1979 was a significant year for me in many ways. I turned 16, left school, lost my virginity (if anyone finds it, will you let me know), and went to my first gig. It’s difficult to say for sure which of these was the most significant, but the most relevant here is the last one.
Music had always played a big part of my life. The record player was on constantly – until it was upgraded to a “music centre”, when we could play cassettes as well! With a mother who liked music from the ‘50s and ‘60s, but also kept abreast of music trends, and three sisters with tastes in music varying from ABBA to Bowie, there were plenty of influences around. We also benefited from music introduced from a variety of other sources, as our house seemed to be a regular stopping point for friends.
So it came to pass that my own musical tastes were, as the saying goes, eclectic.
Darts seemed to come from nowhere late in 1977 with the medley Daddy Cool/The Girl Can’t Help It, and I strongly urge you to watch this video of them. If it doesn’t make you smile and feel energised, you may need to see your GP.
So Doo Wop became another part of the musical mix at home. The nutter who breaks into The Girl Can’t Help It is Den Hegarty. As you’ll have seen from the clip, they were a lively bunch, and a friend of my mum’s told me about going to see them when they toured in 1978. Apparently part way through the set, Hegarty decided to climb on to the balcony, something I struggled to imagine, but was nevertheless intrigued by.
So, when the sister and brother in law of my then girlfriend invited us to join them to see Darts on their 1979 tour, I jumped at the chance.
At the time I lived on the border of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire and the best venue local to us was De Montfort Hall in Leicester. I didn’t know this at the time, but years of experience subsequently taught me that it was actually one of the best in the country. To this day, I still think of it as the best venue I’ve been to for a concert. The acoustics are terrific and the ability to get up close to the stage was second to none – I’ll give examples of this in future posts.
Back then, of course, Arena shows were virtually non-existent, so bands toured venues that were much smaller, and I’ve seen many great artists at De Montfort and other similar (and smaller) places. The shows were more intimate and generated a great atmosphere.
As it happens, when we went to see Darts, it turned out we were booked into balcony seats. As a result, that atmosphere I later came to thrive on passed me by on this occasion.
What also passed me by was the opportunity to see Den Hegarty at work. Unfortunately, he left the band before this tour, and was replaced by Kenny Andrews – here he is kicking off Duke of Earl.
While Andrews had the deep voice the band needed, he didn’t have the same apparently manic personality as Hegarty, so I didn’t get to see any lunatic climbing going on during the show.
Interestingly, Hegarty went on to lecture in Psychology – watch his performances again, and you’ll either wonder why or figure he’s a natural.
In spite of Hegarty’s absence, I thoroughly enjoyed the gig. As well as Andrews, Griff Fender, Rita Ray and Bob Fish were brilliant performers and it’s something of a mystery to me that the band don’t still get the airplay a lot of old groups do. Together with the rest of the band – too many to mention – they put on a show that was as lively and entertaining as you could hope for. Apart from the lack of Hegarty, my only disappointment was that sitting in the balcony did restrict your ability to dance to the music. I’d like to say I never made that mistake again, but I’d be lying. I didn’t make it often though.
And on that note, I’ll leave you with The Boy From New York City.
Obviously, there will be more to say on this subject in the future. In the mean time, if you enjoy reading about music, you’ll find a wide range of items on Talk About Pop Music, and there’s a great series for the nostalgic on Hugh’s Views and News.