originate on The River.

Not just “The River” but so many of Springsteen’s other songs spill out from their origins to become infused with other lives and other places. They create an imaginative landscape where radically different people in radically different circumstances and, indeed, on different continents, can all simultaneously feel that he is somehow addressing them; that he is articulating the hopes, dilemmas, and realities of their lives; that somehow Springsteen has stood by the diverse rivers which his song conjures up and that he has captured the essence of emotions that his audience has felt in their lives” (Dermot Bolger of the Literary Hub

A few years back my mate Trevor Pape semigrated to Cape Town with his family. Before they left Denise and Trevor decided it would be best if I took over Trev’s collection of vinyl LP’s. As you can imagine I was thrilled to do so. I was also really honoured and touched as Mr. Pape was giving something really important away. I took them all home with much excitement. Sadly though many of these albums had been affected by damp where they had been stored out of the way over the years. Denise is not one for loud rock ‘n roll, so Trevor’s music had long been banished from the family home. With much sadness I realized that more than half the records had been damaged in some way and many of these had to be thrown away. Ironically though the album he gave me with the most watery of titles – “The River” – had somehow escaped unscathed from the deadly rising damp. It is now one of my most treasured possessions … thank you Trevor.

Part 2

On the 1st of February 2014 I went to see Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band play the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. First off it’s the best show of that magnitude I’ve ever seen, hands down! Bruce and his incredible band made the vastness of our famous World Cup football stadium feel somehow like an intimate gathering in a small club. They tore through a set-list of 34 songs without hardly pausing to even draw breath.

We were also lucky enough to catch his surprising acoustic pre-show, having arrived early at around 5.30 pm, which was about 3 1/2 hours before the main-event. As we wandered into the cavernous, previously named Soccer City, we spotted a dude in the distance sauntering onto the stage with only an acoustic guitar strapped around his shoulders. Oh!?? Just in time for the support act we thought? But no, it was Bruce himself! Doing his own support slot, a short “loose and spontaneous”preview of the evening’s show. He played three song … “Working on the Highway”, “I’ll Work for Your Love” and “Growin’ Up”. Proving that Bruuuuuce truly is one of a kind.

Bruce pleasing the early-birds

A little while later (after Dan Patlansky the proper support act) he returned with his famous band and let rip with the perfect opener … a cover of the Special AKA’s “Nelson Mandela” … the crowd of course went ballistic.

That night he played the following songs from The River … “Cadillac Ranch“, “Hungry Heart“, “Out in the Street” and “The River“. Like every other song they played that glorious evening these all left us breathless and screaming for more. Even a mid-gig Johannesburg thunder-storm and steady drizzle couldn’t dampen our spirits that night. We danced, we sang, we shouted and then we danced some more …. and at times it was difficult to see who was enjoying the show more – Springsteen or his fans! This truly was one of those “Glory Days.”

Bruce Makes Special Appearance At His Own Show (Johannesburg 02/01/14)
150,591 views since Feb 2, 2014

Here are some pictures from Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band’s show in Johannesburg in 2014 …

Part 3

My guest contributor this edition is …


Jimmy is also a notable Springsteen fan. When I asked him how he felt about Bruce and his music he had this to say … “Yeah, I’ve been a constant Springsteen listener down the years. Read his autobiography (Born to Run) and was impressed by how he’s maintained his creativity and his fitness. He was brilliant on stage in Jo’burg – made it feel like a big house party. Nobody could have lived through the 80’s and not know the track order of ‘Born in the USA’. Loved that album, but these days I listen to ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ more. Also enjoyed his more recent ‘High Hopes’ and the Tom Morello treatment on ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’.”

Jimmy was more of an acquaintance of mine back at Alberton High. He was also another of our many European immigrants at the school. Jimmy was born in London of Scottish parents. The Barr family all moved to South Africa in 1975, when young James was 10. We were I suppose merely nodding friends, just the odd “howzit” and on the rare occasion the briefest of conversations. Jimmy was a coolly detached kind of guy. He was trendy and from the outside looking in, seemed to have a completely unruffled type of character. Jimmy wore Doc. Martens as part of his school uniform and I often saw him strutting around the place, almost bouncing in those boots of his. He also famously had “NO FUTURE” scrawled onto the back of his school bag for all to see. I once or twice also saw him clutching a pile of hip records under his arm as he effortlessly glided around the school. Okay let’s be honest with ourselves … Jimmy was as cool as f**k and we kind of all envied him. Although I was a bit wary of him, I still admired his taste in music from a distance, imagining that my music knowledge would be no match for his. Funnily enough he recently admitted he thought exactly the same of me! Ha Ha! That’s really funny … and I’m glad he didn’t mention, or more likely never noticed, the black Bata toughies I had to wear to school.

Anyway he’s a good man with an off-beat and dry sense of humour. He of course has a sound taste in music and books amongst other things. At school the only sport I recall Jimmy being interested in would have been football, which of course was not something we even played at Alberton High, as it was a rugby school pure and simple. A few years after leaving school he discovered road running as a way to lose weight and soon became seriously devoted to that activity. He went quite quickly from being a packet of fags a day kind of guy, to an accomplished ultra distance athlete. He has now completed 6 Comrades and 11 Two Oceans Ultra Marathon’s. He has also done one full Iron Man as well as multiple other ultra long distance runs. Jimmy is also fortunate enough to have completed both the New York and London marathons.

The rather disheveled Jimmy Barr of today … nice Radiohead T-Shirt Jim !

Over the last few decades I have bumped into Jimmy on the odd occasion at various music concerts. Joe Jackson at Monte Casino being one of them if I recall correctly. We always take some time for a wee chat and then off he goes again until whenever next I stumble across his path. He reads this blog of mine and I read his rather excellent one to. I can highly recommend it as his writing is dryly funny, and his musings about a life long gone often hilarious and always spot on. Jimmy Barr’s blog is called Bubbles From the Swamp and here is a link to it …


Jimmy first narrowed down his choice of albums he really loved from the 1980’s to 13. In his own words he said this to me … “Mark, I’ll give myself brain damage trying to come up with my top ten 80’s albums, and it’ll probably take me 6 months. Here’s a list of ‘good 80’s albums that I loved and played to death’. In no particular order – It’s the best I can do, old chap” …

Thanks Jimmy it’s a fantastic list. One of your 13 has already been on my list. Eight are still coming up and their are at least three others I wish I could have included in mine. Jimmy initially chose 13 albums but I pressed him for two more to make a nice round 15 for “design purposes”. He duly gave me another two, of which one was the OMD album Crush. His reason for this choice was it brought back strong memories of his late great friend Paul Kennedy. Paul who was an enormous character, full of life and a friend to so many, passed away sadly in 2017 at the age of 51. As I write this it reminds me that he was possibly the first person to bring to my attention that my fair locks were slowly buggering off. Paul had clattered into me during a football game we had been playing. His expanding frame sending me straight down to mother earth. As I lay prone on the grass, Paul came over to help me to my feet. He leaned over me while offering his hand in support, and then uttered the frightening words … “Wilson! Do you know you’re going bald?” Not exactly what you want to hear when you’re 20 years old but thanks anyway Paul.

Paul Kennedy, Stephen “Slim” Knight, Jimmy Barr and John Dagley

Q & A with Jimmy Barr

  • How old were you on the 1st of January 1980 – 14
  • Year matriculated/finished school and what school – 1983 from Alberton High
  • Favourite memories of the 80’s – Max Headroom
  • Worst memories of the 80’s – the Rubik’s Cube
  • Most famous person/s you’ve met – I’ve nodded at Bruce Fordyce a couple of times at Comrades … (did he nod back Jimmy?)
  • The achievements you are most proud of – See Fritzl dungeon mentioned below. Also (semi-seriously), I’m healthier than I expected to be at this age
  • Last album you purchased (or was given) on vinyl and/or CD – I bought an Eddy Grant ‘Best of’ CD recently because I couldn’t find a couple of his songs on Apple music
  • Music that you listen to up until 2020 – More current stuff – London Grammar and Wolf Alice plus the old faves … Madness, The Beat, Pixies, The Smiths, Depeche Mode…too many to mention.
  • Do you stream music? If so which platform? – Apple Music
  • What’s best vinyl, CD or MP 3? Or just listening to the radio? – I’m constantly plugged into my phone, so MP3
  • What Radio station do you listen to now if any? – 702 until Eusebius McFuckface comes on. Then I turn it off.
  • Favourite radio presenter/s … now or ever or both – Remember Stan Katz? He was quite funny.
  • What work do you do? Who do you work for? Soul destroying work in the Façade Industry. I ride a computer all day. Self employed.
  • One thing you have learned about yourself during lock-down? And/or have you done something during this time that you have always wanted to do? – Yes, I eventually got around to finishing the Fritzl dungeon under my house. IT PUTS THE LOTION IN THE BASKET!
  • What did you mainly do during lock-down … – Some work (in patches). More reading, more writing, played my bass more regularly. Hours on the stationary bike in front of the TV. Developed some pretty solid OCD vacuuming and house cleaning behaviours. 
  • Favourite night-clubs in the 80’s – Was more a pub guy, but I remember a few nights at Bella Napoli, Q’s and Club Donna.
  • Best gig (live concert) that you went to in the 80’s – It was slim pickings here in S.A. I remember seeing E’void at The Chelsea – they were good. Also Rod Stewart at Sun City (back when he would have been horrified by the idea of American Songbook albums).
  • Best gig (live concert) since the 80’s ended – This is a tough one…I’ll go with Skunk Anansie for the pure energy. LIVE (Ed Kowalczyk) concerts were also good
  • Three artists or bands you’d like to see perform live before they or you die – Definitely Radiohead and Pearl Jam. The third would be between Fleetwood Mac (with Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham) or the Police or Kate Bush …
  • All-time favourite movies – Fight Club, The Godfathers, Trainspotting and Sicario
  • Last book you read and/or book/s you are reading currentlyConsider This by Chuck Palahniuk (kindle). Currently reading If It Bleeds by Stephen King (kindle) and listening to Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday (Amazon Audible)
  • All-time favourite books – Too many to list. I’ll say everything by Chuck Palahniuk and Stephen King
  • All-time favourite TV series – What was the God one? Touched by an Asshole… no Angel, sorry – Touched by an Angel. No, that’s a lie – I enjoyed the early seasons of Shameless, 30 Rock, Cheers, South Park
  • Favourite current TV series – Any shows that encourage tolerance and multi-cultural diversity. No, that’s a lie – I’m addicted to series about the super morbidly obese (My 600-pound Life etc.) Also, Dr. Pimple Popper and My Feet are Killing Me
  • The song or songs you would like played at your funeral –  Maybe Siouxsie and the Banshees ‘The Last Beat of my Heart’? I’ll see how I feel on the day though

My thanks to …

Firstly Jimmy Barr for so patiently taking part and contributing to my little blog about music and the old days. And then huge hugs and thanks also to Giuliana Bland and anyone else that somehow got this far. I really do appreciate you reading my mutterings.

Peace, love, understanding and happiness to all …

Mark Wilson

In a recent blog I mentioned our Alberton High School presentation of the stage show West Side Story. Jimmy Barr recently sent me a great picture from the show …

From left to right and apologies for those I get wrong or don’t know … Nicholas Tombs, Debra Kedachi (?), Desmond ‘Dead Dog’ O’Hanlon, Jimmy Barr, Kevin Hutchinson, John Dagley (partially obscured), Paul Kennedy (partially obscured), can’t tell who’s in front of Paul with his back to us (?), Lesley Stephenson and Conrad Zimmerman [ Stephen Knight and Mark Wilson completely hidden by the stage curtains ]

“From the beginning, I imagined I would have a long work life” – Bruce Springsteen


My 100 Best Albums of the 80’s (Chapter 36 * Lock-down Part 7)

# 44

Who designed this world we live in? – Midge Ure

Vienna – Ultravox (1980)

From your first glance at the smart Peter Saville designed cover, with it’s Anton Corbijn black & white photograph, to the opening bars of track 1 “Astradyne” and you soon realize you have all the ingredients for a chilly, yet classic, early 80’s new-wave album.

Ultravox often remind me of a school friend called John Dagley. No real back-story to this – we just both loved them – and devoured everything Ultravox our teenage ears could wrap themselves around. We both attempted to dress like either Midge, Christopher, Warren or Billy, but I’m sure I failed miserably. John, who was fantastically popular with all the girls, almost certainly out-dressed even Ultravox! Dagley, who closely resembled a younger version of Sting, was undeniably a “dedicated follower of fashion”. Some may say he worried a little too much at how he looked. But you get my drift in that he was a seriously good looking boy and a snappy fashionista to boot. We were however on the same page when it came to bands like Depeche Mode, A Flock of Seagulls, OMD, the Police, Dexys Midnight Runners, Echo and the Bunnymen, Heaven 17 and of course Ultravox. Those were our bands – we obsessed about them constantly – and it’s one of the main reason we were friends.

John was another of the many British immigrants we had living in Alberton. His family had left Leicester in England sometime in the late 70’s and settled in our sleepy suburb in the south-east of Joburg. People with a decent taste in music might as well wear signs on their foreheads as I always seem to gravitate towards them. We bonded early on and for about five years were something approaching bosom buddies. I always enjoyed his unflappable demeanor and relaxed attitude to life in general. Plus, hang around with Dagley and you got to see some pretty hot girls close up. Once I even picked up one of his many cast-offs. The shy but very attractive Sara Haith, recently Dagley-ditched, became my first ever girlfriend early in our matric year.

He was a great footballer. Blessed with silky skills, good pace and an astute soccer brain making him the perfect midfielder. John was also an underrated cricketer with a very good eye for the ball. He would have loved 20/20 cricket as he knew only one way to bat and it didn’t involve the forward defensive prod. John dealt in 4’s and 6’s and nothing much else.

Johnny Dags slowly faded from my life when I entered into national service in ’84. We would have seen each other on the very odd occasion on some of my irregular trips back home from ‘Nam. Then eventually nothing for probably fifteen years, until he appeared almost out of nowhere for our 20 year matric reunion in 2003. After that one night’s drunken blitz and a briefly bleary hang-over conversation the following morning – about 20 of us slept over at Stephen Knight’s house – he was gone again. I haven’t seen him since. He did make Face-book contact a few years back from his new home in the United Kingdom. Isn’t it strange how people from such a short period in your youth can sometimes leave such a lasting impression? He’s a really good lad and I think of him often … and especially when I listen to Ultravox.

Vienna was the fourth studio album released by the British band Ultravox, and it represented a total change in direction for them. Released in 1980, Vienna was the first LP they recorded after their former front-man, John Foxx, left the band to pursue a solo career and was replaced by Midge Ure. Trading Foxx’s glam rock stance for Ure’s aristocratic delivery, Vienna recasts the band as a melodramatic synth pop chamber ensemble with most of the group doubling on traditional string quartet instruments and the synthesizers often serving to emulate an orchestra. It was a bold move that took awhile to pay off (the first two singles, “Sleepwalk” and “Passing Strangers,” went unnoticed), but when the monolithic title track was released, the Ure lineup became the band’s most identifiable one almost overnight. The simple and instantly recognizable drumbeat of “Vienna” proved infectious, taking the single to the top of the charts in the U.K. and making an impression in a new wave-apprehensive America. Drummer Warren Cann’s monotone narration on “Mr X” and the frantic ride that is “Western Promise” give the album just enough diversity and showcase the rest of the group on an Ure-heavy album. There are plenty of pretentious and pompous moments at which Foxx-era purists cringe, but taken as a snooty rebellion against the guitar-heavy climate of the late ’70s, they’re ignorable. (David Jeffries, All Music Guide)

Billy Currie, Midge Ure (back row), Chris Cross and Warren Cann

It was also their most successful release, reaching as high as #3 on the UK charts … and making the Top 10 in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands and Sweden.

Question – what kept Ultravox’s most famous song “Vienna” from number 1 on the UK Singles Charts in 1980?

Answer – “Vienna” spent four consecutive weeks at number two in the UK Singles Chart without ever getting to number one; it was kept off the number one spot by John Lennon’s “Woman” for a week, and then by Joe Dolce’s “Shaddap You Face”, for a further three weeks. (Wikipedia)

This did my head in back in the day … I was okay with Lennon keeping him from number 1 … but .. my faith in the pop charts and people in general, did a steep nose-dive as I waited anxiously for 3 weeks, for one of the best songs of all-time to dislodge Dolce’s novelty nonsense from that coveted top spot. But to no avail! “Vienna” would never summit the pop peak and it remained stuck at no.2 before eventually sliding down the other way. Here it is in all it’s black and white glory …

Ultravox – Vienna (Official Music Video)
7,203,977 views since Oct 31, 2017

Ultravox would release five more albums in the 1980’s – ending with the disappointing U-Vox in 1986. At that point the band called it a day and Midge Ure then moved on to a pretty successful solo career. He was of course also the unsung hero behind Bob Geldof’s Band and Live Aid projects. Ure co-wrote “Do They Know it’s Christmas” with Geldof in 1984. Very little credit is given to Midge for the amount of work he put into making Live Aid even happen. Geldof somewhat selfishly taking all the plaudits upon himself. Why only Bob Geldof was knighted for his efforts, and Midge Ure ignored, is still a mystery to me.

In 2009 Ultravox returned for a comeback gig at the London Roundhouse. Then in 2012, twenty-six years after their last album, they released a brand new record which they called Brilliant. An aptly titled return to form indeed …

Ultravox in 2012, playing a date from their “Brilliant” tour at the Hammersmith Apollo, London
Midge Ure at the Roundhouse 2009

My special guest this week is an old friend … MARK HUMPHREY

First thing you must know about “Humps” is that he is the greatest supporter of local music I know. Firstly as a South African and now as an Australian citizen. His support for music made in both the countries he has lived in is seriously commendable. South African music lost one of it’s biggest supporters when he emigrated all those years ago.Mark also did me the great service of drawing to my attention the unassuming brilliance of radio’s Neil Johnson. He’s also never been afraid of a live gig – we went to so many back in the day I lost count – and now in his mid-50’s, and living in Australia he still goes to as many as he can. In Australia they cost a fortune so possibly not as many as he’d like.

Mark Humphrey’s 12 Best Albums of the 1980’s

Unsurprisingly “Humps” has two South African artists here – Bright Blue and Juluka. Representing his new homeland are Midnight Oil and Icehouse. I love his list for it’s diversity as well that there are some similarities to mine. Of his 12 albums three have already been on my 100 list. These were Crowded House, David & David and The Bible – we would have spent many hours together listening to these three decades ago. There are also two of the albums on his list that are still to come on my own epic eighties list. Nice one Mark Humphrey …

Q & A with “Humps”

  • Age on the 1st of January 1980 – 15 * I turned 16 on the 8th of June that year
  • Year matriculated/finished school and what school – from Alberton High School in 1983
  • Favourite memories of the 80’s – High school , army, house parties, live music, University life and playing sport
  • Worst memories of the 80‘s – The Army
  • Most famous person/s you’ve met – None. But I did shout at famous cricketers fielding on the boundary back in the 80’s and 90’s … does that count? ….. (umm … no Mark, not really)(but at least you also know that famous Austrian cricketer Albin Wagner)
  • The achievements you are most proud of – My family * Getting a couple of degrees * And not becoming a drug addict (so far this is my favourite achievement, well done Humps. Drugs are bad for you!)
  • Last album you purchased (or was given) on vinyl and/or CD – My daughter gave me  CD from a local band from Wollongong on the south coast of New South Wales called “Good Lekker” believe it or not (it’s all those South Africans moving to Australia Humps)
  • First album you ever bought on CD – I think it was either Tananas or the Steve Newman Band (see I told you he supported local artists – like no-one else I know)
  • Music that you listen to up until 2020 – At the moment I’m into the following … Gang of Youths, Fontaines D.C, British India, Tame Impala, The War on Drugs, Ocean Alley, Courtney Barnett, Boy and Bear and Bear’s Den
  • Do you stream music? If so which platform – Yes. Spotify
  • What’s best vinyl, CD or MP 3 – I listen to most of my music on MP 3 format for convenience sake, but think CD’s are the best product for sound quality
  • What Radio station do you listen to now if any – Triple J & Double J , both Australian Broadcasting commercial free music stations. Their target market is ages 16 to 34 – but I still hang in there
  • Favourite radio presenter/s – In the old days David Gresham, Neil Johnson and Alex Jay * now in Australia it’s Robbie Buck
  • What work do you do? Who do you work for? I’m in Commercial Property Management and work for Henderson & Horning in Sydney
  • Favourite night-clubs in the 80’s – Jamesons Bar ( not quite a club but still) , Rosebank Hotel  and King of Clubs
  • First live concert you ever went to – my first gig ever was Rabbit at the 3 Arts Centre, Cape Town in 1978. The folks dropped me off while the sun was still shining … 2.5 hours later my perspective of life had changed for good. The band’s chiming and poppy music was unforgettable. Also the screaming girls throwing their underwear at Trevor Rabin and Duncan Faure was an eye-opener ….
  • Bands or artists you would like to see play live before they or you die – Tame Impala, Gang of Youths and a reformed Oasis
  • Best gig (live concert) that you went to in the 80’s – UB40 in Gaborone
  • Best gig (live concert) since the 80’s ended – The cult Australian rock band British India at the Metro Theatre, Sydney in 2018 * Tsunami Wave Aid, 2005 , Sydney Cricket Ground , lots of great bands played including Midnight Oil , Jet , Paul Kelly
  • All-time favourite movies – Grease and Once Were Warriors
  • Last book you read and/or book you are reading currently – I’ve just finished Debbie Harry’s autobiography called Face It * currently reading Syria’s Secret Library by M Thompson
  • the song or songs you would like played at your funeral – Who Wants to Live Forever by Queen and Good Bye Blue Sky by Pink Floyd * then at the wake – Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds, Another Universe by Arno Carstens and finally This Is The Day by The The …okay maybe that’s over-kill but what the hell

Thanks to Mark Humphrey for participating in my little blog and whoever has got this far for reading it.

We were so young, we were too vain
Dance in the dark, sing in the rain
Time on our hands, hope in our hearts

No regrets” – Midge Ure

My 100 Best Albums of the 80’s (Chapter 35 * Lock-down Part 6)

I don’t like New York much these days. It’s as if the city and I had a hot love affair and now we’re just friends, but we still have to see each other to remain friends. Today I live in Berlin. The New York I knew in late ’81 and ’82 is gone.” – Joe Jackson

# 45

Who knew trying to find a decent Joe Jackson quote would prove to be so difficult. When I Googled ‘Joe Jackson quotes’ all I found were one’s about his son not being a pedophile and other quite disturbing comments. I thought to myself, no this can’t be true, one of my heroes has such a troubled child? That’s very sad I thought. I soon realized I needn’t have worried … how many of you knew Michael Jackson’s Dad was also called Joe Jackson? Okay so not THE Joe Jackson … another Joe Jackson … so apologies for the only feeble Joe Jackson quote I could find which is about New York.

It was also a struggle to decide which of Joe Jackson’s albums to include on my list. He arrived as the punk scene had turned into the new wave explosion towards the end of the 1970’s. Our Joe released some incredible albums over the period 1979 – 1986. These stood out for me …

From his 80’s output the brilliant Night and Day probably just edges it for me. This was when Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello, rivals for the title of Britain’s reigning ‘Angry Young Man’, decided that they were not just rockers, but really songwriters in the Tin Pan Alley tradition. Night and Day includes some brilliantly elegant songs including … “Steppin’ Out”, “Breaking Us in Two” and ” A Slow Song”. However all his other albums over that period are very good ; filled with classic tunes that most importantly, all hold great memories for me of growing up with them.

Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out (Official Video)
13,043,159 views since Sep 20, 2016

I had basically decided to leave Joe Jackson completely off my list of 100 Best 80’s albums. There was just no settling on one particular LP of his. Rightly or wrongly I also felt other artists records deserved the spot more. Look Sharp would make any list of mine but as it was a 1979 release I couldn’t include it, even though it kind of feels like an 80’s album. So I grudgingly discounted him, moved on and pretty much forgot about poor old Joe. Then a few days ago I awoke one morning and lay in bed thinking about all kinds of things. Mostly of the affects this lock-down is having, and is still going to have on our lives. But also about music, records and this damn list I am busy compiling and writing about. I often think I am fortunate to have this distraction. At this moment in time especially! It’s far less troubling thinking about records than life as it stands still right now. Anyway as I lay there, and for whatever weird reason, Joe Jackson and his live album 1980/86 popped into my mind. That’s it! I thought. I can put that one into my list. I absolutely love it and it has all his great tunes on there. Even the one’s from his two excellent 1979 records. I then started thinking about what album I’d now have to take off to make space for Mr. Jackson. That wasn’t going to be an easy task …

Joe Jackson – Breaking Us In Two (Official Music Video)
2,700,038 views since May 25, 2010

A wonderful double-disc live collection, Live … 1980/86 manages to effectively trace the development of Joe Jackson’s diverse career. Drawing from four different periods in the songwriter’s career … with each period featuring a new backing band … Live captures Jackson with his original new wave trio, a 1983 quintet that was dominated by keyboards, a horn-driven group from 1984, and a 1986 quartet that specialized in straight-ahead rock & roll. The resulting album highlights his musical diversity, not his songwriting, which means the record is more intriguing as a historical document than as casual listening. (All Music Guide)

Notably, the album contains three different versions of “Is She Really Going Out With Him” … including an acapella version which I think is really nice. Besides that most of his best stuff is on here and it’s certainly an album worth checking out. The album was recorded at his live shows in Manchester, Utrecht, Sydney, Melbourne, Vancouver and Tokyo from 1980 -1986.

Joe Jackson – facts and figures (sourced from Wikipedia)

  • David Ian Jackson was born on the 11th of August 1954
  • He turns 66 this year
  • He first learned to play the violin before turning to the piano
  • His first band was called Edward Bear but later they changed to Arms & Legs
  • Around this time he picked up the nickname “Joe”, based on his perceived resemblance to the puppet character Joe Piano, who was Snoopy in Joe Cool guise playing piano
  • In 1985 Jackson played piano on Joan Armatrading’s album Secret Secret, and in 1986 he collaborated with Suzanne Vega on the single “Left of Center” from Pretty in Pink’s soundtrack.
  • Jackson was married to his wife, Ruth, for two years, but the marriage ended in divorce and was later called a “disaster” by Jackson.
  • In a 2001 interview with the Irish Independent Jackson stated that he was in a relationship with a male partner
  • Jackson had previously discussed his bisexuality in his autobiography A Cure For Gravity
  • Jackson has actively campaigned against smoking bans in both the United States and the United Kingdom, publishing a 2005 pamphlet (The Smoking Issue) and a 2007 essay (Smoke, Lies and the Nanny State), and recording a satirical song (“In 20-0-3”) on the subject

My guest on this edition is also a notable fan of Joe Jackson … in fact such a fan that for my most recent wedding one of the gifts he gave me was Joe Jackson’s Beat Crazy on vinyl. Such a thoughtful and brilliant present Mr. Pape. Others may laugh and think what a strange wedding gift … but it is the one present from that fateful day I will have for the rest of my life! Which reminds me … when Trevor married Denise he wasn’t keen on wearing a wedding ring. So instead the future Mrs. Pape bought Trevor a Van Morrison CD. Also such a sensible and classic plan … especially considering how few of these alliances in effect work out. Sorry but the cynic in me keeps popping out!

Trevor “Bandan” Pape

Trevor’s Favourite 14 Albums of the 1980’s

Mr. Pape’s selection is spot-on. Twelve of his 14 albums are in my 100 best. The two that are not in came close. A clue possibly to why we remain such good friends …

Trevor is another great mate I made through playing cricket. I often think I’d probably not have as many friends or connections if it wasn’t for the decades I spent chasing a little red Kookaburra around cricket fields. On retiring from cricket in the late 90’s I started playing both league golf and squash. However as these are not true team sports I felt the camaraderie was not quite the same as cricket. When I first joined Old Parktonians Cricket Club I was in the twilight of my “career” and Trev was the captain of their thirds. It was he that phoned me one evening to say I’d been selected for his team to make my debut for the club that coming weekend. However I never played with him that Saturday as someone later withdrew from the second team and I was quickly drafted in to take their place. A few weeks later Trevor himself was promoted to the seconds. We met properly, fell in love (just kidding), bonded over sport and music, and the rest as they say is history.

“Bandan” as he is affectionately known was a hard-hitting middle order batsman. He was also a very good medium pace seam bowler and known for taking many crucial wickets. I would bounce backwards and forwards between the Old Parks first team, which played Premier league cricket, and our second team at the club. I never had a problem playing in the second team as Trevor was there, but my aim was always to try make the first team. I recall a game for the second team when I was desperate to perform well to try get back into the first team. I’d just picked up a couple of wickets with my gentle off-spin and was hoping for a few more. Early one over I managed to tempt the guy batting to loft one to Mr. Pape at a deepish mid-off. Trev got both hands to the ball but somehow contrived to let it slip through his fingers and down it went. Oh dear I thought. A couple of balls later the other guy batting skied another one in the direction of my good mate “Bandan”. He circled unsteadily around under the hard red ball as it plummeted down from it’s steep trajectory. Again it went in … and then out … and onto the turf. Of course the two batsman that we’d let off the hook then proceeded to belt us all over our picturesque little ground in Bordeaux (not the one in France in case you’re wondering) I do remind him of this day quite often … in his defence though, he is usually a superb fielder and they are the only two catches I ever saw him drop.

Trevor Pape, the cricketer, at the end of another great innings

Trevor is a great sportsman and team player. He still plays the gentleman’s game for the veteran’s team at the Western Province Cricket Club in Cape Town. By all accounts still steaming in off a five pace run and taking loads of wickets – not bad for someone who’s now closer to 60 than 50. These days Trevor also does trail running, the weekly Parkrun, and is a keen body surfer. In his time he was also a very good goalkeeper. Not only does he resemble Bruce Grobbelaar in looks, but also quite often in technique. “Bandan” of course is a long-suffering Liverpool supporter. He had to endure many disappointing Liverpool v Manchester United matches alongside me throughout the 90’s, on into the 00’s and even a little bit in the 10’s. My team of course being being pretty much invincible during this period. The tables have now turned, but of course Trev, and many other Liverpool fans, sit stressing about when the season that means so much to them, will get under way again.

We went to many gigs together the two of us. The most memorable of course was the day we trundled off to see U2 on their Popmart tour in 1998. I say memorable but of course neither of us can actually remember anything of the concert itself. Things were already looking ominous as we climbed into a half bottle of Olmeca tequila as we left my house in Cresta en-route to the Johannesburg athletics stadium. Copious beers followed once the tequila was done – which was by the time we reached the park-and-ride spot in Emmarentia. We soon polished off the beers we were carrying with us. As luck would have it we then somehow stumbled across some of our fellow CD club mates. In their possession was what seemed like a mountain of Lion Lagers in particular … as well as other assorted kinds of alcohol. The brand of beer for some reason sticks vividly in my mind. Kevin Diamond had an entire crate of these bottles of lager between his feet. This was still all before we’d reached our seats in the stadium – or indeed the gates into the stadium – so with plenty time to spare, we tucked into that particular mountain with some gusto. A good few Lion’s later we all shuffled happily off … in the general direction of a U2 concert.

The final straw that broke our collective camel’s back, was when once inside the stadium we discovered what appeared to be a hot biker chick sitting behind us enjoying the largest spliff any of us had ever seen. By then there was no stopping us. We of course all quickly became firm friends and helped her and the gang she was with, smoke that doobie, and a good few that followed it. Here it of course all gets decidedly fuzzy. At one point about six us were in some kind of hilarious rugby scrum. Then I vaguely recall a very big lemon floating above the stage in the far distance. Someone later told me U2 were in the lemon. There was lots of dancing and laughing and at no point did we slow down. Somehow both Trevor and I kept going and I have absolutely no idea how much of the concert either of us even tried to watch.

Before I knew it I was staggering towards the buses with my arms thrown over Trevor’s shoulders and his wrapped around mine. Both as happy as Larry and singing like Larks. Weaving from one side of the road to the other. Steve Goosen, another CD club member, appeared out of nowhere as we made our way towards what we hoped was our transport to Mark’s Park. Goose seemed to find the two of us quite amusing. We were all happy to see each other and there were hugs all round! He then shepherded us in the general direction of the correct bus … his assistance was greatly appreciated. We must have then had a long sleep on the bus as it wound it’s way across Johannesburg towards the western suburbs. I do not recall much of driving the car back to Cresta, or if in actual fact Trevor drove. Suddenly though we were at a garage near my home buying pies as we were ravenous. They were the worst ever …. so we gave them to my dogs when we at last reached home.

Unsurprisingly I woke up the next day feeling like I was closing in on a certain death. The tequila, beer and weed smoking extravaganza of the day before had certainly taken it’s toll. I lay there on my bed trying to bring back a memory of the previous night’s U2 concert. There was nothing, just a total blank. Absolutely zero re-collection of the previous days adventures beyond what I have just written above. Trevor was in the next room and I called out to to him …. “Trev! You okay?” …(a very long silence followed) … “Ja” eventually came the tired reply. “Trev!” … (another long silence) … “Ja” … he said again … and then I asked …”can you remember any of the U2 concert?” …. (then yet another long wait) … “No” came his reply. We both laughed …

The following year Trevor and I headed off to see Garbage and Placebo play a double-header at the Standard Bank Arena in Johannesburg. We stopped off first at the Sunnyside Hotel in Parktown where we had a sophisticated whiskey or four. This was followed by a cold one at the venue before we headed up to our seats. It was a work night so I was already feeling a bit sleepy by then. Garbage came on and proceeded with their show. At some point “Bandan” turned to me and shouted f**k me I’m tired. I nodded in agreement as I to was seriously knackered. Shortly thereafter we both then proceeded to nod off as Garbage let rip below us. So there we were … two bald dudes … leaning against each other as we both fell into a fairly deep slumber. The people behind and around us must have thought it hilarious. A while later we both awoke slightly more refreshed and squinted down at the stage. Trevor again turned to me and this time shouted … “wow, it sounds like Garbage are doing a cover version of a Placebo song”… “How cool is that” I replied while nodding happily in agreement . We watched on for a while before it eventually dawned on our befuddled brains that … Garbage had long finished their set and it was actually now Placebo playing merrily along below us … we’d missed at least the last half of Garbage and the quite a lot of Placebo! It’s quite embarrassing really, and I’m not quite sure why I tell these stories.

We went together to see many great shows – R.e.M. , Live, Roger Waters to name but a few. Every one of those involved some form of drunken mischief. In 2008 Trevor and I went to see Joe Jackson play in the Teatro at Monte Casino, Fourways. Mr. Jackson was touring with his original rhythm section from the Joe Jackson band circa 1979 to 1980. Joe was specifically going to places he had never been to before. He’d apparently been in Israel before coming to South Africa. This time we behaved ourselves impeccably and managed to sit and watch the entire show. This in itself made the whole event even more remarkable. Added to the fact that Joe and his band were simply superb that night. And finally it was really unexpected that Joe Jackson would ever even come here. Three of the best concerts for quality of sound and intimacy I have ever seen in South Africa (or anywhere to honest) would be … Chris Isaak at the Sun City Superbowl, Lloyd Cole (with only a guitar) in Newtown and now this Joe Jackson concert at the Teatro.

Trevor moved to Cape Town a few years back. I was sad as he was a great mate and the best company at gigs. Before he left we went to our last show together … it was 2011 and Coldplay were on at Soccer City. Let me just say that I had far too may beers early in the day. Well that’s my excuse anyway. This time Trevor stayed awake and I slept through the entire Coldplay concert. I hardly heard a note they played …. once or twice I awoke from my nap and squinted up at them in the far distance. And then promptly nodded off again.

Q & A with “Bandan”

  • Age in January 1980 – 17
  • Year matriculated and from what school – 1979 from Grosvenor Boys High in the Bluff Durban
  • Favourite memories of the ’80s – Varsity life ’80 to ’83, starting to work in Pretoria 86
  • Worst memories of the ’80s – Army life 84/85 … although not too bad in the end … I learnt to windsurf!!
  • Most famous person/s you’ve met – Cricketers Sir Garfield Sobers, Mike Procter and Barry Richards
  • The achievements you are most proud of – being a good father to my 2 boys (Sean & Matthew) , making my own business Crossman Pape & Associates a success
  • What work do you do? Who do you work for – Engineering Geologist for Aurecon South Africa
  • First album you bought on CD – First was Rattle and Hum by U2 followed by Burning From the Inside by Bauhaus
  • Last album you purchased (or was given) on vinyl and/or CD – On vinyl it was the album Music from the Big Pink by The Band in 2011* The last CD was an LP called Home by the excellent South African artist Faryll Purkiss in 2012
  • Music that you listen to up until 2020 – I’m still discovering great new artists (often thanks to my good friend Mark Wilson) … off the top of my head I’ve enjoyed these artists and bands over the last few years – Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Angus and Julia Stone, Tame Impala, Elbow and Coldplay
  • Do you stream music? If so which platform Apple, Spotify etc. – No I do not. I’m still using my trusty old iPod though
  • What’s best vinyl, CD or MP 3 – Vinyl then CD
  • What Radio station do you listen to now if any – Sometimes Smile radio
  • Favourite radio presenter/s … now or ever or both – Chris Prior and Kevin Savage
  • What did you mainly do during lock-down – Work .. a lot … fortunately
  • Favourite night-clubs in the 80s – Club Med in Durban
  • Best gig (live concert) that you went to in the 80s – Black Sabbath at Sun City ’87
  • Best gig (live concert) since the 80s – U2 in 2011 at the FNB Stadium (note not the 1998 version)
  • All-time favourite movies – Shawshank Redemption, Schindler’s List, Remains of The Day, Alien, The Shining, Back to the Future, Life of Brian, Blade Runner
  • Last book you read and/or book you are reading currently – Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (his autobiography)
  • The song or songs you would like played at your funeral – Find The River by R.e.M.

Thanks to Trevor for taking part in this edition. Thanks all for reading … until next time and No. 44

My 100 Best Albums of the 80’s (Chapter 34 – Lock-down part 5)

Well the whole punk thing was, yeah. It’s what got me into being in a band. Before that it was like, how the hell do you do it? And then after the Sex Pistols came along, it was like okay, you steal some gear, you learn three chords and it’s more about attitude than musicianship and you realized you didn’t really have to be that good at it to get into it” – Richard Butler, The Psychedelic Furs

# 46

All of This and Nothing – The Psychedelic Furs (1988)

This is the first of only two compilation or greatest hits type records I have appearing on my list of best 80’s albums. For this one I hesitate to say hits (plural) as these guys actually only had one hit. So maybe greatest hit (singular) would be more appropriate. The Psychedelic Furs acquired a million or so more fans in 1986 after they re-recorded their early ’80s classic “Pretty in Pink” for the John Hughes  box-office smash of the same name. The Top-40 success of “Heartbreak Beat” a year later took the once enigmatic new wave band further into the mainstream. 1988’s All of This and Nothing is basically a tutorial for late Furs converts. Here’s the video for that one hit I speak so fondly of …

PSYCHEDELIC FURS : Pretty in pink (HD)
289,264 views since Jan 19, 2017

The title of this compilation is a suitably dry reflection on their commercial success, or rather lack of success in the hard world of making hits in the world of pop music. They truly did make All of This and (basically) for Nothing. Aah the life of a cult band swimming mostly on the outskirts of the mainstream.

The Psychedelic Furs are a British new wave band founded in London in February 1977. Led by singer Richard Butler and his brother Tim Butler on bass guitar. They were one of the many acts spawned from the British post-punk scene. Their music went through several phases, from an initially austere art rock sound, to later touching on new wave and hard rock. (Wikipedia)

The band achieved much needed credibility via a Radio 1 John Peel session, and then shortly after, signed their first record deal. 1979 saw the release of their debut single called “We Love You. In early 1980 they released a second single, the classic “Sister Europe” which was also on their eponymous debut album which reached No. 18 on the U.K. album charts. This was a vintage slice of post-punk miserbalism tracing the classic lineage of Velvet Underground, Roxy Music , David Bowie etc. By the way their name was inspired in part by the 1966 Velvet Underground song “Venus in Furs”. What also set them apart for me was the use of a saxophone in their music. This instrument was not common amongst their peers but may have been inspired by the fact David Bowie himself played the sax on some his music.

My favourite tune of theirs is the gorgeous “Love My way”. It was originally on the 1982 record Forever Now which was produced by the American music legend Todd Rundgren.  Singer Richard Butler’s very Bowie-like vocals and lyrics slyly celebrate and ponder the triumphant synth rock scene of the time. Rundgren’s often quirky keyboards take the lead in place of the usual guitar.

The Psychedelic Furs – Love My Way (Official Video)
12,794,040 views since Feb 20, 2013

Sadly many people missed out on discovering this great group back in those days. I found them with “Pretty in Pink” and without a moment’s doubt explored them further. If you are a fan of David Bowie, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, The Chameleons, Public Image Ltd or any number of other post-punk bands then they should be for you. The compilation I have chosen for my best albums of the ’80s would be a great place to start. Here’s one more track, the hauntingly beautiful ballad “The Ghost in You”

The Psychedelic Furs – The Ghost in You (Official Video)
7,706,107 views since Nov 19, 2012

Our special guest in this edition is none other than …

Stephen Knight

Stephen, or as he is known to most people, “Slim”, has been my mate since 1977. We were both in Std 4 at Alberview Primary and it all began the day he gave my younger brother Wayne money to get on the bus heading back home to Brackenhurst. Wayne had either lost, or spent his money for the bus fare, and I had none to give him. Or it’s possibly more likely I had the money but just wanted to try lose him and resume a far more peaceful life back home without the troublesome younger sibling. Anyway Stephen who is a big guy with an even bigger heart, gave the tearful Wayne the coins he needed to climb aboard the rickety old bus bound for Brackenhurst.

Stephen spent most of our time together being subjected to the music I wanted him to hear. Beginning at the tail end of the 70’s, right through the 80’s and into the birth of the 90’s I was always exalting him to listen to some new band, or artist, and was often pressing a cassette tape into his hand saying go home and give that a good listen.

Stephen Knight’s favourite 80’s albums …

Stephen recently reminded me of a “musical adventure” we once lived through together …

… one Saturday morning I persuaded Stephen to come with me to the CNA in Alberton. The reason? I desperately wanted to buy the latest Men at Work LP called Cargo. Yes folks they made another album after Business As Usual! Most likely I had just rounded up enough cash to afford it so was rather desperate to get my grubby young paws on it. So that particular Saturday morning we hopped on our 10 speed racing bicycles and rode the 7 km’s or so into town. We duly arrived at the CNA, bought the album and cycled back home.

Men At Work – Overkill (Official Video)
28,335,344 views since May 23, 2013

With much excitement we removed the shrink-wrapped plastic cover, slipped the album out of it’s cardboard sleeve, then out of the dust cover and finally the shiny black piece of brand new plastic was placed carefully onto the turntable. This album contained three pretty big hits – “Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive”, “Overkill” and “It’s a Mistake” – granted none were as big as “Down Under” or “Who Can it be Now? ” – but nevertheless Stephen and I were pretty excited as the album got under way in my bedroom.

Then our troubles began and it was all downhill from there for us as far as that particular Saturday was concerned. I can’t remember which song it was, but then what all vinyl fans dread happened … the record stuck … Colin Hay kept repeating the same line over and over and over again … with one of those “magical” little jumps of the vinyl thrown in as he began the same segment of the lyric, and continued to repeat the line ad-nauseum until we lifted the needle off the record. Stephen and I looked at each other in dismay and immediately agreed this would not do and decided to hop back on our 10-speeds and leg it back into town. Like I said, about 7 km’s there about 7 km’s back, give or take. The nice people at the CNA had no problem exchanging my faulty Cargo for another one. On our return we placed the replacement record on the turn-table and sat back to check this one out. Yet again it did it’s little jump and then stuck in possibly the same groove as the first one! “F**k!” we both exclaimed. “Bloody local pressings” I said, followed by “this doesn’t happen on imported albums”…

It was by now early afternoon and we decided yes, we desperately wanted to hear this album, so back on our bicycles for another journey into Alberton. Stephen was slightly less keen for the third trip, but he’s a good friend, so off we went. The 14 km round-trip (give or take) was again completed and the two tired school boys eventually returned with Cargo LP No. 3 . We approached my turn-table with building trepidation and again placed it on the black rubber mat. Yes … you guessed it … it stuck again! Neither of us are certain now, almost four decades later, if it was always the same place on each record … but I can tell you this … it was always irritating and very frustrating.

This time I had to do a fair bit of persuading to convince the by now rather weary “Slim” to climb back on his bike for another jaunt into Alberton. There is of course a reason he was called “Slim” and it wasn’t because he resembled a stick-insect. These were also the days when all shops were closed on a Sunday. So I explained to poor Stephen that it would be a week before we could probably exchange this record, as we are back at school on Monday. Also Saturday afternoon closing time was by now fast approaching. Eventually the big guy agreed and so off we sped, now worrying if the CNA would still be open. They were thankfully, when we at last arrived, exhausted now by all this cycling we had been doing. By then the staff at CNA were also tiring of us, and I’m sure they must have been running out of sealed Cargo albums to give us. But yes, after scratching around somewhere in the back of the store they eventually found another one for me … Cargo LP No. 4.

So with the shadows lengthening and dusk fast approaching we both staggered back home. The hills on the return trip now resembled those in the Tour de France. We were both by now totally sick of riding our bicycles .. and … listening to Men At Work.

So here I am in 2020, it’s exactly 37 years later and I decide to haul out that No. 4 Cargo album. Yes I still have it. Stephen and I never went to back to change that one, even though it also jumped and got stuck as badly as the No. 1, 2 and 3 versions. Anyway we just gave up on it, and I lived with that album as it was, warts and all, until I at last replaced it with a version on CD many years later.

I now own a fancy red Pro-ject Essential turntable. It’s a magnificent machine and it’s on which I now placed Cargo version 4 somewhat anxiously. I then slowly dropped the needle onto the troublesome piece of plastic… there was some lovely crackles and a faint hiss before it all cleared and then out of nowhere came some church bells, followed by a harmonica and finally Colin Hay belting out the first line “Dr. Heckyll works late at the laboratory, where things are not as they seem …”

2,997,523 views since Jul 16, 2013

Turns out it must have been the needle on my decidedly crappy 1983 turntable … here in 2020 it played through perfectly … for two days solid …. Stephen Knight will be so pleased to hear this good news. Talking of the big guy …

Q & A with “Slim”

  • How old were you at the dawn of the 1980’s – 14 years old. I turned 15 in December of that year
  • What year did you matriculate and from which school – 1983, Alberton High School
  • Favourite memories of the ’80s – Getting out of the army * Buying my first motor-bike
  • Worst memories of the ’80s – Going into the army * Border duty in 1985, days and days of boredom * Smashing my first motor-bike
  • Most famous person/s you’ve met – John Barnes the English footballer * Albin Wagner the Austrian cricketer
  • Achievements you are most proud of – My family * Starting my own business * My friends * and oh yes surviving to here
  • Stephen has been married to Natalie for 26 year (his comment to me was “medals all round” * They live in Brackenhurst, Alberton with their two kids, Eric 21 and Faye 18
  • First album you purchased on CDBridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel
  • Most recent album you purchased or were givenKind of Blue by Miles Davis from Musica * an album by Passenger at his live concert I went to
  • What music are you listening to in 2020 – I listen to jazz and old ’80s stuff
  • What work do you do – I have my own vending business. Our clients include Discovery and the South African Reserve Bank
  • What have you learned about yourself during this lock-down – That I don’t have a hobby (sad face)
  • Have you learned anything new during lock-down – I don’t drink straight from the water or milk bottles in the fridge any longer. Hard but has to be done … [this reminds me of a funny Stephen Knight story. One night when a rather tipsy “Slim” returned late from a night on the town his Mom caught him in the kitchen as he was reaching for the milk-bottle in the fridge. Gladys started moaning at Steve about the lateness of the hour and the noise he was making. Stephen ignoring his disgruntled Mom, proceeded to lift the milk-bottle to his lips, forgetting his motor-bike helmet was still on. Needless to say milk went everywhere but between his parted lips which were still buried deep under the mouth-piece of his helmet!]
  • Favourite night-clubs in the ’80s – Le Club, King of Clubs, Chelsea Underground, The Colonial in Rosebank, Busby’s in Brackenhurst and Club Donna’s in Alberton
  • Best gig you went to in the 80’s – Has to be Tribe after Tribe at the Windows in the old Rosebank Hotel with you and Humps. “As I went out one morning…..”
  • Best gig you’ve been to ever – This is going to seem strange but the most impressive live concert I have ever been to must be the Michael Jackson concert at the Johannesburg Stadium. The sheer scale of it was mind blowing. My second best was Crowded house at Standard Bank Arena. Biggest disappointment was Depeche Mode at the same venue. Dave Gahan was at the height of his heroin addiction and was so stoned he couldn’t remember his words and was spitting, blowing his nose and doing other vile things on the mosh pit. Very sad [he subsequently entered rehab, quite all the bad stuff and is thankfully much better now Stephen]
  • What radio station do you listen to now? – Can’t settle on a single station. They are all equally shite at the moment. But mostly Hot 91.9 and then Classic FM which shows how old I’m getting
  • Favourite radio presenter/s (now and all-time) – I enjoy Alex Jay and Mark Pilgrim, probably from a nostalgic point of view * My all time favourite would need to be Neil Johnson who felt like a mate who had an endless knowledge of good music and kept us company while we studied and wiled away the long teenage school nights.
  • All-time favourite movies – A Fish Called Wanda, Kingfisher with Robin Williams, Godfather trilogy, Goodfellas and Good Morning Vietnam (great soundtrack)
  • All-time favourite TV series – Only Fools and Horses … “one day we’ll be millionnnnnaires” and the Sopranos
  • All-time favourite book – I’ve read way to many to have a favourite. My next book is my favourite.
  • What book are you currently reading and/or most recent book – Winston Churchill- the making of a hero in the South African War was my last read and busy reading The Unknown Soldier by Gerald Seymour
  • The song/s you’d like played at your funeral – “What a wonderful world” by Louis Armstrong and “Have I told you lately’ by Van the Man. [Stephen then added a late inclusion a few weeks later] … “In the Arms of the Angel” by Sarah McLachlan
Stephen “Slim” Knight

Thanks for reading … until next time … and No. 45

My 100 Best Albums of the 80’s (Chapter 33 – Lock-down part 4)

There was romance and reality, truth and dare. People being people, no hero’s, just you and me like it always is. We learned how we are together and how we come apart. Life happens“- Stuart Adamson, Big Country

# 47

The Crossing – Big Country (1983)

I was very excited when I first heard this new band out of Scotland who called themselves Big Country. Then from the time of buying their debut album in 1983, right up until their 8th studio record Driving to Damascus, which came out in 1999, I immediately always picked up each new release, almost as they gave it to us. For a while in the ’80s I would have considered them one of my top 5 favourite artists …

With their ringing, bagpipe-like guitars and the anthemic songs of frontman Stuart Adamson, Scotland’s Big Country emerged as one of the most distinctive and promising new rock bands of the early ’80s, scoring a major hit with their debut album, The Crossing though the group’s critical and commercial fortunes dimmed in the years to follow, they nevertheless outlasted virtually all of their contemporaries, releasing new material into the next century (All Music)

The Crossing is my favourite piece of work by Big Country – by quite a long way if I’m honest. They came out with some really good material after this, but never quite matched the classy, earnest and socially conscious anthems of their debut. The band’s music incorporated Scottish folk and martial music styles. They engineered their guitar-driven sound to evoke the sound of bagpipes, fiddles and other traditional folk instruments.The twist though was always that trademark bagpipe sound. Stuart Adamson and fellow guitarist, Bruce Watson, achieved this through the use of the MXR Pitch Transposer 129 guitar effects pedal. These are the little machines that guitarists have on the floor that connect to, and then change the sounds coming out of their instruments. You’ll often notice them staring at the the ground while playing their guitars. This is because they are constantly making adjustments to them with one or both of their feet. The term “shoe-gazers” was derived for bands who’s guitar work almost entirely uses a multitude of effects pedals. These are the guys that spend most of the gig basically staring at their shoes!

MXR Effects Pedals

Also contributing to the band’s unique sound was their use of the E-bow, a small contraption which allows a guitar to sound more like a string section or a synthesizer. It’s a little battery-powered electronic device that the guitarist uses to run along the strings of his or her guitar. The E-Bow is monophonic, and drives one string at a time, producing a sound reminiscent of using a bow on the strings. It makes a wonderful atmospheric and almost eerie sound. In my old band Black Man Ray our guitarist Ryan Rennie starting up his E-Bow always sent shivers running right through me – and in a very good way. U2’s the Edge is another famous guitarist from that era who created his own sound principally by using effects pedals and E-Bows.

An E-Bow

Big Country’s first ever single was “Harvest Home” which was recorded and released in 1982. It was a modest success and it did not even reach the UK Singles Chart. Their next single was 1983’s “Field’s of Fire (400 Miles)”, which reached the UK’s Top Ten and was rapidly followed by the album The Crossing. The album itself was then a hit in the United States, reaching No. 18 on the Billboard Top 200, powered mainly by the single “In a Big Country”. This epic tune was also their only US Top 40 hit single, reaching No.17 on the Billboard Hot 100. By sheer coincidence the song also reached No. 17 on the UK Singles Chart in June 1983. And if that wasn’t weird enough this was month I turned 17!!

My favourite song on the album is the slightly more sparse and subdued “Chance”. The song’s personal lyrics are every bit as heartfelt as the more populist-inclined anthems like the wonderful “The Storm” or the thundering “Fields of Fire.” The album was produced by Steve Lillywhite – who just happens to be one of my favourite producers of all-time, and probably most famous for his work with U2. For those that don’t know of him … well .. here is a little about Steve…

Lillywhite is an English record producer. Since he began his career in 1977, Lillywhite has been credited on over 500 records, and has collaborated with a variety of musicians including … XTC, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Simple Minds, the Psychedelic Furs, Talking Heads, Kirsty MacColl, the Rolling Stones, the Pogues, Peter Gabriel, Morrissey, the Killers, Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, Joan Armatrading and many more. He has won six Grammy Awards, including the Producer of the Year in 2006, and was made a CBE in 2012 for his contributions to music.

Big Country Chance – official video
1,408 views since Jun 30, 2012

I’m listening to the album now … “Lost Patrol” is playing … man I’ve forgotten how good this track is. Followed then by “Close Action” which features some excellent lead guitar from Stuart with more than able support from his trusty band-mates. The Crossing is largely regarded as one of the most accomplished debut albums of the decade. While many of their contemporaries were reaching for synthesizers and drum machines this band produced a stunning rock ‘n’ roll record using only guitars and real drums. It’s lush, majestic, full-bodied, and powerful. It is the sound of earnest young men wearing their hearts on the sleeves ….. of their tartan-like plaid shirts.

Bruce Watson, Mark Brzezicki, Stuart Adamson and Tony Butler

Guitarist and songwriter Stuart Adamson tragically committed suicide around the turn of the century. The band carries on today with former Alarm singer Mike Peters at the helm.

Coincidentally my special guest today is a rather big fan of Big Country herself …

Giuliana Bland

Giulie was 14 years old when the new decade dawned in 1980. She matriculated in 1982 from the Holy Rosary Convent in Edenvale. Giuliana is an ECD (early childhood development) specialist and she also works for two extremely wealthy family foundations. For most of the 1990’s Ms. Bland worked for the United Cricket Board of South Africa. She now lives with her children Jamie (22) and Olivia (17) in Douglasdale, Fourways.

Giuliana’s 12 favourite 1980’s albums in no particular order

Giulie’s choice of records is rather sumptuous if I must say. Three of them have been on my list, while at least three more will still be appearing at some point. Our Favourite Shop by the Style Council is another of those great 80’s albums I only ever had on a cassette tape. Also one that I probably recorded from an album taken out of the library at Street Records. It’s an LP I still hope to stumble across one day during one of my sorties to whatever trade CD or charity shop I find myself in. I have always been an Everything But the Girl fan … the album Giules chose here narrowly missed making my list. Lovely selection GB …

Q & A with Giuliana Bland

  • Favourite memories of the 1980’s – My first boyfriend in 1984, which unsurprisingly is also my best musical year * In that same year I drove a car for the first time * In 1988 I backpacked around Europe with my friend Samantha * Seeing Simple Minds live in Milan in 1989 was unforgettable
  • Worst memory of the 1980’s – My Dad passed away suddenly in 1985. A huge shock and of course changed everything in my family
  • Most famous person/s you have metNelson Mandela (Yes indeed! He certainly is VERY famous, and this one may not be bettered, but we shall seeGiuliana apparently also somehow managed to drop Madiba’s glasses when they met at the Soweto Cricket Oval) * Duran Duran when she was but a shy little 16 year-old. She even had an album cover signed by Simon Le Bon! * Most of the South African cricketers through the 1990’s, including the most famous one of all, Hansie Cronje. (Eat your heart out Mark Humphrey and Albin Wagner!)
  • The achievement you are most proud of – My work in the early childhood development in South Africa
  • The last album you purchased – I’m embarrassed to admit that it was Ed Sheeran’s last album Divide before seeing him in concert in 2019
  • Vinyl or CD – I hardly ever listen to CD’s anymore and sadly don’t have a turntable. I have a selection of vinyl albums sitting outside in my Zozo hut!!
  • Music you are listening to in 2020 – A difficult question but I suppose Matthew Mole, Matt Maeson and Hippo Campus are some. It’s actually mostly what my kids are listening to. I’m still obsessed with “my-80’s-music”. It puts me in a good mood and I still dance around the bedroom singing into my hairbrush! (here I must add that I did give GB one of my compilation CD’s of new music of some year in the 00’s … to try update her on some classy, more modern indie-rock/pop … I’m guessing that CD did not make that much of an impression. Maybe it also now lives in that Zozo hut?)
  • Do you stream music – No I don’t … I download from Google music and lately on iTunes
  • What radio stations do you listen to – Mix FM, Hot FM, 702 and SAFM for my political fix
  • Favourite radio presenters of all-time – Alex Jay and Barney Simon
  • One thing I have learned about myself during lockdown – I’m obsessed about my floors being clean * And actually I’m okay being by myself
  • What has kept you busy during lockdown – I haven’t really done anything other than work, clean the house, cook, spend too much time looking at silly Whats-app videos and memes, read, sleep, walk around the house, some needlework and talk to friends. Seems there isn’t time to learn a language!
  • Favourite gigs ever – Tina Turner, Phil Collins, OMD and I was very impressed with Ed Sheeran’s concert last year. I actually didn’t have too much money to afford to go to gigs in the 90s and into the 00’s. However in the early 2010’s I spent what money I did have to buy tickets for my daughter to live her dream….wait for it….Justin Bieber and One Direction (cover face with hands emoji). My excuse though is that I remember what it was like not to see my favourite bands when I was young. I also took my son to see Coldplay in the 10’s and I saw REM in the 00’s at The Dome. Brilliant concert.
  • Dodgiest gigs ever – Ha ha you’ll laugh at this one. In the 70s I got GIVEN (please note this) tickets to see Four Jacks and a Jill in Upington, Richard Clayderman (OMW cringe) at the Colosseum in Joburg town …. not as dodgy, but let me also mention I saw the Julian Laxton Band again at the Colosseum and John Paul Young in a big tent at what is now Bruma Lake.
  • Favourite nightclubs of the 80’s – Le Club, Chelsea Underground, Heaven, Thunderdome, Q’s (even though it wasn’t cool to be seen there)
  • All-time favourite movies – Notting Hill and Love Actually. I’ll stop there
  • Last book you read and/or book/s you are reading currently – Currently reading The All Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion from the author of Driving Miss Daisy, Fannie Flagg. It was a last minute second hand purchase on the last day before lockdown. It’s funny and poignant
  • All-time favourite books – Flip this is tough as I have many. For now the Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  • All-time favourite TV series – pass … I don’t watch enough series to say. Maybe BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing
  • Favourite current TV series – Not a huge TV watcher like I said, but I loved The Crown, enjoyed The Messiah, and I’ve just finished Outlander 1 on Netflix. I get the fuss about Jamie Fraser (yum) but flip the tension and drama was so similar from episode to episode it drove me nuts, so I won’t be watching any of the other Outlander series
  • The song/s I’d like played at my funeral – “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and “As” by George Michael and Mary J. Blige (a cover of Stevie Wonder’s version)

Thanks again for reading my mutterings about music. A big thank you to Giuliana for patiently answering all my questions on life, music and stuff in 1980’s and beyond … now go and play some Big Country records ….

Stuart Adamson 1958 – 2001

The autumn howled around the heads
That hung so slack with lips so red
The blooms had withered leaves were shed
Tongues stuck in jaws sad clowns parade
The crushing whine began its call
And pointed fingers at us all

I came from the hills with a tear in my eye
The winter closed in and the crows filled the sky
The houses were burning in flames gold and red
The people were running with eyes full of dread

Ah, my James
They didn’t have to do this

We chased them for miles; I had tears in my eyes
Through forest and moor as the clouds filled the sky
The storm broke upon us with fury and flame
Both hunters and hunted washed down in the rain

My 100 Best Album’s of the 80’s (Chapter 32 – Lock-down part 3)

Life is a long journey with a map written by a fool” – Juan Nepomuceno Guerra (a character in Narcos: Mexico on Netflix)

# 48

Technique – New Order (1989)

New Order are one of my all-time favourite groups. From the classic single “Blue Monday” onwards I was totally hooked. It’s fair to admit that I knew the music of New Order long before I discovered Joy Division, the band they were before. They made some terrific records in the 1980’s … Movement (1981), Power Corruption & Lies (1983), Low-Life (1985), Brotherhood (1986) and then Technique in 1989 ; which happily I place in position number 48 on my list. The review by John Bush on All Music is one I cannot better … no matter how hard I may try … he captures perfectly what Technique is about and save for one or two of my own comments here it is in full below …

Tastes and sounds were changing quickly in the late ’80s, which prompted New Order’s most startling transformation yet — from moody dance-rockers to, well, moody acid-house mavens. After the band booked a studio on the island hot-spot of Ibiza, apparently not knowing that it was the center of the burgeoning house music craze, New Order’s sure instincts for blending rock and contemporary dance resulted in another confident, superb LP. Technique was the group’s most striking production job, with the single “Fine Time” proving a close runner-up to “Blue Monday” as the most extroverted dance track in the band’s catalog. Opening the record, it was a portrait of a group unrecognizable from its origins, delivering lascivious and extroverted come-ons amid pounding beats. It appeared that dance had fully taken over from rock, with the guitars and bass only brought in for a quick solo or bridge.(Here I must add the even the small bits Peter Hook adds to this record are crucial to still maintain the New Order sound. His meagre bass parts here are subtly superb, instantly recognizable and without them it’s … well …. not New Order) …. back to you John …. But while pure dance was the case for the singles “Fine Time” and “Round & Round,” elsewhere New Order were still delivering some of the best alternative pop around, plaintive and affecting songs like “Run” (the third single), “Love Less,” and “Dream Attack.” Placed in the perfect position to deliver the definitive alternative take on house music, the band produced another classic record

New Order – Fine Time – Top of the Pops 15-12-1988
1,300 views since Dec 14, 2019

Back in 1989 I purchased my first substantial music system. I now had a decent job, as a carpet salesman, and some money had started rolling in with the commissions I was now earning. Buying a proper stereo system was first and foremost on my list of life essentials! My new baby was a Kenwood and a pretty good one at that. It had a turntable, double cassette deck, a radio tuner, amplifier, pretty good speakers and my first ever CD player! Man was I in heaven when I first came home with it! I bought it at Hi-Lite Radio in Alberton and I remember it cost me about R 5000.00. This being a fortune back in those days. My Dad put quite a bit towards it and I paid him back over the following months. Besides the cassette deck that came to a grinding halt in the mid 2000’s most of the components of that beautiful machine still work to this day.

Now that I had a CD player I of course had to start buying something to play on it. The day I picked up my Kenwood Hi-Fi (see above) I also purchased my first ever album on this new fangled thing called the compact disc … it was Rattle and Hum by U2. I listened to that album a lot I can tell you. I had to, it was the only CD I owned for quite a long time! Listening to music on this new digital format was amazing I decided … so eventually I followed it with buying Van Morrison’s Enlightenment and then … Technique by New Order. All three of those LP’s will forever remind me of sitting in my bedroom in Brackenhurst, listening to them over and over and over again …. they were good days indeed. A much simpler time to be sure … choosing what to play next was not the more complex task it is today.

New Order – Round and Round (Official Music Video)
2,357,481 views since Oct 18, 2013

Time now for a new feature on my blig blog … here we find out what some of my readers favourite 80’s albums were … and also a little bit about them. First up …

Albin Wagner

Albin and his family came to South Africa from Salzburg, Austria in June 1975. He started at Alberview Primary in the third term of Standard 2, even though he could hardly speak a word of English. By the time I joined him at Alberview in 1977, when we were both in Std 4, his English was probably better than mine. Put quite simply … Albin is one of the most intelligent people I know. We bonded over Subbuteo table football, music, cricket and soon become very good mates.

He is quite likely the most passionate ex-Austrian cricket fanatic on the planet. I loved playing that game with Herr Wagner. He was a grimly determined, defensive type batsmen who employed the leg-glance to score the vast majority of his runs in a long and distinguished school, and then club cricket career. Albin frustrated many an opposing bowling attack with his stubborn determination and a very effective forward defensive stroke. As a bowler he was in a league of his own. His sedate “off-breaks” were the slowest I have ever faced or indeed witnessed. As you waited for the ball he had just bowled to reach you, a vast array of thoughts would meander through your mind … firstly should you hit him for four or six? And then possibly … what day was that dreaded algebra test next week? Was it Tuesday or Wednesday? I really hope it’s Wednesday … then as the ball edged a little closer, and started gracefully falling from it’s extremely high trajectory, you’d also maybe ponder what was for dinner later that evening …and then finally … it was time to play your shot … with mixed results … especially if an attempted hoik for six was indeed your final decision. He took many a wicket with his patient, yet deliberate bowling style I can tell you.

Albin had an interesting dress sense (to put it mildly) and was huge fan of the Sex Pistols. It was therefore a no-brainer we called him The Punk. He was also a very good rugby player. Usually playing at 8th man … his madly aggressive and totally uncharacteristic attitude while playing that game, probably also contributed to his nickname.

After school he he did a law degree at Wits. Here he met Cathy who was a fiery wee lass of Belgian and Jewish descent. They dated. She fell pregnant. Albin did the right thing and married his sweetheart in August 1989. He then finished his degree at the end of 1989 … his daughter Katya was born in January 1990. The Punk then went off to play at being a “soldier”. Luckily for him National Service had recently been reduced to one year … he did his time wearing a civilian suit in the military offices of Hillbrow and Pretoria. As soon as he ‘klaared out’ he and his new family moved to Cape Town. It was early in 1991… he’s never been back. Well besides the odd rare visit …

Albin’s 11 favourite 1980’s albums in no particular order

I love all of these albums he has chosen. Three have already been on my list and at least one is still coming up. I’m glad the Spandau Ballet album he chose was not True – let me not say more than that, in case I offend anyone. Their first two albums Journeys to Glory and Diamond (which he has chosen) were very cool though. The Selecter album is a groovy left of centre ska choice … nice!! The title of the Soft Cell LP on the list perhaps a clue to the Punk’s very distinct brand of taste and pleasures.

Q & A with Albin Wagner

  • Albin aka The Punk was 15 years old when the 1980’s dawned. He turned 16 on the 26th of November 1980
  • He matriculated from Alberton High School in 1983
  • Albin is now an attorney who resides in Cape Town. He is also a director of the WPCA Property Development Company. Presently they are busy with the development at the Newlands cricket ground – soon to be renamed the NCG I believe. He is also a director of the German Club Cape Town, HOPE Cape Town Foundation and a life member of the Claremont Cricket Club
  • His favourite memories of the 1980’s while still at school were – cricket, rugby and athletics. 1983’s Boys Brigade Tour to England and Scotland … which included … London for the first time – here he specifically mentions Virgin Records and the porn and peep shows in Piccadilly Square (!) Our 1st team cricket tour to Cape Town which included a first visit to Newlands Cricket Ground .
  • After school his favourite memories were – His first three post-school girlfriends Michelle, Justine and Cathy (and we know how that turned out!)
  • His worst memories of the 1980’s were – The riots at Wits University and the 7:05 bus from Alberton to Braamfontein
  • Favourite 80’s gigs – UB40 in Gaborone, Petit Cheval, eVoid, The Psycho Reptiles and anything at the Bazoli pavilion at Wits
  • Favourite 80’s clubs – Chelsea Underground, The Thunderdome, Le Club and Club Donna, which was an infamous Alberton venue. The Punk also mentions the Alberton Cricket Club which, although not the type of club I was looking for, was admittedly the scene of MANY an epic party
  • The most famous people he has met include – cricketers (Gary Kirsten, Alan Dawson, Paul Adams and Jacques Kallis) plus Helen Zille and Dan Plato
  • The achievements he is most proud of – that his daughter Katya turned out to be a good little Goth. He is also proud that he enjoyed a slightly debauched, alcohol-fueled non-stop party, during his long second childhood in the 1st decade or so of the 2000’s ….( the mind does boggle a bit here Herr Wagner … and I am sometimes glad we have lived over 1000 km’s apart since the early 90’s)
  • The last record he bought on vinyl – was The Toy Dolls album called Dig That Groove Baby which he dug out of a CNA bargain bin many, many moons ago
  • The last record he bought on CD – was either 50 Cent’s The Massacre or Alicia Keys Songs in A Minor (The Punk admits freely to still be going through a rap/R&B phase … I have just about forgiven him of this major indiscretion)
  • The music he likes in 2020 includes the following – still some of the older stuff (I think when I force it upon him mainly) … plus … he now also enjoys Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons and then wait for it …. Jack Parow, Early B (yes I also have no idea who that is?) and someone who goes by the name of YoungstaCPT (go figure … but once a Punk always a punk)
  • He however now mainly listens to the radio. Cape Talk in the morning and afternoon. Radio Good Hope or 5FM in the evening. He claims he listens to Roger Goode on 5
  • Favourite radio presenter of all time – Barney Simon the former Radio 5/5FM jock
  • Music streaming preference – a small amount of Spotify playlists
  • What he has learned about himself during lock-down – that he needs very little to keep him happy … so I asked him what he did during lock-down?
  • He watched Netflix, Showmax, a few news sites, ate lots of food, read a few books, and I know he also worked quite hard to … but he did run out of beer, whisky and G&T’s early on, but he is soldiering on beside this sad fact
  • All-time favourite movies – Pulp Fiction and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
  • All-time favourite TV series – Seinfeld and the original Star Trek
  • Current favourite TV series – Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale
  • All-time favourite books – Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Most recent books read – Berlin – The Downfall 1945 by Anton Beevor and David Gower’s 50 Greatest Cricketers of all-time
  • The song/s he wants played at his funeral – well he’s decided on a interesting medley consisting of …”Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats, and “I Did it My Way” by Sid Vicious.

Thanks to Albin Wagner for patiently taking part in my Q + A … I appreciate it. Thanks to all for reading my latest blig blog. Do yourselves a favour and go and listen to some New Order. Until next time …

I just wanted to be in a small cult band and to do my thing” – Bernard Sumner, New Order (singer, keyboards, guitar)

You can never tell with New Order. Just when you think the band is coming to an end, it starts up again” – Gillian Gilbert, New Order (keyboards)

I have a hard time getting my head around the idea of playing ‘The Perfect Kiss’ in my 50s. I can’t quite get there” – Peter Hook, New Order (bass guitar)

The thing about New Order is we never know what we’re doing but we know what we don’t want to do. It’s by avoiding other things you don’t want to do, that you end up at what you do want to do!” – Stephen Morris, New Order (drums)