The Side Panel: mod bands Secret Affair and The Electric Stars

By John Armstrong, Columnist-Rock At Night-Manchester, UK


Side Panel graphicRock At Night is pleased to announce a new column called “The Side Panel” by Manchester correspondent John Armstrong.  John will be covering music news in the mod scene as well as other intriguing bands in the Manchester and Liverpool area.

VENUE: On The Wall-Manchester, UK – Secret Affair and The Electric Stars at Band- 12 Dec 2015

Liverpool David coombsSecret Affair played Manchester in 1979 and didn’t come back ’til 2012, since then they’ve been doing their best to get the average down and their middle Saturday of December gig at Band On The Wall has become a tradition that heralds the impending festive season as much as gluewein and the Xmas markets.

The current line-up is eight-piece with saxophone and trombone plus either two keyboards or two trumpets depending what instrument Ian Page is holding. It is brim full of huge stabbing power. Ian Page’s voice was always something that set Secret Affair apart, being a genuine singer rather than a shouter and it has lost none of its quality in the passing decades. David Cairns’ guitar is still full of vigour and worn with a facial expression of pain, which is quite right – it should hurt to play that aggressively. Andy Fairclough plays the Hammond like a well-dressed mad scientist as he stands in a constantly moving crouch over the keys, lurching with every swirl of the sound and coaxing the screaming notes out with an alchemist’s skill.

Secret Affair are not a ‘talking band’, they spend as much stage time actually playing as possible, from the opening “I Am A Bullet to My World” to fourteen songs and seventy five minutes later there are minimal (if any) gaps between songs that extend far beyond their album recorded length, the improvised sections are out of necessity coordinated by hand signals. The set is drawn from all four studio albums, with Band On The Wall’s neon lit Dizzy Gillespie logo above the stage providing a perfect backdrop to the jazz introduction of So Cool.  Followed by a rampant cover of “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)”.

FRED PERRY BAND SHOTThe nearest thing to what may have been a breathing space was when five left the stage to only the trio of Hammond, drums and bass while they carved out a massive stomping rave-up of “Crumble Gun”. The slow starting “Street Life Parade” (a personal favourite) is quieter but the crowd knows what’s coming after the introduction and it’s chased down with five back-to-back singles, then a brief interlude after “My World” before the immense – in both sound and length – cover of “I Don’t Need No Doctor”. There is so much punch in this there can’t be more, but there is, it’s followed by “When The Show Is Over” – only it isn’t; “Glory Boys” and “I’m Not Free But I’m Cheap” are still to come. Some days it is worth missing the last train and resorting to the night bus. This is always one of them.

I’d already bought my ticket before I knew The Electric Stars were the support, so that was a massive bonus and Louise Turner lending her vocals an extra plus. They set off with a Hendrixian chopped guitar intro to a curtailed ‘slight return’ of “Can’t Get Satisfied” before launching into 136 – the anthemic opening to their debut album Sonic Candy Soul. “Beautiful music for beautiful people” runs the chanting lyric and; it is true.

Jason Edge has charisma in shovel loads and is a born frontman, playing with the energy of the room and feeding from it. Jonny’s drumming is tastefully Ringo-esque in phrasing as much for what he doesn’t play in the fills as for what he does, giving a tight yet spacious sound leaving room for Keith’s bass and Andy’s guitar. Louise’s presence adds another dimension and swathes of smoothness. The new single is imminent and there is also a vinyl release of the set-closer classic “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” coming up, then the second album is on the way.

Martin The Mod again DJ’d for the night, a change of venue from his regular Saturday at the Thirsty Scholar mixing less obscure and completely unknown vinyl and rousing classics; all induced dancing.

Can I book for next year now?

Secret Affair Members: Ian Page, Dave Cairns, Russ Baxter, Ed Pearson, Stephen Wilcock, Tim Pannell, Steve Rinaldi, Andy Fairclough; Genre: Rock,Soul,Mod,Mod revival; Home Town: Essex & London


Secret Affair’s single “All the Rage” – 2013

A blast back to 1980

The Electric Stars – “I Want You”



Secret Affair

TWITTER  @secretaffair79

Secret Affair-Facebook

The Electric Stars

The Electric Stars-Facebook


John Armstrong

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