1985 and All That

“More soon. Better soon. No really, I promise.”

Sometimes things I write come back to haunt me. Last time I wrote anything in this thread, it was the words above.

And then I checked to see what records that I bought in 1985  I still had to write about.

Ah.

Can I pretend I was talking about records I bought in 1986? No? Fair enough.

OK, let’s try and get through these then.

You know how stand-up comedians often talk of terrible gigs they played when they started out, before they found “their voice”? Well, that pretty much sums up the mish-mash of records that I’m going to post today: I hadn’t quite found my voice, my style just yet, and that’s as close as I’m going to get to justifying some of these.

So, first, one which proves that I was still a little easily-led. When I was 15, and for a few years beforehand, many of my friends were into bands like Pink Floyd and Rush. I bought into the first to an extent – I’ve talked about ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ on these pages before, and that remains the only record by them that I own a physical copy of – but I never fell for the ‘charms’ of Canadian rockers Rush at all.

But there was another band that loomed large amongst my peers, who I never really liked all that much, but who managed to score a couple of hits in 1985, the first of which I still quite like but didn’t buy, and the second which I did buy but don’t think I’ve played more than once or twice since:

marillion-lavender-emi

Marillion – Lavender

That sleeve really tells you all you need to know about that record, doesn’t it?

Well, not quite. Marillion’s lead singer was called Fish. He chose that name because he thought it to be less ridiculous than his real name. Which was Derek Dick. So he had a point.

Moving swiftly on then, a record which I seem to remember a girl at school giving to me as a birthday present. I have no idea why she did that. I don’t recall ever saying I particularly liked it, and I don’t recall she and I ever being particularly great friends. Friendly, sure, but not friendly enough for birthday gifts. Maybe I’d mentioned it in passing and she decided to present me with it thinking I would be grateful, maybe I’d mentioned in in passing and she decided to present me with it knowing it would piss me off to actually own it. (In case any of you are now hollering “Maybe she fancied you, you idiot!” at your screen/tablet/phone, well I can rule that out, for she only ever had eyes for wrong ‘uns, and no amount of shoplifting white socks would have made me a wrong ‘un). So, I have no idea. All I know is that I not only own this, but also that it has inexplicably survived my lean years, when records that I genuinely loved were ruthlessly stripped from within my vinyl collection to assist me in the purchase of some unloved trinket or other:

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 Red Box – Lean on Me

I do hope that everyone of you is saying “Aye” right now, as requested.

There was still the occasional purchase from Britannia Music going on at this time, including this, which was actually released two years earlier in 1983, but which I bought through choice rather than one of their “Tick This Box and Send the Card Back if You Don’t Want This Record” scam. I have no qualms at all about owning this album; Elton John has been around for such a long time that I think tucked away somewhere in his back catalogue there’s at least one song that everyone loves, be it “Your Song”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Passengers” (God help you if that’s yours) or this, from the album in question, “Too Low For Zero”, which still has me singing along like nobody can hear me (although they can, they definitely can, as the guy who used to live in the flat above us in Cardiff once kindly pointed out to me) when I’ve had a few:

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Elton John – I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues

Of course, in 1985, Live Aid happened. I’ve already mentioned this in passing before, and besides, as I think I mentioned last time, I can’t really compete with the wonderful post over at Any Major Dude With Half a Heart from the 30th anniversary of the gig, which I would thoroughly recommend you go read, here.

The cynics amongst us – okay, including me – whilst applauding the honourable intentions of all those involved, couldn’t help but notice that appearing at either the UK or the USA concert (or both, as Phil Collins did when he famously got Concorde across the pond, thus leaving the sort of carbon footprint that required Live8 to happen years later), not only scored them bonus points for caring, or appearing to care, about world issues, it also had a seriously positive effect on their record sales.

None more so, than Queen.

In November, they released this single, often thought to have been inspired by the event of Live Aid, the lyrics to which, in drummer Roger Taylor’s own words, were “sort of half nicked off Martin Luther King’s famous speech”:

queen-one-vision-1985-34

Queen – One Vision

That’s Queen, who lest we forget, were roundly criticised for playing a run of shows at Sun City, the entertainment complex located in Bophutswana, despite the United Nations cultural boycott of South Africa whilst apartheid remained in situ.

But let’s not go off on another rant again, eh?

Queen were of course not the only act to appear at Live Aid to monopolise on their appearance. Precisely two months before Live Aid, Dire Straits released their “Brothers in Arms” album, which of course went on to claim a position in the Top 10 Best-Selling UK albums ever that as far as I can find, they still hold today (Number One? Queen’s “Greatest Hits”, natch). I by now was working my way through The Straits’ back catalogue as fast as my money would allow me, and next on the list was 1980s “Making Movies”.

Now I know that the mere mention of Dire Straits makes many of you reach for that little X in the corner that closes the window, but indulge me for a moment. For whilst “Brothers in Arms” may have been the album that made them all their bucks (helped in no small part by a coincidental correlation with CD sales taking off), if I were to look over their back catalogue, they were already past their best, with their absolute peak having been “Making Movies”. It’s an album I still own, and play semi-regularly today, mostly because of this:

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Dire Straits – Romeo & Juliet

When I was a kid, I was mildly obsessed with “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, a science fiction/comedy series, written by the late, great Douglas Adams, which first aired on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, but has been repeated many times since. In 1982, my brother recorded them all onto a series of C-60 cassettes, which he created sleeves for, little doodles, drawing and sketches of characters and scenes from the episodes contained within. (I know it was 1982 because there was an odd amount of episodes, which meant the second side of the last cassette was blank, a situation he resolved by recording songs from the Top 40 one week, one of which was Quo’s version of Tom Jones’ “Something ‘Bout You Baby”. Don’t fret, I’m not going to post it.)

Anyway, the radio series spawned a television version, a five book trilogy (The final one, “Mostly Harmless” came with the words “The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ trilogy” written on the front), and much, much later, a film version.

There were also novelty singles (“Marvin the Paranoid Android” by…erm…Marvin, The Paranoid Android – and fret not, I’m not posting that either), a stage show or three, not forgetting that Adams’ creative brilliance inspired the names of musicians (see: Level 42), and of course Radiohead, who named their biggest single, “Paranoid Android”, after the aforementioned character.

Oh go on then, I’ll play one of those three:

Why am I prattling on about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I hear you feel obliged to ask.  Well, because in the fourth of the inaccurately named trilogy, “So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish”, Adams write this:

“Arthur put Dire Straits on the stereo…Mark Knopfler has an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter Custom Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff beer – which is not strictly relevant at this point since the record hadn’t yet got to that bit, but there will be too much else going on when it does…so it seems best to mention it now while things are still moving slowly”

A page later, he writes:

“She moved forward, put her arms round and kissed him, because the record had got to that bit which, if you knew the record, you would know made it impossible not to do this.”

I had always assumed, wrongly I find as I came to research this post, that Adams was talking about “Romeo & Juliet” when he wrote that, but it transpires he was actually referring to a different track from “Making Movies”, one which opens the album with an arrangement of the “Carousel Waltz” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel”. This song, in fact:

dire-straits-tunnel-of-love-part-1-vertigo-5

Dire Straits – Tunnel of Love

Say what you like about Dire Straits, they knew how to press home a concept on minimalist sleeve art. “Making Movies” is identical to the two above (but with the words “Making Movies” replacing the words “Romeo & Juliet” and “Tunnel of Love”, obviously).

If Peter Saville had done something similar with the sleeves of all the Factory Records releases, we’d all be hailing them as works of art. But as this is Dire Straits, and thus already on minus cool points, we’ve never heard of the bloke responsible for the original design and artwork. (A chap called Neil Terk, in case you’re interested. Brexiters are hoping he won’t gain access to our country.)

Which leaves me with just two other singles that I bought in 1985 to write about, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

These last two also come from the same band, a band who had already reincarnated from Southern Death Cult, to Death Cult, to The Cult, their sound spiralling to a more and more accessible version of Goth, and following the success they found with their “Love” album,, they changed once more, unleashing a full metal racket upon us (which I also loved).

But before that, following the release of “Love” and “She Sells Sanctuary”, which I’ve written about and posted previously, by the end of 1985, there were two more singles, both of which I bought on gatefold double 7″ format. I don’t think I’ve ever played anything other than the A side of either of them, which makes me think that it was around now that I was beginning to turn into the fully fledged, must collect everything, music nerd you see before you today.

So, here, to round things off for 1985 (as far as I can work out, that’s covered everything I bought, borrowed or stole), are two singles by The Cult, both of which seem to sum up Britain right now. And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter:

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 The Cult – Rain

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 The Cult – Revolution

You’d think they’d have edited out the occasion that lead singer Ian Astbury comes in a bar too early for the “There’s a revolution” refrain, wouldn’t you? Can you spot it, readers?

More soon. Better soon. No really, I promise.

Oh, shut up, mun.

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1985 And All That – An Interlude

Ok, I think an explanation is due as to what the hell has happened to the next part of 1985.

You will remember that when I last wrote about it, I had just been arrested for the ever so slightly embarrassing crime of stealing four pairs of white socks. (Talk about a cliff-hanger, eh? Where’s my EastEnders “doof-doofs“?) The reason for nicking them was that they were needed for a forthcoming school trip to Norway. There is no justification for them being white, of course.

Anyway, I left you with the tantalising prospect of some stories about the trip to Norway, and it is this that has proved my stalling point; not that I’m against talking about it, but because I was trying to locate a prime bit of original source material.

I kept a diary of the whole trip.

The problem was, I couldn’t find the sodding thing. A few months ago I found that a large chunk of my most valuable vinyl had gone missing/been stolen, and when I couldn’t locate the Norway diary, I began to think that maybe it had been in the same box which had simply gone walkies somewhere on one of my oh-so-many house-moves.

Tonight though, that has been resolved. I clutch in my hands a red A4 binder with a terrible title (“7 Go Mad in Norway”) and my hand-written description of the holiday, which I’m currently trawling through in search of funny stories to relate to you. Unfortunately, all I seem to have come across so far is quite a lot of immature, slightly racist, slightly sexist guff, which, given that I wrote it when I was a fifteen year old boy who had never met a non-white person (apart from the one who had beaten me up at junior school for “sounding American”) and had no idea how to speak to, or of, women, isn’t really that surprising. Not that that should be considered a justification or excuse, just…well, I didn’t know any better at the time.

(I did seem to bloody love brackets back then too, mind.)

So, you will forgive me if I elect to pick the funny bits from the stuff I wrote back then, rather than just scanning and posting it as I had originally planned to. And not just for the reasons I mention above; at least one of the people mentioned in the diary, a lad I had known since we were about 5, has since died…so…y’know….some tact, diplomacy and respect is required.

Whilst I work my way through that, a little local history. Most of you will have heard of the Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, right? No? Ok, well, it’s an annual event where people…er…roll a cheese down a hill in Gloucester. It hit the headlines a couple of years ago here in the UK as there were a couple of fairly serious injuries (it is a fucking steep hill) and there was talk of them there Health & Safety folks stepping in and nixing the whole event. (Seriously, you have to love a website designed to promote the event which contains the text: “Meanwhile Chris…is helped down by friends, then treated for a suspected sprained ankle by the event volunteer medics. He is soon joined by another competitor with a sprained ankle” and with pictures to illustrate it.)

I imagine that promotional material like this helped them dodge the avoid the Health & Safety bods and the shut-down they were apparently angling for:

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“You are strongly advised not to attend” I think is one of my favourite bits of advertising ever.

Happily, I can report that the event lives on, and all free-thinking people will be allowed to critically injure themselves again in 2016.

The more astute of you will know that I was nowhere near Gloucestershire in 1985, so will be wondering why I’m mentioning this. Well, it’s because there’s another cheese rolling event in the UK, a much more sedate one, a lot closer to home for me when I was growing up, literally taking place at the end of my road.

Up until now, I’ve simply said I grew up near Peterborough, and this is the answer I give in general conversation, because I can’t be arsed with giving the whole back-story about where I actually grew up, which was in a little village just outside Peterborough called…Stilton.

Yes, like the cheese.

And, no, it’s not from there.

(This plan of saying I was from Peterborough back-fired when I first used it, on an open-day at a polytechnic (remember them??) I had applied for, when a young lady said “Oh, the place with Roy Kinnear dressed as a roman in the adverts?” I had no clue what she was on about as, having lived in Peterborough, the adverts had never screened there. But here‘s an example, dubbed and with subtitles for some reason. I mean, I don’t imagine there were many countries crying out for an advert for a cathedral city within commutable distance from London, but who knows?)

Anyway, once a year, the High Street in the village would be cordoned off and the crowds would gather to watch two teams of four race to roll a (wooden) Stilton cheese down the road in the fastest time, and so on to the quarters, then the semis…oh you get the gist. The winners would get a barrel of beer and a wheel of Stilton cheese for their troubles.

Those who weren’t entranced by the sight of grown men and women in fancy dress chasing a block of wood down the High Street, which was most of the locals, would invariably do what locals do when their village is invaded by tourists: retire to the pub, get pissed and slag them off until they’ve gone.

And in 1985, that’s exactly what I did, joining my brother and his mates Rob and Phil in The Talbot, a less than salubrious drinking hole pretty much slap-bang in the centre of the village.

Regular readers of this blog will recall a little while ago my brother contributed to these very pages, talking about his dual life as an RAF recruit and a goth. Rob and Phil were his partners in crime in the goth-side of those two tectonic plates jarring against each other, all black clothes, studded belts, winkle-pickers and back-combed hair .

At some point, they decided that forming a band would be a good idea, not in the slightest bit bothered about the fact that none of them could play any instruments (“Well, if it was good enough for Sid Vicious, it’s good enough for us” seemed to be the philosophy) and so, as the only person they knew with any musical ambitions, (actually, that not strictly true: my brother had often either commandeered my electric guitars, or even bought one or two himself, but placed in the hands of the curious budding engineer that he was, they invariably ended up in bits, having been taken apart “to see how they worked” and then not bothered to be put back together again, much as he treated a lot of cars around the same time. Our driveway had a partially-disassembled Triumph Spitfire covered in a tarpaulin parked on it for years after he moved out) I was charged with teaching them to play. By them, I mean Phil, as he was the only one who was even vaguely arsed about their band having at least one musician in it.

So Phil would often be round at ours, with me trying to teach him the three chords I knew, how to play by ear, and one of the two tricks I’d learned at the time but have since forgotten.

For the record, they were called “Third Light”, which to this day I still think is a bloody good name for an indie/goth band, but what do I know?

Anyway, I mention all of this because sitting drinking in The Talbot, and presumably desperate to show I was cool enough to be drinking with these spiky-haired ne’er-do-wells, I had professed my love for The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary”, which, as previously mentioned, had hardly been off my turntable since I bought the single.

Phil told me that he had bought the album, didn’t think much of it, and I could take it off his hands for a fiver. This was a bargain in my eyes, as it would cost me at least that much in bus fare just to get into town and back just to see if there was a second hand copy in Andy’s Records basement.

So the deal was done, and soon afterwards I took ownership of The Cult’s “Love” album.

Phil was right. Apart from the singles (the rest of which will feature here soon enough) there was nothing much of interest.

Except the opening track, which I still think is a bit of a belter, and should have been a single (*checks Wikipedia…nope it wasn’t*)

I do love an album that starts with them being counted in by the drummer. The simple pleasures of life, eh?

And so here it is:

The_Cult_Love The Cult – Nirvana

More soon. Honest.

1985 and All That (January – April)

Deep breaths. Come on, we can do this.

It is 1985. Oh yes it is. The year that I think it’s fairly safe to say that my record buying took off with a vengeance. And it’s fair to say, it’s quite a mixed bag. Some of which, in direct contradiction to my “There’s No Such Things as a Guilty Pleasure” tag line, I cannot believe I am about to confess in such a public arena that I spent money on.

There, that’s piqued your interest, hasn’t it?

But before we get cracking, some admin. Firstly, as there’s quite a few records for me to reminisce over, I’ll split 1985 into three different posts. Secondly, I can’t really go any further without talking a little more about the behemoth that was Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, partly because it topped the charts for what seemed forever at the start of the year, but when researching this post I was surprised to find that actually it was toppled from pole position on 13th January.

I think there are two reasons it dropped from the top so quickly:

  • there wasn’t anyone left to buy the bloody thing, and
  • the cynic in me thinks that this is wholly indicative of that British spirit of charity, and how quickly it can be forgotten when it no longer suits. “It’s not Christmas anymore, so we can stop spending our money telling them it is.” The inverse of the current volte-face in opinion regarding the refugee situation, if you will (although pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to has been sympathetic to their cause, it just took the media – and the press specifically – a while to realise they were out of step with what most people were thinking.)

So to kick things off in 1985, a song from 1984, which, in light of the above, and even more so when you look at the shabby scaremongering this week about Jeremy Corbyn, sums up the political bias of the press in typical style.

I guarantee that when you watch this you will think two things:

1: Blimey (or insert your own swear word/exclamation of preference here), doesn’t he look young?, and

2: Blimey (or insert your own swear word/exclamation of preference here),  nothing much has changed since 1984, has it?

It Says Here

But I digress. Where was I? Ah yes – Band Aid and admin. Thirdly, I am obliged to mention The Quo somewhere, so lets get it out of the way now, shall we?

Quo’s Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt were actually supposed to have lead lines on “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, but performed them so badly in the studio that they got ditched for Paul Weller, Sting and Glenn Gregory. Their performance is probably explained by the fact that the duo openly admit to turning up at the studio with “shitloads of drugs…coke, dope and all sorts. People were saying, ‘Let’s go and see Doctor Rossi and Doctor Parfitt, shall we?’….” (Rossi has since revealed that he blew £1.7 million on coke in the 1980s, which explains not only why most of their records were, with the benefit of hindsight (mine – everyone else knew it at the time) shite, but also why a chunk of his septum fell out).

They also managed to lock Spandau Ballet in the toilets at the Band Aid recording sessions, so…y’know…s’not all bad.

That’s the admin out of the way: on to the hits!

First up, a song I have already written about, and so I’m going to skip past it now. That song is Kirsty MacColl’s version of “A New England” and you can read all about it and listen to it here: self-referential tosser.

Next up, an artist I have a great deal of affection for, without actually owning very many of his records: Terry Hall. By 1985, he had left The Specials, formed Fun Boy Three, co-written “Our Lips Are Sealed” with Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s, given a helping hand to Bananarama’s career by way of a guest appearance on “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)” (or did Banarama appears as guests on the Fun Boy Three’s version? I never did quite manage to work that out), split from Fun Boy Three, and formed The Colourfield.

Truth be told, The Colourfield marked the start of a decline if not in the quality of Hall’s work, then certainly in the commercial success he achieved. This, though, was their first single, and their biggest hit, and rather lovely it is too:

the-colour-field-thinking-of-you-chrysalis The Colourfield – Thinking of You

Don’t go thinking I’d gone all soft though. Nope, at the start of 1985 rawwwwk was very much where my heart still lay, although I would have to admit my tastes were starting to shift towards more poppy territory.

But wait – who’s this coming over the horizon? A Canadian chap in a checked shirt who seems to marry rock and pop together in perfect harmony? Just what The Doctors ordered! And so it was that I bought this:

Bryan-Adams-Run-To-You-vinyl Bryan Adams – Run to You

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this is one of the records I’m embarrassed to admit to owning, right? Well no, actually. See, in 1985 The Bryster (as nobody has ever called him) was not yet the purveyor of power ballads and Number One hogger that we have since come to know and hate, for whilst it was actually released in 1984, it was in 1985 that his “Reckless” album was, frankly massive. I bought that too, but not just yet, so we’ll come back to that later, but suffice it to say it was packed with, yes, power ballads (“Heaven“), enduring power pop (“Summer of ’69“) – c’mon, everyone loves that record, don’t they? – and a rather shonkingly awful duet with Tina Turner (“It’s Only Love“).

Ah, Tina. Tina Turner. It is to you I turn to present the “What on Earth Was I Thinking When I Bought This???” award for the first part of 1985. I have neither clue nor excuse. Maybe I was blinded by the fright-wig. Maybe it was that “riding an invisible horse” dance she seemed to do. I dunno. But somehow, lurking in my record collection, is this:

tina-turner-priavte-dancer-album-artwork Tina Turner – Private Dancer

But I didn’t just go out and buy the single. Oh no. In fact, I didn’t buy, nor have I ever bought, any of her singles. Not for me on this occasion the usual “Buy first single. Buy second single. Like third single? Buy the album” routine I had safely established. No. To compound my shame, I went straight out and bought the fucking album.

I’ll get my coat.

But no. I won’t. Instead, I’m going to turn things round by posting what to my mind is one of the great lost singles from the 1980s, an absolute belter, and if I had to list my favourite singles of all time, this would be right in there:

the-big-sound-authority-this-house-is-where-your-love-stands-source Big Sound Authority – This House (Is Where Your Love Stands)

Criminally short-lived, Big Sound Authority only released three more singles, none of which managed anything approaching the success of “This House” (which itself only managed to get to Number 21 in the charts) and one album, which also tanked.

And so to Liverpool, and to China Crisis, and a song the title of which I don’t think you’d get away with these days:

China-Crisis-Black-Man-Ray-116071 China Crisis – Black Man Ray

Erm, where do you start? Well apparently, it’s about Ray Charles, but quite why they felt the need to point out he was black I have no idea. Let’s skip swiftly on.

I’ve already written about the other single by the next artiste, the godawful incomprehensible babble that was “The Riddle”. Unperturbed by just how terrible that was, I went and bought the follow up and until I came to write this, I’d forgotten that actually it’s rather good. Of it’s time, sure, but rather good all the same.

Nik_Kershaw_Wide_Boy_Single_Cover Nik Kershaw – Wide Boy

Needless to say, shortly after this, his own pop career nose-dived dramatically, before being ever so slightly resurrected when he wrote this. Yeh, cheers for that, Nik.

And so, to round off this first look back at 1985, another record that would not just join “This House” in my list of my favourite singles of all time, but would unquestionably nestle squarely in the top ten. The Cult were not a band I remember my brother ever owning any records by, but I think his recent radical change in musical taste had probably rubbed off on me enough to make my ears prick up when I first heard this:

the-cult-she-sells-sanctuary-beggars-banquet The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary

If ever a record deserves to be played as loudly as possible, it’s that one. And it still sounds as magnificent to these ears today as it did way back then. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: super-cool DJ Erol Alkan used to regularly drop it in his sets (I’ll try and source an example to post for you sometime) and even I witnessed the power of this record first hand. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was in a band which did an “Indie-okie” night in North London once a month. (The premise: karaoke, but with a live band playing behind the volunteer singer, who would choose from a list of classic Indie tracks. It was as much fun as it sounds i.e. an enormous amount). They asked Hel and I to DJ on the bits in between and we were more than happy to oblige – in fact it was the first time we DJ’d together. Anyway, as everyone was basically there to either sing or to have good laugh at those who did, nobody was expected to actually dance. But that’s exactly what did happen when I dropped this: the dancefloor didn’t exactly go mental, but it suddenly filled up and there was definite movement, enough for one of the band to tap me on the shoulder and say “Steady on – they’re supposed to enjoy our bits more than the records!”.

Right, that’s yer lot for now. More soon.

A Goth Steps From The Dry-Ice…

Something different this week. A while ago, my older brother, who kindly follows the inane toss I splurge onto these pages, emailed me something he had written which he thought would be good to include here. I agreed, but told him it needed polishing. (There has to be some semblance of quality control, otherwise what I do would become devalued, reduced to the drunken ramblings of a man trying to justify his own self-being in the world of almost-modern pop culture. Which it obviously is.)

In other words, for one week only, I get to live out my Smash Hits fantasy and be “The Ed”.

What follows is the result.

If nothing else, you will note that being a facetious bastard runs in the family.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post, a Freephone number will appear at the end. (No it won’t – The Ed)

So first: an apology. This is not being written by Jezbionic himself.

It has been hinted in the mainstream press that due to an overdose of artificial colourings mixed with imported vodka he was stuck in a Glastonbury based “Groundhog Day” and is currently sat explaining to Betty Ford why Super Furries really aren’t a figment of his drug fuelled imagination. Whether that’s true or not I can’t possibly comment, but I can tell you he has asked me, his older brother, to stand in for one blog only.

As such I need to make a very clear opening statement: this edition only contains one reference to Status Quo (the one you just read, which is required to get past the editorial censoring committee) (Tick! You’re in – Ed). If you only normally read this blog for three chord wonderment save yourself the time and stop reading now. Not to be judgemental or anything, but maybe the time saved would be well spent looking at some of your life choices? Just a thought.

The other point I need to make before I start is that I am in total agreement with Russell Brand, that although it would be very simple to use Google to check the facts as I write them, that would break my concentration and lead to me becoming a simple minded fool looking at cute videos of kittens and what not, so accept this as a stream of consciousness article and save any of your bile for when my ickle bruvva’s back next week.

My own musical beginnings were nothing out of the ordinary. I grew up in rural Cambridgeshire, with the normal early eighties hormonally challenged male obsessions with heavy metal: Purple, Zep and a little Sabbath. Your standard occultism stuff, nothing unusual, to that point.

A post ‘O’ levels summer spent picking blueberries in Michigan broadened my musical horizons somewhat, leading me to discover the Go-Gos (I only found out years later they scored cool points as mates with the Fun Boy Three, trading songs and what not), Rick Springfield (again, unknown to me at the time, as uncool as the Go-Gos were cool, a General Hospital soap actor turned manufactured pop star, but I still think Red Hot and Blue Love rocks) and Def Leppard (I make no excuses: when God cuts your drummers arm off to shut you up maybe you should just accept that you’re shite?)

But still, no real indication that music was in any way an important part of my life. Aged sixteen I joined Her Majesty’s esteemed Royal Air Force and began my ritual brainwashing, during which it was made abundantly clear to us that music was just something to keep time while you’re marching, and that white heterosexuality was the only acceptable human state. The fact that we all believed this without question, whilst moonwalking to Michael Jackson and PWAH!ing to Frankie Goes to Hollywood while we polished our shirts and ironed our socks at two in the morning ready for a dawn kit inspection is sign of just how good a job the brain washing did.

Within a year though, things had started to change. Come the end of the working week I would carefully remove my well formed beret, take off the boots (you could see your own reflection in the toecaps), and hang my immaculately ironed number two uniform in my solitary locker.

Once they were all removed I would start the rebirthing process: a little eyeliner here, maybe a dab of black nail polish there. Definitely hairspray, up to a can at a time.

ST-ST-ST-STUDIO LINE FROM L’OREAL, FIXING GEL:STRONG HOLD! *

Weekend uniform no less strict than the weekday one:

  • trousers, very black, very tight
  • blouse, old woman’s (Evans loyalty card monopolised): large, white, flouncy as possible
  • winkle pickers, black (obviously) pointy (obviously), as many buckles as possible (er…helloo…??)
  • wide brimmed black hat (optional, but hell yeah)

Like Clark Kent slipping into something more comfortable in a New York phone box, I had changed from a crab** to a Goth……

What, you may ask yourselves, could cause such a once in a lifetime change in such a short time?

Sometimes the smallest thing can change a life, the one snowball thrown at a mountain that starts a (Rose of) avalanche.***

My butterfly flapping its wings in the rainforest moment was a simple mix tape. Nothing more, nothing less, but it changed my life, for better or worse, forever.

You see, just because I took the Queen’s shilling at sixteen, not all my friends did. My mate Rob stayed in Cambridgeshire, seeking out all the great wonders of the world to be found at the sixth form in Stanground. (I am reliably informed by a pretty reliable source (i.e. Rob himself) that Rob didn’t go to Stanground, he went to 6th form at Orton Longueville, where all the cool kids went – Ed) That meant that through him I was only three steps removed form the PleasureHeads, of whom my only other recollection is an NME article which described the fact that the lead singer was seen removing a pair of leather trousers to change into his stage gear (more of them later – Ed). At the time I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I still struggle to think of anything cooler now, to be honest.

So Rob got a copy of a mix tape from a PleasureHead, and I got a copy from Rob. Simple as.

On that one C60 were the songs that I still hear in my head every day now:

birthday

 The Birthday Party – Release the Bats

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 The Jesus & Mary Chain – Upside Down

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The Sisters of Mercy – Adrenochrome

Bauhaus_ziggy_stardust Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

(far better than the Bowie original, sorry David), and

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 You Weren’t Born, You Were Created – by someone (The Playn Jayn – Ed) I don’t remember (You’re welcome – Ed)

and who never did anything else again, because basically, once you reach the heady heights of the mixtape, what else is there to aim for?

From that one mixtape can be traced all the important things that happened to me for years to come: accidentally reverse crowdsurfing onto stage with the Soup Dragons (pre-“I’m Free”, when they were good and sounded like the Buzzcocks – Ed); having breakfast on more than one occasion with the drummer from Pop will Eat Itself (he was “friends” with my then girlfriend’s sister whenever they played in Aylesbury) (CLANG! – Ed); singing Republican anti-English songs at multiple Pogues gigs whenever Shane proved that the drunken Irishman act really wasn’t an act; right through to being one of only twelve people in the mosh pit at an early Oasis gig in Zeebrugge, while several thousand Belgian and Dutch had a nice schmoke and waited for Schimple Mindsch to come on, which led Liam to turn off all the amps half way through “I Am the Walrus” and stomp off stage in a huff (taking Helena Christiansen with him, which I can’t help thinking may have counted as an ulterior motive for not playing an encore)

Epilogue: I’m writing this whilst sat on a beach in Goa. I tell you this not to boast that I’m in Goa (I live in Bangalore, and to Bengalurians and Mumbaisters, Goa is just a short low cost flight away: think Marbella in the sub-continent. If you think Marbella is cool ask the Quo fans to scoot up, you need to spend some time considering your life choices). I say this merely because Goa is probably one of the least Goth influenced places on the planet, so you may think that Goth is something I once was, something I grew out of. Not so. There’s not a day that goes past without the voices in my head singing some eighties Leeds-influenced goth classic. Occasionally when it rains (and it’s currently mid-monsoon season, so it rains a lot, and I’m happy when it rains) I think of:

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 The Cult – Rain

or possibly

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 The Jesus & Mary Chain – “Happy When It Rains”

But on at least six days a week my internal soundtrack is of the rain, the rain, the LA rain, the sky is black and the sun don’t shine. There are 13 million people living in Bangalore, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe I’m the only one with that particular soundtrack to the city. I have the Rose of Avalanche, and Rob’s mix tape to thank for all of that.

And may you all live for a thousand years with the blessings of the Buddha upon you.

Footnote

*If you recognise this as one of the adverts placed between the tracks on the first (and thankfully only) album by Sigue Sigue Sputnik, then well done, you win a place in the darkened room with the Quo fans to have a good long think about what you’ve achieved with your life. (That’s three pops now. I’m not inviting you round again – Ed)

**A Crab is a derogatory term in the UK Armed Forces for a member of the RAF, as supposedly we all marched sideways. My first draft of this had me changing from a caterpillar to a goth, which made less sense but pleased me in an “I am an egg man” kind of way. Feel free to self edit as you see fit, I don’t have any preciousness about this writing, once it’s on the page I don’t want it to feel trapped, I want it to continue to grow, like a semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower

***Originally this was the more Praustian explanation of throwing pebbles at a mountain to start a landslide, his Jezship the editor thought the Rose of Avalanche gag was worth including. I’ll let you, dear readers, make up your own simple minds, like elementary penguins, singing Hare Krishna. (Seriously, you should’ve read the first draft. Praustian my arse – Ed)

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The Rose of Avalanche – Velveteen

Helena, call us a cab, dear…..

(Pssst: You have to say “More soon” at the end of the post)

Oh yeh. More soon.