By Gary Rose
When I was a kid in the 80s, my dad (Alan) co-ran an entertainment agency with his mate Les. They called it LA Entertainments. Neither of them had ever been to Los Angeles, but they were called Les and Alan, so it worked on that level.
Every week, intriguing brown A4 envelopes would flop through the letterbox, containing publicity shots of vocalists, magicians, comedians… it was all very Phoenix Nights. Today, a friend who plays in a covers band was contacted about a gig opportunity by an agency in Northampton. Looking at their website makes me happy that these old-school club acts are still around. Here’s a selection of my favourites…
Michael Knight: he’ll serenade you with hits spanning the decades. Then he’ll lure you back to his bedsit, feed you through an industrial mincer and make you into black pudding… before escaping in an indestructible, talking Trans Am.
‘Crackin’ got their name after being discovered by Paul Gascgoine in a Gateshead club in 1997. “What did you think of the set, Gazza,” they asked. “Smashin,” replied Paul. And a musical legend was born.
Choc Ice: I’ve no idea why this white guy and black guy are called Choc Ice, although I resisted the urge to Google “choc icing”, just in case it was a “thing”.
Night Shift: typographical mavericks Night Shift have thrown the rule book out the window when it comes to legibility. “We met while working nights at the post office, so we’re both handy with letters,” chuckled Phil (top), when pressed on the subject.
Aquarius: at their gigs, Aquarius often run a competition called “Age of Aquarius”, where punters have to guess the combined age of the band. Clue: if Isaac Newton had invented the elixir of life instead of calculus, he’d be the same age now.
Johnny Dee: impersonations of the stars, from Austin Powers to Freedie Mercury to Austin Powers to a gay John Inverdale to… Austin Powers as a baby.
Cher by Marade: lock up your weapons of mass destruction, no gun is too big (or too phallic) for this cabaret idol to straddle. The name? A clever pun on “Hair by Maude”, the salon she works in by day.
Purple Prince: in a stroke of marketing genius worthy of the purple man himself, Gathan has grafted his image onto a decorative tissue box here. Available from the merch stand after the show.
Paul Derek “The Bird Man”: gasp in awe, as Paul produces a bewildering menagerie of levitating avian life from the palm of his hand: from owls, to geese, to doves to… erm, rabbits.
Obsession: “I’ve got two obsessions,” chuckles Mike, from Obsession. “One obsession is music; the other obsession is photography. I’m obsessive about detail, so I’m obsessed with making sure the sound is pristine and our publicity shots immaculate.”
Bob James: Catch the Grammy-winning jazz keyboardist who penned the theme to Taxi and was sampled by Run DMC, NWA, Ghostface Killah, Big Daddy Kane, Onyx, De la Soul, Mr Lif and Slick Rick. Appearing now at the King’s Head, opposite the Happy Shopper in Belper.
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