Review- Spandau Ballet: soul boys of the Western world #blogjune

To cut a long story short, I am an 80s tragic.

MrBG knows me all too well and last night we watched a documentary on Spandau Ballet. 

Directed by their manager Steve Dagger, and narrated by all the members of the band, it is a tale from their beginnings in North London around Islington to their formation at school, their rise to fame and through to the present day.

The Soul Boys of the title refer to how their early influences were American soul- Stevie Wonder was rated as a strong influence by Gary Kemp, the songwriter of the group.

While one of my favourite songs of the 80s is a Spandau song, my knowledge of the group is patchy. The documentary enlightened me to a few interesting tidbits:

  • Martin Kemp Gary’s younger brother was recruited for his looks (he was a bit of a dish)
  • The eventual name of their band Spandau Ballet came from graffiti in a Berlin toilet
  • Gary Kemp is a wee bit of a control freak (and I imagine was responsible for the documentary’s name)
  • Steve Norman loves speedos, sunbathing 
  • Their look came from being part of the New Romantic movement which formed around the club the Blitz in soho, which also featured people like Steve Strange, Boy George and Marilyn, which you see in photos and footage.

Much of the footage is from home movies, and seeing their earliest shows in 1977 when they were still at school is pure gold. It is this candid footage of these wild boys living it up, with their voices as narrators which make this film feel true and authentic.

Their acrimonious time in court when Tony Hadley, John Keeble and Steve Norman sued Gary Kemp for a share of royalties was dealt with in a broad fashion, and there seems to be an attempt to deal with both sides as objectively as possible. 

It is a nostalgia trip through my teenage years, and it was also fun to see glimpses of Duran Duran as their rivals in pop chart success.

If you’re a fan of 80s British pop, do yourself a favour and watch this DVD.

Review- In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran


My workmates know me well for my 80’s tragic status and my fandom to all things Duran Duran. They alerted me to this book which was published last year, which is the autobiography of John Taylor, bass player of Duran Duran.

Yes, there are the obligatory photos, but it is much more of a wordy book than I imagined. I had heaps of books about Duran Duran in the 80’s which were really just merchandise/photo albums designed for teenage tastes, so it was a great to hear his voice in the book, albeit a ghost written voice.

The childhood and teenage photos were quite revealing, showing a little boy, growing up into an awkward bespectacled teenager who looked to older cousins and friends,  and of someone who was more comfortable just to the left of the spotlight.

In many ways his story jogged so many half-forgotten memories, of interviews in Smash Hits that I had read over 30 years ago. He changed his name to John from Nigel (Nick Rhodes, was originally Nick Bates), his love of cars (inherited from his father) and the beautiful models/actresses with whom he shared his life.

In other ways, reading the book makes you realise how filtered the message was about your favourite band in the 80s, without the full on glare that is now present with the Internet and social media. Seen through the pages of a magazine, all you saw a bunch of guys living a hectic, hedonistic lifestyle, surrounded by models and driving fast cars.

What you didn’t see was the effects from a jump from unemployed would-be muso still living at home to world famous pop star,  combined with the stress of touring constantly, and recording with a chronic lack of sleep. Taylor’s prodigious consumption of drugs and alcohol and his sex addiction (to deal with loneliness on the road) is documented extensively in this book, as well as his entry into rehab in the United States.

It is an autobiography, but it not a warts and all exposé of his relationship with the other band members. He speaks of them with love and respect, and alludes to periods of strife, but doesn’t go into detail. His marriage with Amanda de Cadenet is dealt with respectfully, yet frankly acknowledging the breakdown of the marriage to a series of factors, including age difference, and his substance abuse.

It’s an enjoyable read, and with its short chapters, you seem to power through it quite easily. Am now off to put Rio on…

My Top 7 moments of 2003

I was having a coffee with a colleague, when I realised I had known this person for 10 YEARS, which meant I had been in my job for 10 YEARS. Somewhat mind-blowing, let me tell you, as it has been the longest I have been in any position. So in resurrecting my top seven series, these are my Top 7 moments from 10 years ago.

In 2003…

1. I left my job at the State Library of Victoria to go to my present position in May. When I announced I had great news, my parents instantly said “You’re pregnant”. They were about a year off :). I was sad to go, but my new job was a promotion in terms of money and also security. I was given a beautiful leather satchel as a leaving present which still gets used today.

2. Mr BG and I bought a house in Mount Waverley in August. It was a 3 bedroom townhouse with three bathrooms, a walk-in wardrobe and walking distance to Syndal station. It was only a few years old and absolutely gorgeous. The house was  just around the corner from our rental house, and we noticed there was a viewing on our way back home one Sunday. We had been planning on visiting it, but the real estate agent we had spoken to on the phone had been quite dismissive and said “You can look, but it’s probably out of your price range anyway.” The agent who showed us around was a different person and very nice. He got the commission!

3. In December I went with the lovely Ms S to Telstra Dome to see Duran Duran play for the very first time. They were supporting Robbie Williams, and by the time we sat down we had missed thier first song Planet Earth. I lost it though when they started the clicking intro to Girls on Film (ie I reverted back to a 14 year who would scream hysterically). Robbie was good too :).

4. Mr BG bought me a Royksopp 12″ remix of Coldplay’s clocks for Christmas, which he then transferred from LP to CD at a friend’s house for me to listen to. Quite different from today where a song can be easily downloaded :).

5. I discovered The White Stripes, with this becoming my favourite song

6. Mr BG and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary by going on a romantic weekend away to Castlemaine and stayed in a quiet cottage on a property. In fact it was so quiet, a couple of residents had moved into the cottage. We heard a rustling in the attic space and a whoosh of air around our heads when we went to bed. Turning on the light,  we thought it was a bird that had gotten trapped in the cottage. Whatever it was had gotten a bit scared with the lights and flew around, with one stunning itself against a pillar. When we realised that it was a BAT we were a tad freaked out, and we managed to get it outside. However, when we turned out the lights, the rustling and whooshing around our heads continued and we spent a cramped night in our small car trying to sleep. We left a day early with the apologetic owners refunding our money. ‘I thought we had gotten rid of them!’ was their response.

7. Mr BG danced with me, and I didn’t force him to. This is a man who refused to dance at our own wedding, but he danced with me as this was the only way we could spend 5 minutes together. It was my sister’s wedding day and I was the matron of honour. It was a lovely day, incredibly full-on from 7am when I woke up and went for a walk to 11.30pm when I loaded the car up with wedding presents from the reception, drove back to where we were staying and collapsed into bed! It was the nicest thing I remember about the day.

Just like the old days

Long before we met at a library, Mc BG was playing shows in Melbourne and overseas in so many bands he’s lost count. He would be heading out nearly every night of the week to see a band, or play when he was at uni. A lot of his friends played in bands or formed part of the audience that made up the indie-pop scene of which he was a part.

Last Friday night, he played  a show supporting The Sugargliders, a band who had just launched their 20 year retrospective CD. Josh and Joel from the Sugargliders had given the band in which Mr BG was playing their first big gig as support, and had become friends. The band dissolved and Mr BG went on to form his own bands, but he remained friends with Josh and Joel.

The gig was at The Empress in North Fitzroy, a favourite venue for the scene, and relatively unchanged since the last time we were there. The pool table had disappeared (a good place for entrepreneurial types to set up a merch stand), but the carpet (dark wine to match the stains) had not changed. Even the pole against which we had always stood was still there. It’s funny how you gravitate to the same spot at a venue :).

In many ways, the show was part 21st birthday party, part reunion. We were celebrating the music of our young adulthood and catching up with people and former band members we hadn’t seen in years, even decades. It wasn’t as angst-ridden as a reunion though- everyone I spoke to were quite relaxed and content with how their life had turned out. The audience was very much the same composition as it had been 20 years ago, give or take a new partner. There were  more wrinkles, more kilos around the waist and chin and less hair, but the infectious enthusiasm when the music started was still the same as ever.

As there were 7 acts performing,  and the sets were short and sweet at 15 minutes each. The acts played their favourite songs and a Sugargliders cover each. One of my favourites was this one from Mark Narkowicz.

Mr BG was second last

Everyone left the pub in a cheery mood, no doubt helped by the amount of beer imbibed!

Indie tracks

The reason why were in Derbyshire was to attend a music festival – Indie Tracks, where you get to the festival by vintage train, where you get to see performers play on the train, or at a railway station where there are multiple stages including a church, and where you not only have a merchandise stand, you have a craft tent, a playground and a display of owls.


Mr BG was doing a set at Indie Tracks in the church with Pam Berry, who had been a bandmate of his in a band called The Shapiro’s and who had recently sung on his recent EP he had released on Matinee which you can get from the label *. He had always wanted to go to Indie Tracks and he was chuffed he also got a chance to play!


His very vocal fans were there to whoop him on after each song. The church was packed and people were standing outside listening to him and Pam.

The only music festival experience I had to compare it to was a Big Day Out I did in 1995, which was completely different in so many ways, especially I terms of the weather and footwear. As opposed to it being a 38 degrees day where the wearing of sunscreen was de rigeur, Indie Tracks called for anoraks and wellies, which came in all colours and sizes. I lashed out in a pair of wellies (I said gumboots and all I got were some blank stares) and I felt I almost fitted in.

Of course there were some very stylish people attending and some very stylish boots.

Fashions at the Festival ranged from the practical to the vintage statement for the ladies, and the band tshirt/Ben Sherman combo with achoice of denim jacket, anorak, or Ben Sherman Harrington jacket for the gents. There was a gentleman who was making a daring statement in a black floral dress and beard, but I could never get the camera out in time to get photographic proof…

The other huge difference was the size of the festival. There were about 1,500 people attending, most of whom have been going for years and who as a result, knew each other very well. It was hard to be an anonymous person- you were known. It felt like living in a country town, and considering it was held in the Wolds of Derbyshire, it certainly was!

We attended over the Saturday and the Sunday, with the kids loving the fact there was a playground on site. They made friends with other indie kids and were sad to leave at the end.

We got to see some cool bands play, eat yummy vegan samosas, and generally got to pretend we were still the same people who used to journey to Brunswick St or the Empress Hotel on a Saturday night to see bands and hang out with our friends BC (Before Children).

*Yes this is a blatant plug, but he is my husband, and if I can find a way to pay off this holiday, I will take it…

Bookgrrl’s Christmas Ideas

This is not the Bookgrrl Christmas Tree Source:

There are many blogs I read who are very helpful in offering suggestions as to what to get your husband/wife/children for Christmas. They are very inventive, but it is very hard if

  1. you buy things when you need them,
  2. you already have enough t-shirts, bags, aftershave/perfume, candles to last you until the next millennium,
  3. they’re not exactly… you

So this is my suggestions for Christmas gifts according to MY taste, which could be very different to YOUR taste. But hey, my blog, my rules…


  • You could go all Christmassy and get your beloved A Very She & Him Christmas . Zooey Deschanel does her chanteuse thang, while the guitar accompaniment has a slight delay to give it a 50’s feel to the classic Christmas Tracks (according to Mr BG, who got it for Christmas from a person with amazing taste me)
  • Tickets to a show for an upcoming band from the 80’s that you have never seen before. It could be the Specials or New Order or even Duran Duran.
  • let them search on eBay for that hard to find guitar, or pedal, then offer to buy it for them for Christmas.
  • As a last resort you could get them something you like, then give it to them, and by attrition it will become yours- like a certain New Order DVD which was given to me a few years ago…


  • If your beloved is into all things oppy- the Op Shop Guide to Victoria is hard to go past. Just think of all the road trips which could be planned to out of the way places, or Ballarat for example :).
  • If you live in Melbourne and shudder at the thought of travelling out of the major metropolitan area, try a Melbourne Op Shop Tour– they are reasonably priced, use public transport and they do vouchers. Just contact them for the voucher option. Even if you don’t live in Melbourne, it’s a good way to make a day of exploring a part of Melbourne you have never ventured.
  • If your fashion sense does not extend to things oppy, a voucher to a specific store is an excellent idea. A Westfield voucher is not applicable to major stores in the centre as I found out last Christmas- grrr…


  • One word- BOOK. The authors of the moment in our house are Pamela Allen and Lauren Child, who write Charlie and Lola and so so much more. I’ve ended up giving her books to a couple of excited 6 year old girls for their birthdays this year.
  • Another word- LEGO. I hate having to pick it up, but it’s fantastic and a great bonding experience between father and son.
  • A couple of words- NO BARBIES. I had no idea that they breed…


  • make something- gingerbread cookies and rumballs
  • offer something- TIME. Give someone a day off for them to go shopping or grab a coffee and catch up with a friend. Offer to have kids over for a sleepover for a sleepin.
  • breakfast in bed for a couple of weekends in a row.

The above is not my Christmas list, which extends to a replacement iPod, a pasta machine, a bigger sewing box and a Lotto ticket which is guaranteed to win 1st Division- though the breakfast in bed option is nice too…

12 songs that changed my life

(This was to be a post about my day at Sovereign Hill, but the school excursion was cancelled owing to the weather- ie it’s winter with a chance of rain and snow)

So this is a theme I borrowed from Corin’s recent post.

These are 12 songs that changed my life- they’re part of my DNA and shape who I am.

1. Yellow Submarine (The Beatles)- my mum and dad sang this to me as a lullaby when I was little. I was 12 when I found out it was a Beatles song.

2. Mamma Mia (Abba)- Abba was huge in our house. My sister and I had matching Abba tshirts, and

3. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)- one of the first songs I remember from Countdown. It still blows me away every time I hear it. I was probably 5 or 6 when I heard it. I still love the fact that I could watch music shows like this at that age!

4. (I can’t get no) Satisfaction (Rolling Stones)- We had an old record player and I used to go through Dad’s records. He had one Rolling Stones record which was a live recording. Young Keith Richards was so hot !

5. Planet Earth (Duran Duran)- I fell in love with Simon le Bon when I saw this on Countdown. It was the first Duran Duran song which started off a lifelong obsession love affair. (If you want to know more about this obsession, I have written at great length about this here and there :))

6. Tainted Love (Soft Cell)- play, rewind, stop, play, rewind, stop- this was all I did with my mixed tape on my tape player when this song came on. I could not get this out of my head!

7 One Step Ahead (Split Enz)- my favourite Split Enz song (actually a toss up between that and Message to my girl). I think it’s the bass which hooked me, then Neil’s voice.

8 Silent Night (Traditional)- I heard this a lot at midnight mass at Christmas over the years. I was 13 when I first heard it sung in German and marvelled at its beauty.

9. Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order)- this was the first New Order song I remember hearing. I loved it so much it was played at my wedding. I think the fact I had Substance in my CD collection was a plus in my favour according to Mr BG (he was able to overlook the U2 in my collection)

10.Fools Gold (Stone Roses)- Another bass line which hooked me. Another British band in what is shaping up to be a very Brit-list.

11.There she Goes (The La’s)- this 80s song I first remember noticing in the movie So I married an Axe Murderer (amovie also memorable for Mike Myers singing Do ya think I’m sexy in a Scottish accent)

12. Guess how much I love you (The Lucksmiths)- a song much later in my life, when I started going out with Mr BG. He introduced me to some great music and more importantly, some lovely people. This was another song played at my wedding.

Some of these songs have a visual quality which enhanced the music for me, but I can still listen to them and be transported back in time.

Back to the 80s- Music

How do you describe your favourite musical moments of the 1980s, when it feels that all you did in your spare time was listen to music?

If I wasn’t watching Countdown, it was Video Hits. If it wasn’t Video Hits, I was listening to EON-FM’s Top 8 at 8. If I wasn’t listening to it on the radio (and getting into huge arguments with parents about listening to the radio too much), I was reading about it in Smash Hits. If I wasn’t reading about it I was watching movies and videos and loving the soundtracks, largely the John Hughes films (note I don’t make mention of any soundtracks which feature Kenny Loggins).

Most of what I listened to was pop, and most of what I really loved about 80s music was the stuff from the early 80s, and largely British and Australian. Natalie Craig’s article which spoke of her muscial experiences of Bon Jovi, Europe and Poison spoke of the latter period of the 80s. I knew them, but weren’t huge fans of their over the top productions and plastic American smiles. I know Europe are Swedish, but they were trying to be Bon Jovi, and they are NO WAY in the league of Abba, but I digress…

Apart from listening to it on the radio, I listened to music on tape, with a tape player, and on my bright yellow walkman rip-off. I went through so many AA batteries, I’m sure I kept Eveready in business for much of 1985. The tapes were either mixed tapes which I bought, or were Christmas presents, or mixed tapes I had made from taping off the radio. I’m kind of hoping there’s a statute of limitations on copyright violations :).

There was a bit of an obsession with hair in the 80s and the haircut bands I knew and loved were Haircut100, Spandau Ballet, and Wham! but not Pseudo Echo- loathe is not strong enough a word to describe my feelings for them.

I am not going to mention Duran Duran here, as I have pretty much expounded that in a previous post, and another (actually just do a search and you’ll find a few mentions…)

Here are a few of my favourites:

Simple Minds- Lovesong is the first song of theirs I remember after listening to it at camp. and I loved Don’t you forget about me from The Breakfast club

Madness-I remember seeing the House of Fun on Countdown and loving the video. It was only years later that Mr BG told me what it really was about- oh how innocent I was!

The Models-I thought James Freud was a bit of a spunk, but it was a shame that they dumped Andrew Duffield, when they expanded the lineup. Out of Mind Out of Sight was cool, but I Hear Motion was my favourite song of theirs.

Split Enz and Crowded House- given that one of my closest friends was a Frenz of the Enz, it was hard not to get into them. Crowded House were a big part of  my tape collection in the second part of the 80s. I think Neil Finn’s songs in Split Enz were always the ones which applealed to me the most, with One Step Ahead and Message to my Girl being my all time faves.

The Cure kept on popping up on a lot of mixed tapes my sister and I owned. There was a darkness I liked, but they could also write a mean pop song.

New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle  was one of my favourite songs of the decade, and through that song I also discovered Blue Monday. In my ignorance, it was only later that I  discovered their previous incarnation as Joy Division, which happens to be Mr BGs favourite band. *hangs head in shame*

Madonna- I can’t not say anything about her. She was not my favourite artist, but I knew all her songs. She was a shameless rip-off merchant of musical and fashion styles, but her continous evolution made her fascinating. Like a Virgin is her standout song of the 80s for me.

Violent Femmes- Blister in the Sun was played ad nauseum in our classroom at lunchtimes in VCE. I was sick of it by the end of the year, but it was part of my final year at school.

My favourite novelty song is Divine’s You think you’re a man- is hilarious and definitely preferred over It’s Raining Men as a novelty song. I can still sing it word for word 🙂

Oingo Boingo Stay was a weird song that still bounces around in my head.

Towards the end of the 80s I was listening to more U2, The Beatles and The Doors when I started uni (I remember a bit of paisley beginning to creep into my wardrobe around this time). In fact I discovered 60s music in a big way. By the end of the decade, and the start of the 90s, I had gotten a job at the record counter at Myer, helped by an avid interest more kinds of music.

This is just a snippet. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered more bands from the 80s I overlooked at the time, simply because they weren’t on my radar. This is largely in part to Mr BG, who was 5 years older and had different tastes.

So this is one of these half-forgotten songs I was re-introduced to, Golden Brown by The Stranglers.

Singing and dancing in the rain

I was watching this the other day with Master BG on my lap. He recognised the song, having heard it played at daycare, and could sing along with some of it. We sat and watched, me amazed at Gene Kelly’s artistry and footwork and my son, tickled pink that here was someone grown up dancing and enjoying splashing and getting wet!

I remember watching a lot of musicals as a child- The Sound of Music, Calamity Jane and My Fair Lady were favourites. This one came out when I was 7 and has remained my all-time favourite though 🙂

For the kids now, musicals tend to be a bridge between kid’s music and Top 40.  The tunes are catchy, and more often than not, I know them well enough to sing along as well. I’m finding Youtube a great way to introduce the kids to music I loved as a child. Bohemian Rhapsody which I used to watch on Countdown gets played quite a bit chez Bookgrrl!

They also love the music dad plays on the computer. Master BG has a leaning towards Britpop and the Beatles, while his sister doesn’t care, so long as she can dance to it.

So today, I was a grrl on a mission, to enrol my little girl into dancing, and myself into a dance class. I guess watching Gene Kelly and all those Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals has inspired me…

PS I’m also participating in the WordPress Postaweek 2001 challenge. I’ve blogged every day of June last year and made a valiant attempt to blog 12 days of Christmas, but as I made a resolution to spend less time on the PC, not more, I’m thinking I can accomplish a weekly post more easily. Of course that’s not to say I won’t blog more.

M is for…


As we have reached the halfway point of the A-Z  of the trip (yay!) a musical interlude.

A band that played with Mr BG at the Betsey Trotwood, and who also played in Berlin were the Sunny Street. The sunny Street are Remi, Delphine, Ian and Christos.  They were all incredibly nice people who play beautiful music. This is a cover they did of ‘What is Love’ by Haddaway.


My brother Mark left Australia 10 years ago with a couple of suitcases. In the 10 years in London, he has gained his Masters in Physiotherapy and is  the head of the Neuro-physiotherapy department in his hospital. He has bought a flat in Islington and has just celebrated his 2nd wedding anniversary with Americo, his husband. He’s a bit more serious than Andrew, but is still not averse to letting his hair down (well he would if he had more hair…)


We stayed with Moya and her two daughters Karen and Claire (my cousins), while in Belfast. It was a great chance to really get to know her. Moya is the youngest of my Dad’s siblings, but definitely the most headstrong. I see a lot of her in Miss BG, and I think that’s a good thing. She’s a strong, capable person who has managed to raise two daughters single-handedly, teach, and coach and manage netball competitions. And still find time for us, which was pretty cool 🙂