The man behind shameless celebration of 80s music, Rewind Festival, Paul Carey, tells Tim Hughes why this promises to be a vintage year
For music lovers of a certain age, it sounds like the perfect playlist. Gloria Gaynor, the Wailers, Tom Robinson, Village People, Sex Pistol’s Glen Matlock, Rozalla, Midge Ure, Level 42, Sugarhill Gang ft Grandmaster Melle Mel, and Status Quo...
But these stars of the 1980s are not just appearing on a scratched vinyl compilation album or old mix tape. They, and more, are all gathering in person to play one of the country’s most eccentric festivals –and it takes place on a beautiful Oxfordshire meadow beside the Thames.
Rewind South is a solid gold success story, consistently selling out, and spawning a number of spin-off events.
And this year’s promises to be a cracker – also featuring sets by Big Country, Musical Youth, British Electric Foundation, Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory, Imagination, Jilted John, Nik Kershaw, Nick Heyward, Dr & The Medics, Imagination ft Leee John, Owen Paul, Kim Wilde, Belinda Carlisle, The South, Go West, The Christians, and Katrina (of The Waves fame).
Making a special appearance is Kim Appleby, of Mel & Kim, who marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the duo’s 1987 chart topping hit Respectable. Her sister Mel tragically died in 1990.
There will also be a performance from the sell-out West-End show Thriller Live.
“This year we have a fantastic party night lined up in Henley with New York’s finest Village People and Gloria Gaynor, on the Saturday, while on the Sunday we’ve got rock legends Status Quo,” says festival chief Paul Carey.
“We work very hard on the line-up, which we start working on almost straight away after the last festival is over. It probably takes about five months to put together and it’s a complicated juggling act. We’ve got three festivals to book – in Henley, Cheshire and Scotland – so its a case of fitting all the pieces together and creating three fantastic line-ups at once.”
While other ‘weekenders’ have struggled to sell tickets, and some, like Cornbury, have fallen by the wayside, Rewind continues to grow – never failing to sell out well in advance. So, I ask, what’s the secret?
“The beauty of Rewind is that we have the most stunning locations,” says Paul. “Henley is right on the Thames, and on a summer’s night is simply magical. Though I am a little biased as I live there.
“The event itself is about as much fun as a music festival can get. People just let their hair down, knowing they’re going to see some great acts, hear some brilliant music from a fantastic era and have the best fun with their friends.”
And who goes?
“The crowd at Rewind is very eclectic,” he says. “And I’m not just talking about the fancy dress that lot of people come in!
“We’ve noticed over recent years that the age of the festival go-er at Rewind has actually got younger, and what we’re seeing is that the adults coming are also bringing their 20 year-old young adults along, and perhaps giving them their first taste of a festival, in what is a safe and relaxed environment.”
Surely, I suggest, it is all shameless nostalgia – not that there’s anything wrong with that!
“The funny thing is that the younger crowd who are coming along have a nostalgia for the 80s even though they weren’t even born in that decade,” Paul laughs. “I think there’s a certain degree of the music they’re into now having its roots in the 80s, such as the trend for synth-lead bands in the charts over the last few years.
“It’s all good fun – and looking back at a fantastic decade with a smile in the eye and a cider in your hand is a fantastic way to spend a weekend.”
With a smorgasbord of talent, and some ferocious egos, it must be hard to pick the headliners. How do the festival curators get the running order right?
“We have a structure and framework that we work to,” says Paul. “The event kicks off at lunchtime on the Saturday and we like to make an impact as everyone is raring to go. So this year we’ve booked the brilliant west-end show Thriller Live, to kick things off with a bit of Michael Jackson.
“We then start cranking things up during the afternoon and have a sort of ‘afternoon headliner’ who this year is Level 42 in Henley.
“Then it’s the headliners who take to the stage and I’m sure will get the crowd really moving.”
With most of them hitting their heyday 30 years ago, are the acts still relevant today?
“The funny thing is that, over the years, Rewind has been a great platform to many stars from the 80s and now what we’re seeing is a number of them having a significant amount of success second time around.
“Rick Astley is a great example. He who had a number 1 album last year and is now touring and playing to big crowds on his own.
So yes, it’s really relevant and there’s still a massive appetite for bands and acts from the 80s.”
And, he insists, they have stand the test of time.
“I think absolutely,” he says. “Somehow the 80s produced a raft of acts that have stood the test of time and are now reaching a new audience.”
He goes on: “The 80s were my heyday and, as a teenager back then, it’s difficult not to look back at the music, culture and fashion that came from that period with real affection.
“I think the songs written in that period had a combination of political message, fun and good times, and came on the back of a breakthrough in technology – namely the advent of the synthesiser, which in all honestly hasn’t happened in music since. So there’s something unique about the songs and music, coupled with fantastic fashion and style.
Shouldn’t we be listening to new stuff, instead, though?
“The Rewind crowd is very sophisticated and not only love music from the 80s but are into new music and always enjoy for example the local bands and new acts that we also book for the other stages at the festival.
“We always trying to bring something new, so there’s an opportunity not only to look back, but to look forward.”
Would he ever start running a 90s event –or even a noughties event?
“I think you have to go with the zeitgeist of the moment,” he says. “There was definitely a feeling when Rewind started that it was time for the 80s – so who knows?”
- Rewind South takes place at Temple Island Meadows, Henley, from August 18-20. Full line-up and tickets from rewindfestival.com