Back in the 80s, I used to be in a band with a guy called Martyn Hope—indeed, we went to school together. Back in the 90s, having read that, surreally, Elvis revivalist Shakin’ Stevens was a closet Red1, I went searching online to find out if he was a member of a late 70s cohort of Communist pop stars hailing from Wales. (Green “Scritti Politti” Gartside certainly was one.)
During my search, I was gobsmacked to discover that Martyn was now making a living as Shaky’s lead guitarist. It wasn’t that Martyn in any way lacked the talent for the job; it was just that this was even more surreal a scenario from my point-of-view than Shaky being a revolutionary. I still have a distinct memory as a kid of waking up on a schoolday to Shakin’ Stevens’s Green Door on Mike Read’s BBC Radio 1 breakfast show. Stevens is one of those people—like Celine Dion or Cliff Richard or almost anyone millions of Brits linedance to—who, despite being (because he is?) ignored/despised by hipsters and the mainstream media, sells shedloads of records. Apparently he played Glastonbury last year, though I’m not sure whether that means Shaky is cool now or Glasto is not; as regulars know, I don’t do “cool”, least of all the Glastonbury version of it.
A few weeks ago, Martyn and I got in touch via mutual friends on Facebook. He is a professional musician now and gigs with several bands as well as running an agency for them. Via his profile page, here’s a video to his playing on a track from the quiffmeister’s most recent Polish album [released December 2008]. Martyn is on the right, playing the nice Gibson, and takes a brief solo at about 2’11”. His picking throughout the song is rather more precise than the editing of the video. Martyn himself pointed out that, at the beginning, the drummer’s cymbal moves before he hits it.
- I’d like to make clear that I still haven’t found trustworthy independent confirmation of this rumour, and it might well be as true as the synthetic urban myth that Bob Holness plays sax on Baker Street—or indeed that His Holness was the man who put off Elvis himself during the notorious laughing version of Are You Lonesome Tonight?. [↩]
I remember hearing Shaky being interviewed on 5 Live before his Glasto appearance. I think it might have been “cool hipster” Eamonn Holmes, who clearly couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to listen to Shaky, and patronised him dreadfully. The questions were barely removed from, “HOW OFTEN DO THEY LET YOU OUT?”
Needless to say, Shaky was very emphatically not in the nostalgia business, and would not discuss Green Door.
According to Darren Inveresk Ingrate (a supreme source for this sort of thing and utterly reliable) …”before he was on Top of the Pops every other week in the eighties, his old band Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets were known to play benefits for the old British Communist Party. ”
No evidence that he was ever a member of that outfit or any other of that sort tho but.
Naturally, when Martyn and I got back in touch, and he told me what he was doing these days, I said that I already sort-of knew and then told him how I’d come by the information. Martyn said he knew as little as I did about Shaky’s politics—but, being in the pay of the KGB himself now, he would say that, wouldn’t he?
I have researched and published the truth about Shaky’s gauche activities here, Poot:
Stranger than fiction, my friend.