Corrupted by Spandau Slated by Boy George Mothered by Sade Evicted by Bananarama Private danced by Whitney Jilted by Madonna And commandeered (for carol singing) by Wham!
‘Pop Stars in My Pantry’ is a memoir of the early days of one of pop’s most successful eras: the 1980s. It’s an account of how a wide-eyed, wet-behind-the-ears lad from Wiltshire happened to land in London just as the capital’s club scene went into orbit, giving me unique access as a pop writer and fellow clubber to what would become the biggest pop acts of the decade: Spandau Ballet, Wham, Sade, Bananarama, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Frankie Goes To Hollywood amongst others. It is also the tale of my own attempts at pop stardom with the help of former ‘Nana Miss Jacqueline O’Sullivan and an unexpected bonus career as a showbiz party DJ for the likes of Prince, Whitney, Elton and even Al Pacino.
Most crucially though, I’m hoping this book will provide me with a proper bona fide justification to my wife for 35 years of hoarding what she likes to refer to as “that pop shit under the stairs.” Everything from cassettes of my Melody Maker, New Sounds New Styles and No.1 interviews (here using the crucial bits that never made it into print) to pop star doodles to hand-written readers’ polls (some interesting choices by Mr George Michael) and even an unreleased demo of Slippry Feet, mine and Jacquie’s disco duo which (spoiler alert) never quite made it as big as Bananarama or Spandau (or even Jive Bunny).
So fellow hoarders and ‘80s pop enthusiasts, if any of the above tickles your fancy then this is the book for you.
Chapter 7. Enjoy What You Do
There’s an episode of The Phil Silver’s Show, ‘Bilko’s Perfect Day’, where from the second Sgt Bilko gets up everything he wishes for comes true.
His lighter that hasn’t worked in six years lights. The shower which is freezing for the rest of the platoon is for him hot and steamy. He gets crossword answers without hearing the clue. He picks seven racehorse winners without a second thought. He even tells Doberman the number of jellybeans in a jar in the window of MacGregor’s hardware store to the very last bean. The only catch is that by the time he realises it’s his perfect day it’s over.
There’s a little of that about my days at No.1 Magazine - a dream job without really knowing it. On any given day one might be required to fly a reader to the other side of the world to hang out with Spandau Ballet, accompany Bananarama’s Keren and Wham!’s George on a blind date, help Frankie Goes to Hollywood chuck assorted items of furniture out of TV studios windows in Rome, watch Boy George styling and flirting with Paul Weller in fake furs or come up with a photo story which has you walking off into the sunset with some newbie called Madonna.
All of which seemed like exactly the sort of thing the 20 year-old me should be doing when I wasn’t too busy clubbing. In fact it was principally down to two fellow Beat Route habitues that I got the job in the first place.
It was October ’82 in a tiny first floor office at the bottom of South Molton Street that I first met George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. They had not yet had a hit but their second single Young Guns, which flatmate Graham had been sent an advanced white label DJ copy, was about to give them one. So off we went to The Hog in the Pound, a once popular, now long gone, watering hole by Bond Street tube, to discuss rival bands, bad American dancing and a couple of surprising things that never made it into the Melody Maker piece but certainly raise a smile now.
George and Andrew had been going to Le Beat Route even longer than I had, though sometimes it was another school mate, David Austin, who accompanied George. George and David used to busk at Green Park station when they were 16/17, covering Elton favourites (George loved Elton’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy).
“Only it was a bit useless our busking because you were moved on the whole time if you didn't actually have a pitch," George told me later. "There are certain places that the police leave you alone. If you get there early enough you write your name down on a piece of paper for the time you're supposed to play. But we were never up early enough to do that. So we just got moved on all day. We never really made any money. We'd make on average a fiver each on Friday afternoon. I'd bunk off school and then I'd go back to David's house to change before the club.
“I loved dancing at Le Beat Route. Nobody gave a fuck who I was so you could throw yourself around. If Shirlie was with me we'd really do that pair dancing. It was cool. We'd always make a bit of space and really show off.”
There’s footage from a BBC Nationwide report on the club which appears in Spandau’s Soul Boys of the Western World movie showing a bearded, curly haired George in an alarmingly orange suit slap bang in the middle of the dance floor from a time when he was still in a ska band called The Executive before Le Beat Route’s playlist helped transform them into Wham!
“Andrew and I were at Le Beat Route when Andrew started going 'Wham!Bam! I am a man!' and doing this terrible rap,” said George. “It was supposed to be funny. But that's where he had the idea."
By that October club-wise we had all - regretfully in my case - moved on. George and Andrew deemed Le Beat Route now “too packed” and had started frequenting Ollie’s new Saturday night with Chris Sullivan at the revamped Whisky-A-Go-Go on Wardour Street, now The Wag. There was also talk of an even more chaotic club venture, The Dirt Box, the work of Phil Gray and Rob Milton, which had recently opened above a chemist’s in Earls Court, which took the new Hard Times ethos to the nth degree.
It’d be wrong to say that George did all the talking at our first encounter. Andy also had plenty to say but as they had helpfully pointed out when we were first ordering our grub my microphone (attached to a massive, cumbersome boogie box) might not have been quite up to competing with the pub jukebox’s lively selection of current floor fillers like Evelyn King’s Love Come Down and such new Top 10 hits as Culture Club’s Do You Really Want To Hurt Me and Spandau’s Lifeline.
If Andrew is a bit muffled, George at any rate is loud, clear and competitive, especially on the merits of Lifeline.
“I’m amazed this is number seven,” he said with a shake of the head. “This is the type of record that if you were two rooms away you wouldn’t really notice it, would you?”
There was some remarkable hair in the Last Christmas video in 1984, as George discusses here in '87. Merry Christmas, Shedders! xx
One of the best most wonderful surprises to come from Slippry Feet was getting the chance to interview director Mike Hodges about Get Carter. He'd liked a song Jack we'd done with Oli Maxwell using the Roy Budd bassline and generously made all my fanboy dreams come true by popping round to my flat on Gray's Inn Road for a cuppa and 2 hours of Carter chat in June '96. Here he's talking about the…
One of the finest from #Team Prince, Jill Jones first appeared on his 1999 album and tour but it wasn't till actual 1987 that she appeared with Mia Bocca and her debut album. This interview was on the roof of WEA while she took in some summer sun then popped into Richmond Cornejo for a spot of shopping.
An interview in New York City, Nov '85, soon after Sade played Radio City Music Hall but long enough after that I could continue having a merry old time. So thank you very much for that. Here she's talking fan gifts. Well, sort of gifts...
Tim Dalton took over from Roger Moore as the 80s Bond, but in New York '87 John Taylor told me Cubby Broccoli had another surprise suggestion for the role - him. The chatter in the background is John's then girlf Renee Simonsen.
When he wasn't busy rescuing me from 'resting' on the floor of some dodgy Portuguese nightclub, Steve Norman would sometimes entertain No.1 readers with tales of his legendary dad, 'TN' (Tony Norman) and his mate, Spud.
One of the very best No.1 competitions was Journeys to the Stars where fans were flown round the world to hang out with their favourite pop groups. Spandau did two. One in Portugal and one in Oz. Martin Kemp kindly teed it all up for us with some memories of favourite exotic places the band had been to on their travels - including New Orleans, home of I'll Fly For You pop promo shoots and giant…
When I Want Your Sex came out in 1987 it seemed as good a time as any to discuss underpants with George for No.1 Magazine. So here's a briefs history...
Back in 1988, The Bangles reviewed the singles for No.1 magazine. But when they asked me: "Is this what Acid House sounds like?" the artist in question was a bit of a surprise.
Not all US pop stars got the No.1/Smash Hits interview approach but anglophile Belinda Carlisle was always game. "So, Belinda, was your school like Grease?"
Duran weren't really one of my bands to interview but when Miss Jacquie O'Sullivan was touring the world as a Nana in '89 I made a few audio cassette diaries for her of what was going on back home. This was a Duran rehearsal in Docklands where I thought Jacqs would enjoy hearing the Rhodes on Art.
In Denver, before playing Red Rocks in '85, the former Police frontman rejoices at Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas bringing the new 80s pop adversaries together. It was more fun before that happened.
A trip to Capital Radio in '87 where Curiosity are being besieged by enthusiastic fans and helping out by reading the local weather report. Over to you, Ben V-P...
As a country lad, it took me a while in the early 80s to comprehend what was cool and what was not. Gary Kemp gave me a couple of steers when I interviewed him for New Sounds New Styles in '82 whilst ace photographer Virginia Turbett snapped away in his bedroom.
There was always a Beatles film on the telly on Boxing Day in the early 70s. Paul Rutherford, back on the campaign trail in 1986 with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, picks his favourite Beatle.
There is not always a best time to meet your pop idols but as a Boomtown Rats fan, popping along to meet Bob Geldof when you've been told by Melody Maker's features Ed to give him "a good grilling" and The Rats' success was on the wane was not ideal...
Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman discuss Little Girl Wendy's favourite grub and Purple Rain era wardrobe extravagances.
To pre-order an exclusive first edition with your name in the back of the book go to: https://unbound.com/books/pop-stars-in-my-pantry
My first pop star crush was Eve Graham from The New Seekers, in 1972. I never got to interview her, probably because I was only nine. But I did make her a toast rack, which 20 years later I phoned Danny Baker's Radio London show to tell him about. When traumatic things happen it's good to share.
To pre-order an exclusive first edition with your name in the back of the book go to: https://unbound…
Phil takes No.1 magazine for a drive around Sheffield and reflects on his pre-Human League life as a hospital porter.
To pre-order an exclusive first edition with your name in the back of the book go to: https://unbound.com/books/pop-stars-in-my-pantry
Sara(h) Dallin and Keren Woodward recite a long lost Nana’s ditty, namechecking legendary DJ Fat Tony in the process. Chuckles courtesy Jacquie O'Sullivan, 1989.
To pre-order an exclusive first edition paperback with your name in the back of the book go to: https://unbound.com/books/pop-stars-in-my-pantry
Remember, an 80s pop star is not just for Christmas.
Pardon, the radio silence but there have been deliberations afoot. After much soul searching I have decided to wave a fond farewell to my original book title, Just Got Lucky. It still remains one of the most jubilant songs of my 80s pop years, so thank you JoBoxers for those late nights and early morns (and late nights that became early morns) dancing around a two bedroom flat in W9…
It's a little late in the day but here's a couple of Spandau & Curiosity surprises I came across leafing through more of my Pop Shit.
Hi Shed folk,
Onto chapter 18 and a time of surprises. First in Feb '88 when Miss Jacqueline O'Sullivan comes up to me at Brown's and announces: "I'm joining Bananarama!" and then on Dec 28 '88 when I'm sitting round Jacqs' with Polly Strettell watching Christmas French & Saunders and suddenly Jacqs' old mate Kathy Burke appears Being Jacqs in Lananeeneenoonoo.
So here's a bit of the chat…
Who can forget that glorious Wham! farewell in front of 72,000 on Saturday June 28th at Wembley stadium? Clearly in my diary I was fairly excited about it...
It was the culimation of a perfect Wham! week. On the Monday they played the first of two sweaty, first come, first served nights at the Brixton Academy for Help A London Child. Tuesday, The Edge of Heaven – their four track EP with nods…
Chapter 11 this week and all is not going quite so sunnily at No.1 magazine. There’s a brace of disastrous Michael Hutchence encounters, one in Paris, my most accident-prone city, the other following on from the infamous 1989 Mick Fleetwood/Sam Fox hosted BRITS, where an innocent invite by freshly employed Paul Bursche to Phonogram’s artist laden after-party went almost as spectacularly…
Blimey, we got there - and quicker than ever I could have hoped! Thank you all so much for your tweets and shares and likes and of course your massively generous pledges which drove Just Got Lucky past the finishing post.
So....what now? Obviously I'm writing the damn thing. There's an excerpt recounting my first Wham! encounters and the start of Spandaumania already up on Unbound…
Another week of delving into boxes and a few finds amongst the audio cassettes. There's a Patsy Kensit interview from January '87 up in Spandau's Reformation offices with talk of knicker flashing, Paula Yates and Jessica Lange which never made it into print. And another with Sade's Stuart Matthewman a couple of week's before their first Ronnie Scott's in '82 about his and Paul Denman's bands in Hull…
This is photo booth me '81 in Cardiff. I'd started my NCTJ course at the South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education on Colchester Avenue and discovered that if you asked nicely one of the hairdressing students would give you a free hair styling. I'm not quite sure what I was going for here - somewhere between Ultravox and The Skids, I think. Myself, Gary Hurr and Jane Moore had just started…
The end of week two and blimey the old pledge-o-meter (I'm hearing the Countdown theme as it ticks round) tells me we've (you've) almost doubled the total to a stonking 43%. Thank you all so much.
So what else has been happening on the Just Got Lucky front? Mostly it's been me sifting through more archive photos to provide a bit of daily entertainment for everyone and to keep the Pledge Express…
So it's almost the end of my first week of crowd funding with Unbound and you lovely people - and what a week it's been. Thank you so much for both your incredible generosity and your encouragement both for me and by getting others involved.
The Pop Shit/Tat Under the Stairs has been quite a thing with pledgers already snaffling Madonna's Rumpus, George Michael's No.1 Readers' Poll, Shuv Fahey…
These people are helping to fund Pop Stars in My Pantry.