Katy Wheeler speaks to a Mod band who are bringing their scooters back on the road for a revival festival.
Mods and more are set to descend on Chester-le-Street next month for a festival which will celebrate one of Britain’s most defining musical eras. Riverside Live, which takes place at Riverside Park on Bank Holiday Sunday, May 24, will see sets from From The Jam, featuring former The Jam bassist Bruce Foxton, as well as a day of performances from The Selecter, Secret Affair, The Whodlums, LoGOz, The Style Selektors and The Last Fakers.
Also looking to get the crowds rocking at Riverside are The Lambrettas. The Lambrettas, with original members Doug Sanders, Paul Wincer, Mark Ellis and Jez Bird, came to prominence with their cover of Poison Ivy and had follow up hits with Go Steady and Beat Boys In The Jet Age.
Fast forward to 2009, and the anniversary of Quadrophenia. Doug and Paul were asked if they would get back together to do a short set at a Modrophenia event in Brighton. They were joined by Phil Edwards on guitar and Chris Venzi-James on bass. After the Brighton gig, the phone didn’t stop ringing and it was clear that they were back together permanently. Doug says he’s looking forward to heading up north. “We’re absolutely looking forward to it,” he said. “We only played there before once, a year or two ago and that was really good.”
Doug says fans can expect classic tracks, as well as new material. “Doing a festival like this people would be annoyed if we didn’t play stuff off the first album. We’ll also be doing some ’60s homage stuff and maybe a couple of new tracks,” he said.
“We had some legal problems with our back catalogue, but that’s sorted now and we recently released our first album Beat Boys In The Jet Age in its original form, with another album of music. And that’s going pretty good.
“We’ve also signed a deal to do new stuff and we’re hoping to release a new EP in the summer.”
In 2014, due to other commitments, Chris was replaced temporarily by Nick Beetham on bass. However, they now have a new full time bass player Ant Wellman.
Doug said: “It took a while, but we are really happy that Ant, as well as being a nice bloke and great bass player, has helped us get back to our original sound, but with an up-to-date slant on it.”
This year saw the 35th anniversary of the release of Beat Boys in the Jet Age. The record, which was re-released in February and is available on the Salvo label, also includes a second CD with Ambience, singles and B-sides. Doug says the resurgence of interest in the band was unexpected, but he’s loving every minute of it.
“We didn’t know how the public would react, I spoke to the drummer and we decided to give it a go, so we got a couple of young whippersnappers in and rehearsed,” he said.
“After the show the phone didn’t stop ringing. I don’t think One Direction will be ringing us anytime soon but the response has been great, I’ve got nothing to complain about.” Speaking of original highlights from the band, he said: “I remember doing Top of the Pops for the first time in 1980. As a kid I would buy old guitars and go to jumble sales and buy Bakelite radios for 50p which I would link together to make an amplifier. I would blast it in my neighbourhood and the neighbours said I would never get anywhere. So being on Top of the Pops was a real moment for me.
“There’s aspects of the music business that have changed, the records and gig thing is different. Back then, we would go out on the road and from a financial point of view we’d lose money, but the idea was to promote the record and encourage sales.
“Now it’s the opposite, you have to deliver live now, you can’t just be a wizard in the studio. You really have to deliver and hopefully we do that.”
Doug says he expects faithful Mod fans, as well as other music fans at the one-day festival. “When we play places like this, most of the audience are of a certain type. When we play festivals it’s more general public, but the Mod fashion, compared to something more fringe, is very easily accessible. More so than an out and out punk band. Something like that is more of a culture shock to the general public. Our music is not too far removed from the mainstream.”
• Riverside Live is at Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, on May 24. Early Bird tickets are £25 via www.riversidelive.org