The BIG One 6Festival Weekend
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The Inflatables formed in 1980 and were originally known as The Giant Inflatables.
Over the years the line up has changed but four of the core members have remained constant to this day. One of those members is bass player Howard Keeping.
“I think the longevity of The Inflatables is down to the fact that we were all friends before we started to make music… that we do this to have fun and don’t take it too seriously.”
Whether they take themselves seriously or not the band have built their reputation and loyal following with a full schedule of gigs throughout the county. Like many wannabe bands the inspiration behind the group was a shared love of music.
“In 1979 the British music scene was hit by something big – the 2 tone movement,” explains Howard. “With bands such as The Specials, Madness, The Selecter, The Beat and Bad Manners bringing a revival of the ska and rock steady music of the late 60s and early 70’s.”
“But this time it was mixed with the punk feel of the more recent late 70s. It was so exciting and new to us that it inspired us to emulate our heroes and form our own band.
“The only problem being that with the exception of Richard [Keeping] none of us could play any instruments.
“The ethos of the recent punk era was that anyone could have a go, it didn’t matter if you could play or not. So at the time it didn’t seem to matter to us.
“Over the next year we spent our pocket/paper round money on instruments and our spare time learning to play them. Within a year we played our first gig. It went well and from then on we were hooked.”
Despite their passion they had no idea if they would ever make it off the ground, but what they lacked in talent at the beginning they made up for in determination and eventually the two caught up with each other.
“We recorded some of our songs in my bedroom and sold cassette tapes at school,” Howard says. “When not just our friends but people we didn’t know wanted to buy copies we knew we must be doing something right. In the end we sold a few hundred copies.”
The band may not have had a chart hit but they have made an impact locally and in 1982 entered a local music competition, as Howard explains.
“We entered the Oxford Star ‘Search for a Star’ competition, made it to the final at the Oxford Playhouse and came second to The Blue Velvet Big Band, but this felt like winning to us.”
This year the band celebrates its 30th year alongside ska/2-tone legends Madness and The Specials.
To mark the anniversary of Madness, French record company, Big 8 Records, put together a tribute album which features The Inflatables’ version of One Better Day.
The album, released on 5 October 2009, includes tribute bands from all over the world putting their own interpretations on some classic Madness tracks.
Newest band member and lead singer Tony Bass says: “Reaching our 30th anniversary is a fantastic milestone for the band.
“I believe the band’s longevity and success is attributed to a talented group of musicians who share a passion for playing all the old ska/2-tone classics from yesteryear. All these original songs really take people on a trip down memory lane.”
Visit The Inflatables website