With a face like a bowl of mixed fruit Dennis Greaves was few teenager’s idea of a pop star but in 1983 there he was, kicking balloons skyward on Top of the Pops and splashed across the pages of Smash Hits as The Truth infiltrated the charts with their first two singles, ‘Confusion (Hits Us Every Time)’ and ‘A Step In The Right Direction’.
In the summer of ‘83 The Truth played an under-16s matinee show at the Marquee on Wardour Street. It was the first gig I ever attended. Not only was it a great gig, with the band giving it everything they had even though they had a ‘grown up’ show to do after, but the way they mingled and signed autographs for us kids beforehand left a lasting impression.
Despite Greaves’ claim “You won’t find our audience wearing parkas or Jam shoes” that’s precisely what you would have found them wearing. With a following born from the cooling ashes of the mod revival or, as I like to think of it, the lit match of a new post-Jam modernist movement, The Truth found favour with a young fan base searching for a fresh band to pin to their lapels. Ill plead not guilty to the parka, guilty to the Jam shoes.
After that initial success, they unfortunately released the limp ‘No Stone Unturned’, deservedly a flop in ‘84. Dropped from their label, increasingly keen to distance themselves from anything mod, they lost their way and their audience. By the time debut album, Playground, was released in ’85 it was too little, too late. The production was flat, there was no spark, the songs sounded tired and the bright happy faces of their early days had given way to the dark, cold, miserable looking scowls that adorned an uninviting album sleeve. Things then got really shit but let’s not go there.
Instead, let’s go back to 1984 and the second gig I ever went to, The Truth at the 100 Club on the night they recorded their Five Live EP, with a new rhythm section and where, a mere 33 years later, the band returned at the weekend. It’s a risky business, this nostalgia. Some things are best left in the past, memories intact, untainted by retrospective analysis, but this was reaffirmed everything I felt as boy. I didn’t get everything right but The Truth were, then and now, superb.
Their live shows always far outshone their records and they’d lost none of it. Swirling, snappy, bobbing and weaving Brit-Soul played from the heart. I’d love a new band like this to exist now. The Truth didn’t studiously examine Motown records and attempt to recreate them in sterile, laboratory-like conditions; they had a crack at them – both through covers and originals – in their own style, infusing them with vibrancy and earthy, geezerish charm; their frequent call and response exchanges less Detroit church and more London terrace.
The set was strikingly similar to those old shows – ‘From The Heart’, ‘Exception of Love’, ‘Second Time Lucky’, ‘Nothing’s Too Good For My Baby’, ‘Is There A Solution’, with a few later additions such as ‘Playground’ and ‘Spread A Little Sunshine’ thrown in. Plus the hits of course. No new songs. Dennis Greaves and Mick Lister led from the front, trading harmonies, keeping energy levels high, keen on audience participation. ‘I’m In Tune’, ‘Ain’t Nothing But A Houseparty’, ‘I Just Can’t Seem To Stop’, and ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’ were always big frenzied favourites but the more measured ‘You Play With My Emotions’ was stunning. Perhaps because it wasn’t one to jump around to I’d never fully appreciated how good that song is, real depth, and Dennis’s vocals packing a mighty punch.
The audience were less exuberant than 30-something years ago but despite not leaping around in a seething mass of sweaty teenage boys I enjoyed this just as much as I did as a pizza-faced 15-year-old in Jam shoes.