If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s in South East England, you’ll almost certainly have a fond memory of Margate. It probably involves a day trip to the beach, a bag of chips and a visit to the Dreamland Amusement Park. The town fell on hard times in the 90s, but with the opening of the Turner Contemporary art gallery and the arrival of small cafe’s and boutiques in the Old Town, things began to improve. The grand re-opening of Dreamland as a retro theme park was an essential part of the regeneration and has been great for the town. Its recently renovated facade in blue and yellow neon shines out over the sea and the seafront, once again, looks proud of itself. In addition to the theme park, the Dreamland complex includes a retro roller rink, a period restored ballroom and an upstairs area dubbed The Hall By The Sea for hosting live music. It’s almost certainly better than it ever was. Dreamland is brilliant and you shouldn’t let people try and convince you otherwise, especially those who haven’t actually been to Margate since 1996.
The British ska revival of the late 70s was an exciting time. The short-lived 2-Tone label (founded by The Specials’ Jerry Dammers) was home to arguably some of the greatest music to come from the UK. Over the course of three years, with a mix of good-time party music and political messages, The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat became hugely popular, and although they moved away from their ska roots quicker than most, Madness became one of the most popular British pop bands of all time.
The Britpop years between 1993-97 brought wave after wave of great music. From the well documented – Oasis, Blur, Suede and Pulp – to those lesser talked about years later – Gene, Marion, Menswear – each act brought their own slant to classic retro styles, often centering around guitar driven pop-rock.
Among the big players were Sleeper. Sleeper were special. With a musical grounding that mixed the pop hooks of Blondie and the proto punk-pop of The Undertones with lyrical narratives that were often interesting, their first two albums (‘Smart’, 1995 and ‘The It Girl’, 1996) have really stood the test of time.