Throwback to the ’80s
Sir Devin Nooner — lead singer and guitarist for “the world’s greatest ’80s cover band” The Molly Ringwalds — has a secret. He’s a little bit sick of covering Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
“There’s a handful of those actually … ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ ‘Living on a Prayer’ … I’ve played them literally 10,000 times,” he says. “Those are songs everyone’s playing now. But we can’t not play at least one of those, because we wouldn’t get out of the building alive if we didn’t … but when the song comes up and you hear the audience singing it back to you, you forget how many times you’ve played it and it’s exciting again.”
Nooner and his band mates, who hail from Sheffield, England, are in their 16th year of touring the country with their flamboyant, popular show. With Nooner dressed as Adam Ant, guitarist Randi Wilde dons the layered Devo plastic red hat; bassist Lord Phillip Wang is a curly, blonde Twisted Sister; Dickie English on keyboards plays Pee-Wee Herman; and the drummer, Sir Liam Thunders, is the Karate Kid. They perform more than 100 shows per year but remain based in their adopted city of New Orleans where Nooner says their most dedicated fans live. They rarely (if ever) return to their home city in England.
Unlike so many one-hit-wonder ’80s bands that faded our or blew up in a blaze of bitterness, the Molly Ringwalds know and appreciate what they have and work hard not to jeopardize the magic. The secret? “A lot of red wine and Jägermeister to start,” Nooner says. “We fight as much as any family does. When there’s a problem, you get in a room and bloody work it out so it doesn’t affect the longevity of the band.
“We really enjoy what we do, and, as long as people keep showing up in the amounts they’re showing up, we’re going to keep doing it,” he says. “It’s a gift.”
Will they end up geriatric rockers like The Rolling Stones? “I hope I’m not doing 100 shows a year when I’m 73,” he says. “But if it’s 10, I’ll take it.”
Favorite song to perform: Whichever most recent song the band has learned. The ’80s might be gone forever, but the set list it left behind is endless. With around 300 songs in the band’s repertoire, there’s still plenty of uncharted territory to explore.
On his personal set list: The Beatles, The Black Crowes and lately, in memoriam, George Michael (one of only a few nods to the ’80s since he lives and breathes it three to four days per week).
About the band name: As ideas for the band were coming together and ’80s terminology flew fast and furious, the lead singer of local band Bag of Donuts, a close friend of theirs, said, “What about the Molly Ringwalds?” “We just looked at each other and instantly knew,” Nooner says. Besides, it rolls off the tongue a lot better than The Anthony Michael Halls or the Emilio Estevezes.
The real Molly Ringwald: Knows about the band. Her dad was asked about it in an interview and says they have no problem with it as long as the band respected the name. “Which of course we do,” Nooner says. “We would never dis on Molly.” They invited her to a show when she was performing Chicago in New Orleans, but that was before social media. “Nowadays we could probably get her in to tune our guitars,” Nooner says.
The payoff: If you’re still reading, then you just might be a die-hard Molly fan. Here’s another little secret for ya: This British band is actually a quintet of locally grown musicians, and, in true New Orleanian fashion, they love to dress up, sing, act rowdy and pretend to be someone they aren’t.
Lagniappe: Sir Devin Nooner (known to his neighbors and on his birth certificate as Jeffrey Lane) is mad about The Beatles. So how cool is it that his wife’s name is Penny Lane? His kids carry the music tribute torch with the undeniably artistic names Lennon and Jett.
The Molly Ringwalds play Southport Hall at 8 p.m. on Feb. 4. themollyringwalds.com