From the 21st - 24th June, Stanmer Park in the northern reaches of Brighton was transformed into ‘Music Park 2007’, an outdoor music event featuring a choice of four diverse evenings of entertainment. I considered myself too old and too male to attend the Ronan Keating gig on Thursday night, too soulless for Saturday Soul night, and too common for Sunday’s Classical Proms, but as the boyfriend of someone who still owns a pair of leg warmers, Friday night was the night for me. ‘The Eighties Here & Now’ brought together seven of the finest acts ever to wear big hair and shoulder pads, and I’m pleased to say my girlfriend and I were there.
On arrival we were greeted by signs warning us of impending deafness if we actually listened to the music, after which we had the pleasure of meeting the stewards on the gate, who welcomed us by confiscating my bottle of water on the grounds that you're not allowed to take alcohol into the venue. I explained that it was non-alcoholic water, and they in turn explained that if it were sealed I'd be more than welcome to take it in, but as it wasn’t (I'd filled it from the tap at home), it could theoretically contain anything, and they can't risk me entering the park with an Evian bottle full of vodka.
I continued our friendly chat by offering to let them taste it, but sadly they informed me that "We're not allowed to do that". Presumably because if they drink everyone's water, they'll have to keep leaving their post to go to the toilet. In the end I gave up and handed it over. It would have been easier to get baby milk through Heathrow.
Once inside, we browsed the overpriced comestibles, refused to pay £5 for a burger, and finally forked out £3 for an ice cream. My mouth full of chocolate flake, I immediately spotted Chris Difford of Squeeze in the VIP area, and attempted to sidle up to him nonchalantly, ignoring the fact that there was both a fence and a gulf of talent between us. Unfortunately popstars are shy, nervous creatures, and I think I moved too fast, startling the man and sending him scurrying back into the hospitality tent before my girlfriend could take our photo.
But I consoled myself by purchasing a signed copy of 'The Very Best of Howard Jones', which is a surprisingly long album.
The first act on at 7:30pm was Altered Images, or as the announcer put it, "Clare Grogan's Altered Images". It turned out to be Clare Grogan on her own. I know her best as Kochanski in Red Dwarf, something I was reminded of as she waltzed onto the stage looking short in a crimson dress.
She sang four songs, which was three more than I knew, but halfway through her set, I looked to the left and saw a spectacular vision in white appearing in front of the stage and floating effortlessly towards me. It was none other than David Van Day, dressed in a luminescent white suit that could stop traffic on a dark night, arriving late and trying to find his seat in the front row. I suspect he was also looking for a route back into pop after his defeat at the polls last month, but needless to say he had more success with this seat than the one on the council.
Next up was former Kajagoogoo frontman Limahl, who performed a medley of hits before spotting David Van Day in the crowd (he was hard to miss in that suit), and calling him forward to receive a signed photo. David, who doesn’t need asking twice when it comes to public appearances, happily stood up and accepted it on behalf of his wife. At least that's what he claimed.
When 'The Neverending Story' came to an end after four minutes, Limahl was replaced by Paul Young, who bizarrely only did three songs. Limahl had been on so long he'd finished all of Kajagoogoo’s hits and had time to do a tribute to Duran Duran, and even Clare Grogan got four songs, but if you're one of the biggest solo stars of the 80’s, you only get three apparently. Not that I'm complaining – the man still sings like he's badly constipated, and his songs do nothing for me.
The show reached a new high with the arrival of Go West, whose set was delayed momentarily while the elderly guitarist in the backing band (who was defining the 80’s by looking like an octogenarian) put on his coat. I was never a big Go West fan, but Peter Cox can certainly belt out a tune, and they were easily the best act so far. I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Unfortunately as we waved goodbye to Go West, the weather went south and it started raining, so I went and hid in the toilets while they were setting up the stage for my personal favourite: the ivory-tinkling legend that is Howard Jones. If you're wondering what happened to Limahl's hair from the 80’s, then wonder no more - Howard Jones is wearing it now. He was also sporting a very fetching pair of sparkly trousers a la Ben Elton circa 1986. As he said himself, ‘Things Can Only Get Better’.
The penultimate act was none other than Kim Wilde who, not content with being the BBC's gardening expert, is still quite big in Germany apparently. But then so is David Hasselhoff, so it's nothing to boast about. She belted out a string of hits, before proving she has a sense of humour by introducing the song 'Kids in America' with the words "And don't forget to mulch your borders this summer!"
The final band were ABC (who according to the Jackson 5 are as easy as 1-2-3). Unfortunately they arrived just as it started chucking it down with rain. I would have been happy to leave early to avoid the floods, but we stayed til the bitter end, and I'm glad we did because ABC were a pleasant surprise. It makes such a difference when the lead singer can actually sing, and I enjoyed their set far more than expected. I must admit though, I didn’t recognise a lot of their songs. I’m either too young to remember, or so old I’ve forgotten. I’ll stick with the former.