80s chart toppers The Blow Monkeys kick off Selby Town Hall’s autumn season on 28th August with one of their most intimate Yorkshire gigs in recent years.
With a string of Top 40 hits like ‘Digging Your Scene’ and ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way’, The Blow Monkeys epitomised the glamour of mid-80s pop at its most graceful and sophisticated.
In the band’s frontman Robert Howard (aka Dr. Robert), they possessed a tall, charismatic singer who was both camera-friendly and clever, and who appeared to be just as much at ease on the catwalk that is pop’s conveyer belt as he was penning witty, incisive songs. Behind the band’s stylish veneer lay something else, which became increasingly apparent from Robert’s lyrics. While some of the Smash Hits generation avoided politics with a capital P, The Blow Monkeys openly criticised the policies of the Conservative government, railing against social injustices and adopting an openly left-of-centre stance on issues of the day. From openly endorsing the gay community “Digging Your Scene” to an outright attack on Margaret Thatcher ‘Celebrate (The Day After You)’ - a duet with the late, great Curtis Mayfield - The Blow Monkeys were always the thinking person’s pop group.
As the 1980s progressed, so too did the band’s musical style, from a sound once dubbed “jazz punk” by Robert to a more soulful, jazzy style and an ever increasing adoption of dance music, from the aforementioned collaboration with soul icon Curtis Mayfield to Top 10 hit ‘Wait’ – a recording with Chicago house star Kym Mazelle. The Blow Monkeys of their rare, indie debut single ‘Live Today Love Tomorrow’ (recorded on a shoestring in 1981) would be barely recognisable to those who bought the Balearic remix of ‘La Passionara’ from 1990. And yet a soulful, spiritually uplifting strain has continued to run through their music – and, indeed, that of Robert’s solo recordings – to this day.
The Blow Monkeys released five studio albums throughout the 80s, with both Animal Magic and She Was Only A Grocer’s Daughter achieving significant commercial success in the UK and also in the US, where the band charted on both the Billboard album and singles charts. They also contributed to the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing which went on to sell over 40 million copies! The band split in 1990, with Robert embarking on an acclaimed solo career, including regular work with former Jam frontman Paul Weller, but reformed in 2007 with their original line-up. They have released five more albums to date, with nods to their early ‘sophisti-pop’ sound alongside more groove ridden tracks and the early rock ‘n’ roll indebted songs of their latest offering, ‘If Not Now, When?’
“The Blow Monkeys have produced some of the classiest pop music of the past 30 years. I’m absolutely thrilled to have them opening up our autumn season” said Town Council Arts Officer Chris Jones. “Dr. Robert was the smarter pop fan’s Smash Hits pin-up, masterminding an ever evolving sound and covering subject matters that you wouldn’t ordinarily find at the top of the charts! There aren’t too many bands who, more than 30 years after they formed, still retain the original line-up, and this is a rare opportunity to see the authentic Blow Monkeys play a Yorkshire gig in a genuinely intimate venue!”
♦ More details and ticket sales from the Selby Town Hall website.