Adventures man Terry Sharpe on 'final' gigs and memories of 1980s pop success
David Roy speaks to Terry Sharpe of 1980s pop survivors The Adventures about the Belfast band's 'final' dates in the New Year – and why they might not be the end for The Adventures after all
HAVING proudly represented Belfast through the 1980s pop wars with a string of fine singles including Send My Heart, Feel The Raindrops, Your Greatest Shade of Blue and their top 20 anthem Broken Land – apparently 'the most played song on Radio 1 in 1988' – The Adventures fizzled out in the wake of their fourth album, 1993's Lions and Tigers and Bears.
However, the Terry Sharpe-led group did not lie dormant for long, reforming with a revised line-up also featuring founding members Pat (guitar/vocals) and Eileen Gribben (vocals) for a triumphant live return at the 1997 Féile an Phobail in Belfast.
Since then, The Adventures have played only a handful of gigs in their hometown, their most recent engagements being a sold-out show at The Belfast Empire in January of this year and a hugely well received support with fellow 1980s chart contenders Bananarama – Terry and Sara 'Nana having been 'an item' back in the day, with The Adventures man starring in the girl group's Shy Boy video.
Now, the band are busy rehearsing for a pair of Empire shows on January 4 and 5, the former date having been quickly added after the latter sold out.
"Sorting out rehearsals has been the difficult thing," comments Terry of their ongoing preparations.
"We've got seven people on stage with us at the moment and at this time of year it's hard to get a time when everyone's available. But we're getting there – we've done a couple of rehearsals and we've another couple scheduled before the shows.
"It's sounding great."
While the second Empire date has been billed as The Adventures' 'final show', fans should pay attention to what Mr Sharpe has to say on the matter before donning black armbands and entering an extended period of mourning.
"I wouldn't go so far as to say they're our 'final' shows," reveals Terry, a former St Malachy's man who trained at Rada in London before finding his true calling as a vocalist and frontman: he'd already racked up a Top of The Pops appearance with punk act The Starjets in 1979 prior to signing up with The Adventures in 1984.
"But we don't have any plans at the moment. I don't think we're going to make another record, we tried and it didn't work out. Everybody's sort of moving on to different things – but the thing about it is, you should never say 'never'."
Wise words indeed: everybody knows that no band stays 'broken up' forever these days – especially one like The Adventures, who didn't actually officially split in the first place.
Managed by Simon 'Spice Girls' Fuller ("I think he made all his mistakes with us!," chuckles Terry) and navigating their decade long career with the help (and indeed hindrance) of three different major record labels, the band put out four distinctive albums – notably the effervescent janglepop of 1985's debut Theodore and Friends and the Top 40-troubling sophisticated pop stylings of 1988's follow-up The Sea Of Love, both recently reissued in expanded form by Cherry Red records – supporting Fleetwood Mac and Tears For Fears on major tours alongside their own incursions into Europe and beyond.
"Listen, when bands split up and they say 'we're never going to speak to each other again', that never happens," Terry advises.
"Sure, Elton John's on his 'final' tour – and don't put money on that it is his last one.
"We didn't think that we'd be back here selling out two shows at the Empire, so you never know what's going to happen. But I'll tell you what, it is really good fun to do those songs again when you haven't done them for a while.
"And it's fantastic as a singer just to hear the band giving you almost just exactly what the records sounded like – that's a big thrill, it really is."
Indeed, according to Terry, it seems that The Adventures' sporadic gigs are just as much of a nostalgia trip for the band themselves as the fans coming to see them.
"It was quite emotional a couple of times when we were rehearsing," he admits.
"I thought, 'wow, that reminds me of when I was really young'. Like, we were reminiscing about when we used to fly over to the continent to mime to our singles on the TV shows over there.
"Invariably, they'd put you up in a great hotel and ply you with lots of alcohol. We were very young men and women back then, so there was a lot of 'forgetting to go to bed' and sitting at night porters' desks at 10 o'clock in the morning!"
Rather than trying to present a 'career overview' with the live sets – with four full length albums and a slew of B-sides at their disposal that would be a big ask – the band stick to doing things the way they always did in their heyday by playing tracks they feel will provoke the required reaction at various points in the show.
"It's not necessarily the 'best' songs or even the most well-known ones," muses Terry.
"What you do is pick a set which is going to push and pull dynamically the way you want it to in a live situation. So there's a couple of fast ones in there that might not be the greatest songs we ever came up with, but they sit just right in the set for us and work well live."
Of course, after nearly 35 years, The Adventures' music has also become an essential component of their fans' lives – some of whom love to share their gratitude for favourite songs and albums directly with the frontman via the internet.
"That is very weird," Terry tells me, sounding genuinely touched at this realisation. "You get people asking about particular tracks which we've forgotten about saying, 'Why don't you do that one?!'"
"I also get people writing to me on the Facebook page from as far away as Japan and Indochina saying 'Oh, you're as big as The Beatles and U2 out here!'
Drolly, he adds: "Well, that's news to me – it must be taking a while for the royalties to come through!"
:: The Adventures, January 4 & 5 (sold-out), The Empire, Belfast. January 4 tickets £17.50 via Thebelfastempire.com.