I’m still learning about all the wonderful things that make Portsmouth Portsmouth – Simon Carter

Lapping it up at Southsea Bandstand - and it's all free
Lapping it up at Southsea Bandstand - and it's all free
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Thirty-three years and one day on, I was still belting it out loud as the band played on in front of me.

Probably way out of tune –  my singing has not improved much since 1985, it still scares small dogs (and, in truth, large ones too) – but still with a big smile on my face.

Freddie Mercury working the masses at Live Aid.

Freddie Mercury working the masses at Live Aid.

So I'm 49 years old and should know better? So I'm still stuck in the era of mullets? I ask one question only –  don't judge me. Well, not yet anyway.

That was then – Wembley Stadium, London, Saturday, July 13, 1985, Live Aid. The biggest concert of my lifetime almost smack bang in the middle of my favourite decade. How can you forget Adam Ant, Elvis Costello and Howard Jones? Quite easily, actually, as they only played a single song each. Meanwhile, Nik Kershaw – Nik Kershaw! –  warbled his way through four tunes – four! – while Sade and Spandau Ballet managed three each. If I'd have been at Live Aid I'd have gone to the bar during those bits.

They were all followed by Bono memorably leaping off the stage and dancing with some girl he picked from the crowd while the rest of U2 carried on through an extended Bad wondering where the hell he'd got to, but the undoubted highlight of the entire day – musically, of the entire decade – was Queen’s slot from 6.41pm to 7.23pm. A bit of a blow, therefore, if you had over-indulged at the bar during Sade and Spandau and had to queue up for the toilets during some of those 42 minutes.

Freddie Mercury prowled the stage as if he owned our national football stadium. And during Radio Ga Ga – a synth-heavy piece of mid-80s melodic rock that is still far better than anything Coldplay have ever recorded – came the moment that, for me, remains the apogée of stadium rock.

Spandau Ballet, Live Aid

Spandau Ballet, Live Aid

Look it up on YouTube (once you’ve finished reading this, of course). Halfway through the song, the cameraman behind Mercury captures the entire Wembley crowd simultaneously raising their hands above their heads and clapping in unison with the chorus.

All these years on, it still provides the raw power to raise hairs on the back of my neck. Great music does that and, though Radio Ga Ga is a long way down the list of Queen’s greatest songs, no one before (or since) has been able to grab an audience and keep them in their hand like the man born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, Africa.

That was then, and this is now – Southsea seafront, Portsmouth, Saturday, July 14, 2018. A blisteringly hot day, and for the first time in my life I’m sitting on a section of grass scorched light brown by this impressively dry summer of ours watching the weekly summer bandstand concert. Three decades and a day on from Live Aid, and local tribute act Forever Queen are strutting their stuff as the temperatures, like the music, hit the 80s.

Ok, I hear you. Here I am, fingers merrily dancing over a keyboard writing a column for the Portsmouth News and freely admitting this is my first time at Southsea Bandstand. But this is my tale – I only joined the paper in February. I don’t live in the city. I’m still learning about the great history and all the wonderful things that make Portsmouth Portsmouth. My eyes and ears are open and my appetite for knowledge is insatiable.

Southsea Food Festival

Southsea Food Festival

As is my love of ’70s and ’80s rock, and there are few bands with a better back catalogue than Queen. That is why, as the sun beats down on a sun-drenched crowd of several hundred, I am happy to raise my hands and clap during the chorus to Radio Ga Ga. I obviously have no shame, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of audience participation, is there?

I’ll answer that for you. No, there isn’t. And what cheered me at the Bandstand was that the area in front of the group was packed full of men, women and children dancing along. How wonderful, I thought, that young kids who would have absolutely no idea who Freddie Mercury was were throwing their arms in the air and clapping along.

It also struck me that some of the adults, mothers and fathers now, might not have been born when Mercury died. After all, he passed away – one of the highest profile casualties of AIDS – in November 1991. Hard to believe, for those of us who remember it vividly, that’s almost 27 years ago now.

After Live Aid, Freddie Mercury only played five more concerts in England. His last in the country he had come to call home was at Knebworth, Hertfordshire, on August 9, 1986, not even 13 months after his crowning glory. A sobering thought indeed.

And then another, thankfully less sobering, muse careered into my head. And it was this – fair play to Portsmouth City Council for laying on this series of Bandstand concerts. I know they took dog's abuse on social media for failing to provide any giant screens during the World Cup – they were hardly alone in this, Southampton's council couldn't pull their fingers out either – but credit where credit is due. A quick glance at the list of bands who proceeded Queen, and those following in the next few weeks, showed an eclectic 'something-for-everyone' programme of, lest we forget, FREE music in an enviable setting.

As the final bars of the encore drifted into the Solent – 'We Are The Champions', obviously – my partner and I wandered off the short distance to Palmerston Road where hundreds more people were enjoying the Southsea Food Festival, complete with more FREE music.

This came just a fortnight after the Gunwharf Food Festival. All this music and great scoff – wonderful name for a restaurant, 'Great Scoff' – makes me a tad jealous that I never discovered the delights of Portsmouth living earlier in my life.

I'm serious here –  from Gunwharf Quays to the Hayling Ferry, I've trekked the entire city seafront in the past few weeks. It helps that the sun has had his hat on, for sure, but the jewels can only sparkle in the sunshine if they're well polished in the first place. And I've also never seen so many tattoos!

Anyway, I love rock music, I love Queen, I love throwing my hands up in the air and clapping at concerts, and I'm loving what I see as I stroll along the Southsea prom, prom, prom where the brass band could play – to quote John Glover-Kind's 1907 classic – tiddly om pom pom.

And with all that in mind, feel free to judge me now...