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Thursday 14 December 2023

More Bands In Places They Shouldn't Be

Previous posts in this irregular series have seen bands turning up on Wogan and Pebble Mill, flaunting their wares on daytime and early evening tv in the 80s, attempting to maintain some vestiges of alternative, indie cool under the bright lights of the BBC studios, singers and rappers on serious late night art and current affairs discussion programmes, groups in front of half built arenas, at theme parks, on Californian beaches surrounded by bikinis and beach volleyball and on the pitch at half time in football ground. Some groups can get away with this, their status undiminished by the environment, some cock a snook at preconceptions of cool, playing along with the audience and tv producers with a nod and a wink, and some look uncomfortable, wondering whose stupid idea this was and why they agreed to it in the first place. 

In 1986 Liverpool had dredged the docks and begun the regeneration of the Albert Dock area, following the success of the International Garden Festival in 1984. The Albert Dock became a major tourist attraction, not least with the opening of the Tate Gallery. In 1986 the dock was used for a music festival, Rock Around The Dock, presented by Radio 1's Gary Davies, the most mid- 80s man in the world. An enormous stage was set up with banks of temporary seating, surrounded by the huge brock warehouses, ships and water. It all looks very incongruous. Then The Damned turn up, in full vaudeville goth phase, with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, to perform Eloise and Anything

They pull it off, just about, delivering a huge version of their cover of Barry Ryan's Eloise but it all looks jarring and out of place, like someone's slipped through a gap in the fabric of space and thrown several random elements together. A dock in a northern city. Lights. Smoke. An orchestra. A punk band turned goth pop band. A very enthusiastic crowd. Gary Davies.

Other bands appearing at Rock Around The Dock in August 1986 included Cameo, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Chaka Khan, Five Star, Run DMC, UB40, Spandau Ballet and Status Quo. That line up is itself quite fear inducing, it makes me a little queasy just typing it. Some of those are tailor made for a floating stage, fireworks, wild enthusiasm and bombastic sound. Some less so. 

I once taught a class of Year 9 students (thirteen and fourteen years old) which had a girl called Eloise and another called Kayleigh. We established quite early on that both had been named by their dads after mid 80s rock songs, one after Eloise by The Damned and the other after a smash hit from Marillion. It made taking the register more fun- for me anyway. Kayleigh once told me, with an eye roll and sigh, that her dad often 'sang' Kayleigh when he returned home from the pub. From her tone of voice, this seemed to be more often than she liked.

Talk Talk have attained a mythical status in the years since the albums they made between 1988 and 1991- The Colour Of Spring, Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock, their music way ahead of their time in some ways, going from pop to ambient/ experimental/ improvisation/ jazz/ classical/ uncategorisable. When Mark Hollis retired in the late 90s his reputation among a hardcore of fans and journalists was rising and his influence on artists since is enormous. In 1986, the same year as the Albert Dock was rocking, Talk Talk appeared on  kid's TV, filmed at Alton Towers theme park miming I Don't Believe In You, seated in a faux French cafe area. Miraculously, the song and band's otherworldly nature and presence survive their surroundings. 


Rol said...

Another excellent edition, particularly for the observation that Gary is "the most mid-80s man in the world". I thought the Damned were excellent there - the perfect setting for them at that particular point in their career.

My overriding feeling when watching the Talk Talk clip was "How the hell did they find an empty cafe at Alton Towers?"

TheRobster said...

My youngest daughter also had a friend named Kayleigh. I would sing her name when she came round. She thought I was mental. My other daughter had a friend called Roxanne. Predictably, my Sting impression often got an outing, alongside the various squeals of anguish and cries of "Dad, shut up"!

Swiss Adam said...

While writing it Rol I did wonder if actually the Damned were not a band in a place they shouldn't be but exactly where they should be.