Former cyberpunk Neal X launches his cool school of rock
The former star of Sigue Sigue Sputnik hopes to revive quality music for children, writes Bridget Galton FROM cyberpunk to Nellie the Elephant – former Sigue Sigue Sputnik guitarist Neal Whitmore has been tamed by fatherhood. Back in the 80s he perform
The former star of Sigue Sigue Sputnik hopes to revive quality music for children, writes Bridget Galton
FROM cyberpunk to Nellie the Elephant - former Sigue Sigue Sputnik guitarist Neal Whitmore has been tamed by fatherhood.
Back in the 80s he performed the band's hit Love Missile F1-11 sporting a multicoloured Mohican, stilettos and fetish gear.
Now the dad-of-two can be found in jeans and jumper at the Fleet Community Centre - entertaining toddlers at his Songsters classes.
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Whitmore - formerly known as Neal X - has returned to the studio in the attic of his home in Branch Hill, Hampstead, to record such classics as Summer Holiday, Bring Me Sunshine and Never Smile at a Crocodile.
He has also penned his own compositions after discovering the shortage of original new music for children.
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"I was aware when my son Jack was born four years ago that nothing was going to be the same again. It was life-changing. As a musician I was interested in hearing kids music but we struggled to find anything of decent quality. There was certainly nothing new that the whole family could listen to together."
As a new dad, Whitmore was delighted to discover Caroline Chan's popular MiniBeat classes, which run on Friday mornings at the Royal Free Recreation Centre in Fleet Road and Thursdays at Blackfriars hall in Southampton Road.
Chan, a mum of three teenagers, has been playing music with children for over 20 years - ever since her second child Oliver was diagnosed with autism. She founded an informal music group with the parents of other autistic children and started playing guitar at sing-alongs at schools and nurseries.
"She has a huge repertoire of songs for children and occasionally throws in a curve ball like the jazz standard Summertime. The parents love it as much as the kids. People get really involved and leave on a great high. All the kids seem to respond to the rhythm, it can improve co-ordination with clapping and stamping, and improve their language skills and counting," says Neal.
Three years ago, Chan and Whitmore formed Green Means Go with the motto 'real music for kids' to produce CDs for children.
They both play and sing on A Day in the Jungle, A Day at the Seaside and the forthcoming A Day at The Farm, combining old favourites with new child friendly music.
Chan says: "We seemed to share the same passion and vision for a new way of recording children's music which kept the heart and soul of the music we had loved as kids. The reaction from children, parents, family and friends and the press has been amazing and made it obvious that we've really hit on something special."
Whitmore says the project was inspired by his own childhood, listening to Family Favourites on the radio on Sunday lunchtimes.
"They had the same playlist of 30 songs and you could sing them all. It is those formative moments that give us a musical heritage. You can live part of your own childhood through your kids. I realised there was a space for a modern take on songs that were aimed at children but could be enjoyed by the whole family. Back then thought and love went into making kids' records - George Martin used to produce children's records and Rolf Harris used to record at Abbey Road - I wanted to revive that tradition for our children today. We have tried to make a grown up record with childish themes."
His early experience of music inspired Whitmore to become a guitarist. He started playing at 15, left school and joined Sigue Sigue Sputnik shortly after.
"We had a brief moment when we were the year's hot sensation for a nano-second.
"We had a hit single, travelled the world, had an amazing time then had a swift fall from grace, but I am a musician and I still haven't found anything else I want to do."
Whitmore, who still plays regular live gigs with Soft Cell singer Marc Almond, feels happier post 40 than he has ever done: "I do just enough still in the world of grown up music to feel I am still in touch but this also fits in with the school run."
But he says an audience of four-year-old girls are the toughest he has known.
"If you do something they don't like they just walk off and only come back if they hear something they like."
A Day at the Seaside costs £9.95 and can be bought from Happy Returns and Humla in Hampstead, Soup Dragon in Crouch End or Dots in Camden. Orders can also be made via www.greenmeansgo.co.uk.