Monday, 31 May 2010

'Welcome To The Pleasuredome' - Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1984)

“If you are caught in the open,
lie down.”

Much as I hated my school days, I never bunked a lesson. Never seemed much point. I’d ask the kids who did: “Where’d you go?” “The woods.” “Oh, but wasn’t it raining?” “Yes.” “So what’d you do there?” “Skipped stones on the pond.” Brilliant.

But despite my bid for the perfect attendance record, I can clearly remember one Monday in 1984 when I was 13 and faked a sickie. The reason? The new Frankie album was out. And it was a double! I was bursting with excitement and actually close to making myself sick for real (the irony!). I’d spent the year buying everything they released. Which was only actually two songs, but each came in a dozen different remixed versions. Now the album was finally here.

Somehow I actually managed to convince my parents to pop out to Our Price in town that morning and buy it for me. I guess they thought, ‘Surely our son wouldn’t try to get a day off school just to hear an album. Who’d do that?’ Parents, eh? They never understand you.

At the time, it was every bit as magnificent as I had hoped. Just trying to decipher Paul Morley’s sleeve notes was a joy before you’d even put the album on. Then you had the first side of the first record basically taken up by one song (a master stroke in the days before I’d heard Dylan and the Velvets). Followed on the second side by yet more remixes of their first two singles. How could sides 3 and 4 get any better? They couldn’t. Looking back, there’s an awful lot of filler and peculiar covers. But there’s ‘The Power of Love’ nestling at the end. And I still really love just holding this record and thinking of that day. Like I’m doing right now. And that’s more than many albums give you.

Spotify linky:
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes - Annihilation
(Another album that isn’t on Spotify yet, but here’s the classic ‘Annihilation’ remix of ‘Two Tribes’ that reminds me of going down the youth club with my cousins.)

On this day ... 1989 (aged 18)

Scribblings from my diary ...

“Apparently, this has been the hottest May for 140 years. This record will no doubt be broken when the sun explodes and we are showered with radioactive rock.”

Now playing: 'Saint Bartlett' - Damien Jurado (2010)

“I wish that I could float,
float up from the ground.”

If you find yourself on the train to Guildford on a sunny Spring morning, I can highly recommend this album – the second pick in my (almost weekly) series of new releases that are tickling my ears.

You’re going to discover a lot of alt-country/Americana in these ‘Now playing’ posts. Don’t start griping. Damien Jurado has been releasing consistently heart-rending albums for over a decade. Songs that sound like plaintive sighs. I guess my idea of Spring music may be a little different than yours.

Spotify linky:

Friday, 28 May 2010

'You And Your Sister' - This Mortal Coil (1991)

“You say my love for you’s not real,
But you don’t know how real it feels”

So, you’re Head of the College for the Distributive Trades – part of The London Institute (that name used to take up half my CV). The building is five floors, but each is too small for an exam hall (it’s now the home of Capital Radio in Leicester Square). So where are your pupils going to sit their HNDs? Oh, here’s an idea: the crypt at St Martin’s Church. (!??!)

Yes, you can imagine the welcoming atmosphere (after you’d carefully weaved your way past the ‘colourful’ characters queuing for the soup kitchen in the building opposite). We sat in huge, dank stone vaults and strained to see our exam papers in the half-light (while outside the world was basking in the May sun). I’ve never seen so many students finish their papers early just so they could escape the place. The examiners must have seriously wondered why all our essays on retail distribution channels were tinged with such melancholy and maudlin thoughts.

This Mortal Coil were a treasured discovery of the time. Circling the nucleus of 4AD-boss Ivo-Watts Russell were collaborations from some of my favourite artists on the label, including the sublime pairing of Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly on this track. (My grandad always likes it when I play this one.) The three This Mortal Coil albums also uncovered many new musical paths for me through their wonderful covers, including Chris Bell, Tim Buckley and Syd Barrett.

St Martin’s crypt is now a cafĂ© and gift shop. But for me it’s haunted by memories of exam days. The shepherd’s pie looks good though.

Spotify linky:
This Mortal Coil – You And Your Sister

Bonus Spotify linky - the original version:

On this day ... 1986 (aged 15)

Scribblings from my diary …

“I find a used British Telecom phone card.”

Monday, 24 May 2010

'Disintegration' - The Cure (1989)

““The shallow drowned lose less than we”
You breathe
The strangest twist upon your lips
“And we shall be together …””

My alternate title for this blog was The Shallow Drowned. But it seemed a bit heavy.

My love for ‘Disintegration’ knows no end. It knows a beginning though. And that was twenty-one years ago to the month. In fact, The Cure have just reissued the album today in one of those shiny gatefold Deluxe Anniversary Editions (which obviously means I have to buy it for the fourth time). The first time round, I bought it on cassette during school lunchtime on the day it came out and it became the soundtrack to my A-level revision. Except very little revision got done if I was listening to it (which could account for the grade D in Geography).

“But what about that girl you hit with the snowball?” I hear you ask. “We’re only putting up with another Cure post to hear about her.” That’s a good memory you have there. Don’t worry, if I’m writing about The Cure then I’m also writing about Toni. Having restrained from throwing anything at her head for over two years, I felt a wave of confidence and invited her to see The Cure on The Prayer Tour that supported this album. It was a baking hot Saturday evening in July at Wembley Arena (the second of three shows that weekend), and for all three and a half hours they were mesmerising. Even people who didn’t go with Toni seem to agree it was just the most wonderful night.

I’ve listened to ‘Disintegration’ five times today. (Which, in 2010 terms, must make me Mayor of this album surely.) And although it’s the second in The Cure’s ‘doom’ trilogy, it only reminds me of the best of times.

Spotify linky:
The Cure – The Same Deep Water As You

My life in passport photos - Part 1

On this day ... 1989 (aged 18)

Scribblings from my diary …

“Rearrange my room a bit. (Well, actually, I just rearrange my records.)”

Sunday, 23 May 2010

'The Drowners' - Suede (1992)

“Well he writes the line;
Wrote right down my spine.
It says,
“Oh, do you believe in love there?””

Every other Tuesday, for almost three years, I signed on at the dole office. Let’s blame the recession of the early nineties which kicked in just as I left college. But let’s also blame me for refusing to consider any job that didn’t involve writing.

The job centre didn’t really know what to do with me. I got sent on a week-long course where we were taught how to write a CV. Well, I already had one of those (albeit a very short one as I had no work experience), but I had to attend every day or I’d get my benefits stopped. Everyone else on the course seemed to be a builder – they’d all turn up hours late, suspiciously covered in dust considering they weren’t supposed to be working, and then refuse to put down any details of any job they’d ever done on their CVs.

I then got sent on a Restart course, though I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be restarting as I had yet to actually start anything. And then there was a visit to the Job Centre careers advisor. I did wonder how good her advice was going to be if she’d ended up working as a Job Centre careers advisor. But how wrong was I? She suggested I try tucking my shirt in if I wanted a job and that she may be able to get me some volunteer work cleaning out the Basingstoke Canal. Hmm …

For all this jumping through hoops, I couldn’t actually receive unemployment benefit as I had never worked. So instead I received income support. Which (after food and rent) gave me enough to buy two albums a week down the Rock Box (the local indie store). Suede remind me most of those days – they were always playing on my Walkman as I strolled the two miles into town to sign on, and I had seen them play in the new bands tent at the Reading Festival around the time this first single was released. Brett spoke a lot about his life on the dole in interviews and it was very inspiring to see how things had worked out for him with Suede.

Oh, and there’s a happy ending for me: I got a job. But that’s another story.

Spotify linky:

On this day ... 1982 (aged 11)

Scribblings from my diary ...

“Learn Shakin’ Stevens’ ‘Oh Julie’ on my guitar.”

Saturday, 22 May 2010

'In The Garden' - Van Morrison (1986)

“And as I sat beside you,
I felt the great sadness that day,
In the garden.”

Whenever I visit home, the first voice I hear is Van Morrison’s. Not because he’s lodging there, but simply because my mum is continually playing his music. And has been for as long as I can remember (which is about age 6 – how come some folk can remember when they were 2? – seems unlikely – anyhoo …).

Now, when you’re young, of course, you can’t possibly like anything your parents recommend. Uh-huh. So there was certainly no Van the Man in my record collection. But then, there didn’t need to be as he was everywhere else around the house. And everywhere beyond too. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a car journey with my parents without Van Morrison playing. And when you’re a kid and traveling for hours to Wales on holiday, that’s some test of endurance. “Pleeease can we listen to the Bruno Brookes Chart Show?” “No son, they don’t have radio in Wales.”

These days, I have seen the error of my ways and am always amused when I pick up a Van album in a sale and know every song from those car rides. I even went to see him perform the classic ‘Astral Weeks’ with my parents last year – which I think pleased them more than anything else I’ve ever done in my life. But what I most like is that every time I hear Van Morrison’s voice (on the radio, in a pub or wherever), I think of home.

Spotify linky:
Van Morrison – In The Garden - 2007 Re-mastered
(This is one of my mum’s favourites.)

End of term report ... 1986 (aged 15)

The musings of my Year Head ...

“I should like to see Michael-Jason becoming more involved in school life. At the moment he is proud of the fact that he does not integrate in school activities.”

Now playing: 'Terrible Love' - The National (2010)

“And I can’t fall asleep
without a little help.”

“Enough with 1987. What are you whistling this week?” Well, don’t let it ever be said I don’t listen to you good folk – yes Debbie, I’m talking to you. This is the new weekly bit (possibly, let’s see how it goes) where we’ll come bang up to date with the songs that thrill, soothe, delight, vibrate, comfort, amuse and terrify me.

While the world waits for a new Elbow album, it seems The National have become the latest music press darlings with their new album ‘High Violet’. And quite rightly too. Of course, I’ve been in to them from the start – when, for some reason, I thought they were French. If you like your singers tortured, brooding and slightly incomprehensible, then welcome to their world.

Spotify linky:
The National – Terrible Love

Friday, 21 May 2010

'Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft' - The Wedding Present (1987)

“Was it really full?
They must have queued there since half past three.
No, I didn’t go;
Was it a good film?
Well, that’s just me.”

Oh, look. There’s that girl I really like talking to that guy I really hate. And they’re calling me over. And she’s wearing that top I told her I liked last week. And now his hands are in hers. And they’re telling me about the party they’re going to this weekend. And they’re asking if I’ve been invited. Please excuse me. I need to go slam my head against the toilet wall in the Science Block.

The Wedding Present’s ‘George Best’ was my comfort blanket in my late teens for these situations. Oh, who am I kidding, they’re my comfort blanket to this day. I had The Smiths to tell me I would meet someone some day. And The Weddoes to tell me, yes, that’s true, but they’d already be seeing someone else.

I’m quite sure I’ll pick further songs from this album in other entries, but tonight we’ll go with the opener. If you ever hear me listening to this, then I’m having a bad day.

Spotify linky:
The Wedding Present – Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft - Live In Valencia

(Spotify has let me down again and I can only find a live version for you. Are you reading this Spotify?!!?)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

'Five Get Over Excited' - The Housemartins (1987)

“I am mad from Scandinavia,
I want a guy in the London area.
He must be crazy and Sagittarius,
‘Cause I am Leo and I’m hilarious”

The Lower Sixth geography field trip was billed as ‘a life changing experience’ by the class in the year above us. Can you imagine these people? I mean, who even speaks like that at 17 about a school trip to Slapton? Those three dreadful days being endlessly ferried about in a moldy minibus while everyone around me sang ‘Hotel California’ just pretty much affirmed everything I already suspected about life. And sleeping out on the fire escape every night didn’t help matters.

That’s right, the fire escape. I’m not sure how many Health & Safety regulations that contravenes, but this was 1988 and such things were still just on the ‘nice-to-have’ list. It turned out our school hadn’t organised enough beds. So someone wouldn’t be able to sleep in the main dorm with everyone else. I quickly volunteered for that and was promised a bed in a separate room. Except the bed was one of those fold-out things. And the room was basically the landing of the fire escape.

The first night I was woken up by everyone coming back from the pub and using the fire escape to sneak pass the teachers – while drunkenly belting out another chorus of ‘Hotel California’. So I put a stop to that by moving a chest of draws in front of the door – another safety no-no I would think. Then I was woken again at 4am by the light streaming through the curtain-less windows. Good times.

I’ve found an old folder that says our days were filled with the joys of fluvial data, cumulative infiltration and pebble size analysis. My strongest memory though is visiting Plymouth to conduct some kind of town centre survey, but instead conducting my own survey of the shelves of Our Price. 'Now That's What I Call Quite Good' was just out and I clearly remember holding the tape in my hands, but I didn’t have enough money to afford it. So it was back on the minibus to ride into the sunset, with The Eagles tribute band telling me "I can check out any time I want, but I can never leave." Indeed.

Spotify linky:
The Housemartins – Five Get Over Excited

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

'Dead Souls' - Joy Division (1981)

“Someone take these dreams away,
That point me to another day.”

Joy Division is the one band I wish I’d seen play live. But I was only 9 when Ian Curtis took his life on this night in 1980.

Like many folks my age, I discovered Joy Division through New Order. “You’re saying that Blue Monday band used to be that Love Will Tear Us Apart band? No way.” “Way. Sort of.” I also came to them backwards. So the first album I bought was (kind of) their last: 'Still' – a posthumous double album of unused tracks and live stuff. This means that although ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’ are quite rightly regarded as classics, this one steals my affections. To this day, I refuse to buy it on CD as I love every crackle of the vinyl so much. And the simple, stamped sleeve. And just the sheer weight of it (reflecting the weight of the songs within?).

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to hear Hooky, Stephen Morris, Factory label boss Tony Wilson and sleeve designer Peter Saville talk of their Joy Division days. It’s as close as I’ll come to making that wish come true.

Ian Kevin Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) RIP

Monday, 17 May 2010

'I See Monsters' - Ryan Adams (2003)

“I know you cannot hear me now,
‘Cause you’re fast asleep,
But I love you now.”

Five years ago, I was just landing in Boston to see the first screening of ‘Revenge Of The Sith’ (yes, I’m that geeky). But my first stop that very evening was to see Ryan Adams & The Cardinals who were playing at the exotic sounding (but not-that-exotic-at-all-in-reality) Avalon Ballroom, across the road from the Red Sox stadium.

Seeing your favourite band overseas is always something special and this would certainly be one of my favourite ever gigs if I was making a Nick Hornby-style list (I’m not). Everything was perfectly aligned, in that it was wonderfully misaligned. Ryan took to the beautifully lit stage (all floaty silver balloons) over an hour late, looking like a poster boy for life on the road. He then opened with half a dozen songs that no-one recognised – including the lighting engineer in the booth next to me who kept muttering, “This isn’t on the set list – how am I supposed to light this?”

By midnight and two hours in, Ryan and the Cardinals were melting faces (in a good way) – they’d even played some songs we knew. But it was a work night and folk were leaving to catch the last train home. By 1am, there were only about a third of us left – even the Cardinals had gone, leaving Ryan on stage with just his acoustic guitar and that gorgeously wracked voice. ‘I See Monsters’ was the final song on a night that was now early morning – way beyond curfew, the manager of the Avalon had to put the lights up and actually lead Ryan off stage.

That haunting final song played in my head as I walked back to my hotel through a deserted downtown Boston. I’d been up for over 24 hours at this point (what with the time zone differences) but was totally wired by the show. I’ve seen Ryan in great form many times, but never better. In recent years, he’s focused more on his writing, but I hope he takes to the stage again some time soon.

Spotify linky:

Sunday, 16 May 2010

'Can't Be Sure' - The Sundays (1989)

“It’s good to have something to live for you’ll find;
Live for tomorrow.
Live for a job and a perfect behind,
High time.”

(See what I’ve done here? It’s Sunday. What song should I choose ? Yes? Very clever, I’m sure you’ll agree.)

My friend Laura G was a huge fan of The Sundays from this very first song. Which meant I couldn’t be. Those were the rules. Well, the indie snob rules. If a friend at school discovered a band before you did, you had to dislike that band. In fact, you had to actively dislike them. In every childish way possible. “The Sundays? The Scumdays, more like. Have you heard the secret B-side track on the white label, French import, 12-inch remix of the new Family Cat single? No? Then you can hardly comment on good music can you, Laura?” That kind of thing.

Secretly though, I was quite smitten by The Sundays' first album, ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’ with its tales of hideous towns and finding a pound on the underground. How could I resist any band that sounded like a magical hybrid of The Smiths and The Cocteau Twins. And who didn’t have a soft spot for Harriet Wheeler?

So this is my belated apology to Laura. Sorry. (Voice of the Beehive still suck though.)

Spotify linky:

On this day ... 1989 (aged 18)

Scribblings from my diary …

“Part two of my art exam this morning. I spend four hours carefully selecting the right tapes to listen to, as I add a dab of paint here or there. I want my hair cut like Ian McCulloch’s.”

Saturday, 15 May 2010

'The Queen Is Dead' - The Smiths (1986)

“And so I broke in to the Palace,
with a sponge and a rusty spanner.
She said, “Eh, I know you and you cannot sing.”
I said, “That’s nothing; you should hear me play piano.””

I’m not sure if inflicting ‘The Queen Is Dead’ on to a largely uninterested Fifth Form English class is still part of the National Curriculum, but it certainly should be. It’s why I always looked forward to Ms Taylor’s classes twice a week – she was quite simply the most inspiring teacher in the school. In her classes, English wasn’t just about essays on the classics. It was alive and all around us in music, films and the NME (well, that’s how I interpreted it). If the town had put a ban on dancing, she’d have been the one encouraging us to go all Footloose.

When you’re at school, it’s hard to imagine your teachers share anything in common with you. (It's often hard to imagine they’re even real people – hence that shocking moment when you see your teachers in a pub for the first time.) But Ms Taylor liked The Smiths. More than that, she’d seen The Smiths live in Manchester. I was in awe.

I like to think that her idea to bring our favourite records in to English was set up knowing I’d choose some Morrissey to entertain the class. I don’t think we won over many new fans – no-one appeared to be defacing the Five Star stickers on their notebooks or writing Moz on their arm with a fountain pen. Spirits noticeably lifted when the title song came to an end. But were quickly deflated when it became apparent that Ms Taylor had decided we should listen to the whole first side of the album. The best twenty minutes I ever spent in a classroom.

I’d like to see Ms Taylor again. She truly is one of those wonderfully spirited teachers who make you want to stand on your desk and seize the day.

Spotify linky:
The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead / Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty [Medley]

On this day ... 1986 (aged 15)

“Quote of the year from Lee Something Or Other in our Physics test:”

“Why are you late, Lee?”
“Because it’s a long walk from the PE block.”
“That’s all right then – sit down.”
“I wasn’t coming from the PE block though.”

Friday, 14 May 2010

'Until I Believe In My Soul' - Kevin Rowland & Dexys Midnight Runners (1982)

“I was kind,
I was nice,
Where’s my prize?”

The first band I was in didn’t have a name. How very novel. It didn’t actually have any instruments either. It was my cousins Grant and Matthew. And me. With air guitars. And a drum kit made out of cardboard boxes. Each of us swapping roles with every song. It was all very odd behaviour for 21-year-olds. Only joking – ho, ho – we would have been about 11.

Our shows would take place in our grandparents’ front room, with a specially invited audience. ‘Specially invited’ meaning one of us would pop in to the back room mid-afternoon and ask our grandparents if they wanted to watch us basically shout along to some records for half an hour.

Dexys always sticks in my mind from those afternoons as ‘Too-Rye-Ay” was just out and came with a lyric sheet, so we’d sing along to almost every song off it. I remember we’d perform a particularly spirited version of ‘Until I Believe In My Soul’ – saxophone solo and all. Though I’m not sure how we got round the use of the f-word. I’m guessing one of us hovered over the volume knob.

Sadly for the world, musical differences didn’t pull us apart and we were soon learning real instruments for our next moment in the spotlight: The Bermuda Dimensions (yes, great name, I know). But more of that another time.

Spotify linky:
Dexy's Midnight Runners – Until I Believe In My Soul - BBC Richard Skinner Session 9/7/81
(Unfortunately, the album version isn’t on Spotify, but this is a mighty fine, non-sweary version.)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

'This Corrosion' - The Sisters Of Mercy (1987)

“Well, what do you say
D’you have a word for Giving Away?
Got a song for me?”

Aaah … the Great Goth War of 1987. Yes, I remember it well. The battlefield? The Sixth Form Common Room. The prize? Control of the beat-up hi-fi. The battlelines were quickly drawn. In the back-combed, winkle-picking Gothic corner, my good self and my friend Chris (not the Mary Chain Christopher from earlier – he was too busy funking out in the music room). And all around us were our arch enemies: the casual lads of the Upper Sixth who all looked like they’d been dressed from a Littlewoods catalogue by their mums. It was clear from the very first break-time that our arrival was far from welcome in their sanctuary of tan chinos and fluorescent cardigans.

‘This Corrosion’ came out in September of 1987, at the start of the new term. As a result, it was the first casualty of the Battle of the Bosch (I can’t recall if it actually was a Bosch hi-fi – I just liked the alliteration). The Sisters were cruelly cut down in their 11-minute, bombastic, choir-laden prime by the bass-slapping, insipid bleatings of Level 42.

Chris and I lost a lot of good tapes that year, as they were yanked from the stereo and flung back at our heads. Skeletal Family. Ghost Dance. Rose of Avalanche. We salute you.

Just over a year later, it was always amusing to see these casual clowns back from their first weeks at University and claiming to have always liked The Smiths and Echo & the Bunnymen. May we never meet again.

Spotify linky:
Sisters Of Mercy – This Corrosion

P.S. Remind me to write about the Gothic thrills of Kensington Market some time.

Monday, 10 May 2010

'I Want You' - Elvis Costello And The Attractions (1986)

“It’s knowing that he knows you now after only guessing ...”

When I was in the lower sixth, a girl in the year above me brought me in this song to borrow. This is back in the days when sharing music meant carrying around the 12-inch vinyl in a Woolworths carrier bag from class to class.*

I wish I could remember the girl’s name – I haven’t seen her since the last day of that term. I’m certain it began with ‘S’ and I’m going to make a guess and say it was Suzanne. I had never heard this song before and only knew Elvis Costello through the odd hit on the radio. I’m not sure what prompted her to march up to me that early summer day with this record. We were really only passing friends – sharing a registration class at the start and end of each day together. And I didn’t read anything into the title. But I was more than curious to get home that day and hear this song.

It was traumatising. In a good way. An exorcism. I still find it harrowing to this day and mentally prepare myself to listen to it once a year. It’s one of those songs that is so very personal, yet speaks to everyone’s experiences. If you’re going to listen to it today, I suggest you don’t do it at work or on the tube or with anybody else in the room.

So very raw. So very beautiful. I thank Suzanne for introducing me to this song and you, dear reader, can thank me next time you see me.

Spotify linky:

* Unfortunately, I've never tracked down the original 12-inch of this record that I borrowed all those years ago, so the pic is of a compilation CD that includes the song as the final track - nothing could possibly follow it.

On this day ... 1989 (aged 18)

Scribblings from my diary ...

“We have the sixth form photo at lunchtime, which involves everyone brushing their hair and smiling.”

Sunday, 9 May 2010

'Red Right Hand' - Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds (1994)

“You’re one microscopic cog
in his catastrophic plan,
designed and directed by
his red right hand.”

Sundays are spent with my grandparents. They’re both fans of Nick Cave and have their favourite songs, but this is one I know they both like. I smile every time my Nan raises her right hand up in the chorus, just like Nick does on stage.

A couple of years after this was released, I met Nick at a signing for his book ‘King Ink II’ in Kensington. It was my Nan’s birthday coming up, so I thought it’d make a great present. ‘Could you sign it to Doris?’ ‘Er … Doris?’ ‘Yep, my Nan’s a big fan.’ Bemused smile from Nick. Shy handshake from me. Happy Nan.

Spotify linky:

On this day ... 1989 (aged 18)

Scribblings from my diary ...

“The sun’s out and everyone feels the need to look stupid, and moan at me for wearing black.”

Saturday, 8 May 2010

'Vet For The Insane' - Fields Of The Nephilim (1987)

“I want to go home,
In this asylum I cry for you.”

My sister is six years younger than me, which meant that in my early teens I was occasionally put on babysitting duty. And this is the song I used to terrify her with when she went to bed. But in a playful way. Yes … a playfully terrifying sort of way.

Five minutes after closing her door, I’d crank up my stereo and belt this out from down the hall. She’d be yelling at me from her room to turn it off within about five seconds, and by the final minute – when the eerie childrens' voices and chimes arrive – she’d be up and yelling at me in my room. I never tired of this routine.

Now, I should point out that we have always got on fabulously – none of that usual sibling squabbling. And I think she developed a love/hate relationship with this song. Plus, she got her own back a year later by continually torturing me with her New Kids On The Block albums. Hangin’ tough, indeed.

Spotify linky:

Friday, 7 May 2010

'Feed Me With Your Kiss' - My Bloody Valentine (1988)

“Your kiss will set you free”

For 22 years I’ve had a ringing in my left ear. It’s actually more like a high-pitched whistling. It makes it hard to sleep and gets worse when I’m anxious. At first it used to come and go. I’d come back from gigs with my ears whistling and it’d be gone by morning. Most folk I know have had that experience. I didn’t think much of it. And then I went to see My Bloody Valentine at the University of London. In a very small room. Where they played this song, with a 15-minute solo that was basically a wail of feedback. Hmm … this isn’t going to turn out well.

I woke up the next morning and the whistling was still there. And the next day too. After a week I went to the doctor’s. He wasn’t exactly the most sympathetic chap. Tinnitus was a new word to me and I think to him too. I was sitting there explaining the effect it was having on me when suddenly there was a riot of drilling from the roadworks outside. “Don’t worry,” he said. “That’s not your ears.” I never went back.

So kids, today’s post comes with a health warning: look after your ears. I’d like to see that stamped on all gig tickets, ads and posters. My Bloody Valentine has started handing out free ear plugs at shows. I wish more bands would do that. And I certainly wish I’d had some back then.

P.S. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure the next post is a return to the frothier, light-hearted rambling nonsense you’ve come to know and love.

Spotify linky:
My Bloody Valentine – Feed Me With Your Kiss

P.P.S. Turn your speakers/headphones down if you're clicking through to this link, as it starts loud and only gets louder.

On this day ... 1990 (aged 19)

Scribblings from my diary ...

“I actually got a phone call today. But I was in the bath and they never called back.”

Thursday, 6 May 2010

'Joker Hysterical Face' - The Fall (1983)

“He made a mistake three times at least,
Let’s face it, you don’t make the same mistake twice”

For about 6 months in 1987, I refused to make friends with any one who didn’t own a white vinyl German import copy of the Fall’s ‘Room To Live’ album. This is because I’m an idiot.

This is certainly the group that annoyed my Dad the most when I was growing up under his roof. Which made them my favourite. Daubing ‘Victim of Educated Aimlessness’ (a quote from the album sleeve) in Tipp-Ex on my school bag didn’t exactly amuse my teachers either.

Oh, and as you’ve guessed, I made exactly no new friends in that 6 months. But it taught me to be more open-minded about peoples' musical tastes. Who am I kidding? I still secretly wish all my friends owned this on white vinyl.

Spotify linky:

Melody Maker, Dec 1992

I sat down to write about 'Joker Hysterical Face' and remembered this clipping. I'm sure all these songs will crop up here at some point - yes, even Belinda Carlisle.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

'Catch' - The Cure (1987)

“Yeah, I know who you remind me of
A girl I think I used to know.
Yeah, I’d see her when the days got colder
On those days when it felt like snow.”

This is one of those songs where every line seems to be lifted from a moment in my life. You know those sort of songs, right? It means you immediately adore them, but don’t want to listen too many times in case they get tarnished. Yes?

A few months before this song was released, I met a girl in the snow. To be honest, I hit her on the back of the head with a snowball. She spun round. We met. If her scowling from a distance can be called ‘meeting’. Yes, I’ve decided it can.

The song will tell you all you need to know about this girl for the moment. We became fast friends, so the part of the song about not catching her name was true only for about half an hour. We’ll call her Toni, for that was in fact her name. And we’ll cross her path again in future songs. (Basically, in every single Cure song - and there will be a few.)

Listening to 'Catch' again right now, it still seems plucked straight from that January day. (Pause for reflection.)

So the lesson here is … always hit girls on the back of the head with snowballs if you get the chance. Erm … no, perhaps that isn’t the lesson.

Spotify linky:
The Cure – Catch

On this day ... 1987 (aged 16)

Scribblings from my diary ...

“Had an argument with my parents as they wanted to go out for a meal tonight and wouldn’t go unless I went. I didn’t want to go, so we all stayed at home.”

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

'Psychocandy' - The Jesus & Mary Chain (1985)

“Walking back to you
Is the hardest thing that
I can do”

My mum once asked me for the defining moment in my life. My reply was ‘Psychocandy’.

The day it came out I was 14 and couldn’t afford it. So I convinced my friend Christopher to buy it down Our Price that weekend, claiming that it was the greatest thing he was ever going to hear. This was a lie as he was very much the school’s King of Funkadelica. But he went with my recommendation. And hated it. And sold it to me a day later for 50 pence.

I’ve since bought it again many times over in every format, but that very first vinyl copy remains a treasure to me. How many teenage hours were spent looking at that sleeve while the songs rattled and screeched through my tinny, tiny speakers? You weren’t there, so can’t possibly answer that, but you get the idea. It was lots.

Here were four scraggly men. In black. With the most wonderful fringes. Look! That’s me. In my New Town home. Thinking I’m not alone. And the songs all burst into life on a squeal of feedback, spat out only half-intelligible thoughts about tripping people up, and then crashed to an end. All in two minutes. Why wasn’t Nik Kershaw doing stuff like this?

I’m quite sure ‘Taste of Cindy’ was the first song I heard from the album – on a free Record Mirror (or somesuch) flexi-disc that my older cousin Grant played me – so I have a huge soft spot for it. But my favourite remains ‘Just Like Honey’. I always imagined using it in the climax of a film. What? Oh.

I’m feeling bad about Christopher now. Don’t worry, I’ll pay him back properly next time I see him.

Spotify linky: