Category Archives: 1980’s

A Tribute To Gary Richrath

Photo by: Ross Marino

Gary Richrath (1949-2015) – Photo by: Ross Marino

I’d like to share with you my thoughts on the passing of guitarist, Gary Richrath….

When I took my first guitar lesson back in the spring of 1985, one of the things I told my guitar teacher was that I wanted to learn as many songs as I could from REO Speedwagon’s album, “Hi Infidelity”.

My teacher, a musical genius as well as an astute professor in the art of all things Hendrix, Zeppelin and Sabbath, took one look at my long blond hair and started scratching his head.

“Uhm, you mean you don’t want me to teach you how to play ‘Purple Haze,’ ‘Stairway To Heaven’ or ‘Paranoid’?” he asked.

“Nope.” I replied. “I want to learn how to play ‘Take It On The Run,’ ‘Keep On Loving You’ and ‘Shakin’ It Loose’.” I then presented him with my copy of the Hi-Infidelity album to prove my intentions were valid.

Little did my instructor know was that just prior to that first guitar lesson I saw REO Speedwagon perform in a college gymnasium on the south side of Bethlehem, PA. Getting to witness a guitarist at the top of his game was a spiritual awakening. It became one of the main reasons I decided to pick up the guitar and start playing.

And so for the next few weeks, in addition to learning chord basics and scales, my teacher and I dissected songs written by Kevin Cronin and Gary Richrath. Immersing ourselves in the sweet sound of a Les Paul guitar while studying every nuance of the power ballad.

Gary Richrath was an inspiration to me as a guitarist and writer. His tasty songs not only included “Take It On The Run,” and “Shakin’ It Loose” but a plethora of others the band still regularly includes in their set. “Golden Country,” “Like You Do,” “Only The Strong Survive,” “Son of A Poor Man” and of course, “Ridin’ The Storm Out”. A track the band closes their show out with each night and one that will now have extra meaning.

Although Gary left REO Speedwagon more than 25 years ago, he joined the band in 2013 for a surprise performance to help raise money for tornado victims in the Midwest.

This is how I choose to remember Gary Richrath. As an artist who used his time and talent to help others and in the process, left an invaluable mark on the music world as well as a teenage guitarist who first learned his songs thirty years ago.

Oh, and in case you don’t believe my story, I did keep all of my material from those early years of guitar lessons….

REO Lesson

Godspeed, Gary.

Stuck In The Eighties

Howard Jones

Howard Jones

Those who know me will tell you that I’m one of those people who’s stuck in the Eighties.

Admittedly, I do love my hair metal and wish that I could somehow get inside of a time machine and go back to those carefree days of youth. To be able to use the confidence and knowledge I’ve gained through years of being an adult to make up for the lost opportunities I missed because of my shyness and lack of social interaction.

Some days I’ll take a trip to the Palmer Park Mall and remember all of those Friday and Saturday nights thirty years ago. A time when the only thing that really mattered was the usual excursions to Orange Julius, the arcade, Waldenbooks and topping it off with a visit to Listening Booth to check out the new albums by by Night Ranger, The Hooters and Bon Jovi.

But I don’t think I’m “stuck” in the Eighties. It’s just that every once in a while you need to go back to those times if for no other reason than to remember who you were.

Last night I had the chance to do just that.

Singer/songwriter Howard Jones – who many of us MTV nuts will remember for his big hair, monster songs as well as a multitude of synthesizers, performed an acoustic show at a local theater in town. What I thought at first would just be a typical trip down memory lane instead turned out to be something much deeper.

When Howard came out, gone was the arsenal of keyboards, the colorful fashion and the big eighties hair. In it’s place was a simple keyboard, a microphone and small MAC laptop. For the next hour, Jones performed many of the songs that a teenaged me listened to. Songs that were the soundtrack of summer pool parties, trips up and down the “Strip” on Northampton Street and background music in the Palmer Park Mall.

But it also felt different. These stripped down, acoustic versions of “Life In One Day,” “What Is Love,” “Things Can Only Get Better” and “No One Is To Blame” took on a new meaning. Every nuance of every word resonated. It wasn’t just music. It was therapy.

For a moment, I was no longer the middle-aged man who worries about bills, health and his family’s future. Instead, I was the wide-eyed, shy boy hanging out at a record store in small town America.

And it was good.


‘Video Games: The Movie’ an entertaining look into the history of game industry

VideoNerds. Geeks. Game enthusiasts. Whatever it is you want to call them, there can be no denying the fact that today’s generation of high tech PC and console video game players are part of a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to grow by leaps and bounds every year.

Gone are the days of those annoying, little white blips and sounds on a PONG screen. Today’s video games are more like an alternate universe. A door into a world where larger than life characters take on near impossible challenges. Ones where the risk is often greater than the reward and a world where we (for the most part) are in complete control.

In celebration of this amazing entertainment medium that’s kept gamers aged six to sixty glued to their couch, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Amplify have just released the new feature length documentary, “Video Games: The Movie”.

Produced by Zach Braff (“Scrubs”) and narrated by Sean Astin (“The Lord Of The Rings” Trilogy), “Video Games: The Movie” takes a look back at the history of gaming culture through the use of in depth interviews with some of the industry’s most renowned enthusiasts – including Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari), Warren Davis (Q*Bert), Doug Tennapel (“Earthworm Jim”) and Cliff Bleszinski (“Gears of War”) to name but a few.

In addition to conversation, the documentary also features a look into the history of the games and consoles. From the early days of PONG and the arcade dominance of the 1980’s to today’s state of the art virtual environments. There’s also a cool section on the future of the gaming industry as well as a look at the infamous “E.T.” debacle that nearly destroyed it.

“Video Games: The Movie” will certainly entertain those of us who’ve lost countless amounts of quarters at the local mall as well as those who’ve grown up with Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox consoles. But the real magic with this documentary is its ability to educate audiences on the history, development and dreams of those early pioneers. The ones who saw a future beyond a blip on the screen, and were brave enough to pursue it.

Video Games : The Movie is available now on DVD

A Reprobate Remembers Mr. Jankowich

JankowichI heard the news this morning that John Jankowich, a beloved teacher at Easton Area High School, passed away in Florida earlier this week at the age of 72.

As is typical for me whenever I receive news like this, my memory banks quickly took me back to where it all began. So come along with me for the ride….


When I was a bright-eyed, fresh-faced sophomore at Easton High School in 1984, one of the urban legends going around the hallowed halls was of a teacher who lived on the upper floors of the school and taught senior students the importance of mythological creatures like Zeus, Odin and Pegasus. To make things even more interesting, rumors swirled that this teacher also came to class dressed in full mythological garb. It was from that very moment I knew that “Mythology” had to be one of my 12 grade classes.

That was my first exposure to Mr. Jankowich and for the next two years all I heard about was how cool, how mean and how fun “Janks” was in his Mythology class and how I couldn’t wait to be one of his pupils.

Fast forward two years….

FullSizeRenderAt the time of my arrival to Mr. Jank’s Mythology class in 1986 I was heavily into role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. So in addition to it being a course on literature, Mythology was also kind of like a pep talk for me about a world I one day longed to live in.

Another thing I fondly recall about Jank’s class was that it was also the first time I heard the word “reprobate”. It was a term he gleefully used to often describe his students…


…. and a term that I myself would become (unbeknownst to him) that following Spring….

One of the benefits of being a Senior at Easton High School in 1987 was being able to go off campus for 5th period lunch every day. So long as you were doing well in class you were eligible to leave the premises with your homies for a ninety-minute visit to the local McDonalds, Burger King or Richard’s Drive-In. Yes, it was the ultimate perk for being a senior. Unless of course your grades weren’t quite up to par or you didn’t follow the rules of the school.

Mr. Jankowich had the wonderful opportunity of overseeing that 5th period. A ninety-minute “class” that ran through all three lunch periods and was held daily in the school’s auditorium. This class was intended to be used as a silent place of study but ironically became the final destination for school reprobates under the name, “restricted study hall” or “restricted” for short.


Bad grades, tardiness and other devious and malicious intent would always result in the removal of senior privileges and land you a spot in Jank’s “class” where silence was strictly enforced.

Does this look like a reprobate to you?

Does this student look like a reprobate to you?

But Jimmy Wood (who had refused to dress for swimming in gym class and had thus landed in restricted) had other intentions. Jimmy found himself stuck for a week in Jank’s class while his other classmates were out enjoying spring afternoons over a Big Mac, Whopper or Greasy Dick’s cheeseburger – and Jimmy didn’t like it.

So Jimmy the reprobate came up with a plan.

One day during restricted, Jimmy asked Mr. Jankowich if he could go to the gym. Jimmy told Jank that he wanted to get excuse passes made to allow him to  go make-up his swimming requirement during 5th period. Mr. Jankowich – now proud of Jimmy’s desire to do good, agreed and sent Jimmy on his way. But what Jank didn’t know was that Jimmy would have something more sinister in mind.

Jimmy kept his word though and went down to the gym and had Ms. David (the instructor) write him up several slips excusing him from restricted in order to make up gym class.

The next day at 5th period, Jimmy showed Mr. Jankowich the signed pass. Jank happily patted Jimmy on the head and excused him from restricted. But as Jimmy made his way down the hall to gym he realized that there was now nothing to stop him from simply leaving the school and joining his friends for lunch. I mean, he really was excused from restricted, right?  So for the next five days, Jimmy showed Jank the pass, received a pat on the head and then enjoyed the freedom from restricted until his full senior privileges were reinstated.

And he lived happily ever after….


Although I’m sure he would have gotten a giggle out of my mischievous deed now, I never saw Mr. Jankowich again after graduation. But I will never forget that spring, how much fun his class was or when he came to school dressed like he was going to a toga party.

John Jankowich’s obituary stated that he taught English, British Literature and Mythology for over 30 years and also taught English as a Second Language to immigrants in night school for 18 years. The four loves of his life were God, family, friends and education and he used those blessings to help others —-

—- including this reprobate.

RIP Mr. Jank.


‘Blisland’: Katrina Leskanich Brings New Album, Hits to Retro Futura Tour

Katrina Leskanich

Katrina Leskanich

Singer/songwriter and Grammy nominee Katrina Leskanich continues to ride the wave.

Shortly after signing a world-wide deal with Capitol Records in the 1980’s, Katrina And The Waves’ signature song, “Walking on Sunshine” became a breakthrough smash and a staple of the MTV movement. The success of the band’s debut would be followed up with whirlwind tours and other hits including ‘Do You Want Crying’, ‘Sun Street’, ‘Love Shine A Light’ and ‘That’s The Way’.

As the innocent, feel-good music of the 80’s transitioned into the grunge and alternative sound of the 90’s and beyond, Katrina kept busy by recording and performing at festivals and shows in the UK and all over Europe – never quite making it back to the U.S.

That is, until now.

For U.S. fans eager for the return of Katrina’s signature voice and songs, the wait is over! Katrina will be joining fellow 80’s alumni Howard Jones, Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins), Midge Ure (Ultravox) and China Crisis for this year’s Retro Futura – a tour that will take the artists all across North America, celebrating the music that defined a generation!

Coinciding with Katrina’s first U.S tour in nearly twenty-five years is the release of her brand new studio album – “Blisland” [release date: August 19th]. An inspired collection of infectious songs and tasty guitar work that also includes a live, “Borderline Blues” version of “Walking On Sunshine”.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Katrina about the upcoming Retro Futura Tour, “Blisland” and what made the 80s so great!

How did you get involved with the Retro Futura Tour project?

I had worked with Rick Shoor [Paradise Artists] back in the day when he worked with Frontier Booking International. When they were setting up the tour he remembered me and thought it was worth the call. I was all in. I intend to have loads of fun and catch up with a lot of people.

When was the last time you toured the U.S.?

The last time was probably somewhere around 1989. We had a little bit of success with a song called “That’s The Way” and went over to do some shows, but it wasn’t like it was a proper tour. Doing this tour is going to be a lot of fun.

What can fans expect from your set?

For sure, I’m going to play “Walking On Sunshine”. I’m also going to play two songs off of my brand new album, “Blisland” as well as a few other Katrina and The Waves songs. One of the songs I’ll be doing is my own version of our song “Going Down To Liverpool”. The reason the band got signed in the beginning was because The Bangles actually did a version of that song. I feel we have The Bangles to thank for initially getting us signed to Capitol Records. Mostly, I’m just going to bring my Fender Telecaster to rock out and have a good time!

What inspired your new album, “Blisland”?

I wasn’t expecting to make a record. It’s actually been ten years since I released a new studio album, but once I got invited on this tour I decided to go for it. It felt good to express myself and get some things out that had been bottled up. The album was very much influenced by a place in the world that I always tend to be attracted to – the southwest. In the southwest of England, there’s a place called Cornwall and it was there where I discovered a little village called Blisland. I thought that was such a great name, so I decided to pull over. They had a fantastic pub called The Blisland Inn and about four hours later [and four-pints] I made up my mind that I was going to make a record and call it “Blisland”.

It’s based on the genre of music that I had grown up listening to. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Mama Cass Elliot and bands like The Raspberries and Rare Earth. I even wrote a song with ZZ Top in mind [Texas Cloud]. There’s also a fun song with country influences [Farmer’s Song] that was inspired by my parents living out on a farm and not having a clue about anything that was going on in the world.

Let’s discuss a few other tracks from the new album:


As the song says, “Blisland” can be anywhere, as long as you have a heart. I’ve lived in about twenty-five different places in the world and ended up here in London. It’s a song about how anywhere can be home and a reflection of how the southwest makes me feel.

Sun Coming Upper.

I had a few bad years in my life and it was a bit of a nightmare time. It’s talking about loss and wondering when I was going to get a “high”. It was fun to think of the idea of the sun coming up as a kind of drug – a sun coming “upper”.

Every Step.

That’s an out and out love song. It’s about falling in love with somebody, taking every step with them and then looking back and remembering that every step with them was love. It’s as simple as that.

What can you tell me about your musical upbringing?

I was one of six children who grew up in a Catholic family and every Sunday we were trotted off to church, which usually involved a lot of singing. Whenever my parents would set us down for meals in the evening, they would have us sing holy songs before we ate. So there was always a lot of music in the home and my parents encouraged us to play lots of instruments. It grew from there. My parents eventually bought me a guitar and when I was in high school, I remember sitting around in a circle with friends singing Carole King, Carly Simon and Cat Stevens songs. I loved the idea of singing early on, and still do.

“Walking On Sunshine” is such an iconic song, but when you first heard it what did you think?

Originally, we felt it was something that was a bit uncharacteristic of the band. We had always thought of ourselves as being similar to bands like The Velvet Underground or The Ramones. So when Kim [Rew, songwriter/guitarist] came in with the song, it was something that was on the lighter side of our repertoire.

In the beginning, I remember whenever we played it; people would literally flee the dance floor [laughs]. It wasn’t until we sent out a demo of four songs to a bunch of DJs that everything started to change. We were thinking about going with the song “Do You Want Crying” as our first single but all of the DJ’s said “No, we want the song that starts out with the drums and the “OW!” [laughs]. Even our bass player (Vince de la Cruz) didn’t really care for the song but would often say to Kim, “You know that song, Walking On Sunshine? Well, I can’t get it out of my head!” We took that as a good sign. So we persevered with it, Capitol records stuck it out and the rest is history!”

What do you think made the 80s so great?

The music from the 80’s was very melodic and identifiable. It was so clean and very easy to listen to. When people come to these shows and see someone like Howard Jones play, it’ll be easy for them to feel the beat. The other thing about the 80’s is that it was a time when people were really able to express themselves eloquently through fashion and dress. It was also pre 9/11 and all of the other really scary stuff we have to live with now. The 80’s were such an innocent time.

What are you most looking to about Retro Futura?

I’m so happy to be back in America and being able to play some new material as well as a few of the old songs. I’m also excited to be a part of a tour with other musicians that I really love and respect. Our itinerary has us all over the place. We even a two-day drive from Chicago to LA. Make my day! I’m happy! It’s going to be the tour of a lifetime.

Katrina Leskanich Official Website:

Retro Futura Tour Dates

Aug. 21: NYC – Best Buy Theater
Aug. 22: Philadelphia – The Keswick Theatre
Aug. 23: Brookhaven, NY – Pennysaver Amphitheater
Aug. 24: Boston, MA – Wilbur Theatre
Aug. 25: Cleveland, OH – Cleveland Performance Arts Center
Aug. 26: Toronto, ON – Koolhaus
Aug. 27: Chicago, IL – Ravinia Festival
Aug. 29: Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre
Aug. 30: Saratoga, CA – Mountain Winery *
Aug. 31: Lincoln, CA – Thunder Valley Resort & Casino **
Sept. 03: Tempe, AZ – The Marquee
Sept. 04: San Diego, CA – Humphreys Concerts By The Bay
Sept. 05: Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Beach
Sept. 06: Sandy, UT – Sandy Amphitheater
Sept. 08: Dallas, TX – Verizon Theatre @ Grand Prarie
Sept. 10: Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live @ Universal CityWalk

‘Fragile’: Midge Ure talks Retro Futura, new album, Ultravox and the 80s

Midge Ure (Photo: van der Voorden Photography)

Midge Ure (Photo: van der Voorden Photography)

After many years of being out in the wilderness when it came to playing in America, Midge Ure is back!

With a vast career of accomplished guitar work from his days with Rich Kids and Thin Lizzy to the synth sounds he utilized with Visage and Ultravox, Ure will be teaming up with fellow 80s giants Howard Jones and Tom Bailey for this year’s Retro-Futura Tour. A jam-packed show that will cross the U.S and also features China Crisis and Katrina (ex-Katrina And The Waves).

Coinciding with Ure’s visit to the States will be the release of his brand new studio album, ‘Fragile’ (coming August 19). It’s Ure’s first new studio album in more than a decade.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ure about Retro Futura, “Fragile”, his first taste of America with Thin Lizzy and how he helped change the world with one little Christmas song.

How did you get involved with the Retro Futura tour?

I had been away from America for quite a long time and about a year and a half ago decided to go back and play clubs and just enjoy the feeling of being there again. I had a fantastic time. This year, I was thinking of doing some more acoustic shows when my agent told me about the tour. He told me about Howard and how Tom would be doing Thompson Twins material for the first time in years and about the other artists. I thought it was a great idea and jumped at the chance. It’s a fantastic package.

What can fans expect from your set?

I think the answer can be found in the title of the tour. It’s looking at the old hits and playing the soundtrack of people’s lives. So I’ll be doing the hits: a few Ultravox things; maybe a few Visage things and a few solo songs as well.

What made the 80’s so great?

I think the Eighties were very similar to what it was like in the early Sixties. It was a time when The Beatles came along and a musical revolution was happening. The revolution involved fashion and teenagers having their own music and not just something that was a hand me down from their parents. There were also some really diverse songwriters and bands that came out of the Eighties. On top of that, there was a technical revolution happening where synthesizers and small four-track recorders came into the mainstream. All of these things came together to form a fantastically creative period that still resonates now.

MidgeUre-FragileHow would you describe your new album, “Fragile”?

It’s a culmination of influences from the day I was born – and not just the musical ones. It’s the people I’ve met, the books I’ve read and the things I’ve experienced. All of the stuff that makes us who we are. For instance, I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t fallen in love with Mick Ronson’s guitar playing back in the early Seventies, or if I hadn’t been a fan of Thin Lizzy. I want people to put this album on at the beginning and play it straight through til the end. Not just cherry pick tracks. Just listen to the entire thing and let it take you on a little journey.

What is your songwriting process like?

I see an album as a diary where you write about the things that affect you. The good, the bad, the things that you’re happy about. Life is a rich pallete of colors. I usually start with a seed of an idea and then sit down and add little bits of music to it. It’s almost like building a jigsaw puzzle. You put the elements together and start seeing it all come together. The more pieces you put in, the bigger it gets. It may take weeks or even a few years but eventually, you know that it’s finished because you’ve got a completed picture.

Will you be touring the new album here in the US?

Yes. My plan is to come back to America in January for a few weeks and do an acoustic show featuring a substantial amount of the “Fragile” album. Then I’ll come back again sometime in March to cover more of the country.

After Gary Moore abruptly left Thin Lizzy, you were asked to fill in for the rest of the tour. Can you tell me how you got the gig?

I was a fan of Thin Lizzy from the first album. They actually derived from another band called Skid Row, a three-piece Irish band who had a 16-year-old Gary Moore playing guitar for them. I was a big fan of them. And then I heard about this other guy, Phil Lynott who fronted his own band and I went to see them when they came to Glasgow in Scotland. Phil was such a great writer, singer and charismatic front man.

One day, I remember bumping into Phil walking around the streets of Glasgow. This was before Thin Lizzy became really big. I was driving my band’s van at the time and drove Phil to my parents’ house where my mother fed him – because she thought he was too skinny [laughs]. Phil and I became friends and met up in London after I had joined the Rich Kids in 1978. We just started hanging out together and I did a few sessions with him.

I was actually in the studio putting the finishing touches on the Visage album and had just joined Ultravox when Phil called. He told me that the band was in Arkansas and that Gary wasn’t in the band anymore. Then he asked me if I could hop on a plane and come out and finish the rest of the tour with them. It was an unbelievable experience and my first taste of America.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Band Aid project, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” What was your original goal with that song?

Our big goal was to see if we could get a #1 record at Christmas in the U.K. We originally thought we could raise £100,000 ($200,000), but no one in the industry saw that there would be this massive media machine surrounding it. Once the record company said they were going to donate their profits, the pressing company said they would donate theirs and then the dealers did the same thing. So instead of £100,000 we wound up raising £3m on that single!

At what point did you realize the real impact the song was going to have?

When we had all of those artists come in on that day to add their strength, we knew we had something special. But the moment I remember most is driving home at the end of that 24-hour period. After having recorded all of the vocals, Phil Collins’ drums and completing all of the mixing, I remember being completely exhausted. Just before I turned into my driveway, I heard Bob Geldolf on BBC Radio 1 with a cassette and they played the song. Literally, an hour after I had finished mixing the song I was listening to it on my car radio. I had never experienced anything like that before and it was spectacular. Radio 1 didn’t play anything that was unsolicited, but they played that cassette every hour on the hour. It was then that we knew something big was happening.

Are there any other memorable highlights of your career you can share?

The great stuff that happens to most musicians is the stuff you don’t see or don’t recognize. For me, one of them was sitting one on one with Eric Clapton playing old blues tunes. There was no one there to witness it and no photographs or recording of it exists, but I know that it happened. Then there’s doing a duet with Kate Bush. How cool is that? Going into Kate’s studio to hear what she had sung on my song. Figuring she may have spent ten minutes knocking off a vocal when it turns out she must have spent days multi-tracking all of these choir-like vocals on my song. It was so incredible. Stuff like that is just as powerful as the big stuff the world sees. It’s the little things in the big picture that are the big picture for me.

What are you most looking forward to about The Retro Futura Tour?

I love the idea of coming back to America and getting to places that I might not get to play on my own. There are a lot of people out there who still remember and appreciate this music. I also remember going out with Howard back in 1989 when I was touring the “Answers to Nothing” album. So, we’re kind-of completing the whole circle by going out with Howard again. I’m really looking forward to it.

Retro Futura Tour

Aug. 21: NYC – Best Buy Theater
Aug. 22: Philadelphia – The Keswick Theatre
Aug. 23: Brookhaven, NY – Pennysaver Amphitheater
Aug. 24: Boston, MA – Wilbur Theatre
Aug. 25: Cleveland, OH – Cleveland Performance Arts Center
Aug. 26: Toronto, ON – Koolhaus
Aug. 27: Chicago, IL – Ravinia Festival
Aug. 29: Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre
Aug. 30: Saratoga, CA – Mountain Winery
Aug. 31: Lincoln, CA – Thunder Valley Resort & Casino
Sept. 3: Tempe, AZ – The Marquee
Sept. 4: San Diego, CA – Humphreys Concerts By The Bay
Sept. 5: Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Beach
Sept. 6: Sandy, UT – Sandy Amphitheater
Sept. 8: Dallas, TX – Verizon Theatre
Sept. 10: Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live

Tom Bailey Talks Retro Futura, Thompson Twins and The 80’s

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Fans of 80’s new wave music may find it hard to believe that it’s been twenty-seven years since the Thompson Twins performed their final show in August of 1987.

In the years since, lead singer, keyboardist, guitarist and songwriter Tom Bailey has kept himself busy with several other successful musical projects, with no real inclination of ever revisiting his former band’s catalog again.

But all of that is about to change.

This August, Bailey (along with synth pioneer Howard Jones) will co-headline the Retro Futura Tour. A jam-packed show that will also feature sets from Ultravox’s Midge Ure, China Crisis and Katrina (ex-Katrina And The Waves). In addition to it being an amazing evening of live music, fans will also witness an historic event, as this tour marks the first time Bailey will be performing Thompson Twins hits live in nearly three decades.

The Thompson Twins (whose classic line-up consisted of Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway) had huge hits on both sides of the Atlantic in the mid-eighties; with songs like “Hold Me Now”, “Doctor Doctor” and “Lay Your Hands on Me” providing the soundtrack to many people’s lives. In 1985, the band even performed at Live Aid at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia to a crowd of over 90,000 and an estimated global TV audience of 1.9 billion across 150 nations.

For the Retro Futura Tour, Bailey will be joined on stage by a backing band consisting of Amanda Kramer, Angie Pollock and Emily Dolan Davies. I had the pleasure of speaking with him about the Retro Futura Tour, his current projects as well as some of his best Thompson Twins memories.

How did you become involved in this year’s Retro Futura Tour?

My musical pursuits have taken me elsewhere for a long time and it’s actually been twenty-seven years since I’ve sung a Thompson Twins song. I guess I was getting used to the fact that it was just never going to happen. But then a few things changed that. Towards the end of last year, I was doing some work with a Mexican artist named Aleks Syntek. I remember we were writing a song together and Aleks encouraged me to sing on it. After not singing a pop song in all of this time, I decided to step over the boundary and take a risk with it. To my pleasure and surprise, I really enjoyed it.

It was also around the same time that Howard Jones [who had already been out on this tour last year] said that he’d like to do it again this year with me, but I still wasn’t totally convinced. To look at it honestly, I really needed to re-engage with the music. So I decided to re-record some of the songs to give me the opportunity to sing on them again. It felt so good that I knew the answer was going to be yes!

What can fans expect from your show?

Everything that I’ll be singing will be from that era of big, successful Thompson Twins. Originally, I had thought about going out and doing different interpretations of these well-known songs. Although it would be interesting, it would also be undermining because what the fans really want is an enormous whiff of nostalgia. At the same time though, that gives me the permission to do a few of the songs in a new way.


Your band is made up of female musicians. Can you speak a little bit about that?

I take that as a positive sign of the times. Back in the eighties, we always tried to seek out a balance for the band in terms of male and female and it was very difficult. This time, it was very easy to find that the greatest players were women. It’s a completely different dynamic. The other thing about it is that we all come from several different generations of musicians. I’m 60 now and our drummer, Emily Dolan Davies wasn’t even born when these songs were written [laughs].

In your opinion, what made the 80’s so great?

It was a change in the sound of the music – and that was partly because of technology. It was a time when we were beginning to use keyboards and synthesizers to make entire records rather than just use them as a flavor. Then of course, there was the effect of MTV. An entire channel dedicated to music videos. There was nothing like it before and it changed everything.

The Thompson Twins performed at Live Aid in 1985. What was that experience like for you personally?

It was the most enormous thing. Especially when you’re told that you’re walking out on stage in front of 90,000 people but then realize that number is really small compared to the number of people who were actually watching it live around the world on TV. Joining together music with what it means to be alive in pursuit of a good cause really felt like the crowning glory for our generation of musicians. It was the most magnificent day.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Thompson Twins’ “Into The Gap”. What are some of your best memories about making that album?

It was a very endurable process. By that point, we had become more confident and mature in our songwriting and arranging. We weren’t quite so “pure synth” with that album. We were using other instruments like guitar and piano and the vocal arrangements started becoming more complex. It was great fun. The other thing was that we had already finished the first single before we had even completed the rest of the album. So we had the excitement of watching the song “Hold Me Now” go up the charts while we were finishing up the rest of the record.

Can you tell me the origin of the song “Hold Me Now”?

I can’t remember exactly, although I know it was probably very real in the sense that perhaps Alannah and I had some kind of argument and reconciled. Then we decided to write a song about the process of getting back together again. Although it’s not something that actually occurred, it’s a song about how good and sentimental it feels to realize that the argument has passed and how great it is to be back in love.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I’ve been very busy with several projects. I’ve got a dub electronic band called International Observer, a north Indian classical group called The Holiwater Band and a teaching science through art astronomy project called The Bailey-Salgado Project, which I do with an astronomer in Chicago. We make films and music about the night sky and the universe. It’s a fun, educational thing we treat as art.

Are there any other moments in your career that stands out as most memorable?

There are lots of big gigs but I think more about the times where you feel the giddy sensation of “taking off”. The moment when you go from hoping that you’re doing something well to not believing how well it’s going to do. Those are the moments that you never forget, because they only happen once. It’s a crazy roller coaster ride that’s almost feels otherworldly. I treasure those moments.

Do you ever foresee a Thompson Twins reunion?

I can’t see that it’s likely. Joe and Alannah are both happy that I’m doing this tour, but are not interested in pursuing it themselves. When Thompson Twins split up, they both moved on into other areas of activity almost immediately; whereas I haven’t done anything else but music since. For them, it would be an enormous responsibility to become a musician again.

What excites you the most about the Retro Futura Tour?

It’s not about just going through the motion of what you were doing thirty years ago. I wouldn’t be interested in doing that. For me, it’s a completely vital experience. It’s profoundly emotional to sing these songs again and it brings back all sorts of memories. I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces from people who were there the first time around as well as some people who weren’t. I’m so lucky to be able to do this.

Retro Futura Tour 2014:


21 New York, NY Best Buy Theater
22 Philadelphia, PA Keswick Theater
23 Brookhaven, NY Pennysaver Amphitheater
24 Boston, MA Wilbur Theatre
25 Cleveland, OH Performance Arts Center/The Cleveland Masonic Auditorium
26 Toronto, ON Koolhaus
27 Chicago, IL Ravinia
29 Los Angeles, CA The Greek Theater
30 Saratoga, CA Mountain Winery
31 Sacramento, CA Thunder Valley Casino


3 Tempe, AZ Marquee Theatre
4 San Diego, CA Humphrey’s
5 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay
6 Sandy, UT Sandy Amphitheater

‘Retro Futura’: Synth Pioneer Howard Jones Talks New Tour, The 80’s

Howard Jones (Photo:

Howard Jones 1985 (Photo:

Fans of 80’s new wave music, rejoice! This summer’s star-studded Retro Futura Tour promises to be one epic proportion! Kicking off this August, the co-headlining tour will feature synth pioneer Howard Jones and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey as well as sets from Ultravox’s Midge Ure, China Crisis and Katrina (ex-Katrina And The Waves). In addition to it being an extraordinary evening of live music, Retro Futura 2014 will also mark the first time Bailey will perform Thompson Twins hits live in nearly three decades!

Howard Jones first burst upon the scene in 1983 with his inspired songwriting and engaging synthesizers. His first album, “Human’s Lib” reached #1 in the UK and featured the hits “New Song” and “What Is Love?” Jones would follow-up his debut with 1985’s “Dream Into Action”, an album which quickly became a platinum best-seller in the United States with smash hits like “Things Can Only Get Better” “Life In One Day” and “No One Is To Blame”. To date, Jones has sold more than eight million albums worldwide and continues to make new music and tour the world.

I had the chance to speak with Jones about the upcoming Retro Futura tour, his music as well as some of his best 80s memories.

How did the idea for this year’s tour with Tom Bailey begin?

Last year, we tried out the idea of doing the tour and did ten dates, mainly on the west coast. Everyone had such a great time that we started thinking about who we would like to do it with this year. That was when the idea of Thompson Twins came up. I’ve known Tom for a long time, so I called him up and told him that it would be a great time. I guess it was my job to go and “persuade” him to come out – and he agreed.

Howard Jones 2014 (Photo: Duncan McGlynn)

Howard Jones 2014 (Photo: Duncan McGlynn)

Having played these songs for so many years, what do you do to keep things fresh?

I’ve always been able to do these songs in different ways and have also been evolving my set up. Our set does change and I also try to throw in some new things as well.

You’ve often mentioned that music from the 80’s faces a continuous struggle. Can you elaborate more on that?

Eighties music has had a bad rap for so long and as a result, it’s formed its own sub-culture. We now have huge festivals here in the UK every summer. I’m not sure if it’s the same in America, but we’re trying to change that!

What makes the music from that era so timeless and special?

I think that Eighties music really combined the arts and fashion more. Back then, everyone was thinking in a more visual way – especially with videos. It brought about a change in culture that wasn’t really so “rock n roll” as much as music in the 60’s and 70’s had been. That’s why it’s unique and why people who grew up during that era are very loyal to it.

Let’s discuss a few of your 80’s moments. In 1985, you performed at Live Aid. What was that experience like?

It was an amazing experience and a lot of money really did save people’s lives. I was obviously very nervous, because there were 100,000 people in Wembley and a billion people watching it on TV. I also performed solo at the piano, which was something people weren’t really used to hearing me do.

I came out and sat there and played the song “Hide and Seek” which is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. I remember when I got to the chorus, everyone joined in and supported me and started singing at the top of their voices. It was a profound experience and something that I’ll never forget. It was probably the most important event in my life during the eighties.

Can you tell me where you came up with the inspiration for the song “No One Is To Blame”?

I was doing some radio promotion with a record company guy in San Francisco. I remember he said to me “So, Howard? What do you think of all of the amazing women we have here in San Francisco?” I said “Yeah, they’re fantastic! But I’m really happily married to my wife Jan. We’ve been together ever since we were young, so I’m good in that area.” That’s when he said “Well, you can look at the menu but you don’t have to EAT!”…. That was it! That was the spark! I guess I should really thank him for it! [laughs].

Can you tell me a little about your musical upbringing?

Music has been in my blood ever since I was two years old. I started playing piano at the age of seven; was in bands at fourteen and got signed when I was twenty-eight. It’s really been music all the way. But even if I didn’t have music, I’d still be happy with who I am. If you were to take it all away I’d still feel good about life.

What other projects are you working on?

I’ve got a new project that I performed last November called ‘Engage’. It’s written as a live piece that integrates contemporary dance, ballet and cinematic soundscapes. It’s everything that I love, along with some philosophical themes. It’s a big project I’m in the final mixes of that will be out next year.

We spoke about your performance at Live Aid but are there any other moments from that era that stand out to you?

There were actually two. I remember one of them was doing the Grammy awards. I’ve never won a Grammy, but I was in something that was just as good. I was in a band with Stevie Wonder, Thomas Dolby and Herbie Hancock that performed together at the show. It was such a great moment. The other thing was getting to play Madison Square Garden, which was something that I had always dreamed of doing as a teenager. I got to do my own show there and it was absolutely amazing.

You took a lot of heat back in the 80’s for being a keyboard and synth pioneer. What are your thoughts on that now?

It’s amazing how much things have changed. Today, people have that stuff in their bedrooms and can even make records at home. I see it more as a badge of honor now, especially with the way music has evolved and developed and with the way people use technology and really see it for what it is. Back then, I didn’t want to be like the status quo. I wanted to do something that was different and unique. That’s why I was always drawn to technology, because it gives you the chance to do something new.

For more on Howard Jones:

Retro Futura Tour 2014:


21 New York, NY Best Buy Theater
22 Philadelphia, PA Keswick Theater
23 Brookhaven, NY Pennysaver Amphitheater
24 Boston, MA Wilbur Theatre
25 Cleveland, OH Performance Arts Center/The Cleveland Masonic Auditorium
26 Toronto, ON Koolhaus
27 Chicago, IL Ravinia
29 Los Angeles, CA The Greek Theater
30 Saratoga, CA Mountain Winery
31 Sacramento, CA Thunder Valley Casino


3 Tempe, AZ Marquee Theatre
4 San Diego, CA Humphrey’s
5 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay
6 Sandy, UT Sandy Amphitheater

REO Speedwagon Rocks Penn’s Peak In SOLD OUT Performance

REOSpeedwagonIt didn’t take long for REO Speedwagon front man Kevin Cronin to make the announcement. After completing the band’s third song of the evening – the monster hit “Take It On The Run” from their ten-million selling “Hi Infidelity” album – Cronin took to the mic to announce that the band had recently been self-anointed the Kings Of Classic Rock.

Although obviously made in jest it’s hard to argue the fact, based upon the evidence that was presented at last night’s SOLD OUT show at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA.

REO Speedwagon has always been notorious for bringing one of the most magical, high-energy shows around, but the band’s performance last night seemed more like a musical revival than a typical rock concert – and REO preached the gospel as fans were treated to music spanning the length of the band’s 40+ year career.

Kevin Cronin surveys the kingdom. (Photo by REO Speedwagon).

Kevin Cronin surveys the kingdom (Photo by REO Speedwagon).

Front man Kevin Cronin’s vocals never seemed to waver – singing the same songs he’s been performing since the mid 1970’s with both gusto and perfection. For a man who has written an arsenal of classic rock favorites over the years, he’s still at the top of his game.

Kevin Cronin, Bruce Hall and Dave Amato deliver the goods!

Kevin Cronin, Bruce Hall and Dave Amato deliver the goods!

Guitarist Dave Amato, who just celebrated 25 years with REO is a force to be reckoned with. Not only does he make fellow guitarists (like me) drop their jaws at his playing and collection of Les Pauls and Fender Stratocasters, but he’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

A dapper Neal Doughty performing 'Roll With The Changes'

A dapper Neal Doughty performing ‘Roll With The Changes’

Keyboardist Neal Doughty remains the sole member of the band’s original line-up since its formation in 1967, and one of the most magical moments of the evening came when Cronin introduced him before Doughty began playing the opening intro to their smash-hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling”.

Drummer Bryan Hitt doesn’t miss a beat – literally. Whether he’s playing the intro to “Don’t Let Him Go” or wailing away on the gong while surveying the landscape, there’s no one who can deliver the back beat for REO better than Hitt.

REO is also well-known for unleashing its classic rock heavy artillery towards the end of the set and last night was no exception. Following an audience participation request by Cronin, bassist Bruce Hall took to the mic for the anthemic “Back On The Road Again”.

Bryan Hitt shows 'em how it's done.

Bryan Hitt shows ’em how it’s done (Photo: Lisa Cuvo)

Following another staple of 70’s radio – “Roll With The Changes”, the band came back for an encore of their first #1 hit (“Keep On Loving You”) followed by Cronin’s infamous “Last song people” announcement before launching into a rousing finale of “Ridin’ The Storm Out” – complete with sirens!

I’ve seen REO Speedwagon more than a dozen times since the mid-80’s. From small-town college gymnasiums and theaters to large outdoor theme parks and music festivals. Each time, they just seem to get better and better. But last night’s show at Penns Peak was more than just another sold out, high energy performance by classic rock royalty. It was a kinship of music lovers celebrating the career of a band they love – and one whose songs have helped them through both good times and bad.

As one of the 1,800 loyal subjects who surveyed the REO Speedwagon kingdom last night, I am pleased to report that our future is in good hands.

Long live the kings.

REO Speedwagon Set List (Jim Thorpe, PA)

Don’t Let Him Go
Music Man
Take It On The Run
Keep Pushin’
Golden Country
Can’t Fight This Feeling
That Ain’t Love
Tough Guys
Like You Do
Keep The Fire Burnin’ (Acoustic)
Time For Me To Fly
Back On The Road Again
Roll With Changes


Keep on Loving You
Ridin’ The Storm Out

A Father’s Day Thank You

Sorry Bones. I got the last laugh!

Sorry Bones. I got the last laugh!

It was a warm June day in 1984 when I again asked him the question..

“Dad? Can I PLEASE go with Bones to the concert?”

Bones was my brother –  two-years my senior and someone who was already becoming well versed in the concert ‘experience’. I mean, here was a dude who had already seen The J Geils Band and The Doobie Brothers perform at the Allentown Fairgrounds and The Kinks at Stabler Arena. To say that I was a little jealous for having been relegated to just listening to vinyl records is a bit of an understatement and to be honest, I half expected Dad to tell me “No” — just like he did the last time.

The previous summer, I asked begged my father to let me go with Bones to see The Kinks. After contemplating it for several minutes (along with listening to my brother’s very vocal protest against me going) Dad made it very clear — “No.” Now was not the time to let his 14-year-old son attend his first concert.

But this was now 1984. NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FREAKING-FOUR MAN!!!! I was going to start high school in the fall — and quickly becoming a man of my own. Heck, I had even started showing interest in playing guitar, and what better way to learn than by seeing how its done first hand, right Dad???

“So Dad? Can I go to the concert with Bones?”

Much to my brother’s chagrin, he had to accept the fact that on June 16, 1984 he was going to have to chauffeur me to the Allentown Fairgrounds to see The Scorpions and some up and coming band calling themselves Bon Jovi.

As luck would have it I was familiar with Bon Jovi; having already bought their debut album with my saved up lawn mowing money. At the time, they were mostly known for their song “Runaway” which was getting quite a bit of airplay on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.  But that wasn’t the song that really appealed to me. As a soon to be 15 year-old boy there was only one song on that record that I could immediately relate to. It was the third song on the album: “She Don’t Know Me”.

I can’t even begin to tell you the countless times those lyrics came into my head during my adolescence. Especially in certain situations where the female persuasion was involved — I’d always find myself thinking: “If only she would look my way…. but She Don’t Know Me.”

It’s kind of ironic (well, actually no surprise) that the first two songs I learned on guitar were “Rock You Like A Hurricane” by Scorpions and “She Don’t Know Me” by Bon Jovi. The other thing that’s kind of cool is that Richie Sambora is playing the same guitar I had in this video…. :)

Over the subsequent thirty years I’ve seen a plethora of concerts. Some of the best include: REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Night Ranger, RATT and Mötley Crüe — all of which had huge albums and were at the TOP of their game. I saw Bon Jovi several more times along with shows by Bryan Adams, Whitesnake, Firehouse and Vixen. Then there’s the classic rock giants Boston, Foreigner, Styx and Journey. I saw AC/DC perform at Stabler Arena (a rinky dink college gymnasium) and Def Leppard twice on the Hysteria Tour. So many GREAT shows.

Although I could ramble on dozens of more examples I like to think that first show was the one that laid the foundation for my life as a music lover and metal head.

So, on this Father’s Day I would like to say a special thank you to my late father for the “Yes” answer he gave me thirty years ago.

A day I will never forget.


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