A true story of my time at hospital radio, Lancashire’s answer to Bon Jovi and the early days of physicist Brian Cox.
Sometimes, listening to a song or an album just brings it all back.
This week, I have been listening to an album that was released 30 years ago, and although I don’t play it as often as I should, this record means a lot to me. This year, rock band Dare have recently re-recorded their debut, Out of the Silence (for reasons I’ll go into later) and released it as Out of the Silence II. In addition to being a review of the original album, this article is the story of how I first discovered that album because it wasn’t via the usual heard-it-on-the-radio / read-about-it-in-a-magazine route.
Back when I was at university, I used to do volunteer work for Oldham’s hospital radio station, Radio Cavell. In addition to walking the halls of the hospital, visiting wards, talking to patients and taking their requests, I got to present shows on the radio. One day, I went down the stone steps that led to the underground studio to discover that a signed copy of a new album by the band Dare had been left by the turntable. Five moody guys photographed against the backdrop of a wintry looking reservoir stared back at me from the cover and at this point, I didn’t have a clue who the band was or why the album had been left in the studio.
The odd thing about this album was that it had been signed by the band. This sort of thing doesn’t normally happen at a small provincial hospital radio station. Whilst I was killing time before a show that night, I put the vinyl on the turntable and rather than playing it from the start, I dropped the needle on track 2, “Into the Fire”. The bizarre logic behind this decision was that Bryan Adams had released an album of the same name the year before (his last decent album if you ask me, but that’s another story). Suffice to say that I wasn’t expecting much, but what I heard blew me away. A perfect piece of keyboard-driven melodic rock. Playing a few more of the songs, I could hear that this was right up my street. I ended up playing a few songs from the album on my hospital radio shows. Who knows – I may have been one of the first DJs to play Dare!
After a few questions to other members, the reason for a signed copy of the album became clear: Dare was a local band and if I remember correctly, one of their partners was currently in hospital (I never found out if this last bit was true).
A bit more investigation and scouring the music magazines of the time (remember kids, this was way before the internet) revealed that the band was led by Mancunian Darren Wharton, ex-keyboard player with legendary rockers Thin Lizzy, who had teamed up with local guitarist Vinny Burns to form Oldham’s answer to Bon Jovi. Unbelievably, given the trajectory that his career has taken since, the keyboard player with this outfit was one Brian Cox – yes, the Brian Cox, better known these days a physicist and TV star!
I’ve waffled on enough now about how I discovered the band and where they were from, so what about the music? Well, the opening salvo of “Abandon” and “Into the Fire” is an incredibly strong start to an album that doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses. Guitars blaze, keyboards swirl and Darren Wharton’s raspy vocals set the tone perfectly. I remember thinking at the time that the rock songs I was hearing were every bit as good as those by other outfits who were some of the biggest bands in the world at the time (Bon Jovi, Van Halen, plus a whole host of US bands, Swedish rockers Europe, Yorkshire’s Def Leppard etc.)
For me, the thematic core and heart of the album runs from tracks 5 to 7. Even now, “Under the Sun” conjures up such an emotional feeling. Vinny Burns’ stunning guitar paints a desolate picture, sounding like something unleashed from a Pink Floyd record. With its moody keyboard textures, it’s a perfect example of a slow-build song that explodes into life with crunching guitars and Wharton’s powerful voice. An epic in every sense of the word.
Next up is “The Raindance”, a joyous celebration of a song that features a jaunty keyboard motif. I love the lyrics here: “There will always be tomorrow / There will be another day / And our hearts will still be singing / And the sound will show the way” and when the background vocals kick in during the third verse and chorus, it’s truly uplifting.
Track 7, “Kind of Spades” is a tribute to the late Thin Lizzy legend Phil Lynott, who had died two years earlier. On the new recording of the album, there is an extended coda to this song that really makes it shine, but of course, the original is still a fabulous and moving song.
The whole album is the perfect mix of rockers, ballads, poignant songs and brilliant moody atmosphere. Not bad for a band from Oldham / Manchester. Listening to a recent interview with Darren Wharton, he explains that the original recording Out of the Silence is owned by a record company that has no interest in promoting Dare, and whilst I still prefer the original recording, I can understand the band’s reasons for wanting a new version that gives them more control over its promotion and distribution.
Another thing I remember about Out of the Silence was that I had to wait until January 1989 to get hold of a CD copy – how times change! Later that year, Dare supported Europe at the Apollo Theatre in Manchester, and although it’s many years ago, I remember them putting on a fabulous and energetic show for the home town crowd.
I’m glad to report that Darren Wharton and Dare are still going strong, with guitarist Vinny Burns having returned to the fold. You can read more about the band here:-
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