Dr Robert, singer-songwriter with eighties new wave act The Blow Monkeys, remembers performing on stage with the legendary Curtis Mayfield.
This picture was taken at the Hammersmith Odeon in October 1987. We played two nights there as part of a sell-out UK tour.
Curtis Mayfield was a big hero of mine so it was a great honour to be on stage with him. In fact, it was the most magical gig we have ever played. I really love singing with other people and I love the thrill of collaboration, so this was a dream come true.
A few months beforehand we had been lucky enough to make a record with Curtis called Celebrate (The Day After You) and that’s how the opportunity to perform live with him came about.
Unfortunately the song was banned by the BBC because of its so-called political bias. The then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had called a general election for the week of its release and the BBC decided it was too hot to play! She was a controversial Prime Minister so the political climate was tense. But Curtis told me he was used to being censored. He’d previously had records like We’re a Winner and Choice of Colours blacklisted due to civil rights issues.
This particular concert also featured Ed Kuepper as support act. I don’t know what our fans made of him but his band, The Laughing Clowns, were a massive influence on early Blow Monkeys. He was also a founder member of The Saints – the first band I ever saw when I lived in Australia during my teens.
Brian Bethell is also featured in this photo, playing guitar in the background. He is a member of the R&B group Nine Below Zero. I met him way back in Australia when I was a teenager. He was the first ‘proper’ musician I had ever known and he inspired me to start playing the guitar. He remains a close friend to this day.
The picture was taken by Michele Siedner who is now the band’s manager and my lovely wife. I’ve known her since I was 19 and she’s my biggest music critic and fan! I can tell whether a song works or not just by playing it to her. All in all, this picture is pretty emotive for many reasons and I look back on the gig – and the era – with extremely fond memories.
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Robert Howard, aka Dr Robert, formed The Blow Monkeys in 1981 with bassist Mick Anker, saxophonist Neville Henry and drummer Tony Kiley.
Combining the glamour of Roxy Music with the energy of post-punk and the sophistication of modern jazz, the band quickly built a cult following. Their first single Live Today Love Tomorrow was released in 1982 while debut album Limping For A Generation was released two years later through RCA.
The band went on to build a successful commercial career with several hit singles including the breakthrough track Digging Your Scene. They split in 1990 and Dr Robert went solo. He contributed to Paul Weller’s solo debut album and co-wrote material with Weller, Dee C Lee and Beth Orton, among others.
The Blow Monkeys are now reunited and released their latest studio album Feels Like a New Morning in April.