An American Odyssey in Song: Massachusetts – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers and Roadrunner

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song – Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Well, I seem to have enjoyed my time in Vermont so much I stayed there for over a week! Time to move on again though and this time we’re heading down into Massachusetts (tricky to spell as was pointed out last time), named after its indigenous people.

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The random fact element of this post will have to be brief this time as more songs to get through than has been the case to date. Suffice to say it was where the Pilgrim Fathers settled after arriving on The Mayflower in 1620. They formed the Plymouth Colony and after a tough first winter, with the help of the local Wampanoag people, learnt how survive by growing corn. They then held a three day Thanksgiving event to celebrate their first harvest and that celebration of course still goes on today.

The island of Nantucket, more famous now for its beaches and holiday cottages, was home to the whaling trade back in the 18th century and the tale of Moby-Dick was set there. That infamous Tea Party occurred in Boston, but being British I’ll gloss over that one. I am reminded however that our own Alex Harvey put that story to song in 1976 with his version of The Boston Tea Party.

The Kennedy compound was at Hyannis Port in Massachusetts, presided over by dad Joe and mother Rose. Education is big business in Massachusetts and the city of Cambridge is home to both Harvard and the research institute, MIT. In popular culture the film Jaws was set there, mostly filmed on Martha’s Vineyard.

But which song to feature this time? I know that everyone expects it to be this one and it would be remiss of me not to include it, but not one of my favourite Bee Gee songs, and at the time of writing it they had never even been to Massachusetts. It was 1967, the year of The Summer of Love, and the hippies were all heading west to San Francisco so it felt as if here on the East Coast it was time to switch the lights out, as everyone had left. I remember well watching them perform this song on TOTP as a child but didn’t realise until later that the twins Robin and Maurice were aged only 17 at the time. So young but already so prolific.

Massachusetts by The Bee Gees:

Thanks go out again to my blogging buddies who offered up suggestions for songs associated with Massachusetts (links to their blogs on my sidebar). Rol came up with Feelin’ Massachusetts by the Juliana Hatfield Three and Massachusetts Avenue by Amanda Palmer. Both he and Lynchie came up with the Steely Dan song The Boston Ragalthough to be fair Lynchie decided that he was allowed to call them simply The Dan as he had been a fan right from the beginning.

Before I get down to the actual featured song for this state, how would you like to come for a quick drink with me in a great bar I know called Cheers? It’s right here in Boston and for the guys who go there, it’s like their “blogosphere” – Nice to be in a place Where Everybody Knows Your Name.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 
Wouldn’t you like to get away? 
Sometimes you want to go 
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

So, lots of suggestions already, but for this post it could only really be the one that came in from both CC and C (no relation) – Roadrunner by Massachusetts natives Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, first recorded in 1972 but a hit for them in 1977, when all of a sudden their proto-punk sound fitted the “times” perfectly. I don’t know what I was doing during my teenage years but it certainly doesn’t seem to have been listening to the lyrics of songs properly as until CC pointed out the whole Jonathan Richman/New England connection when I started this series, the Roadrunner I remembered best from those days was this one!

roadrunnerNo matter, it has now clicked and the Massachusetts comedian John Hodgman came out saying that the song was, “Woven as deeply into the cultural landscape of Massachusetts as the Turnpike itself. It is the pulsing sound of the night and the future. It connects the midnight ride of Paul Revere with the dream of every Massachusetts teenager who has just gotten their license and is discovering the Freedom Trail that is Route 128 after the last movie lets out“.

Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers:

This song came out the summer I turned 17 and after a few disastrous driving lessons with my dad (who in every other walk of life was patience personified), I gave up. The boys who were the same age however did not, and one by one they passed their driving tests and acquired “wheels”. We lived in the country and just like Jonathan Richman and his buddies, these local boys became weekend roadrunners. They had no particular place to go but the radio was on and they just wanted to hang out with friends and burn some rubber. Needless to say, every couple of years or so there was a tragic car crash and some of them didn’t make it. Fortunately all my close friends did get through that phase unscathed but the village cemetery is littered with the graves of those who did not. This one is therefore for them. Dougie, Wendy and Neil – You are not forgotten.

Next time we’ll travel into the smallest of the 50 states, Rhode Island. I do have a song idea for that one of my own but definitely “tenuous” so again I would be really grateful for any other suggestions connected in some way to that state (you know where the comments boxes are). We’re still in New England but are now getting ever closer to New York where I now realise there will have to be a Part 1 and a Part 2. Songs about Rhode Island – not so much. Songs about New York – where does it end?

Until next time….

Roadrunner Lyrics
(Song by Jonathan Richman)

One-two-three-four-five-six!
Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive past the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on
I’m in love with Massachusetts
And the neon when it’s cold outside
And the highway when it’s late at night
Got the radio on
I’m like the roadrunner

Alright
I’m in love with modern moonlight
1:28 when it’s dark outside
I’m in love with Massachusetts
I’m in love with the radio on
It helps me from being alone late at night
Helps me from being lonely late at night
I don’t feel so bad now in the car
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
That’s right

Said welcome to the spirit of 1956
Patient in the bushes next to ’57
The highway is your girlfriend as you go by quick
Suburban trees, suburban speed
And it smells like heaven, I say
Roadrunner once
Roadrunner twice
I’m in love with rock & roll and I’ll be out all night
Roadrunner
That’s right

Well now
Roadrunner, roadrunner
Going faster miles an hour
Gonna drive to the Stop ‘n’ Shop
With the radio on at night
And me in love with modern moonlight
Me in love with modern rock & roll
Modern girls and modern rock & roll
Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Like the roadrunner
O.K. now you sing Modern Lovers

(Radio On!)
I got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the car, got the AM
(Radio On!)
Got the AM sound, got the
(Radio On!)
Got the rockin’ modern neon sound
(Radio On!)
I got the car from Massachusetts, got the
(Radio On!)
I got the power of Massachusetts when it’s late at night
(Radio On!)
I got the modern sounds of modern Massachusetts
I’ve got the world, got the turnpike, got the
I’ve got the, got the power of the AM
Got the, late at night, hit ’em wide, rock & roll late at night
The factories and the auto signs got the power of modern sounds
Alright

Right, bye bye!

Postscript:

I kind of ran out of space above for this little story but still worthy of inclusion I think. The family that lived next door to us in our Scottish village when I was growing up actually did the unthinkable and emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts (they had relatives there and it must have been a lot easier in those days).

They had a son around my age called Graham and it is weird now to think that he will have had a parallel life to my own but of the “American” variety. He will support the Boston Red Sox or the New England Patriots as opposed to our beloved Aberdeen FC. He will have had a Prom instead of a school disco, will have a Boston accent instead of a Scottish one and no doubt became a roadrunner after having “gotten his licence” as opposed to having “passed his driving test”. As a family we didn’t keep in touch, as it was just so far away in those days and communication methods were very primitive – Hope he has had a good life however and in the unlikely event he ever comes upon these pages, hello from Scotland!

1967
The humble author – Yes, it was a case of “living next door to Alys(on)”

Elvis Costello, Alison and Punk Comes To Scotland

During my recent hiatus when I took a fortnight off to catch up with other things, a long list developed of all the stories/songs I thought would make for a good post when I got back to business as usual. Since last Sunday, when I took to a bit of “tipsy blogging” (it’s a thing), I have published four new posts so I think I’m back into my groove again. Time therefore to refer to this long list, and the first item on the list is: Punk, Dance Competitions and Bubble Bath. Hmm…  cryptic indeed.

Now whenever I touch on new wave, punk or ska, I see a marked spike in the number of views I get but I realise most of these people will have stumbled upon this place by accident and might be sorely disappointed when they find my twee little ramblings. If you are one of those people please don’t be deterred – My thinking is that anyone who lived through the punk explosion of the late ’70s will, at best, be middle-aged by now and any stories of those days have a nostalgia factor, and are part of social history.

A couple of months ago I wrote about how the mainstream musical landscape of Britain changed in the autumn of 1977 (Punk, Late ’70s Fashion and The Wrong Trousers). Tony Parsons wrote a great book about those times called Stories We Could Tell but also associated with this change was the shape of our trousers! I’m sorry to keep coming back to stories about trousers (I have another waiting in the wings about leather trousers as it happens) but I cannot emphasise enough how important it was in those days to look the part. We’d already had the infamous television interview with the Sex Pistols where Bill Grundy foolishly goaded them into uttering those childish profanities – The upshot however was that Bill lost his job and single-handedly elevated punk rock into the mainstream. Mr Rotten on the other hand is still making lots of money starring in adverts for butter, so who ended up looking silliest in the end (ok so it’s still Johnny but he apparently does them to finance PiL tours so fair do’s)?

bill-grundy
The infamous interview!

But back to the autumn of 1977. Although punk had been around for a while by then, the music played on most radio stations still tended to be a mixture of soft rock, soul and disco. When we went back to school however to start 6th Year, things were definitely a-changin’. I had completed those important life-changing exams needed to get into University so 6th Year was going to be a bit of a blast to be honest where we took a few subjects for “interest”, did good works for the community and represented the school at various events. Best of all however was that we had our own common room where for the first time, boys and girls hung out together between classes. We were practically adults by this time so instead of the silliness that goes on between the sexes in the lower years (the more insults a boy throws your way the more he likes you etc), we all got on really well and needless to say quite a few romances were kindled, some of which have even stood the test of time. My romance did not stand the test of time, but no matter, at 17 I found myself romantically involved with the boy who had been my main crush since the age of 11. Life was good and instead of hanging out with our girlfriends, we spent all our time with our new boyfriends who only of course wanted to listen to punk rock. By default therefore, so did we!

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This very spartan 6th Year common room (complete with an urn for coffee-making no less) was the centre of our universe and when a record player was taken in, a lot of vinyl-swapping went on. (Yes it was the 1970s but we weren’t married yet so it wasn’t wife-swapping.) One of the albums of choice was Elvis Costello‘s “My Aim Is True” and of course one of the songs on it was (still is) called Alison so very apt for my good self – Indeed life just couldn’t get any better. My best friend at the time was a girl called Sheena and lo and behold we also had The Ramones with Sheena Is A Punk Rocker – Anyone who knew Sheena could not in all seriousness have called her a punk rocker, she was Head Girl, but we all loved this music, partly because the boys loved it but also because it was new and exciting.

Alison by Elvis Costello:

In the November of that year there was to be a big dance in our local Community Centre for all the kids aged 17 and under. Just like now there were plenty of adults and community leaders who wanted to supervise such an event – Oh that’s right, no-one for over 20 years has even contemplated supervising such a thing. Very sad for the youngsters of today and my daughter must have got fed up of me telling her how much was laid on for us as teenagers, when she had nothing.

Anyway, this dance was going to have the local band play for us – Lets call them Pyramid (because that was their name). I had seen Pyramid play often as they were usually the band of choice for such events and did a pretty good job of playing cover versions of songs by The Eagles, Ace (remember them), Smokie and so on. We pretty much knew what we were turning up for so the new-fangled straight legged trousers were left at home and the 36 inch flares, wedge-heeled shoes and big-collared, checked shirts were the outfits of choice for that night – A last harrah for them before being relegated to the….. Was going to say charity shop but we didn’t really have them in those days, I think we just wore our clothes until they fell apart. Imagine our surprise therefore after arriving at the venue, to discover that Pyramid had turned into a punk band overnight! Yes, for the next three hours we were treated to the music of The Stranglers, the Sex Pistols, Elvis and his Attractions, Tom Robinson and The Clash. Looking back I think they must have repeated the same songs over and over again but whatever they did, the new boyfriend and I discovered pogoing that night. Certain styles of music make you want to dance in a certain way, and with punk, it definitely made you want to jump up and down.

The bizarre thing of course was that we were pogoing in full American country rock uniform, so it was a real anachronism – Also with all that denim flapping about we got really, really hot so after a few hours of jumping up and down, the time came for us to disappear off for a (non-alcoholic) beverage. We were casually rehydrating when one of our friends rushed up to tell us we were needed on stage, as we had won the prize for “Best Pogoing”. Now we certainly didn’t know that there was any competition going on and we didn’t know there was going to be a prize but the Community Centre management in their wisdom had planned such a thing, and we were the winners.

So, aged 17, dressed in wide flares, the new boyfriend and I headed up onto a stage in a large draughty sports hall in the North of Scotland, to be presented with prizes for “Pogoing”. Pyramid (ex soft rock turned punk rock band) did the honours and what did the prizes turn out to be? A his and hers gift set – Cufflinks and a Pen for him and Bubble Bath and Smellies for her. Even at that age I found this hilarious – The punk attitude obviously hadn’t quite reached our neck of the woods yet!

The school boyfriend lasted quite a few years as it turned out and ironically when we called time on the relationship it had a lot to do with the fact that his friends were still weekend punks, whereas my friends were not.

As for this song though, it still gives me goosebumps as I remember those times. A couple of the friends are no longer even with us, so this one’s for them – If there is an internet in heaven, you are not forgotten.

Alison Lyrics
(Song by Declan Patrick MacManus)

Oh it’s so funny to be seeing you after so long, girl.
And with the way you look I understand
that you are not impressed.
But I heard you let that little friend of mine
take off your party dress.
I’m not going to get too sentimental
like those other sticky valentines,
’cause I don’t know if you’ve been loving somebody.
I only know it isn’t mine.
Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true.

Well I see you’ve got a husband now.
Did he leave your pretty fingers lying
in the wedding cake?
You used to hold him right in your hand.
I’ll bet he took all he could take.
Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking
when I hear the silly things that you say.
I think somebody better put out the big light,
cause I can’t stand to see you this way.

Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true.
My aim is true.

Punk, Late ’70s Fashion and The Wrong Trousers

Wrote a very serious post last time so a bit of a change is called for I think. If like me you were aged around seventeen in 1977, you will remember that not only did the musical landscape change quite dramatically that year, so did the trousers!

As we had entered the ’70s, trousers still had a hint of the ’60s about them. They could even be ordered from the music papers and were called “loon pants”. As the decade progressed we often copied the fashion sense of our favourite pop stars and wore flared velvet or satin trousers, as worn by Marc Bolan and Rod Stewart. When Scotland became responsible for the latest teen “mania” by producing those boys-next-door The Bay City Rollers, some of us even took to having a stripe of tartan down the side of our trousers (but not me just to be clear).

loon-pants

In 1976, a stroke of marketing genius by the Brutus Clothing Company made their jeans the must-have brand. David Dundas sang the song for their advert, then had a hit with it later on that year reaching No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. The song was simply called Jeans On and the lyric was changed from “Pull my Brutus jeans on” in the advert to “Pull my old blue jeans on” for the single. Of course I had to have a pair and the must-have top to go with them that year was a cropped, cheesecloth shirt that tied at the midriff. Of course this was not the kind of outfit that parents were too keen on seeing their daughters head off into the night wearing (those were more demure days), so a long jacket was always worn until you made it to the end of your street, after which the jacket came off and went into the (coincidentally very large) handbag.

By this time, jeans were the only type of trouser any self-respecting teen would wear and of course they had to have wide flares. The music of the moment was very much American country rock, and the more we looked like dudes who would hang out on dark desert highways drinking in those tequila sunrises, the better. If like me you were a girl, your shoes would also have sported massive soles and wedge heels – All the better for that swathe of flared trouser fabric to drape across. Cleverly worn, you could add a good few inches to your height, like those circus-type performers who look really, really tall but are simply walking on stilts.

But of course this is a music blog (or is it a fashion blog tonight?) so what song comes to mind when writing about all of this. Well first of all it was actually a book that came to mind, by Tony Parsons, called Stories We Could Tell. I read it a few years ago but have just downloaded another copy in order to read it again. The story all takes place on one night in August 1977 when a group of diverse, music-loving young people, each have life-changing experiences. It really highlighted how that was a time of real cultural change in the UK and if you were young, like me, you will remember it well. The music of the moment was no longer that of The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, it was punk and new wave. All of a sudden the very American, western-style clothing we wore looked ridiculous, and in order to be part of this brave new world it was imperative you get a pair of tight-fitting, straight-legged trousers, pretty damned quickly.

Always keen to be at the forefront of fashion, I prided myself on being the first of my group to acquire a pair of these new revolutionary trousers – They weren’t even denim, but a very fetching brown corduroy (of the elephant variety). The first time I wore them out, they were the talking point of the night – Everyone wanted to know where I’d bought them and what they cost. Sounds ridiculous now but after years of wearing acres of denim and checked shirts, this new pared down look was definitely something just a bit different.

Of course we were now used to the new style of music that was sweeping the country but it wasn’t all contrived or out to shock. My favourite punk/new wave band from that period was The Stranglers and in 1977, just after the night at the centre of the book I am about to revisit, they gave us the classic No More Heroes. Their sound (having just looked it up) was driven by Jean-Jacques Burnel’s melodic bass but also gave prominence to Dave Greenfield’s keyboards (every day’s a school day). Hugh Cornwell was the lead singer and quite rightly he didn’t look like a teen idol but his gruff vocals were perfect for the band. Over time, they grew more refined and sophisticated and managed, quite amazingly, to have a record in the UK Singles Chart every year between 1977 and 1992. Summing up their contribution to popular music, critic Dave Thompson wrote, “From bad-mannered yobs to purveyors of supreme pop delicacies, the group was responsible for music that may have been ugly and might have been crude – but it was never, ever boring.” Amen to that.

No More Heroes by The Stranglers:

No More Heroes Lyrics
(Song by Hugh Cornwell/Jean Jacques Burnel/Dave Greenfield/Jet Black)

Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky?
He got an ice pick
That made his ears burn

Whatever happened to dear old Lenny?
The great Elmyra,
And Sancho Panza?

Whatever happened to the heroes?
Whatever happened to the heroes?

Whatever happened to all the heroes?
All the Shakespearoes?
They watched their Rome burn

Whatever happened to the heroes?
Whatever happened to the heroes?
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more

Whatever happened to all the heroes?
All the Shakespearoes?
They watched their Rome burn

Whatever happened to the heroes?
Whatever happened to the heroes?
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more
No more heroes any more

Postscript:

And if it seems somewhat bizarre to have leapt from writing about Burt Bacharach songs to writing about The Stranglers in one post, the astute amongst you will remember that in 1978 the wonderful Bacharach and David song Walk On By was indeed recorded by The Stranglers (there’s the link). Dionne Warwick it wasn’t but somehow it just worked and was right for the times – Wonder what Burt thought?

Denis, Blondie and Debbie Harry

I seem to have stumbled upon “new wave” with my last couple of posts, writing first about The Clash and then Madness. I am still however not entirely sure how to define new wave which does seem to be a common problem. Although it started out with ties to late ’70s punk-rock, it eventually covered a myriad of sub-genres and the distinction between them leaves me confused and bewildered. Suffice to say it wasn’t “old wave” which up to that point had been rock, pop, country and soul.

The new wave artist that caused a fair bit of excitement when she first appeared on Thursday night’s Top Of The Pops in February 1978 was Debbie Harry, or Deborah as she preferred to be called. She was the lead singer with the band Blondie and this was the first time we had seen them perform the song Denis (pronounced Denee). Dressed in her “swimsuit” with what appeared to be her dad’s old tuxedo jacket casually thrown on top, she really made us sit up and take notice. She was stunningly beautiful with perfectly applied make-up but everything else was of a punk persuasion – Hair bleached a white blonde (it either had to be jet black or blonde if you were a girl) and odd combinations of black/red/white/striped clothes.

Denis by Blondie:

I was in my final year of high school and of course the topic of conversation the next day was Debbie Harry. I don’t know how it was done in those pre-internet days, but the shocking news got out quite early on that she was the grand old age of 32. Considering some of us probably had mothers who were not much older, I can see now how that would have been newsworthy. In the North of Scotland at that time (or anywhere?), our mothers just didn’t look like Debbie Harry.

The difference in look was because these guys were American and had emerged from New York’s punk-rock scene whose music venue of choice was CBGBs based in Manhattan’s East Village. This was where The Ramones, Television, Patti Smith and Talking Heads had also cut their teeth, but possibly because Blondie had Debbie Harry, they quickly moved on to more mainstream success, especially with their top-selling album “Parallel Lines” from which they took their disco-influenced single, Heart of Glass.

Yet again Debbie looked stunning, despite the fact her long hair seemed to have been roughly chopped off with a blunt pair of scissors and then dragged through the proverbial hedge backwards. Her dress appeared to have been fashioned from a bit of old sackcloth then suspended loosely from one shoulder, but as ever she looked marvellous. The hits kept on coming for a few more years until, as is wont to happen, they started to fall out of favour with the record-buying public.

A bit of trivia about the song Denis – It was originally recorded by American doo-wop group Randy & the Rainbows in 1963 but back then was called Denise. Changing it to a song about a boy sounded better with a silent “s” so the boy became French. Debbie sang the last two verses in that language although a bit of poetic license was used it seems with grammar, but who cared – Debbie in her swimsuit could sing the telephone directory, badly, and still get away with it.

randy .jpg

As someone who had their hair chopped off yesterday after having it long for over 20 years, I couldn’t help thinking that in life there are the Debbie Harrys, and then there are the rest of us. I would have loved to be able to carry off the sackcloth and mussed-up hair look back then and even now, but sadly I will continue to be a slave to hair products and styling techniques for the foreseeable future. As for Debbie, aged now 71, she still looks great and I will very magnanimously put that down to excellent genes.

Debbie+Harry+SHOT+Psycho+Spiritual+Mantra+rdbprDS6J8Cl.jpg

Denis Lyrics
(Song by Neil Levenson)

Oh Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you
Denis Denis, oh with your eyes so blue
Denis Denis, I’ve got a crush on you
Denis Denis, I’m so in love with you

Oh when we walk it always feels so nice
And when we talk it seems like paradise
Denis Denis I’m so in love with you

You’re my king and I’m in heaven every time I look at you
When you smile it’s like a dream
And I’m so lucky ’cause I found a boy like you

Denis Denis, avec tes yeux si bleux
Denis Denis, moi j’ai flashe a nous deux
Denis Denis, un grand baiser d’eternite

Denis Denis, je suis si folle de toi
Denis Denis, oh embrasse-moi ce soir
Denis Denis, un grand baiser d’eternite

Oh Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do
I’m in love with you

Postscript:

The law relating to freaky coincidences strikes again. I discovered after writing this post about Debbie Harry, that it happened to be her birthday today – Many happy returns D!

The Prince, Madness and The 2 Tone Label

A joyful evening in the midst of all the political upheaval, as the band Madness have just been performing at this year’s Glastonbury Festival and I am reminded of how much I enjoyed them in the late ’70s when the 2 Tone label suddenly flooded the charts with great ska music, updated for a new generation. In those pre-internet days, pretty much the first and only time you would ever see a band perform would be on Thursday night’s Top Of The Pops. If you liked pop music it was a must-see show and even in the sterile atmosphere of that little studio at television centre, with an often-bored looking audience being marshalled from stage to stage, you could really tell that these young lads were just a little bit special. Of course I didn’t realise at the time that The Prince they were singing about was in fact an early sixties Jamaican ska artist called Prince Buster, and that they had taken their name from one of his songs from that period.

The Prince by Madness:

As was wont to happen in those days, a new cultural movement emerged overnight and suddenly the soft rock and disco records that we were used to listening to seemed ridiculous and irrelevant, especially to young urban males. The 2 Tone label was set up in Coventry by Jerry Dammers of the Specials and very quickly ska/reggae/punk influenced records were being released by The Specials, Madness, The Beat and The Selector. The artwork for  the record sleeves was of course two tone, featuring a black and white checkerboard and a man wearing the ska uniform of black suit, white shirt, black tie, white socks, black loafers and of course, the very necessary pork pie hat.

220px-Specials_Message_to_You_Rudy_single_cover

As for me, I was a student at the time and when we discovered that the 2 Tone Tour (has a nice ring to it) of late 1979 was coming to our city it was a no-brainer that we should go and see all these great acts live. It was going to be held in one of the big night-clubs usually frequented by weekend John/Joan Travoltas and this is where I made my first mistake – Because of the venue I wore one of my “going disco-dancing” outfits (wasn’t called clubbing in those days) complete with footless tights and shocking pink sparkly accessories. I don’t know how they managed it, but 99 percent of the  audience were dressed in full “rude-boy” uniform complete with pork pie hat. This was Scotland for goodness sake but all the charity shops within a 50 mile radius must have been totally sold out of retro clothing, and who knew that so many pork-pie hats could still have been in ciculation! Yes, the shocking pink accessories stood out amongst all the black and white so in order to feel less conspicuous we quickly moved up to one of the balcony areas, to witness the phenomemon that was 2 Tone, from there.

The night started off with The Selector and frontwoman Pauline Black turned in an energetic performance culminating with their hit record On My Radio. Next up was Madness and of course we were treated to The Prince but the difference here was that they had Chas Smash whose role in the band was pretty much solely, dancer. Looking back at the clip now, this is exactly how he performed right through the set. He and Suggs made a great double act, a couple of likely lads from Camden Town doing something that was totally different.

chas smash

I was sad to see that Chas Smash was not with the band at Glastonbury as he is “off doing solo projects” at the moment (they’ve had a falling out then). Something I have just got to the bottom of however, during the ’79 concert Chas at one point got down into the audience and it was hard to work out what he was doing. It looked as if he was in a fight, but then again the punches looked as if they were choreographed and part of his style of dancing. Turns out that it was commonplace for a skinhead element to come to the concerts, somehow thinking that because of the style of clothing and haircuts, these bands had a similar mentality. Of course this could not have been further from the truth and if certain racist remarks were made, some of the band members got down into the audience to deal with it themselves – Young men and lots of testosterone.

The final band to perform that night were Coventry-based, 2 Tone founders, The Specials.  Not so much “nutty boys” but more politically informed which came through in their lyrics. Terry Hall, their lead singer, always had a bit of the Herman Munster look about him I felt which was probably intentional. Not possible to sing about the really serious issues of the day (Ghost Town) if you look like a teen-idol. We definitely witnessed something from music history that night however as the whole 2 Tone concept was short-lived and quickly morphed into something else.

As for Madness they are still out there doing their thing and although the dancing is no longer quite as energetic, they still make me smile. Aged only 18 in the clip, Suggs is now 55 and got his grandchildren up on stage at Glastonbury at the end of their set to view the ocean of festival-goers. Could he have envisaged doing that back in 1979 when they were surrepticiously beating up unsavoury audience members? I doubt it very much, but I am very glad he did.

The Prince Lyrics
(Song by Lee Thompson)

Buster, he sold the heat with a rock-steady beat

An earthquake is erupting, but not in Orange street
A ghost-dance is preparing, You got to help us with your feet
If you’re not in the mood to dance, step back, grab yourself a seat
This may not be uptown Jamaica, but we promise you a treat

Buster, bowl me over with your bogus dance, shuffle me off my feet
Even if I keep on runnin’, I’ll never get to Orange street

So I’ll say there’s nothin’ left to say, for the man who set the beat
So I’ll leave it up to you out there, to get him back on his feet

Buster, bowl me over with your bogus dance, shuffle me off my feet
Even if I’ll keep on runnin’, I’ll never get to Orange Street

Bring back the
Who is the
We want the

The Clash, Big Decisions and “Girlfriend Trouble”

Short post, but with only a day to go, there should be no-one in the UK who doesn’t understand the significance of today’s clip. If the EU was our girlfriend this is how it would be playing out right now but despite the 24/7 debate and news coverage from both sides (all very balanced so as not to show any bias of course) many of us are still none the wiser as to which way to vote.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go by The Clash:

Not entirely sure why Angela Merkel and Co. haven’t been getting involved in the debate but it seems that they don’t want to affect the outcome one way or another, so are leaving it to the people of the UK themselves.

So, no tearful last minute pleadings – “It’s not you, it’s me”, “I think we just need a break” and “You’re too good for me” – It’s all down to us and us alone.

brexit-eu-uk-flags-text-europe-unoin-united-kingdom-70935073

As for The Clash, they were part of the first wave of British punk bands that emerged in the late ’70s. I was a 17-year-old then, and even we girls couldn’t help but get excited about this new style of music. Lots of energy and a cosmic leap away from everything else that had been around for most of the decade (glam rock, country, soul and disco). They wrote politically-charged songs that meant something to young, white, disaffected youth and became one of the most respected bands from that era influencing many bands that were to follow. This song, Should I Stay Or Should I Go, was re-issued several times but it first charted in September 1982 which was just at the tail-end of their heyday as a band.

clash

I have just made an interesting discovery however, the band’s co-founder Joe Strummer (John Graham Mellor) was born in Turkey to a Scottish mother who hailed from a village not far from me in the Highlands. Also, his diplomat father was born in India and had part-Armenian, part-German parentage. The young Joe spent a lot of his early life living in both Mexico and Germany so although I thought of him as being quintessentially English, and a Londoner at that, I couldn’t have been more wrong. A great choice of song therefore to have used on this last day of campaigning featuring one of music’s most significant contributors.  As it turns out this late discovery about Joe, and the fact that he delivers the song’s backing vocals in Spanish, has made my voting decision even easier.

joe strummer

Should I Stay Or Should I Go
(Song by Mick Jones/Joe Strummer)

Darling you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here till the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

It’s always tease tease tease
You’re happy when I’m on my knees
One day is fine, and next is black
So if you want me off your back
Well come on and let me know
Should I Stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know