After three top 10 albums and more than 15 years on the road, Britpop legends The Bluetones split in 2011…only to reform for a tour four years ago. Now they’re doing it again – despite having yet to record any new material.

“The band is our train set and we can pick it up and play with it any time we want,” explains frontman Mark Morriss, who life these days revolves a little more around being a dad as much as it does adhering to a busy schedule of gigging commitments. But he’s loving it as much as the band’s ‘90s heyday.

BACK ON THE ROAD – The Bluetones have a date at the Boileroom

“I’ve just had a lovely birthday – I was actually up doing a solo show in Derby and was touched that people remembered it, and I received three cakes,” he says. That latest solo venture is Look Up, the singer’s fourth set of melody-infused recordings.

“I’m really pleased with the new album – it’s eventually arrived after a wait, but it was fun to make that one and it has been well received so far.

“We were in Margate for the video of Holiday of A Lifetime and I knew the guys who did that for me pretty well – we shot it in about seven hours and it was a case of guerilla film making, which is a style that I quite like with my music,” says Mark of the album, which gained a crowdfunding release, before emerging this autumn on multiple formats through independent label Reckless Yes.

For Mark, now 47, seeing it gain a full release was the most important thing, rather than any concerns over it making mainstream charts and he’s pleased to be returning to life on the road with The Bluetones, at least for a while.

“I think I’m at a point where I have a good balance between my family life and work,” he sys. “It’s always a pleasure to pick up with The Bluetones, as well as playing in another band.”

He is also part of actor and comedian Matt Berry’s group, The Maypoles, as well as teaming up with David Walliams to record music for audiobook versions of the comic’s award-winning children’s stories.

Life is very different from the days when The Bluetones emerged from Hounslow to grace the charts with songs like Slight Return, Bluetonic, Are You Blue Or Are You Blind?, Cut Some ug and Marblehead Johnson.

“We’re living in a Simon Cowell world at the moment and it’s going to take a little time for that to change,” sighs Mark. “But there’s definitely some really good music being made out there, but it’s largely under the radar, which I think is actually quite cool.”

As for the band’s upcoming tour, he says he’s not overly nostalgic, while admitting it’s the reason The Bluetones can still draw a crowd.

“It does feel like literally half a lifetime ago that we started out, but those early songs do still mean a lot to us,” he says. “I think they’ve lasted well and people still want us to play them, so we’ll be playing the whole of our Science and Nature album, as well as a greatest hits as well.

“So it’s going to be good to be playing some songs we haven’t done in a long while.”

The Bluetones will play at the Boileroom, Guildford, on Thursday 21 November.  

A PAIR of 2-Tone legends are heading to Surrey on Thursday (14 Nov).

The Selecter will be joined on their 40th Anniversary Tour by Rhoda Dakar, lead singer with The Bodysnatchers, at G Live in Guildford.

The Selecter, still led by the queen of ska Pauline Black, will play a set packed with old hits like On My Radio, Three Minute Hero and Too Much Pressure, as well as tracks from their most recent album, Daylight.

QUEEN OF SKA – Pauline Black with Arthur Hendrickson

Black will be accompanied by fellow original member Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson and their politically-engaged songs remain as relevant today as when they originally hit the charts alongside labelmates like The Specials and Madness in the late 1970s.

While Dakar’s career began as lead vocalist with all-woman 2-Tone band The Bodysnatchers, whose first single was double A-side Let’s Do Rocksteady with Ruder Than You, she later sang and collaborated with The Specials. On this tour she will be warming up the crowd with a DJ set.

ANY music fan from the 1980s will remember Mari Wilson’s beehive hairdo, as well as her vocal skill.

When the single Just What I Always Wanted propelled her into the Top 10, her reputation as the Neasden Queen of Soul seemed assured and Mari and her backing band The Wilsations were a fixture on TV and radio.

Pop and Soul singer Mari Wilson says her style has morphed to a more Jazz based sound as she goes on tour with new band the New Wilsations

Since those days, she has gradually morphed towards a jazzier sound and is still writing and recording at the age of 64.

Her latest album, Pop Deluxe, was recorded with Alistair Gavin. “I’ve been touring that for three-and-a-half years now,” she says. “I was singing some Dusty Springfield songs and, as they’re mainly ballads, I found myself wanting to perform my own interpretation of them.

“It was from this that led me to doing shows featuring some of my other, favourite, female artists like Dusty, and Sandie Shaw, and Cilla Black.” says Mari.

Along with other songs from her extensive back catalogue Mari is now back on tour with her current band, the New Wilsations, promising an energetic live show.

“It’s a great show,” she says. “I’ll be telling some really good stories and, if you’ve not been and seen me before, I’m often told that people are surprised by my vocals – so just come along and have yourselves a good old sing-a-long.”

Mari Wilson plays at the Electric Theatre in Guildford, tomorrow night (Friday 1 November).

For the full story get the 31 October edition of the News & Mail

Singer songwriter Lloyd Cole has a new album, Guesswork, and he proudly declares that it’s shorter than any of his previous 11 solo albums.

He also says it ‘mirrors the uncertainty of the world as you enter your third act’. Either way,  those who remember Lloyd for the literary pop of his early days like 1984’s Rattlesnakes, made with the Commotions will want to hear it.

Singer songwriter Lloyd Cole

That debut album earned him an unlikely place alongside Wham! and Duran Duran in the following year’s Smash Hits/Panini sticker book. But he’s had the last laugh by outlasting them all.

Hear Lloyd Cole play songs from across his career in From Rattlesnakes to Guesswork at G Live, Guildford, on Saturday (19 Oct).

There’s a controversial new president in the White House, and racial tensions are on the rise…

That’s the background for Two Trains Running, but the play is not set now. Instead, it is Pittsburgh, 1969, and the regulars of Memphis Lee’s restaurant are struggling to cope with the turbulence of a rapidly changing world. The diner is in threat of being torn down, a casualty of the city’s renovation project that is sweeping away the buildings of a community, but not its spirit.

EARNEST DISCUSSIONS -Memphis Lee’s restaurant during a defining moment of US history

American playwright August Wilson paints a vivid portrait of everyday lives in this defining moment of American history and Two Trains Running won a string of awards after opening on Broadway in 1992. Now the play has been revived by director Sir Peter Hall and the tour will play at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, from Tuesday (15 Oct) until Saturday 19 October.

If you’ follow football, the chances are you’re a fan of The Football Ramble Podcast.

Founded in 2007 around a kitchen table by friends Marcus Speller and Luke Moore, the fortnightly show switched to weekly in 2009, by which time the original duo had been joined by comedian Jim Campbell and Absolute Radio DJ Pete Donaldson.

The show soon reached number 1 in the iTunes sports podcast chart and is now released twice weekly with over 65 million downloads!

“I remember we had a bottle of champagne because we had 3,000 listeners, which seems insane now,” recalls Jim.

Luke adds: “For me, I realised people were listening when we booked out a pub on the Saturday or a Sunday. We basically said we would put the football on all day in the pub and whoever wants to come can. It was absolutely rammed!”

So what’s the attraction of four blokes talking about football?

C’MON – The Football Ramble team is (from left) Luke Moore, Pete Donaldson, James Campbell and Marcus Speller

“Saying we are just ‘four mates in a room’ I see as a little patronising,” says Luke. “But it’s a credit to us that we can make it look like we are relaxed and we have just waltzed in from a night out and are just having a laugh.”

And Jim insists: “We’re not just four blokes down the pub talking about the game. We work harder to be more interesting than that.

“What I like about the format that makes it a bit different from those mainstream things is that we are free to talk about playing headers and volleys over the park and the stupid side of football. In most mainstream football media that’s the ‘and finally’ and we can go ‘but first’ and I think that is a crucial difference and for me is the most enjoyable thing about our podcast.”

Marcus adds: “It’s almost like when you see the lead singer of an indie band and it looks like they have just got out of bed, an awful lot of work has gone into that look. For us it’s important to be well-informed but also have a bit of bloody fun.”

Fans can certainly expect more than four blokes talking about football when their live tour hits town – the foursome insist The Football Ramble Live Tour is definitely not just the podcast in your local theatre.

“Videos, games, nuclear-level messing about and a wealth of football-related daftness sounds about right,” explains Pete, with Marcus adding: “We definitely approach the live shows differently to the podcast. On the podcast we want to give our views on current footballing affairs. Whereas in the live shows, we just find the funniest things to talk about and have as much fun interacting with the audience as we can each night.

Luke says: “Yeh, you see other podcasts live and it’s just them sat behind a desk, doing exactly what they do in the studio. Every idea we have for the live show is about what gets us away from that. We can’t wait!”

Jim goes on: “I’ve always thought you want to watch a show, you don’t want to watch a podcast. At our first live shows in 2014, we tried to make it as different to the podcast as we could and there was a real sense of excitement in the venues. It was obvious from then that we wanted to continue doing live shows.”

Pete admits to eyeing up more and more powerful confetti cannons on Amazon and bemoans the fact that he wasn’t allowed to use a drone on previous tours.

Luke says: “Pete is the most inspirational when it comes to ideas – sometimes you think ‘we can’t do that’, and sometimes they are great. With the drone, Pete wanted to fly a Newcastle shirt over the crowd and drop it on someone who’d win something. The venue said we weren’t able to do it and now the venues are a bit bigger we’re going to try again…”

The Football Ramble Live reaches G Live in Guildford on Friday 18 October and all four of the lads are looking forward to it for different reasons. Marcus’ revelation that he used to play for Guildford Saints sets the others off, with Luke declaring the show “a homecoming” and Jim musing: “I think we’re doing the show on an open bus.”

AWARD-winning comic Lee Ridley was born in County Durham, but don’t expect a Geordie accent.

He’s also known as Lost Voice Guy and won Britain’s Got Talent by performing stand-up using a communication aid…which appears to have a southern accent.

“I have lived in Newcastle all my life, but for some reason, I still haven’t picked up the accent,” laughs Lee, who has never been able to talk naturally. “However, if you are trying to place my accent, it’s from PC World…

ENGAGING – Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy, is bringing his stand-up show to Guildford and Camberley  Picture by Steve Ullathorne

“To be honest, I didn’t have much choice. The app I use to speak only had a limited number of voices to choose from, and my particular voice was the best of a bad bunch.

“I’m quite used to sounding like a posh version of RoboCop now though, and I think the posh accent makes my jokes even funnier. I’ve sounded like this for most of my life, so I do think of it as being my own voice. I’d feel weird if I had to change it now.”

The 39-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, says the main reason he entered Britain’s Got Talent was “obviously to meet Ant and Dec” but adds: “I also did it because I thought it would help me develop as a performer. Of course, I never expected to win it. In fact, I had to cancel my summer holiday because it clashed with the final.”

Lee encourages people to laugh with him about disability, and derides those who are patronising or prejudiced, and says life has changed a lot since his TV success.

“As a comedian, I’m busier than ever,” he says. “But one of the best things to happen since I won is that people are engaging with me a lot more than they would have in the past.

“For the first time, they seem comfortable talking to a disabled person. I’m used to being stared at for negative reasons, so it’s nice to be stared at for positive reasons for a change.

“You would be surprised at how many people come up to me after gigs and ask if I really can’t speak. Because, of course, it would totally be acceptable to pretend to be disabled for a laugh!”

Lee, who last year became the star of Radio 4 sitcom Ability, is out on the road with his latest stand-up show, I’m Only In It For The Parking, and brings it to G Live, Guildford, on Saturday 5 October and Camberley Theatre on Monday 14 October.

London duo The Pearl Hearts are out to show that the UK can rival Brody Dalle and Deap Vally when it comes to feisty women playing blues-driven rock.

The Pearl Hearts

As well as glowering beneath spirit-level fringes, these warrior princesses channel the likes of Led Zep and Black Sabbath into their seismic brand of heavy blues – and incorporate loops and samples for good measure.

Their debut album is called Glitter And Spit and, if you need to know more, you can find out at the Boileroom, Guildford, on Friday 23 August.

GRIFF Rhys Jones is back and once again “all over the place” previewing new material for his forthcoming stand-up tour.

Following sellout performances of his previous one-man entertainments, Jones and Smith and Where Was I?, there’s a chance to catch one half of Smith & Jones, one quarter of Not the Nine O’Clock News and one third of Three Men In a Boat in a much more intimate setting than usual.

Griff Rhys Jones

Griff will be testing out the material for his new show, All Over The Place, at the Bellerby Studio at G Live, Guildford, on Wednesday next week, 21 August.

Expect stories, riffs, observations and…er, details of his recent medical procedures.

This is the Kit is singer songwriter Kate Stables – often with the assistance of bassist Rozi Plain, guitarist Neil Smith and drummer Jamie Whitby-Coles.

The musical project has taken Kate from Winchester to Bristol to Paris, where she has now lived for 10 years, as well as tours, festivals and the adoration of people like Guy Garvey, The National and Sharon van Etten.

Kate Stables and friends are lined up for the Boileroom

Ten years and four albums after setting out, This Is The Kit is a name to be reckoned with and you can check out what all the fuss is about when she/they play at the Boileroom, Guildford, on Sunday 11 August.