I have one day left at work and then it’s a three day weekend in the UK. The weather is going to be reasonable and hopefully I’ll get chance to venture out if the house. There’s a jazz and blues festival on locally, no acts I’m familiar with apart from Peter Frampton, and that’s only a solitary track of his I know. But there is a record fare happening on Sunday and weather permitting, as it’s held out doors, I’ll go and have a peruse if the boxes of records and make lots of weird sounds that usually translate into “how much!”
Saturday could bring yet another trip to Manchester to another new venue for me. There are two bands playing that I’m intrigued to see. It’s being held in Factory or FAC251, which I think was the head offices for Factory Records, a label synonymous with Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays.
Opening up the show is West Midlands band Sister Shotgun. I’ve not had chance to see them live and I’ve heard a few of their tracks. I’m interested to see them off the back of a recommendation from a customer of mine. The guitarist of Crewe based band Fallen used to work in a shop I delivered to and we used to have a chat about music and stuff. His band played with them locally and he said how good they were live. They’ve been getting around a lot just lately and have a new guitarist in the fold.
Headlining is Janet Gardner Page, not exactly a household name, but for people, especially guys, of my age and into rock during the same era she was the front woman and guitarist with the big hair in Vixen. They’re a band I first heard on the Friday Rock Show hosted by Timmy Vance on Radio 1. I think it was the Edge if a Broken Heart single that was played late on the Friday night and by Saturday afternoon I had the 7” vinyl in my hands.
They’d been together since the early 70’s surprisingly, but didn’t gain any mainstream recognition until 1988’s eponymous debut and their sophomore release Rev It Up in 1990. I never heard past that second album and I do t think I’ve ever heard Tangerine.
Richard Marx coproduced the debut album and wrote Edge of a Broken Heart. At the same time the band were getting some big opening slots on tours with the likes of Bon Jovi, Scorpions and KISS. Musical differences lead to a split and there have been several reunions over the years.
I remember watching something on VH1 called bands reunited where they attempted to bring bands back together. The idea was to a specific line up in the same room and it was deemed a success if they performed. I saw odd episodes here and there. A Flock of Seagulls and Berlin were successful. Holly Johnson refused to perform with Frankie Goes to Hollywood and at the time Extreme was a failure. Vixen put aside their differences and did play.
In 2012 a classic reunion was on the cards, but guitarist Jan Kuehnemund was diagnosed with cancer and passed away towards the end of 2013. The three remains classic members have carried on as a tribute to her and an album is planned.
Vixen have been playing live sporadically over the last four years, mainly in the States and a few dates in Canada and Europe. They played Hard Rock Hell in 2016, an event I unfortunately didn’t attend. There was a tour in 2006 for some version of the band which apparently stopped off in Crewe. They played the Limelight and it took me a dozen years to find out. It’s closed now and looking rather dilapidated, but it was one of those venues that never seemed to bother with too much promotion and hoped for word of mouth from regular barflies.
1991 saw them supporting Deep Purple over here. The year before saw some of their own dates and a few supporting Scorpions and on the bill for the prestigious Bon Jovi soirée at the Milton Keynes Bowl.
In all my time I’ve never had chance to see Vixen, and to date Saturday will be the closest I have been. Janet plays some stuff from her self named debut solo album from last year with a smattering of Vixen hits thrown in. They’re due to play the Rockingham event in Nottingham in October with some other AOR and hair bands mainly from yesteryear, but for what I’d have to pay to get in and what I’d get from the weekend it’s currently out of reach of my budget. But never say never.