Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Kid Creole & The Coconuts - Edinburgh - 1982

17th October 1982

Edinburgh Playhouse

A couple of years ago I was at a work night-out, and got chatting to one of my younger (they are nearly all younger than me, these days) colleagues.  We began discussing various concerts we had each been to over the years, she bemoaning the fact she had been born too late to see many of the 1980s bands she enjoyed.

As I recounted the names of acts I had seen – New Order, The Smiths, Waterboys, Lloyd Cole, Teardrop Explodes – each name was greeted with a semi-orgasmic shriek of delight/recognition/jealousy.  She finally asked me what was the very bestest gig I had even attended, and without hesitation I asserted “Kid Creole & The Coconuts”.  At which point she gave me a shocked stare, and wandered off to speak to someone less deranged.

I could not really blame her, for to many folks these days the name Kid Creole is inextricable linked to the slightly naff musical Oh, What a Night.  How could I explain to her that for an 18 month period in the early eighties Kid Creole (August Darnell on a Sunday) was perhaps the coolest Guy on the Planet?  Closely followed in second spot by one Coati Mundi (Andy Hernandez).  But anyone out there who saw the band in concert in 1982 will know exactly why I answered as I did.

Twas the OGWT who introduced me to Kid Creole and The Coconuts, as I sat bewitched watching footage of the band playing In The Jungle from their New York Ritz musical “Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places”.  The associated album was a delight from first track to last; a phantasmagoria of latin, Caribbean, big band, disco and soul influences all melded together to produce something quite unique, and yet somehow comfortingly familiar.  All delivered with a tongue firmly in cheek.

But it was the following release, Tropical Gangsters, which provided the band with their breakthrough in the UK, with two of the singles I’m A Wonderful Thing, Baby and Stool Pigeon defining the Summer of ’82.  And by the time of this concert, in the Autumn of that year (I think), the band were enjoying what would become their biggest hit, Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy.

I was looking forward to hearing these hits played, as well as songs from the Fresh Fruit album, but I was not prepared for just how memorable the whole evening would be – it was less a concert than a musical/visual assault on the senses.  The whole gig just felt like one big party from start to finish, all of us in the audience realising we were witnessing something very special – something we would remember all our lives.  I genuinely believe us couple of thousand folks in the theatre that evening were probably having more fun than any other group of folks on the planet.  We just danced and grinned and danced and grinned all evening.

The band, led by percussionist “Bongo” Eddie Folk kicked things off, performing an instrumental I later discovered to be called The Turkey Trot; with Darnell and Hernandez entering when Going Places struck up.  This then moved straight into not, rather disappointingly, In the Jungle, but I’m a Wonderful Thing, Baby. 

This tune developed into a dialogue between Creole & Coati Mundi, which ran that careful line between ad-lib and rehearsed banter, succeeding in sounding both seamless yet spontaneous at once.  Coati Mundi enjoyed a couple of solo spots midway through the show, which I think were I Am What I Am and Que Pasa/Me No Pop I, although I could just be making this up.  Anyway, what swiftly became clear was that Hernandez was an accomplished singer in his own right, as well as being able to bash ten bells out of his vibraphone to great effect.

The aforementioned Annie had the venue bouncing, before No Fish Today allowed Hernandez the opportunity for more comedic silliness.  But the real high point arrived with Table Manners.  This marvelously risque piece, crammed with double entendres, always struck me as particularly salacious when one appreciated that the three Coconuts were in on the joke; their invitation

“Wanna dream in style? Stay awhile”

just cranking up the eroticism quotient more than a few notches.. 

Just as the song appeared to be winding to its conclusion, a discussion arose between The Kid and Coati regarding the likelihood of anyone in audience actually knowing what the song was all about.  “I ain’t talking about no food!” sang Creole, as his sidekick wandered to into the audience to pull a volunteer up on stage.

His choice appeared to be an unfortunate one, for the tall gangly bloke was clearly the worse for pre-gig refreshments, and appeared more interested in dancing with Coati Mundi than helping to settle their argument.  Creole dragged the bewildered looking chap back to the dealing with the point in hand, by repeatedly enquiring of him “What can you eat that isn’t food?” 

Eventually the penny dropped (sort of).  “Ye can eat the meat!!” bellowed the guest, in his best Embra Trainspotting accent.  “Hmmm.  Close” I thought, “but not quite”.  Whether the two New Yorkers understood a word he said, I have no idea.

After this raucous interlude things settled down briefly with the heartbreakingly poignant Dear Addy, before Mark Mazer’s chugging guitar heralded the arrival of Stool Pigeon and once again the whole place was dancin’.  I recall that the Coconuts had changed into fetching gold-coloured metallic looking chain-mail type costumes for this number.  And we were close enough to the stage to notice a nipple of one of the Coconuts had somehow worked its way between two of the small metal plate things, to her obvious discomfort.  And I remember thinking “That’s gotta hurt”.  But she danced on like a trooper – talk about suffering for your art!

The encores I cannot remember much of, other than the fact some of the songs were unfamiliar to me.  Once again I could just be dreaming here, but I think Darrio and Imitation were in there.

So, quite the most fun two (public) hours of my life, I think.  But a point worth making here is, a huge factor in making this show the spectacle it was, was that backing Kid Creole & The Coconuts was a stunningly accomplished set of musicians, totally in tune to what Creole was attempting to achieve.  And I am going to name them all here for no other reason than I think they deserve it:

Carol Colman – bass guitar
Eddie Folk – percussion
Charles Lagond - saxophone
Ken Fradley – trumpet
Lee Robertson – trombone
Alan Mack -drums
Mark Mazer - guitar
Peter Schott – keyboards and Musical Director
Plus dem Coconuts: Adriana Kaegi, Cheryl Poirer, Taryn Haegi.

(I am probably making most of this up, but this is my recollection)   

Turkey Trot
Going Places
I'm A Wonderful Thing, Baby
Mr. Softee
Loving You Made a Fool Out Of Me
I Am What I Am
Don't Take My Coconuts
Annie I'm Not Your Daddy
No Fish Today
Que Pasa/Me No Pop I
Table Manners
Dear Addy
Stool Pigeon

Gina Gina

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