Late Night Stargazing

I’ve been meaning to post this for ages.

Many years ago, back when I was at Uni, I knew a guy called Alex.

He was a skinny lad with a Tim Burgess bowl hair-cut (he’d probably prefer me to refer to it as Pooh Sticks hair-cut), a dazzling array of T-shirts promoting bands you’ve never heard of, and a pair of skinny drainpipe jeans. He was an Indie Kid, and he loved his jingly-jangly guitar pop like nobody else I knew.

I got to know him because he shared a house with my friends Daints and Louise; Daints was the singer and sort-of-guitarist in the band I was in, Louise his partner and writer of the lyrics of at least one of the two original compositions we played in said band.

In my final year, Friday nights became “round at Daints and Louise’s” nights; I would rock up with a four-pack of beer and a packet of cigarettes (having told my girlfriend at the time that I had quit the latter); we would sit, drink, watch TV, listen to some tunes and, crucially as I remember it, play really quite aggressively competitive Tetris on the Gameboy. And yes, that really does date this.

There was much mutual respect between Alex and I, I think, for we both had a love of fairly obscure Indie jingly-janglers, and I remember telling him once how blown away I was with his knowledge of the genre, and he returned the compliment: “No, you’ve got loads of cool stuff that I don’t have.” I was chuffed to bits with that, even if it may have been a false platitude.

I mention this now for three reasons: firstly, to reinstate my credentials, in case those of you new to these pages happen to think, having listened to the Not Christmas mix I posted, that I’m all about the Spice Girls and Bryan Adams. I’m not, but there’s nothing wrong with liking either of those acts, although I would encourage you to maybe broaden your horizons a bit. You don’t want to end up on a TV quiz show, and when asked what categories you’re hoping don’t come up, give the answer “Music”, for that just implies your life is devoid of any of the pleasures music brings. (The exception is of course Only Connect, where 9 times out of 10 the music question is an absolute stinker, although this should be weighed against the fact that you will have met Victoria Coren-Mitchell and I would be forever jealous.)

Secondly I mention this as a platform for tonight’s song.

Chatting to Alex one Friday evening, he happened to mention that he was a fan of American Music Club. I assumed he was talking about some society he had joined, where members gather, listen to and murmur appreciatively about, well, American Music.

Fast forward to the next holiday: I am back home in Peterborough, and queuing up to purchase something or other in Andy’s Records, when I spy they have a little display on the counter of CD singles they think are worth your time/money – a bit like how chewing gum and other grabbable munchies are placed near the till at your local supermarket. Impulse buys, they call them.

Ordinarily, I’m primed to ignore this sort of thing. If they’re having to advertise it, my logic says, then they’ve obviously bought in an optimistically large amount of copies and are having problems shifting them. Ergo: probably not very good.

But on this occasion, the name of one of the bands jumped out at me: American Music Club. A penny dropped, a light bulb came on. Alex was not bragging about some secret society he had joined at all, he was giving me a steer to a little-known band (at the time) he thought I’d like.

And the title of the single was just deliciously intriguing.

This was thirty years ago, so I imagine many of you will know this record by now anyway. For the rest of you: prepare yourself for a right treat. This is neither jingly nor jangly but it is absolutely magnificent:

And thirdly because I see that this was released in 1993, a year after I graduated. I’ve not seen or heard from Alex since then, so I’ve never had chance to thank him for deliberately yet accidentally bringing this record into my life. So, on the off-chance you’re reading this: thank you so, so much Alex!

More soon.

How To Do a Cover Version

Oh go on then. Since I mentioned it, here’s the covers of all the songs which featured in the last post, lifted from that wonderful tribute album, “If I Were A Carpenter”.


Redd Kross – Yesterday Once More

I played this next one as the first record at a friend’s wedding a couple of years ago. Nobody thought I was even half as clever as I did.

Grant Lee Buffalo – We’ve Only Just Begun

Sonic Youth – Superstar

American Music Club – Goodbye to Love

They’re all great, of course, but as great or better than the originals? Hmm. Not sure. Damned close.

More soon.