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Here and Now Columns- October 13th, 1980

One of the most memorable columns - not for its content but for the fact that I received threats for my review of a concert by the Dooleys. The review is re-printed below.

 

The Dooleys came to Norwich Theatre Royal bringing their own style of disposable pop - songs that make the charts today, but are forgotten tomorrow..

The family outfit provided over and hour of entertainment and it is entertainment that is the key word rather than the quality of musicianship or songs.

The appearance had both pluses and minuses.

On the plus side they provided a surprisingly varied concert. mixing their hits with an attractive set of film music which used visual aids to good effect. They sprinkled this with some surprises including Bach's Tocatta which is done considerably better by Sky.

On the minus side, the group's movements on stage are all carefully manufactured and the twin voices of Ann and Kathy at times screech alarmingly. Helen Dooley's lack of ability on the keyboards was often too apparent and brother Jim could benefit from a weight loss.

The group came on to stage to the strains of Supertramp's "Fool's Overture," which rather suggested that we were to hear more meaningful songs than were served up.

 

I regularly  reviewed concerts at Norwich Theatre Royal both for the Here and Now column and the general section of the newspaper. At that time the general manager was the legendary Irishman Dick Condon - who was one of the top theatre impressarios in the country. Even now when I make a rare visit to the theatre I still feel Dick's ghost about the place.

Dick was certainly a Norwich legend and a total  workaholic. He was also one of life's great characters. Before every show he was front of house welcoming people (often by name). As a host he was second to none - looking after guests and the Press in an inimitable style that usually featured plenty of alcohol.

Dick never worried about criticism of the artists he put on. His adage was "no publicity is bad publicity" and he realised not everything at the theatre could be given glowing reviews.

Reviewing concerts is a difficult art anyway. There is a tendency to be either too familiar with a band or artist or to be completely unfamiliar. If say for instance I was reviewing two of my favourite artists - Barclay James Harvest and David Bowie - I would have a tendency to compare a concert with previous times I had seen them - i.e comparing them against themselves. This led to my being very critical of concerts by Don MacLean and Glen Campbell. The problem is of course that most of the audience are diehard fans and for them the act can do no wrong.

Obviously on this evening the theatre was full of fans of the Dooleys who would lap up every note and every word. I on the other hand was trying to be more subjective. The result was a call later in the week from Dick Condon to say that he had received threats following my review. Apparently a caller to the theatre had threatened "to kill the bastard if I ever get my hands on them." To me it simply meant I had done a good job!!!! It is something that has lived long in my memory, however.

The following album reviews by me appeared in this column:

 

Trance and Dance - Martha and the Muffins (***)

After just two albums Martha and the Muffins are already at a crossroads. The tremendously catchy single "Echo Beach" brought them instant success. Since then they have been unable to live up to their promise and one of the Marthas (Ladly) recently announced her departure from the group. "Echo Beach" picked them out as a particularly promising pop band. On this LP they seem desperate to get away from this image with a number of raunchy songs featuring the rampant sax of Andy Haas. There is little change of pace and consequently the songs tend to merge into semi nothingness, without being entities in their own right. Nevertheless "About Insomnia" is a slower, more potent number and the title track has an hypnotic rhythm about it, just as one of the lines suggest. The album consists of 11 original numbers written by the band and Chris Spedding's "Motorbiking." Added to that there's a four track live EP, so the package provides good value for money, but I fear it will fail to rouse any new converts.

Flash Harry - Harry Nilsson (**)

This one gets the award for the most obvious title of the year and I still don't quite know how seriously to take Nilsson. I found this LP more interesting for the list of personnel involved than the fact it is a Nilsson album. The singer is a modern enigma, capable of producing the most enjoyable songs, but all too often guilty of flooding us with interminable rubbish. Thus it is with this one. Some of the songs stand up well to examination with contrasting styles. "Cheek to Cheek" and "Best Move" were partly written and moulded by the eccentric but considerable talents of Van Dyke Parks. "Best Move" is a typical Nilsson offering with soft, whistful twenties style lyrics. "Old Dirt Road" was written by Nilsson and John Lennon and is an interesting offering and the punchy ballad "I Don't Need You" is fairly enjoyable. Elsewhere there isn't too much to offer with the failing attempt at clever lyrics, particularly apparent in the Nilsson/Ringo Starr offering "How Long Can Disco On" which is outrageously corny.

Elsewhere the main story in this column was about a coming concert by Slade and another varied week of gigs at the UEA. There was also a short review of an Echo and the Bunnymen concert and reviews of a New Wave night at Cromwells and the Skids at the UEA (slightly more cutting edge than the Dooleys).

The UEA Syudents Union were advertising a number of coming gigs. Most of the bands were charging between 2 and 3 admission. For some reason the Teardrop Explodes were going cheap at just 50p.

Top of the Norwich singles chart was the Police's Don't Stand So Close to Me," top of the Norwich alternative chart was Atmosphere/She's Lost Control by Joy Division and Zenyatta Mondatta by Police was top of the album charts.