It’s all about the music.
We look back at Leicester’s greatest hits.
Going to Gigs. Round 13.
Wednesday 29th November 2017
by Trevor Locke
In this issue: the greatest hits of Leicester’s rock and pop.
I grew up listening to Top of the Pops and the obligatory Sunday afternoon radio broadcast of the nation’s top forty. Since 1967 Alan Freeman presented Pick Of The Pops on Sunday for nearly fifty years. My whole life became associated with number one hits, as we eagerly waited to find out which song was number one this week. Who was at the top of the hit parade was a timeline for all of us. That was about the UK as a whole; but what about Leicester? Can we list Leicester’s greatest hits?
I think we can but it’s a daunting task. It’s daunting not least because it is a very subjective exercise. Even so, I am going to lay my head on the railway line and tell you what have been, for me, the great songs, hits and tunes that have pleased me during the time I have listened to Leicester music. I know that as soon as I think this article is ‘finished’ I will want to add to it. But then the whole of this series – Going to Gigs – is work in progress. Hopefully, some of this article might jog the memories of some of our older readers.
An easy way to start is to look at the list I compiled earlier; so here it is:
The top ten songs of 2008
1. ‘Twenty Twenty Vision’ by The Chairmen
2. ‘Transmission’ by Autohype
3. ‘Wake up Radio’ by The Heroes
4. ‘Catfight’ by Razmataz
5. ‘Don’t drag him down ‘ by The Utopians
6. ‘From Pyongyang with love’ by Kids in Cars
7. ‘Out tonight’ by The Steptoos
8. ‘Frontline Hearts’ by The Displacements
9. ‘Caroline’ by The Lowreys
10. ‘Love Letter’ by Formal Warning
Not all of those songs came out in 2008; some of them might have been released earlier but the list shows what I was conscious of by that particular year.
Moving on to a longer time frame, we immediately hit a problem. There are just so many good songs. If we wanted to keep the list to the age-old format of the top ten, we would be seriously struggling. A few days ago I was hanging out at a gig and passed the time by writing a list of all the songs I could remember that have really made a mark on the music scene, over the past ten years or so. The list was a random one; not set out in any order of importance but including songs that were more or less at the same level of significance. So, in addition to those above, I would have to add later songs, such as
The Heroes: Blue Rave
Capture The Flag: Stickers on the Car
Kevin Hewick: The Heat of Moulton Diamonds
The Utopians: Pissed Up in Prague
By The Rivers: Midnight Raver
Cornershop: Brimfull of Asha
Step Toos: Out tonight
Siobhan Mazzei: Courage of your convictions
Demons of Ruby Mae: The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Aztec Temples: The Other Side
Michael Vickers: Lemonade
The Lids: It’s Not The Weather
The next step would be to add in the dates on which those songs were released. Which I might well do, one day.
I could go on. There is no shortage. Some of those songs are still on Soundcloud or on YouTube accounts. Some are on my computers as mp3 tracks and some are part of the Catalogue of Recorded Music of Leicester – the one I started some years ago.
What makes a good song?
All this begs the question ‘why?’ Why choose one song and not another? It is something that has exercised my mind for many years. There have been documentary programmes on the television (some of them very erudite) that have tried to figure out what makes a song great. I have listened to programmes about The Beatles and what made their songs so timeless. Most experts would agree it’s about the melody and the lyrics; but would go on to talk about the originality of a song, it’s place in the genre or the development of popular music, the new ground it broke or just the enthusiasm it generated amongst the fans. Looking at music through the lens of Leicester, there is a wealth of well-written, memorable songs, tracks and numbers that have a quality about them – let’s the ability to listen to them again and again over a long period of time and to always find them worthy of that moment.
Standing the test of time – as good today as when they first came out – one way of looking at it. I have at times argued that there is a ‘Leicester Sound’ – just as much as there is a Mersey sound or a Manchester sound. I might struggle to define exactly what it is – not being a musician myself – but I know it when I hear it. It’s not about one specific genre or style of music. The great thing about Leicester – as the song lists above demonstrate – is the sheer eclecticism of its music. It’s got just about every style of music you can imagine. I think that is the one thing that marks out Leicester in the nation’s rock and pop history – it’s all there.
What about the others?
Then of course there are the bands from outside of Leicester who came here to perform songs that were hugely successful, iconic songs on a world-wide level. There was the time that OPM came here and sang Heaven Is A Halfpipe. Few will now remember the hugely big nu-rock band from Los Angeles that came to The Shed in 2007 – Boy Hits Car – and sang some of the songs that made them famous around the world, but I do. Or Twisted Wheel at the Music Cafe in 2010. Or The Queers at the Soundhouse. Example? He’s been here a few times. We could go back even further in time and check out the bands that played at the Charlotte or The De Montfort Hall. Which band has not played at the Charlotte? Or even Bob Marley performing in Leicester. Not forgetting all the bands and singers who came here to play at Summer Sundae, Strawberry Fields and other festivals. Those bands and their songs are as much part of Leicester’s musical memory as the local bands and artists; they contributed to our heritage.
Next time on Going to Gigs: what did people listen to in the middle ages?