Then and now

Date
Published in
Hotline: Virgin Trains magazine (UK)

On the eve of their 80s Here and Now tour, Julian Hall surfs the wave of nostalgia with 80s pop icons Hazel O’Connor, Clare Grogan and Kim Wilde.

What do you think of the 80s revival?
Kim Wilde: I’m amazed it’s still going on. Perhaps the further we get into these recessionary times, the more people think back fondly to the 80s when they were 25 years younger and life seemed more carefree. Musically, there were some brilliant melodies and a diverse range of styles. Dance music has been the focus in the last 10 years; it's fantastic, but perhaps people are missing tunes to whistle and songs they can sing along to.

Clare Grogan: I think it's funny. I realised about 10 years ago that people weren't going to get over the 80s and we had to embrace it. I'm biased, but I do think that the early 80s was a genuinely exciting period in music, fashion, culture and history.

Hazel O'Connor: Part of the reason might be that the mainstream music scene is a bit boring at the moment.

What most sticks in your mind about the 80s?
Kim Wilde: I think about dramatic make-up, the hair - and the shoulder pads. I'm expecting them to turn up at any second, which is making me quite ill.

Clare Grogan: In the early 80s, nobody wanted to be the same, you wanted to stand out from the crowd. I think that got lost for a while. On a personal note, being on Top of the Pops a year after I left school is very memorable. Going from watching it in my living room to being on it was incredible.

Hazel O'Connor: In the 70s, punk turned everything on its head, so what I remember about the 1980s was chucking oiut the old facts brigade and bringing in new stuff based on the energy that punk kindled. Then it got cleaned up again, I can remember seeing Bananarama on telly and thinking: 'Oh, we've turned full circle again.'

Do you enjoy your reunions?
Kim Wilde: Yes. Most of us were too young, trying to be too cool or working too hard to really engage with each other very much in the 80s, whereas on the tour we can sit and have a chat and laugh about the things we got up to back then. In those days it wasn't cool to just hang around and have a laugh, although Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran did. You have to remember we were only about 20 then and the problem was that most of us fancied each other and so were too scared to communicate properly.

Clare Grogan: Everybody is committed to giving the audience a brilliant time on these tours. No one has anything to prove. For a lot of my generation, these songs are a big portion of the soundtrack to their life, it allows people to be 18 again for a very brief period of time.

Hazel O'Connor: This is the first time I've done this tour, but I havedone Wasted, a punk festival that used to be in Morecambe and is now in Blackpool, so then I saw all my old mates from 30 years ago. Last year I did a retro festival in Scotland and I saw Kim again and Kid Creole and the Beat and a whole bunch of people I really liked. When this show came up, I thought that it would be fun, partly because of the different styles on offer.

Can nostalgia be a double-edged sword?
Kim Wilde: Initially I turned my nose up at it and said: 'Oh no, I'm not going to be a sad old 80s-revival dinosaur but eventually I did it after I was told the Human League and Altered Images were on the bill that year. Standing in front of a few thousand people who think you're wonderful is extraordinary. OK, it's only for a few moments of madness but there's something quite crazy and fun and wonderful about it. I think it's quite funny that I'm nearly 50 and I'm singing 'Kids in America'. Some people take a different view and think it's pathetic and sad, but they don't have to go to the gigs.

Clare Grogan: I thought: As a 40-year-old woman, how on earth am I going to recapture that youthful exuberance? It was almost embarrassing, but the chance to sing the songs that I wrote back then turned out to be a nice surprise, as I was singing them in venues like Wembley Arena which I never got the chance to play the first time around, it's nice to be doing it without everything hinging on it.

Hazel O'Connor: If I sing 'Will you', I know that a good 80% of my audience have made love to that song or got married to it - or buried a friend, even - and that's quite a pleasant responsibility actually.

Of all the gigs you have done, do you have any on the Virgin Trains network that are particularly memorable?
Kim Wilde: Liverpool is always good because a lot of my family come from there. Birmingham is good too because a lot of the lads who I worked with on the BBC show 'Garden Invaders' turn up.

Clare Grogan: Manchester Apollo. Once I literally fell off the stage there. That was something I was in the habit of doing. I haven't ever played Glasgow, my hometown: I think I would be quite shy about it.

Hazel O'Connor: When I played my hometown of Coventry in the early days, everyone I knw would come out of the woodwork. At one gig bothmy sets of parents came, my grandparents and my ex-boyfriend, who I had finished with but who wasn't letting it go. In the middle of the gig I lost my voice for the only time in my career ever. It was really weird. I think I just freaked.

Who do you like on the music scene now?
Kim Wilde: I've enjoyed the hits that the Feeling have had and I'm delighted that Take That have had a comeback; they have such a fantastic story with the songs to back it up. I am also really pleased that AC/DC have got a massive album again and that Metallica are taking over the world.

Clare Grogan: Like a lot of people, I think Florence and the Machine are truly inspiring. I like a lot of the girls - Feist, Bat for Lashes, Cat Power, Regina Spektor. I always think that girls make it a bit more interesting.

Hazel O'Connor: Snow Patrol, Take That, Duffy is very interesting and Leona Lewis has got an anthemic, soulful slant. I was ready not to like her because I don't like The X Factor, but she has come out on top.

Kim Wilde, Clare Grogan and Hazel O'Connor will be joined by Rick Astley, Howard Jones, Brother Beyond and Kid Creole and the Coconuts on the Here and Now tour in May. Visit www.here-and-now.info or call the ticket hotline on 0844 847 1726.