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Songbook. Sky Three. Sunday’s 11am. Gary Kemp and Ian McCulloch

“I confess to Almighty God, and to you my Brothers and Sisters that I did purchase gratuitously, and with malfeant intent the following vinyl records in the mid ‘Eighties. Duran “Notorious”, A-Ha “Hunting High and Low”, Spandau Ballet “To Cut a Long Story Short” (12” format), and most shamefully and without any mitigation being offered by this defendant; Roger Daltrey “Under a Raging Moon””.


Actually as Crimes Against Music go it’s not a really bad charge sheet. I have a weakness for pop. It’s longstanding. But I defy anyone to argue that the Cathy Dennis penned hit for Kylie Minogue “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” isn’t three minutes of pure, unadulterated genius. Musical gold. And Hanson’s “Um Bop” which Phil Jupitas said was the sound of the little one’s balls dropping, a joke I repeated to my 1996 vintage Year 9 Class, an indiscretion only bettered by an off the cuff quip about Monica Lewinsky and some tippex.


The reason for this confession aired on Sky Three last Sunday morning. “Songbook” is a show where Will Hodgkinson, a likable budding muso with an endearing awe of his subjects, interviews a singer songwriter who explains with a guitar how particular songs came to be written, and then performs them acoustically.


Gary Kemp was first up, and whilst I absolutely loath “True”, and find it as guilty as Chris de Burgh’s abysmal “Lady in Red” in the realms of crimes against music and general human decency, I always had a sneaking appreciation for some of Spandau Ballet’s output and admired Kemp’s musicianship.


This was sealed by the London wide boy’s full and unequivocal support for the Miners, putting his principles into practice by taking the band to Sheffield for a benefit gig in aid of the strikers.


It turns out that Kemp’s politics were shaped by non other than Trevor Huddleston who gave the then 10 year old a guitar and tape recorder on the condition that he write his own songs and play them to him.


This resulted from the Bishop being a governor at Kemp’s school and spotting his talent and commitment to music.


Top man, and what the Church of England should be doing, getting stuck in and being involved in working class communities instead of obsessing about people’s bedroom habits.


Kemp spoke honestly about his upbringing, and what inspired him performing some of the old hits, which sounded very interesting in this context. But he proved why Tony Hadley was a very necessary member of the band. Kemp can’t sing a note.


The next show was just amazing telly. Captivating and spellbinding as Ian McCulloch told us the secrets behind some of the best music made by an Englishman in the ‘Eighties, performing “Rescue”, “The Killing Moon” and their brilliant 1995 comeback record, the amazingly evocative and haunting melody of “Nothing Ever Lasts Forever”.


McCulloch, like me, is technically blind and it was fascinating to hear him relate how this affected his musical development.


But he never let it hold him back and this show provided a reminder of why this band meant so much to me, and to countless others of our age group.



 McCulloch rates “Ocean Rain” as the best album ever made. It’s good to have self-belief. I had it at 11…


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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