§  FAST CARS – Salford Knights 30th Anniversary Scooter Weekender
Tyldesley Rugby Club, Manchester – Friday 27th July 2012

Now I wouldn’t be adverse to a good scootering event at any time, and if you wanted to add a top class DJ set full of classic old and new Ska, Punk, New Wave and Northern Soul then I’d be definitely up for it. Throw in a performance from the amazing 70s power poppers known only as Fast Cars then it’s a date. What could make it surer than that? Well, how about putting it on at a venue that’s less than half a mile from my house!? No-brainer!

The room in which the band will be playing is more often used as a party function room, I’ve been there under those circumstances more than once. It’s an odd feeling, then, as me, Lisa, old mucker David and his other half Louise collect our drinks from the bar and find a seat surrounded by the glorious mix of street styles that is never better created than by a Scooter Rally. Mods, Skins, Punks, and all manner of things in-between, not to mention an inspiring variety of ages. Looking outside, I can see the occasional scooter zipping past, whilst inside, flags are pinned to the walls, proudly proclaiming the presence of the Salford Knights S.C. as well as favoured musical icons such as Madness, The Jam, Secret Affair and Bad Manners.
The DJ is already playing sounds guaranteed to get everybody in the mood and one combat garbed mother is on the dance floor, the wrong side of tipsy but enjoying herself wholeheartedly, strutting and staggering to classic sounds, much to the consternation of her son and daughter. They fail miserably in their attempts to get her to sit down. No surprise when we’ve got the likes of ’54-46 That’s My Number’ and ‘Time For Action’ on offer!

And so the scene, and the mood, is set. It’s a happy, friendly atmosphere, a real eye opener for anybody who was ever gullible enough to believe that the music movements of our youth were all about aggression. A great place to sink a few beers and let the atmosphere get you a little drunk too. Chatter, laughter, singing along – and the lone drunken dancer. Nice.

Perhaps too nice, as it happens, when Fast Cars take to the stage, the Murray Bros and co having matured more than aged and looking good – vocalist Steven in jacket and scarf that would give Weller a run for his money in the slick stakes and bassie Stuart in a snazzy pair of Union Jack shoes. They look good, although any Pete Townsend style jumps or victorious air punching might well result in damage to building or injury to person, squashed as they are against a sloping wall/ceiling. Guitarist Craig is symmetrically opposed to Stuart but poor old Tony looks a bit snug with his drum kit!
The crowd are keen and interested, but the nature of the event means that people remain seated, amongst family and friends. Some watching, some talking scooter parts and patches – but all listening. It’s odd – as the band kicks in with ‘Here We Are Today’, a great original that was recorded for their second album, ‘Well You Started It’ – still available, get it bought! – and the rousing chorus and guitar licks remind me of why I’ve always liked this unpretentiously perfect band – very odd, but the dance floor remains quiet. At most other gigs, this would kill the atmosphere. Not here. The audience are loving it. You can feel it in the atmosphere. It’s just that they’re sitting, not stomping. Afterwards, Stuart comments that it was tough getting going because of that, although the punchy, well chosen tunes worked for me and the band never gave anything less than their very impressive best. Steve Murray says that he could feel the approval and I guess that was enough to create a great vibe.

It’s the nature of the beast, of course, that at an event like this you need to play some general crowd pleasers, especially when not all of the crowd know your original material. Doesn’t matter whether you supported The Jam at the Manchester Apollo in 1980 or not! I witnessed Yorkshire Mod band The Gents in the same predicament in the late 1980s, again near my local stamping ground, when they accepted a 60s themed slot at a local club. Like The Gents before them, our boys here make sure that they slip in a few of their own, alongside a cover version of ‘This Ole Heart of Mine’ that they’ve always had in their set. And the great thing is, they all go down well. Steve introduces and explains Fast Cars classics ‘Images of You’ and the wonderful ‘The Day We Bombed Our School’, so the crowd know the background, and it pays off. Doesn’t do any harm if we’re talking mid- to up-tempo examples of Modish punk-pop at its best either! Steve’s voice is impressively akin to that which first wowed the kids in The Butchers Arms in the late 1970s, a highish voice, tuneful and emotive, it works well. Lisa says it occasionally reminds her of a non-Irish Fergeal Sharkey, and I can exactly understand that comment, never more so than on a precise cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’. They also nail ‘Turning Japanese’, ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ and ‘Knock On Wood’ in a way that eventually coaxes more people onto the dance floor, and all is well. Wonderful too, to hear the band channel the spirit of The Who with storming versions of ‘Substitute’, ‘Heatwave’ and ‘The Kids Are Alright’. These were tunes that the band started off with as Pendlebury teenagers. Tonight meant a stroll down Memory Lane, Nostalgia-ville for the lads, dusting off classic numbers from the original Fast Cars set list of the 70s, to an appreciative reception.
Last word, as always from me when talking about this band, goes to the epitome of Fast Cars music, THE single, one of the best of all time. The signature tune, if you will. ‘The Kids Just Wanna Dance’. Absolute quality, foot-stomping, inspirational and catchy as hell. The live version doesn’t quite manage to retain a couple of classy cymbal taps that the recorded version has but this is pure, unrestrained new wave excellence. Rousing and rapturous, as good a track as any recorded by any of their peers back in the day and still a pumping and pulsating pleasure. A brilliant track to hear live. It’s ironic that a song about dancing goes down so well in a room in which most are happy just to sit and watch.
Make no mistake, though, Fast Cars came here to help the Salford Knights celebrate 30 years in style, and they succeeded 100% in that mission. Happy faces and comments throughout. We loved it, and the band, as always, looked like they were loving it too. If you get the chance, catch this Manchester sensation. They were the next big thing in 1980, and they’re still waiting. Tonight, they proved what a massive injustice that really is. You keep me wanting to dance, boys!


 Ian Taylor