Old-school cool: Rewind Festival
"A lot of them often want to leave behind what they did 30 years ago."
The past decade has seen something of a resurgence in 80s music and style. A large cohort of 80s legends who have lied dormant for years are back on the gigging scene and the generation that grew up and enjoyed these acts the first time round show no signs of stopping the party any time soon.
At the vanguard of this revival is Rewind Festival, which launched 8 years ago at Temple Island Meadows in Henley and has been instrumental in relaunching the careers of dozens of 80s artists. This year, the lineup includes Leo Sayer, Rick Astley, Adam Ant and members of Heaven 17, Earth Wind & Fire, Erasure and Spandau Ballet. OX spoke to Rewind director David Heartfield to find out more…
How have you seen Rewind, and the acts involved, develop over the last 8 years?
The main thing is that everyone knows what we’re talking about now. When we started out it was just an idea, so we had to go to artists and persuade them to get involved, and we put a band together of top London session musicians because a lot of these acts simply didn't have a band any longer. We really wanted to recreate the thing that had worked so well at the one-day shows, which was the "hit jukebox" idea - if someone had only had one hit in the 80s, we could still have them on doing one warmup number and their big hit, and there wasn't a huge gap afterwards. At the beginning, the difficulty was getting hold of people - a lot of the 80s acts didn't have agents or managers. Over the last 8 years, everyone now knows about the festival, and a lot of them now have those agents and managers.
Do you think a lot of them have kick-started their careers again through Rewind?
I think for some of them, even if it didn't necessarily kick-start their careers, it did encourage them to come back into the limelight a bit more. If you take an act like Holly Johnson from Frankie Goes To Hollywood - he hadn't played live in 20 years before Rewind. For Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins, I think it was 27 years. It's brought quite a few people back who obviously had highly successful careers in the 80s, and for whatever reason had dropped out of the music business. We're always looking for those acts and that's what everyone wants to see.
Were any of the artists reluctant to get back onstage when you approached them?
Oh yes. Some of them took years to warm to the idea. Part of it is whether they want to work at all, and part of it is if they do want to work, a lot of them are still writing new music and often want to leave behind what they did 30 years ago. I sometimes needed to persuade them that they could have two careers: one where they get highly paid for doing their classic hits, and if they want to carry on releasing new music or performing other stuff, then they can have that more artistic endeavour as well.
You started off in Henley and have now exported the idea nationwide. What have the challenges been in achieving that?
There's always difficulty. Each location is unique in terms of dealing with local councils, which is a massive undertaking. When we started in Henley, I think people were convinced that despite the fact that it was aimed at an older audience, a music festival was going to bring waves of crime and drug addiction into the area, which quite obviously is not the case. We do vary all the locations slightly: up in Scotland there are an awful lot of 80s Scottish bands that perhaps meant more in Scotland than they did down South. We tend to have those acts who were slightly bigger in their own area. Other than that, things remain remarkably the same, so where I have the River Thames in Henley I have the River Tay in Scotland.
In terms of the attendees in the crowd, are there many younger people?
Well I think the interesting thing is that the audience has got younger over the 8 years, and it's quite hard to figure out why. When we started out, I didn't really think it would keep continuing to grow, as it has done, but now there are a lot of people in their 30s who would've been too young for the 80s first time round, but I suppose it would've been the music they heard on the radio and their parents' music.
I think the cyclical nature of fashion means that the 80s were always going to be taken seriously again at some point.
Oh yeah, for sure. We now have current acts performing at Rewind because they want to cover 80s songs, which is fantastic.
- Interview by Jack Rayner
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