Elvis Costello And The Attractions, Hammersmith Odeon, 27 March 1981

I did a holiday job at Newman Harris that first Easter holidays of my Keele life.

My motivation for working was purely financial. I was enjoying/wanted to enjoy my time at Keele. The student grant only went so far. There was no bank of mum and dad (BOMAD) for me. Getting into debt was anathema.

I hadn’t worked for Newman Harris since 1978 – that first experience being a subject I shall most certainly Ogblog in time. (I had worked full time during the summer of 1980, for BBYO – which should be another rich seam of Ogblogging once I get my head into that topic.)

The Easter 1981 vacation was the first time I worked for Stanley Bloom; he wasn’t at the firm in 1978. Yes, that’s right pop-pickers:

I got a job with Stanley, he said I’d come in handy.

Anyway, here is my diary from the first couple of weeks of that experience.

Graham in this instance must be Graham Greenglass. We were going through a process of swapping music on cassette at that time. Coincidentally, Graham furnished me with a fair smattering of Elvis Costello material, including rare groove such as Hoover Factory.

Jimmy (Bateman) was a friend from Alleyn’s. I wonder what has become of him? We met up a lot when working the University holidays those first couple of years at least.

David Robbins is Wendy Robbins kid brother. No longer a kid of course.

Caroline Freeman and I lunched and dined a lot in the holidays back then.

In fact, if my older adult self might be so bold as to observe my young adult self, according to that diary page, there seems to have been a heck of a lot of lunching, dining and going out generally. As a result, I’m not sure that the bank balance replenishment exercise could possibly have gone as well as I had intended. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t work Easter holidays again after that first year. But heck, I was having a good time.

On Friday 27th, a meal at Borshtch N Tears (posher and pricier now, I’d guess) followed by Elvis Costello and the Attractions at the Hammersmith Odeon, with Anil Biltoo (my friend from school, with whom I went to Mauritius in 1979), Caroline Freeman and Simon Jacobs, who I met through BBYO but with whom (and indeed through whom) I went to Keele.

Simon always claims not to remember anything from those days, although he might make an exception for Elvis Costello. Example: which tracks did Elvis play that night, Simon…

…and before you say, “don’t be ridiculous, I don’t remember stuff like that”, actually we don’t need your help with that question; Mr Google came up with the answer for us – click here…

…or if that link fails, I have scraped the answer to here.

Much of the material in that gig came from Trust, which was the latest Elvis Costello album at the time…

…and before Simon claims that he cannot remember exactly what he thought of Trust at that time, here is a link to Simon’s whole page review of Trust in Concourse, the Keele SU newspaper.

How Simon got allocated a whole page for an album review is anyone’s guess, but let’s just note here that the Concourse editors were sacked before the next edition went to press. That edition had to be cobbled together at the last minute by me and Dave Lee, with predictably hilarious results, which I shall write up soon enough. Simon got a regular-sized column that time.

Anyway, we must have really enjoyed the gig because we went back for more Elvis that summer; at least I know I went back with Simon for a second go and I think Caroline also joined us in the summer.

Anil, I think, was less sure about the gig. I’m not sure he had recovered from our evening watching his big sister Bi perform in The Sound the previous year.

Here is a great vid of Clubland (from Trust) to give you a taster of the gig, although the Hammersmith Odeon didn’t look like the vid as far as I can recall…

…Simon will simply claim that he can’t remember:

My First “Proper” Rock Gig, The Sound, 101 Club, 16 May 1980

I had been going to see R&B stuff in the pub for over a year before The Sound gig, as documented in my piece about going to The George Canning  in April 1979 – click here.

But this was surely my first “proper rock” gig; The Sound at The 101 Club. And my mate Anil Biltoo’s sister Benita was in the band – how cool was that?

My diary entry for the day is light on detail:

Friday 16 May 1980: Helped at charity shop => Anils (Fox) => home for dinner => 101 Club (Benita’s concert).

Fortunately, my memory is quite good on detail for this one and The Sound gained enough cult status to be pretty well documented too.

“Fox” can only mean The Fox On the Hill pub on Denmark Hill. What a couple of 17-year-olds might have been doing in there on a half-term Friday afternoon is anybody’s guess.

The 101 Club was a fairly iconic venue back in the late 1970s and early 1908s. It was a couple of blocks up St John’s Hill from my dad’s shop (No 43).

Here’s what the Derelict London site says about the 101 Club, so many years on – third derelict venue down the list at the time of writing.

I knew that Anil’s big sister was in a band – all three of the Biltoo kids were very musical – and Benita used to talk to us about music if we were hanging out at Anil’s house and if she was in the mood for chatting; which was quite often; she was very friendly and inclusive with us youngsters. A top girl.

So when this gig came up, Anil and I were very keen to go and were included in the entourage.

The 101 Club was a proper dive. Smoke filled and grimy.

At one point during the gig, I remember someone telling me that the bloke next to me with whom I was rubbing shoulders was Julian Cope from The Teardrop Explodes.

Imagine that. I’d even heard of The Teardrop Explodes!

The fact that my knowledge of The Teardrop Explodes almost certainly extended no further than Benita having played Treason to us some weeks earlier was beside the point. Indeed the circularity of that argument has only just occurred to me as I write, more than 37 years later.

I made sure to acknowledge Julian Cope. I realise it’s just a story…but a true story.

As it happens, just a few months later, a gig by The Teardrop Explodes, supported by The Thompson Twins, was one of my earliest and most memorable gigs at Keele – reported here.

The next thing I remember…

…apart from The Sound being incredibly good, I mean, like, far and away the best rock gig I had ever heard in my entire life…

…was the MC calling a halt to proceedings on The Sound, before they had finished their set.

We members of The Sound’s entourage tried to reverse this decision by shouting for more…

…the next thing I remember was being ejected, in a collar-lifting stylee, from the 101 Club, along with The Sound and the rest of The Sound’s entourage.

Anil, Benita, her (then) boyfriend Muffin and I ended up back at my parent’s house, nursing our dignity.

I remember my mum supplying tea and biscuits. It can’t have been all that late; mum never could stay up all that late. I remember mum asking Benita and Muffin all sorts of questions. I remember learning that they were now sort-of living together in South Kensington.

After Muffin and the Biltoos (by gosh that would be a good name for a 1980s band) left, I recall my mum saying that she thought Muffin had smelly feet. Why that particular fact from that evening has stuck in my brain all these years is a mystery to me. But there in my brain it is; no false memory in that factoid; just extremely weird recall.

This story really isn’t as rock’n’roll as it should be, is it?

Anyway, there is a splendid two-part interview on-line with Benita (who was known as Benita Marshall or Bi Marshall as an artiste), which tells her story from The Sound days:

Here is Part One of that Benita interview.

Here is Part two of that Benita interview.

Benita stuck with The Sound for some further months after the 101 Club gig and she was an integral part of their first album, Jeopardy, before a parting of the ways with Adrian Borland and the boys.

I remember being so thrilled when that album, Jeopardy, came out and got a double-page spread in Melody Maker during my first term at Keele – around the time I saw The Teardrop Explodes perform.

Of course I bought a copy of Jeopardy. Of course I still have it.

Of course you don’t need to track it down; it’s up on YouTube in its entirety and well worth a listen – you can click through below:

Mauritius, July & August 1979, Overview, Summary and Picture Links

I spent several weeks of the summer of 1979 in Mauritius, with my good school friend Anil Biltoo and his dad, staying with many branches of their interesting family.

I want to write quite a lot about this trip, as it was the most amazing experience for a 16/17 year old youngster. It was hugely formative for me in many ways, not least sparking my lifelong interest in travel and cultures other than my own.

This posting is a quick summary and overview piece, linking to artefacts already available on-line:

I have started the process of scanning and uploading the letters I wrote home while I was there, which doubled up as my diary/travelogue. They make fascinating reading for me and I need to go through them carefully before I write up my stories and thoughts with the benefit of hindsight.

In the meantime, I shall upload the letters as I go. The brave might try to decipher them. The sensible might wait for my write-ups/stories.

Mauritius, Music During Our Visit July/August 1979

Music in Mauritius is currently described thus in Wikipedia.

While we were there, one might have been forgiven for thinking that sega was the only local style. Wikipedia specifically describes sega thus. Indeed, one might have been forgiven for thinking that Cousin Cousine by Joss Henri was more or less the only record in the charts.

Years later, I recall a very funny sketch by Barry Grossman at NewsRevue about the Tudor charts, the punchline of which was that Greensleeves was the number one for the 2,157th (or some such) week running. That sketch always reminded me of my trip to Mauritius and Cousin Cousine, which had been number one for as long as anyone could remember while when we arrived and was still number one when we left.

Of course, the whole idea of Cousin Cousine was very suitable for Anil, who was basically on a voyage around the island visiting a myriad of cousins (and cousines) he had not met before, so I’m sure that song must conjure up our trip in his mind as well as mine.

I have found this YouTube, which shows some good photos of people dancing the sega to the sound of Cousin Cousine, recorded pretty well.

I did buy three other records as well as Cousin Cousine, all of which can be heard on the soundtrack to the standard 8 movie from our trip to Mauritus, which I put up on YouTube.

Here is an instructional YouTube video on how to do the modern zumba version of the sega dance. Don’t try this on a full stomach.

While here is a UNESCO YouTube explaining the history, look and sound of it all in educational terms, complete with soporific schoolteacher voice to minimise the chance of you watching this video through to the end.

Suffice it to say, we had some fun listening to and dancing sega while we were in Mauritius in 1979.

Remaining Journal From Mauritius, 12 to 17 August 1979

A very brief background to this travel adventure is covered in the overview posting linked here, which contains links to photos and cine.

I wrote letters to mum and dad which doubled as my diary/travelogue. By 10 August, it was clear that I’d arrive home before the letters, so I concluded my journal using scrappy note paper. Here’s a scan of the four pages that remain.

Mauritius Journal Page 12 & 13 August 1979 Mauritius Journal Page 13 & 14 August 1979 Mauritius Journal Page 15 & 16 August 1979 Mauritius Journal Page 17 August 1979

Tenth Letter From Mauritius, 9 August 1979

A very brief background to this travel adventure is covered in the overview posting linked here, which contains links to photos and cine.

I wrote letters to mum and dad which doubled as my diary/travelogue. Here is a scan of the tenth and last of them.

Mauritius Journal Letter Ten Side One 9 August 1979 Mauritius Journal Letter Ten Side Two 9 August 1979

Ninth Letter From Mauritius, 5 August 1979

A very brief background to this travel adventure is covered in the overview posting linked here, which contains links to photos and cine.

I wrote letters to mum and dad which doubled as my diary/travelogue. Here is a scan of the ninth of them.

Mauritius Journal Letter Nine Side One 5 August 1979 Mauritius Journal Letter Nine Side Two 5 August 1979

Eighth Letter From Mauritius, 2 August 1979

A very brief background to this travel adventure is covered in the overview posting linked here, which contains links to photos and cine.

I wrote letters to mum and dad which doubled as my diary/travelogue. Here is a scan of the eighth of them.

Mauritius Journal Letter Eight Side One 2 August 1979 Mauritius Journal Letter Eight Side Two 2 August 1979

Birthday Airmail To Dad From Mauritius, 1 August 1979

A very brief background to this travel adventure is covered in the overview posting linked here, which contains links to photos and cine.

The following airmail was drawn by Anil and served as a birthday greeting to dad. I’m guessing we sent it c10 days ahead of the birthday.

Mauritius Journal Dad Birthday Airmail Side One 1 August 1979 Mauritius Journal Dad Birthday Airmail Side Two 1 August 1979

Seventh Letter From Mauritius, 31 July 1979

A very brief background to this travel adventure is covered in the overview posting linked here, which contains links to photos and cine.

I wrote letters to mum and dad which doubled as my diary/travelogue. Here is a scan of the seventh of them.

Mauritius Journal Letter Seven Side One 31 July 1979 Mauritius Journal Letter Seven Side Two 31 July 1979