‘We’d visit the sausage shop’

Blancmange: Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe
Blancmange: Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe

Pop hero Neil Arthur may have lived half his life in London….. but he is as Lancashire as black pudding, mushy peas and gravy.

From experimental synth wave to chart-topping hits, Blancmange were at the cutting edge of 1980s club culture, from support slots with Grace Jones, they sat confortably alongside cult names like Cabaret Voltaire and XTC with classic tracks, Living on the Ceiling, God’s Kitchen and Feel Me.

Now, after living away from the limelight for 25 years, Blancmange are back with a nationwide tour, beginning in Clitheroe on November 2.

“Clitheroe is very close to my heart, and I’m ultra-proud of my Lancashire roots,” said the Blancmange leader.

“My parents would take me to the Ribble Valley, and we’d walk for miles, all those lovely places – Downham, Waddington and Pendle Hill – they hold incredible memories for me.

“We’d visit the sausage shop in Clitheroe and climb up the castle.

“Although I live in the Cotswolds now, Lancashire means so much to me.

“It made a massive imprint on my life.”

Their last album, Blanc Burn, referenced the influence his home-town Darwen and his Lancashire roots had on Arthur’s music.

“Blancmange played Top of the Pops in 1982 when Living on the Ceiling was stuck in the top ten, but I was far more nervous walking on to the stage at the Library Theatre in Darwen when we played there in 2012.

“I was a bag of nerves. I was shaking. My friends and family were there, and some people I hadn’t seen for 25 years.

“I wanted it to be the perfect performance and while no show ever is it was a wonderful night.

“What I really enjoy is meeting people after the show.

“Just sharing a pint and a few memories, that’s really the special bit.”

The Clitheroe show will see Blancmange’s debut album, Happy Families, performed in full for the first time, and with the re-mixed album available exclusively at the Clitheroe gig.

Never one to stand still, Arthur has given the songs that influenced so many bands in later years and won popular acclaim a razor-sharp 21st century makeover.

“Punk music played a huge part in my early life, going down to the Lodestar at Ribchester as a kid to hear the latest sounds,” he added.

“Punk said to me that you didn’t have to wear a flowing cape and do an operatic solo to be part of music.

“It was a do it yourself culture and that’s pretty much what I’m doing with Blancmange now because I do all my own marketing and production.

“When I decided to tour this album there’s no way I was just going to repeat what I did 30 years ago – I wanted to move the tunes forward and give them a fresh twist.

“Listening to the music again has opened a lot of doors for me, so much so that I’ve got enough material for a brand new Blancmange album next year.”

Blancmange, Clitheroe Grand, November 2. 01200 421599

Tony Dewhurst