Monday, 31 March 2008

The Costal Town, That They Forgot To Close Down..

Sang Morrissey 20 years ago on his second solo single 'Everyday is like Sunday'. Potentially it could have been about any antiquated resort by the sea, but as the whole video was shot in Southend, I got the hint. And you know what? I think ol Mozza may have had a point.

This post was going to be a review of 'local lad done good' Jake Shillingford’s live return to Southend after over 20 years… but after attending the show last night and witnessing the shocking turn out (I counted 32), I'm up for a moan on the continual apathy of music fans in South East Essex instead…

Strangely enough, this part of the world has a pretty good record for producing local talent. In the 70’s it was the Southend\Canvey Island Pub Rock scene that discovered the likes of Dr Feelgood, Wilko Johnson, Eddie and the Hot Rods and the Kursaal Flyers. In the 80’s Basildon spawned Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Alison Moyet. Recent successes from Southend have been These New Puritans, The Horrors and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. However, like Jake, I imagine that in order to find success, they all learned one important lesson -- get out of town!

I can't speak for the 70s, but I've been going to live shows in the area for about 25 years. There has been the odd rammed show from time to time, but on the whole I’d have to say attendance has often been on the quiet side – no matter who the artist. A friend of mine was the promoter for a local club in the late 80s and brought some of the cream (at that time) of the indie scene to the venue. And whilst these same bands were selling out around the rest of the country, my friend lost money on just about every show (incidentally, he too had to leave Southend in order to become a successful promoter!).

20/25 years ago Southend had some great little clubs and live venues, today there is almost nothing -- and that's despite it now being a university town, flooded with students. However it's not difficult to understand why so many of these venues have disappeared over the years, as for almost 3 decades the occupants of the town have not supported live music in great enough numbers. I'm not saying people should be frog-marched into the nearest live show, but if people want live music on their doorstep, then there's only one way to ensure it keeps coming.

Just three months ago Jake (with his band My Life Story) was playing to 1500 people at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, tonight (31st March) he continues his solo tour in Portsmouth and it's already sold out, so how come the return to his roots was so poorly attended? On this occasion it may not entirely be the fault of the locals. The advertising for this show was shocking! I live here, and had it not been for MySpace, I doubt I'd have known it was on either. Not a single poster anywhere in town, and it was even missing from the venues leaflet of upcoming shows.

Armed with a 12 string guitar and Toni Krause on keyboards, Jake gave those who did turn up at night to remember. He performed stripped down versions of songs right through his 20+ year career. All three My Life Story albums were touched upon, as was material from his electronic project Exile Inside. There was also plenty of new material from his debut solo album. A great night out, and a chance to catch up with a few old faces… but I won’t hold my breath for his next return to Southend!

You can watch Jake and Toni performing at an earlier date on this acoustic tour here, with the My Life Story song 'If You Can't Live Without Me Then Why Aren't You Dead Yet?'

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Exclusive Martin Gordon Interview - Part 2

The final part of my exclusive interview with Martin Gordon is below.
If you missed Part one, you can view it here

In the 70s, being in the charts was a really big deal -- I don't think it is anymore -- how much difference did it make when you had a hit single?

Well, I discovered you can get people to go to bed with you much easier if you have a record in the charts.

You’ve had a few connections with Marc Bolan in your career, both direct and indirect. You worked extensively with Andy and Chris (who both worked with Bolan in John's Children), and the Radio Stars even appeared on Marc’s TV show, what was he like? Did you ever get a glimpse of him outside of his ‘larger than life’ character?

It was just post fat-period when we were on his show. He was kind of jolly and bouncy and I remember him being very nice, very articulate, but then if you're hosting a TV show that’s called by your name, I guess you can afford to be very gracious. Whether that was the real Marc I met or not I don't know, but he was very nice.

You can watch that Radio Stars performance on Marc Bolan's TV show here:

After you split with the Radio Stars, you went to Paris to work as a producer for Barclay Records. The story goes that the Rolling Stones were rehearsing/recording nearby so you wandered along to try and blag some free booze!!

Well. the guitarist from the band I was producing knew somebody on the Stones road crew, and we wandered along to see what might develop.

Well, the God of music must have been on your side, because your visit coincided with Bill Wyman doing a 'no show' and you got an instant promotion from freeloader to Rolling Stones bass player!

Well, not instant, no. There was a series of rooms that you had to go through -- something like an imperial court. You had the outer ring with the ‘hoi polloi’ and then once you were accepted there you moved one ring in, and slowly over the course of the evening, amazingly, we ended up sitting in the studio with the guys and they were moaning… and by that time of course I was rather buoyant and I said "you haven't got a bass player? I'm your man!". So Jagger showed me these chords and I remember sitting down and he said "it goes like this, got it?" And all of a sudden I'm playing bass for them.

How long did it last? Was it just for that day?

No, it was a few days. Amazingly, they asked me if I would go back, so I did. I remember at one point, listening to a Ronnie Wood solo from inside the control room, with Wood on one side of me and Jagger on the other. Jagger turned to me and said "what do you think of that?". In earlier times I might have been a little less diplomatic, but I said "Oh, it was great, great, fantastic".

Can you remember what songs you played with them?

No, there's a Stones web site which lists all the tunes they’ve ever recorded, day by day, location, engineer, additional overdubs etc and it appears on that.

But nothing you recorded with them ever got released I assume?

Not as far as I know. Apparently they have this thing of recording hours and hours of stuff and then they might go back and use something from two years ago and rework it into something else. So I don’t know, but I certainly don't recognise anything.

And what did Bill make of it?!

Oh, we never met.

When you came back from Paris, you started Blue Meanies. But there was only one release, a single 'Pop Sensibility'. How come it was also brief?

Well, it was more for pleasure really. We didn't really have a concept, it was just a thing that happened. But it could have been quite good, some of the tunes we did as Blue Meanies ended up on my first solo album and everybody said they were great, so we must have had something. If anybody had had the foresight to allow us to develop for a year or so, it might have been quite good.
Recently there's been an i-Tunes only release of 20 odd Blue Meanies tracks. What's the story with this material? Was it recorded for an unreleased album?

It's all mostly demos. High-quality ones, that ultimately would have gone to make up an album.

In recent years you've worked with some big artists as a musician and producer.. Blur, Primal Scream, even Kylie Minogue.

Yeah, different things with different people. For Blur it was as a keyboard player, for Primal Scream it was as remixer, for Kylie I was mimer of cheeseboards and hoister of Kylie onto a piano at the NME awards. It was a grand piano and I had to lift her up onto it, and then she crawled towards me as I was playing. She was wearing this red bustier thing, very low-cut too, it was a good job I was only miming really…

You can see Martin trying admirably to keep his eyes on the keyboard here!

You now live in Germany, what made you choose that location?

Sausages! I love sausages, and Germany is the home of the sausage, it could be wurst…

Do you see yourself ever returning to the UK?

No, I have a small boy, he is a Berliner, he speaks German.

What do you think of the UK now when you come back to visit?

It's nice to visit, but I couldn't bear to live here anymore -- it's so incredibly expensive. But it's multi-cultural, Germany isn't, it is absolutely mono-cultural. There are at least a lot of possibilities here, and while it may not be working very well, it's working better than it is in Germany. There you have houses being burned down, East German right-wing fascists killing people in the streets and chasing Indians.

Bizarrely, it wasn't until the turn of the 21st century that you finally got round to starting a solo career! How come it took so long?

I didn't want to rush it! Didn't want to overdo it. Well, really the reason is singing. It's always a problem finding a singer, and it wasn't until I found Pelle Almgren that the solo work took shape. Pelle was a Jet fan, he sent me an e-mail -- he told me he was a songwriter, he didn't tell me he was a singer. So we met up in Stockholm, and we wrote some songs, and then he said "okay, shall I sing them now?" And I said "Oh, you can sing as well?". And he just had this incredible voice, and I thought “fuck”. Instantly I started thinking about the stuff I’d been designing for my solo album and I said "I'll come back in three months, with a pile of songs. Book a studio!", and he said "oh yeah, great".

You've done four solo albums to date -- all part of the Mammal Trilogy (!). Intelligent, catchy guitar pop. I hear so many different things in your solo work, and there's definitely a nod to English musical hall in there. Blur dabbled with that sound a lot around the time of Modern Life Is Rubbish….

Yeah, music hall is a common source, I think. I researched it, bought lots of CDs and it's great. Actually it’s not too far away from what I do -- populist music that you can listen to and sing along with even if you don't quite 'get' it.

Ever been to Wilton's music hall?

I used to live round the corner from there. I went to a party there once, but I've never seen a performance. I have a notion to do a modern Gilbert and Sullivan piece, and I keep saying that Wilton’s would be the ideal place to do it. In fact, tonight we are doing what could be the germ of that idea.

You have included some well-chosen cover versions on your solo albums, putting your own stamp on them in the process. How do you go about choosing the right cover, are they songs you feel would suit the album or just songs you like?

I think it has to be a song that I like, but also a song that will do the job, showing what you do in the context of a familiar piece of music. There are certainly songs that I like that wouldn't be suitable covers. I've tried covers that haven't been finished because they didn't work.

Any future covers lined up?

Well, every album will have some, but I haven't decided yet. At one point, I was trying ‘Tiny Demons’ by Todd Rundgren, and I think I might revisit that.

So you're working on the fifth part of the trilogy then?!

Yes, I’ve just started it. Trying lots and lots of things, and throwing half of them away. I think the more you can throw away the better -- for the last album I had about 25 tunes, so I'm beginning that whole process again, it will go on for some time.

Finally, a quick fire round… Had you ever considered writing an autobiography?

Check the website.

Proudest moment of your career?

Making my solo debut in Boston last August. Outside the venue was "Martin Gordon", and somebody had climbed up on top, and in chalk had written "(!!!)", which I thought was very ambiguous. But then I thought, fuck, it's me, finally!

Lowest point of your career?

Probably being fired from Sparks actually. It was 4 o’clock in the morning, I’d come home from celebrating my new-found celebrity, and was phoned up by some minion, that late: "Hello Martin, how are you? Oh good. You're not in the group anymore, anyway goodbye". That abruptly, it was quite shocking, really.

What's your most rock 'n' roll moment?

I don't really do rock ‘n’ roll moments. We were talking about this the other day. Steve the drummer has come over from Boston, and I think he was expecting us all to be like members of Aerosmith or that kind of thing. And we're all well-brought up middle-class English people, we don't really do rock ‘n’ roll moments. Chris Townson and I once pulled up a flower bed when we were pissed, and we got arrested and locked up in Bow Street, and had to appear in front of a magistrate… not very rock ‘n’ roll though, is it?

Who do you admire in music?

Todd Rundgren -- Todd is God! He's very consistent, his last stuff is as good as his first, he's a real hero.

Any current bands that excite you?

Yes, Niacin. They are an American prog jazz rock trio with Billy Sheehan on bass, Dennis Chambers on drums and John Novello on keyboards.

How about Silvery?

Yes, very nice. We were going to do something together, I did some mixes for them but it didn't work out. It's a bit difficult communicating e-wise, it’s much easier if you're sitting in the same room as somebody, and we were doing everything by e-mail. But no hard feelings, they have some very nice songs, very funny, similar in a way to the stuff I'm doing -- quite poppy. I mean, there are a lot of grown-ups about, and they need pop music, let's face it.

Who would you most like to work with?

I’d love to work with Todd Rundgren, but it would be completely fruitless because he does it all himself, and he’d just tell me what to do.

What one record would you take with you to a desert island?

The Mahavishnu Orchestra live in Munich 1972. I've just recently got a soundboard recording of it. It's two hours long and I've listened to it every day for two months and I still haven't tired of it.

So there you have it, the final piece of the interview, and that brings to a close what has fast become 'Martin Gordon March'! Once again, Many thanks Martin for your time earlier this month, it was much appreciated.



The Official Martin Gordon website

See the Rolling Stones 'Complete Works' database here - click on 1979 to view Martin's entry (ref: 790621A)

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Exclusive Martin Gordon Interview - Part 1

Martin Gordon has packed a lot into his 30+ years in the music business. From Glam to Punk to perfect 80’s pop to an accomplished solo career, he’s done it all (see my earlier Martin Gordon review here for more info!). Linking all these together is his distinctive bass sound and an ever-present talent for writing intelligent, quirky and original songs. Add to this a brief stint as a Rolling Stone and working with the likes of Blur, Primal Scream, Boy George and George Michael and you’ve got a very full and varied career... One I've been itching to find out more about for some time!

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to meet up with Martin in London for an exclusive chat. An enormously engaging interviewee, he was happy to talk about every aspect of his career, and I found him incredibly honest and candid. It turned into quite a lengthy chat, so below is the first part of this two part interview.

First things first, what instruments do you play, and when did you start learning them?

I play bass, all manner of keyboards, and guitar fairly crudely. I started learning at around 10 or 11 years old with piano and classical guitar lessons at school. And from classical guitar I ended up playing bass, it was a direct link. I think it was piano first, that’s what I really wanted to play, but it needed to be taught differently. In those days they didn't use the Suzuki method, you didn’t learn how to play a tune, and it was very frustrating, so I moved on to classical guitar, something I could directly play.

Who were your musical influences as a child, who made you want to be a musician?

I remember being completely obsessed with all things Jack Bruce. These days I can analyse it in a way that I couldn't back then - I see him as a very accomplished singer, a very accomplished arranger and a very accomplished composer -- and incidentally a bass player too. You can't really make a career out of just being a bass player, you have to be a bass player in the context of something else… what a great role model.. The only thing he doesn't do of course is write bearable words, but you can't win ‘em all.

Do you still go back to his albums now?

Yes, it’s timeless stuff. Jack Bruce is a good example of somebody who continues to make great music. If I get bored, I rediscover things that used to excite me. Another good example is the Mahavishnu Orchestra. They were one of the first live concerts I ever saw, back in 1972, and their first album [The Inner Mounting Flame] was one of the first albums I ever bought. Recently I've found a whole load of bootleg recordings of them that you can download. On that first album the songs were about five minutes long, these are expanded to 25 minutes live! It’s just so exciting. Over 30 years on, nothing has replaced it.

Your first band is always listed as Sparks, but were there any bands before that?

No, there was a school band, then there was one band which never played any gigs, so Sparks were my first proper band.

Sparks had just relocated to England at that time, and you answered an ad in Melody Maker looking for a "beard free bass player". Had you heard of Sparks at that point?

I'd seen them on the Old Grey Whistle Test about two weeks beforehand… and I didn't like them very much. But then I also didn't like the ethic of the Old Grey Whistle Test either, and Bob Harris was rather irritated by this group, so I thought okay, maybe they're not quite as terrible as I think they are. But actually I didn't really care too much, because I was just keen to do something.

Do you remember your audition for Sparks?

Yes, it wasn't a musical audition, it was a spoken one. The brothers were there and it was a personable, social audition at John Hewlett's house in Croydon. It was quite sensible really, to see if we could bear each other as people.

So they didn't ask you to play?

No, we just chatted and I didn't hear for some months and eventually I had a phone call saying "let's do it again" And I said "shall I bring the bass this time?" And they said "erm, oh yes, good idea". So I brought the bass along and we rehearsed at Barnet rugby club. I played Girls from Germany and some other songs that had the word girls in the title. I remember thinking "they have to broaden their subject material".

The fortunes of Sparks changed rapidly after you joined….

I'm glad you noticed that..

…a massively successful album [Kimono My House] and the hit singles that came from it [This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us & Amateur Hour]. It was a radically different sound for this third album compared to previous two, how much of an input did you have in this change of style?

Well, the main difference was they now had a bunch of people who could play, and who had been playing for some time. Various people say that I made a big contribution to things like arrangements, but to be honest, a lot of it was about tension, musical tension. There was Adrian, who hated all this glam, fey, limp wristed stuff, and wanted to make it tougher, and then you had this 'twinky' tendency going on in the other corner of the room. And it was actually all these tensions that produced something quite good. I came from the prog world, so I was another piece of the jigsaw, but I had communication skills, where as they would just do something and there it was and it wasn’t integrated necessarily, they wouldn't try and bend anything else around it.

It was quite an arty thing wasn’t it, where as a lot of the glam rock thing was very one-dimensional. Roxy were very arty to…

Yes, it had 'art concepts' behind it. To me when I think of glam, I think of the Sweet and Gary Glitter, I don't think of Sparks. Glam rock was more about double tracked tom-toms and not much else going on.

Ultimately though a short lived affair, and you were drummed out of Sparks before the fourth album. I hear various rumours as to why, but what's the real one? Did you grow a beard?!

No, no. The final straw really was being asked to play Ian Hampton’s bass [a Fender Precision], as they decided they didn't like the sound of mine [a Rickenbacker 4001]. But obviously that was indicative of greater issues.

They also weren’t keen on looking at some of the songs you were writing at that time is that right?

Yeah, I think "weren’t keen" is a very appropriate way of describing it. John Hewlett said recently that he felt he rather fucked up as a manager at the time, because a manager should have the confidence to smack his protégé around the ears and say “stop being so stupid, you’ve got someone who is contributing here”. To quote him he says they "felt threatened", whatever that means. Not physically, although they were threatened physically by my friend Chris Townson who once punched Russell in the face over dinner. Russell was being snooty, as he often was, about Chris's band Jook. These were the days before Chris had acquired anger management skills, so he said "don't you take the piss out my band" and BAM hits Russell in the face. whereupon Russell burst into tears and ran off. ….It always makes me smile..

I always get the impression that there is bad feeling between you and the Mael brothers even now, is that the case?

Well, I made an attempt to try and clear the air about this ongoing thing about Kimono royalties. I was invited to the after show party at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in 1994, we spoke but it was like…. in Berlin they have this expression they go… [Martin pulls a blank face and waves his hand in front of it].. meaning if somebody has a wall in front of their face, you can't get words through it. So it all remains unresolved.

And what about the Sparks fans, how do you think they feel about you? are they appreciative of what you did or do you think there is a clash of loyalties there too?

I have the impression that my 'fans', for want of a better word, are not from the Sparks community. I remember there was a rather nasty personal attack on me on one Sparks message board... I think I made it worse by joining in under another name, agreeing that I was a total and utter bastard and should be shot. but still the sentiment was unpleasant. Perhaps the fact that I am not a great ‘Mole’ lover is to blame. Or the fact that I find the aforementioned story of Chris Townson hitting Russell very funny. Quite why the fans insist on using the term 'the boys' about a couple of sixty year-old men leads me to think that some of them are not really all there.

So you weren’t asked to re-joining Sparks for the upcoming Kimono My House show then?!

What being the only living member of the band you mean? It's got novelty value at least. No, no.

But if they’d asked you, would you have done it?

John Hewlett asked me this last week, I said I would just play Barbecutie, in fact, just the Barbecutie intro, then hand the bass over. So on that symbolic level… maybe.

What do you think of Sparks idea to perform all 21 of their albums over 21 nights?

It’s very good, it's inventive. It has been done before of course, Cheap Trick did it, but it's not a bad idea. I don't know how it's going to work out financially though.

I always think of Sparks 4th album, Propaganda, as Kimono My House II. Although you had gone by that time, did you have any input into the songs that eventually turned up on the outcome?

No, I think a couple of songs we recorded may have turned up on it, but I'm not sure.

Let’s move on to your next band Jet, who at the time were considered a bit of a supergroup [Martin and Peter Oxendale both ex-Sparks, Andy Ellison and Chris Townson were both ex-John’s Children - Townson of course had also been in Jook, and Davy O'List had played in the Attack, the Nice, and Roxy Music]. Personally I think they were a really underrated band, that album is a classic! I recently interviewed James from Silvery (read the full interview here) and he described it as "a slightly more ridiculous Kimono My House, a real junk shop glam classic". I think that sums it up well, and to people who are aware of it, it is almost universally described as one of the ultimate glam albums.

Well it’s that thing we were talking about earlier with Sparks, it wasn't glam as in double tracked tom-toms, it was more art glam, and in that sense, yeah it was a glam band, but then when you have people dressed up as Little Lord Fauntleroy and dinosaurs, wearing white flowing capes, it’s hard to be anything other than glam, I suppose.

The album got re-released on CD a few years back, but it disappeared almost immediately. What's happening with that?

Well BMG, who now own it, are not interested in putting it out, for some reason. I get lots of e-mails from people saying "when's it gonna come out?". If BMG knew people were asking for it, perhaps they'd have a change of heart.

Or at least just put it up on i-Tunes, where there are no real overheads

Sure, there's no costs involved whatsoever if you use that medium. It's even remastered, so it's a bit short-sighted really.

What's your favourite memory of Jet?

Chris Townson said his favourite memory of Jet was the free sandwiches in the studio. In fact, he said it was his most joyous memory, and all the other memories of Jet were appalling. My favourite memory…. well, we once played a gig to one person in Dunoon. That was quite funny, but I wouldn’t like to do it again.

You didn't think to cancel it??!

Well, it was too late. We were on a stage which had curtains, they opened them and by that time you're committed. The guy became comatose halfway through the gig though, so he couldn't actually leave -- he slid down the bar and lay on the floor… probably just as well.

Did you mix with any other glam acts at that time?

I used to bump into the Sweet at Top of the Pops…. bunch of bricklayers. And of course the Glitter people because Mike Leander was the manager of Jet as well. But no glam soirées discussing the ins and outs of the glam concept.

Ian MacLeod replaced Davy O'List on guitar, and then Jet pretty much morphed into the Radio Stars, just as the music scene was morphing from glam to punk. You didn't particularly consider yourselves as punks, but you seemed to be accepted by the scene?

Yeah, being on a punk label (Chiswick) helped too - in fact Chiswick were just old rockers rather than punks really. But anyway we adopted suitable clothing and it was a fun thing, it wasn’t some sort of alien notion that had nothing to do with us. We got very good at that time though, we were playing 250 gigs a year, so it was very slick.

Was it a help or hindrance being associated with the punk scene?

Oh, it was a help because you can be identified by outsiders. We did get spat on a lot though.

There's a story that the Radio Stars were once wrongly introduced on Top of the Pops by Dave Lee Travis…

That's right as Paul McCartney and Wings. And we collectively went into a dreadful acapella version of Mull of Kintyre. It was never broadcast of course, but we added it to our set list after that. We did it as the encore at the Lyceum, our first major headlining gig. We’d always choose two different keys, Andy would sing one part and we would play the other… it was all rather confusing. And that was our encore.

What can you tell me about the new Radio Stars live CD, Something For The Weekend?

It's a compilation, I don't think we ever played all those songs in one go. That's why the quality is pretty good, it’s selected from lots and lots of material.

The best of what's available….

Yeah, well, the least worst...

The second and final part of this interview will be published in a few days time, where amongst other things we talk about the Rolling Stones, Marc Bolan, Blue Meanie, Martins solo work and Kylie’s bustier! Don’t miss it!


Visit The Radio Stars official website here

The Official Martin Gordon website

Buy Martin Gordon CDs at Amazon!

Not sure if this is the same website Martin was refering to in the interview, but you can certainly download a lot of free Mahavishnu Orchestra live audios here
Jazz Fusion Free Downloads!

See my Sparks article here, containing exclusive comments from Ron and Russell Mael,

When I Interviewed James from Silvery last year, we had a long chat about all maner of things, including his love for Sparks
read the full interview with Silvery here


Thursday, 6 March 2008

The Radio Stars \ Martin Gordon - Live Review

The Radio Stars \ Martin Gordon – Live at the Metro Club, London. Saturday 1st March 2008.

Two top-notch shows tonight for the price of one…. the first live performance in over 30 years by 70s pop punkster's The Radio Stars, plus support from Martin Gordon. Both of these acts could have legitimately been the headliner, but seeing as Martin Gordon is also a member (and chief song writer) of The Radio Stars, it became a lineup too good to miss!

After almost 35 years in the music business, Martin Gordon has a very rare commodity…. an unblemished CV! From Sparks to 70s art/glam outfit Jet, from The Radio Stars to Blue Meanies, he has consistently written quality, intelligent tunes that stand the test of time and are glued to your brain from the very 1st play. Tonight however he’s showcasing his solo material, which to date consists of four excellent albums – hidden gems the lot of ‘em (just check out the reviews on Amazon, nothing less than 5 stars for all of them).

Martin’s solo work is an eclectic mix, which reminds me of so many things... 60s Britain, 70's Macca, early Squeeze, 90s Britpop (in particular on his 3rd album God’s on his Lunchbreak, Please Call Back, which you can easily imagine a Modern Life is Rubbish era Damon Albarn performing - no wonder Blur were so keen to acquire Martin's services a few years back). Add a quirky slant reminiscent of 90's US power-poppers Jellyfish, throw in a healthy mix of humour (ala the Bonzo’s), take a detour through traditional music hall, wrap it all up in Martin's trademark gift for a catchy tune... and you're still nowhere near describing just how good his solo albums are!!

Believe it or not, despite having such a wealth of quality material in his armoury, this is only Martin’s second-live solo show (a recording of his first -- in Boston USA last year -- is a free bonus disc issued with initial copies of the new Radio Stars album tonight). However, it's a polished performance from a band so tight, you'd think they'd been doing it every night for years, and Martin must rank as one of the best bass players in the business. This journey through his solo work was a joy, but the highlight must have been the delightful vaudeville run through of Gilbert and Sullivan's A Policeman's Lot Is Not A Happy One. Members of the audience were invited on stage, given song sheets and helmets and duly provided the traditional accompaniment. Looking around the room at the smiling faces of the audience, all swaying with their pints and singing along, it was easy to imagine a night out at Wiltons Music Hall or The Shoreditch Empire in the 1800's, as artist and audience became joined in song.

Before long, Martin retook the stage with the main event. This 'one night only' reform of The Radio Stars was predominantly to promote a new CD - Something for the Weekend, compiling some of the groups best live moments. Although their career was fairly brief in the late 70s, they certainly packed a lot in; two albums, chart success, TV appearances and hundreds of sold-out shows.. and 30 years on they still have a loyal following (hence the new CD!).

The band is made up of Andy Ellison (original vocalist of 60s wild men 'John's Children', Marc Bolan's first band) on vocals, Ian Macleod on lead guitar and Martin Gordon on bass. For this reunion gig, Steve Budney expertly handles the drums. I understand that due to logistical reasons (with band members travelling from England, Germany and the USA), only a handful of rehearsals had taken place beforehand, but you'd never have known, as they cranked out all the fan favourites as though their last gig were three days ago rather than three decades.

Energetic frontman (or should that be stuntman?!) Andy Ellison has lost none of his spark. Born to entertain, he scales drum kits and speaker towers throughout, regularly disappears into the crowd, and at one point, somehow manages to scramble through to the bar, clambering on top without missing a note, and eventually finishes the remainder of the song from behind the pumps! There is a stage presence and charisma that some of today's dowdy ‘ol bands could learn a thing or two from, and it was impossible to take your eyes off them as they ripped through blistering renditions of songs such as Nervous Wreck, Johnny Mekon, No Russians in Russia, Dirty Pictures and The Beast of Barnsley.

In the 70s they couldn't be pigeonholed - lumped in with punk for convenience, but it was much more than that… Pistol-esqe riffs combined with Martin Gordon's irresistible pop genius and a lead singer with all the energy of a schoolkid OD’ing on E numbers, equaled something a bit different back then. Today, they would be the Kaiser Chiefs or Maximo Park (who no doubt both own one or two Radio Stars CD's!).

There was an intoxicating atmosphere throughout the gig - as many band reunion shows tend to have. But it was more than that, almost the feel of a family reunion, as fans new and old made the pilgrimage to meet up with their long lost brothers. Even the (still) gorgeous Kelly (Martin Gordon's ex-girlfriend from that time, who poses seductively with the boys in the classic photo used on the cover of the new CD) was in the front row, and still appeared to know the words to every song!

A great night out -- made all the more special for me, as Martin Gordon kindly gave me almost an hour of his time prior to the show for an exclusive interview. He was a thoroughly charming and entertaining interviewee, full of anecdotes from almost 35 years in the business -- the transcript of our chat is coming soon, where amongst many other things Martin talks about his time as a temporary Rolling Stone (as replacement for an AWOL Bill Wyman), his fall out with Sparks, Glam Rock, memories of Marc Bolan and being mistaken for Paul McCartney and Wings!

Keep tuned to Start The Revolution Without Me!


The Radio Stars official website

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The Official Martin Gordon website

Buy Martin Gordon CDs at Amazon!