Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bad Manners Edinburgh 1981

October 1981

Edinburgh Odeon (I think)

It may not be very cool to admit this these days (in fact, it was not really the sort of thing one broadcast even back in 1981) but, for a 15 month or so spell during the early 1980s, I thought Bad Manners were just wonderful.  Dougie Trendle’s Buster Bloodvessel alter-ego did irk me more often than not, but for me it was, as ever, all about the music rather than the image.

Their debut album Ska’n’B was my first real introduction to the wondrous world of Ska/Rock Steady – generally regarded as reggae’s fun loving little bro’.  It was the starting point on a journey which would lead me to such exotic places as Eek-a-Mouse, Clint Eastwood & General Saint and also back in time to The Trojan Story collection.

That being said I always felt there was much more to the band’s output than just ska revivalism onto which had been dollopped Trendle’s cartoon antics.  These were clearly a clutch of talented musicians, as evidenced by a number of rather ambitious big-band type efforts on their albums: Tequila, Caledonia, Echo 4-2, Don’t Be Angry plus the Van Morrison cover What’s Up Crazy Pup.  And I felt the three guys on horns (Chris Kane, Gus Hyman and Andrew Marsen) probably had a whole stack of STAX Soul records at home. 

Even the group's often deliberately daft lyrics occasionally hid darker messages, as with Inner London Violence and Suicide.  Although, it has to be said, some of their stuff did fall well wide of whatever mark they were aiming for – I shall just mention the word Gherkin and leave it at that.   

This particular concert was the Edinburgh stop on Bad Manners’ first major tour of the UK, and found the band perhaps at the height of their popularity.  The previous year and a half had seen them rack up seven top thirty hits: the latest addition to the list being Walking in the Sunshine.

Looking back, this must have been the first concert  I attended as a married man and,  perhaps appropriately, attended with Wife……plus Best Man and my new Sis-in-Law (who just so happened to be dating each other at the time).    

Support band for the tour were Dolly Mixtures - a trio of innocuous young ladies, whom I next saw on TOTP adding some bounce to Captain Sensible’s otherwise plodding version of Happy Talk.  Some years later, one of the three turned up in Saint Etienne, I believe – the pop group, not the football team, that is.

Bad Manners’ set opened with the group, sans Trendle, playing the rousing instrumental Echo 4-2, before moving swiftly into Just a Feeling as the Big Man ambled onstage dressed in a white boiler suit. 

At some point early in the set Trendle crouched down, flexed his muscles and ripped the boiler suit (made of paper, one assumes) to pieces, leaving us audience to endure the rest of the concert confronted by the sight of a very well-nourished bloke dressed only in DMs, a black vest and a remarkably baggy pair of Y-fronts, into which he took great delight in rummaging around from time to time.

When the new song Ben E Wriggle was played, I started to get a feel for just how tight the horn section really were; this piece featuring some remarkably complex interplay between the horns and the harmonica of Alan Sayag (Winston Bazoomies).  All set against perhaps the boys’ silliest lyric.

I actually found Sayag’s performance quite mesmerising.  He would pace back and forward incessantly throughout the numbers, often looking rather lost.  He would then burst into action frantically searching through his many pockets for the appropriate harmonica for a song – he appeared to have dozens of the bloody things secreted about his person.  He took the rambling vocal lead during Tequila, displaying perfect comedic timing.

As the set closer Inner London Violence moved to its climax, a group of girls in the row in front of ours began dancing on their seats and, looking behind me, I could see a banner hung over the balcony proclaiming the presence in the building of the “Livi Rude Girls”, swaying alarmingly.  I am sure the balcony itself was bouncing in time with the dancing audience.  Rarely have I seen so many folks having so much fun.

Great Concert.  Great Times.  Great Memories.

Setlist – (a representative one from the tour)

Echo 4-2
Just a Feeling
Ben E Wriggle
Ivor The Engine
Here Comes The Major
Walking in the Sunshine
In the Court of King Ska-Fa
Weeping and Wailing
Lip Up Fatty
El Pussycat
Ne ne na na na na nu nu
Inner London Violence

Don’t Be Angry
Special Brew
Wooly Bully
Can Can

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