In the summer of 1979, I met the love of my life – at least, that’s what I thought at the time. The spark between us was immediate and intense. Flatteringly, the meeting was contrived, with me being lured to a house party where it turns out I knew hardly anyone. The ruse was revealed early on, so Lisa and I had most of the evening to get to know each other.
That’s nearly 40 years ago now (not that I feel old – no, no, no!) but, while the events of that evening have become somewhat hazy, the emotions I felt are still crystal clear, and all it takes to resurrect them is hearing the opening beats of Dance Away by Roxy Music, which played repeatedly in the background.
It turned out that Lisa was a big fan of the band, especially Bryan Ferry.
Young and insecure, in the time we were together, I was convinced that, somehow, she might actually meet Bryan – and that would spell the end of our relationship. So it was with some trepidation that I booked tickets to see Roxy Music in January 1981. Common sense told me the risk of Bryan and Lisa meeting was minuscule. But I’m a storyteller, and my imagination ran away with me at times. It’s not always a blessing.
The venue was Granby Halls in Leicester and I’m pretty sure it was the only time I saw a concert there. Perhaps because of that, I can’t recall much about the venue itself. If there was seating at all, I don’t remember it. Certainly we were standing, which was new for me as this was still only the second gig I’d been to (here’s the first one).
Being able to stand, though, gave me a new freedom. The gentle crush meant that dancing wasn’t on the cards, but at least you could move with the music when they played.
The support act had been billed as Martha and the Muffins (who doesn’t love Echo Beach?), so I was quite excited to see them.
For reasons that pass me by now, they didn’t show up though. Instead, Mari Wilson came on, she of Just What I Always Wanted fame. To be fair, she wasn’t that well known at the time, and I wasn’t initially impressed with her style but, by the time she’d finished, I was converted.
Then the main event started, and I kept hold of Lisa just in case.
Up to that point, Roxy Music had, for me, been really all about Bryan Ferry. And Bryan Ferry had been all about being Mr Cool. By that, I mean he really came across as a moody and magnificent type. My expectations were about to be shattered.
Yes, Ferry dominated the stage, but the range of musicianship was much broader than I expected. The better known members of the group were Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay, but neither was especially obvious to me. Bearing in mind the popularity of Adam and the Ants at the time, the inclusion of one of the Ants, Gary Tibbs on guitar, sparked more interest.
But the musician who grabbed my attention more than the others was the percussionist. I’m sorry to say that I can’t name him, but he had a wide range of instruments arrayed at the back of the stage and spent many frantic moments dashing from one to another to create a fantastic rhythm and spectacle throughout the show. At that point, my experience of live music was limited, but my eyes were certainly opened to the range of sound one individual can generate.
Inevitably, though, the real focus had to be on Ferry. Yes, he was cool. He could stand still and be mesmerising. Yet, to my surprise and delight, he knew how to let rip as well. His performance of Do The Strand remains in my memory to this day. This recording of a much more recent performance doesn’t do justice to his antics in 1981, but it’s still worth watching.
In case you hadn’t gathered, The Strand is supposed to be a dance style but, in the process of singing about it, references are made to other dances (sambas, tangos, fandangos) and potential moves, which he proceeded to act out with abandon. By the time the show was over, I’d have forgiven him anything – well, almost anything.
We all had a terrific night, and it had shown me that different concerts would create completely different experiences for the audience.
As it turned out, I lost Lisa to a karate instructor later that year. Bryan Ferry would probably have been more acceptable.
So, when I went to see them again the following year at the NEC, it was with a different girlfriend. Even so, when they played Dance Away, I’m sorry to say that my mind was transported back to a house party and a plot to bring me together with the love of my life.
My next post in this series will relate the tale of my first open-air gig. 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.