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

Buy Radio Stars CDs at Amazon!

The Official Martin Gordon website

Buy Martin Gordon CDs at Amazon!



Anonymous said...

Piley you git! First is was your wolfmen review than had me grabbing for the credit card, and now this!

Must confess I am not aware of Martin Gordon and his work, but like with the Wolfmen, found your description so intriguing, I'm going to have to sniff one or two of his albums out!

Great review by the way.


Mondo said...

P - sounds a banging night - I heard a few tracks from the Jet album and am buzzing to get my mitts on a copy. Will be making use of Amazons 'new and used' section to load up with Martin Gordon goodies. I heard they also did 'Desdamona' the Johns Children tune on the night.

Rob - if you wanna find out more about The Wolfmen check out my Marco interview here

Anonymous said...

HELLO!!!! Have found your review from a link on Martin Gordon website. Thank you for reviewing the show. I was sorry not to be able to come but interested in how it went. It sounds like it was a big success!!!! Do you have any fotos from the show? Tomas

Anonymous said...

There are some pix of both shows at

Piley said...

Thanks for the comments....

Rob - it'll be money well spent - Honest!

Mondo - You are correct about Desdamona, an important fact missed from my review. Played as a tribute to ex-Johns Children drummer Chris Townson who passed away in Feb this year.

Tomas - I did take some photos, but nothing very good! the shots at

are great tho!


Anonymous said...

great review, i was there also and you have captured the mood well. A very special night. I hope we dont have to wait another 30 years for the next one.

E F RICE said...

Nice stuff Piley, I keep a target list of 'musical punts' in my A5 moleskin notebook (it's a bloke thing!) and will add couple of Martin's albums for my next dip on Amazon.

I'm looking forward to the interview, I mean being mistaken for McCartney and Wings, how on earth does that happen !?

marmiteboy said...

Blimey. The Radio Stars. There is a blast from the past. I only downloaded Nervous Wreck about a month ago. I remember them doing Top of the Pops way back when.

Top notch Pop/Punk tune.

Anonymous said...

Have to confess to never having heard of Martin Gordon up to this point with the Radio Stars only ringing faint bells in a fading memory. Sounds like a good old fashioned fun night though. Look forward to reading the interview and listening to a few tracks.