Earworms · Gigs · Memories

Colin Tully RIP and Cado Belle at the Music Machine 

In addition to its daily Obituaries page, the Guardian publishes a series called “Other Lives” two or three times a week. It is introduced online as follows: “Obituaries pages traditionally describe and celebrate the lives of the great and good, the famous and infamous. There is another type of life that deserves noticing: people less in the public eye, or lives lived beyond formal recognition.”

During the summer, “Other Lives” featured a piece about the musician and composer Colin Tully who died earlier this year aged 66. As you can read here, he composed the music for the Bill Forsyth films “That Sinking Feeling” and “Gregory’s Girl”, and played saxophone on “What’s Another Year?”, Johnny Logan’s Eurovision winning entry for Ireland in 1980. The words that leapt out at me from the piece were Cado Belle, the name of the “Glasgow soul and funk band” he played with in the late 1970s. Those two words prompted a vivid set of memories from April 1977, when my brother and I saw the band at the newly opened Music Machine in Camden. [Update: It turns out that I got my dates mixed up, as explained in this follow-up piece, but I have left the remaining paragraphs as originally written.]

As a family we had just spent Easter in Ireland, the only time the five of us visited my parents’ homeland outside the summer holidays. It was also the last time the five of us were there at the same time. We travelled back to West London overnight on the Saturday after the Easter weekend. On Sunday afternoon, having slept very little, my brother and I made our way to the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm. He had passed his driving test the previous month, so we could now get to and from venues on the other side of town much easier than before. And in those days you could park pretty much anywhere on a Sunday. The Stranglers were headlining, with Cherry Vanilla and The Jam making up the rest of the bill. We queued for about 30 minutes but made little progress. We heard The Jam begin their set at around 5.30pm, but the gig was sold out before we got anywhere near the entrance.

While we were waiting outside the Roundhouse someone handed us flyers and tickets for the Music Machine, a former theatre and BBC venue that had just been refurbished. In the 1980s it would be renamed as the Camden Palace, and later would become the venue known as Koko. We had not heard of most of the acts that were playing in the Music Machine’s opening weeks but decided to check it out a few days later. As I recall, the tickets we had been handed offered free entry before 10.30pm. Every gig I had been to up to this point had ended by 11pm, except for the Rolling Stones at Knebworth the previous summer: they finally took to the stage after 11 and played until till 2am.

We arrived at a near-empty Music Machine shortly before 10.30pm. It was at best quarter-full when Cado Belle came on just after midnight. I can’t remember a word from any of their songs that night. All I can remember is the sound, “soul and funk” as the “Other Lives” piece put it. The band released an album and an EP but never had a hit single. The vocalist was Maggie Riley, who would go on to have a Top 5 hit with Mike Oldfield in 1983, “Moonlight Shadow”. I only learnt that during the summer, from reading the band’s brief Wikipedia page.

Just before he died Colin Tully completed his autobiography, called “Earworm”. My copy was delivered by Amazon earlier today. I read the first 25 pages, and flicked ahead to read about Eurovision 1980, before drafting this piece. “Earworm” takes its place, physically and virtually, alongside three other music and performance memoirs that I have been dipping into in recent weeks: John Cooper Clarke’s “I Wanna Be Yours” (a birthday present last month) and two that I have recently bought as e-books: “On the Road Not Taken” by Paul Dodgson and “A Riot of Our Own, Night & Day with The Clash – and After” by Johnny Green & Garry Barker. I haven’t read any of them cover-to-cover yet. There is a risk that I will get confused about the timelines and personalities, but the starting points and main locations of all four books are different, so that should help to minimize the risk. Colin Tully is the only one of these authors who is no longer with us. May he rest in peace.

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