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Back in the 80’s, the unit known as Blue Rondo a la Turk was the very definition of the word ‘cool’. The name was taken from the B-side of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five and singer/writer Chris Sullivan, guitarist Mark Reilly and vocalist Christos Tolera and a bunch of similarly talented folk successfully fused Latin jazz, R&B, Cuban and urban soul with a strong pop sensibility which manifested itself with witty lyrics and catchy melodies. Blue Rondo a la Turk emerged from the heart of London’s clubland and scored with singles such as the Top 40 hit ‘Me And Mr. Sanchez’ which went on to be the theme tune for the 1982 World Cup in Brazil and the irrepressible ‘Klactoveesedstein’, epitomising a glamourous, multi-cultural New Pop. By the time of debut album Chewing The Fat in 1982, they were the darlings of new style magazines like The Face and i-D. After Chewing The Fat, the team went their separate ways. While Mark Reilly and others founded Matt Bianco, a new line-up with shortened name Blue Rondo delivered a promising second album Bees Knees And Chicken Elbows before bowing out. Some three decades on, Chewing The Fat makes its debut on CD, overseen by the band. For this deluxe two-CD edition, the band commissioned a flurry of contemporary remixes, which now join original non-album tracks to present a re-imagining of Blue Rondo’s music for the 21st Century. Among those who’ve given the original Blue Rondo recordings a fresh, modern twist are such legends as Youth and Andy Weatherall.

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Volt Café: Why did you decide to give the album a new lease of life after all this time?
Chris Sullivan: The master tapes were lost for 20 years and were found in a dusty corner of an EMI warehouse about 5 years ago. Then we were approached by Cherry Red to remaster and release our debut LP so we thought why not. Then I stuck my oar in and insisted on a remix album to bring the work up to date. After that it was another three years. The band was half Brazilian as was the music and its coinciding with the World Cup is a total coincidence.

VC: How do you think men’s fashion compares today?
CS: No different from then. Fashion people are just sheep! But these days these fashionable chaps with the big beards actually look like sheep and behave like them even more so. Please someone, show some individuality, you bunch of loser beardie bastards.

VC: How did the London of the 80’s compare with now?
CS: Remarkably similar – especially the greed, rampart capitalism, celebrity obsession, badly dressed pop stars, lack of talent, so-called ‘talent’ shows, the divided society (rich get richer and poor get poorer (more homeless now as then when the Big issue began) rich bad taste wankers everywhere (then Arabs and Yanks now Russians, Chinese and Asians) poor immigrants (then Pakistan and Bangladesh and now Eastern European, African and everywhere else) materialism, right wing fascist government who want a divided society of really poor slave class and really rich upper class (both Tory – then the evil Thatcher, now that arselicking embarrassment Cameron) rise of the extreme right wing, bad clothes, bad hair etc. The only big difference is that I don’t see anything new happening or anyone really having a good go outside of the accepted parameters – every band is a rehash of someone before them as are the styles of today, the art world is dead and now a corporate business, there is no contention or revolution amongst the young who seem to me to be deaf and dumb with no political agenda. In the 80’s the young broke the rules. Now the young make the rules. Youth is wasted on the young. It can only get better.

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VC: How would you describe the sound of Blue Rondo a la Turk and please explain how you managed to construct a band from two Brazilians, an Irish Jamaican, a Scot, a Barbadian, a Greek, a Scot and a Welshman?
CS: The sound changed from anarchic funk Latin jazz to slightly less anarchic funk Latin jazz with odd lyrics and odd vocals. I didn’t manage anything. I just made it up as I went along and took the piss out of them all at every opportunity.

VC: You founded the now legendary Wag club. Why do you think clubs like this don’t exist anymore?
CS: Because they are run by big companies who use focus groups, follow fashion and are only interested in making money. You will never do anything lasting, artistically credible or worth mentioning if all you care about is money. To add to that, all the individual operators have been forced out and they were the only ones who would put a West End club worth millions in the hands of a unfathomable 23 year old Welsh bloke and say “do what you want”.

VC: David Bowie came into the Blitz and selected some of the partygoers for his Ashes to Ashes video. Did you appear in one of his videos?
CS: Yes I had a speaking part in the Jazzin’ for Blue Jeans film. He nicked my bird in it. I was really shit as I turned up to be an extra at 5am, was handed a load of lines and told to walk down the street and talk while DB was up a ladder in the pouring rain. It was hell. Put me off acting for life.

VC: You’ve been a nightclub lynchpin, fronted a band, journalist and DJ. Which was your favourite?
CS: I don’t have a favourite. They were right or wrong then and this is now. I’m just happy creating different stuff every day, being able to pay the bills, have a cheeky holiday without getting arrested.

VC: You wrote the bestseller Punk and more recently, We Be Heroes – what’s next on the horizon for Chris Sullivan?
CS: I am starting a book entitled Sullivan’s Travels, each chapter of which tells of one of my many mad trips under the guise of all of the above (nightclub lynchpin, band front man, journalist and DJ) where everything goes both wrong and right but is always hilarious. Because, as all of my friends will attest, it seemed that for decades each time I opened my passport I was uncorking a bottle of tomfoolery that allowed a mischievous djinn control over my every subsequent action. The stories are legion. I am also finishing off the final draft of a script that’s been optioned by a Hollywood film company, titled Anarchy In The UK, which is a contemporary road movie and nothing to do with Punk rock. I also have a monthly club night called Swag on the first Friday of each month at The Record Club in Camden, a Sunday DJ residency in Novikov, other gigs all over the shop including Ibiza, New York, Marrakech and Cardiff and am about to start remixing a few classic 80’s disco tunes with Mark Reilly. I have also designed a few zoot suits for Barnzley Armitage’s Crossed Swords store in Spitalfields and am still Jocks and Nerds Associate Editor. I have also taken up crochet and recently made a lovely ginger tea cosy. Tidy it is, like.

Chewing The Fat is now out on Cherry Red.

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Tags

Andy Weatherall, Blue Rondo a la Turk, Cherry Red, Chewing The Fat, Chris Sullivan, Christos Tolera, Mark Reilly,