Monday, May 30, 2011

Pan's People Dancing to "Jeepster"

Flick Colby, member and choreographer of Pan's People died over the weekend. I'm too young to remember Pan's People on Top of the Pops; Legs & Co were the first dance act I remember, so what I've seen of them comes from YouTube or the odd TOTP2 show.

I wish I could remember them, because I think they were great. My favourite routine is the one above. It's bright, raunchy and a bit dumb, which, let's face it, is perfect for a T-Rex hit. The 70s are getting a bit of a bad press at the moment, we're being led to believe it was all strikes, spaghetti hoops, football hooligans and going cap in hand to the IMF. Me, I think it's a decade with a long reach.

I'll leave the last word to Clive James. The quote below is from his TV Review in the Observer on March 30th, 1980 (for context, he was criticizing dance troupes of the time like  Hot Gossip, whom were appearing on the Kenny Everett show in stocking and suspenders).
 There was never a sexier television dance group than Pan’s People at the height of their fame, and that was because they gave you what is known among traditional jazz-men as a flash. You can’t have a flash without a skirt.
He's right, you know. RIP, Flick.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The 1982 Air Guitar Championship

Before Guitar Hero came along, people had to make do with air guitar, and I have to say that in my teenage years I was pretty damn good at it. My first axe would have been my elder brother's squash racket. Squash rackets make surprisingly good guitars; the neck is relatively long meaning you can do some serious fretwork, and it's especially good for doing that "drag the plectrum up the strings" routine, like the start of Stargazer. However, Squash rackets also have relatively small heads, so I soon graduated to the more widely used tennis racket. This would have been a cheap wooden racket from Woolworths (a.k.a. the "Winfield Stratocaster"), and it was on this that I perfected my technique. Note that when all this was happening, my ability on the actual guitar never really got past playing Smoke on the Water and Whole Lotta Rosie on one string.

Air guitar was once a serious business. In 1982 there was even the Ad Lib Air Guitar Contest, held at Camden Palace, with judges including Pete Townshend off of The Who, Andy Summers off of The Police, Rick Parfitt off of Status Quo and "Fast" Eddie Clarke. Fast Eddie had just left Motorhead and was presumably available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and these types of events. Come to think of it, he probably still is. Anyway, the winner was Jean-Francois Desbled who won, ironically if you ask me, an actual Vox guitar and amplifier. I hope they asked him to play it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Armed & Ready: Exciter

Apologies for not posting much recently. I thought I'd post some entries from the Armed & Ready section of the early days of Kerrang over the next few weeks. I love picking up an old music magazine and reading the Next Big Thing section. These days The Next Big Things tend to be a bunch of beardy folkies from Connecticut wearing washed-out T-Shirts and flares. That's all very well, but it's much more fun to go back to the days when the Next Big Things wore denim jackets, ill-fitting spandex and gave you an address at the bottom where you could buy their five track demo tape for £3 plus a SAE.

So let's start with Exciter, who were Dutch, and in some ways an early metal version of Hanson, featuring three brothers, of whom the youngest was a mere 14 years old. The author of the article, Geoff Barton, didn't seem that impressed: "untogether" and "a little shambolic" were usually code words for "worse musicians than Venom". Still, getting in Kerrang! at 14 was no mean feat, and it was a good name.

Stand by for Exciter! As the name implies, the band's 'greatest idols' were Judas Priest. A thoroughly normal obsession for any young group, you might think. But what isn't so normal about this lot is that (1) they're Dutch and (2) they contain a member who's a mere 14 years old!
Out of the four members, three are brothers: very much a family affair. Gert Admiraal plays bass and sings lead vocals. Walter Admiraal is the drummer and Marcel Admiraal is the aforementioned youngster on the lead axe. Odd man out is Marc Karsten, also a guitarist.
I'm lifting these facts from a letter sent to me by one Harry Dijkema, informing me of Exciter's existence. 'They play now a year together', reports Harry, 'and they have their own equipment and they change it in Marshall. three of the boys are working and from their money they buy good equipment.
'Gert' he continues, 'writes all the songs from the band and they are much influenced by the bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal like Raven, Saxon and Iron Maiden.'
Exciter's two-track demo tape is at the very least, uh, interesting. Although 'Meet You in Hell' and 'See the Diamond' sound untogether and a little shambolic they are, by the same token, extremely frantic and very, very heavy. It's as if the band have the ideas, but not as yet the technical abilities to make them work to their best advantage.
The Klaus Meine-style voice is something of a turn-off, but the smallest Admiraal (see him on the far right of the picture) more than makes up the inadequacies in the vocal department with his astonishing virtuoso guitar playing.
The boy is a star! And Angus Young had better watch out: if Marcel chose to, he could dress up as a satchel-carrying schoolboy onstage and do it legitimately!

Source: Kerrang! no. 3, September 1981.