Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sing me to sleep

These northern towns bring you down [down deeper and down] so I escaped them - left the panic on the streets of Humberside and headed for the [in] the city - because there's a thousands things you can say and do there. Oh yeah. But as ever drawn back to my youth - as i nudge ever nearer to forty. So these Scunthorpe streets that we pass down - those tarmac roads and pathways where I stole glances and dreamed of heady romances and kicked off on and passed out in come back to play on repeat in the endless i-player of the mind.

It's funny how your idols let you down - you know all the sayings blah blah blah - never meet/ work/ eat or sleep with them. Not all of them - but most - because ultimately that connection you made was through music - not through talking or sharing - it's all one way. They told you and you responded with gratitude - waiting for the next release or discovering an album by them, an interview - they never searched you out - they didn't come knocking but you joined the gang nevertheless - you swelled their numbers and sometimes you had the swagger to match them. And there have been many gangs I've joined in the name of rock n roll, several that seemed to require an old man's anorak or cardigan as regulation wear.

And i've met a few of them - pressing my nervous hand into the palm of a bewildered Brian Wilson - it should be one of those stand out unique moments - but I'd stood in line in an HMV - feeling odd and out of place - that reaching the man was a blessed relief - because then i could go home. But this post isn't about the Beach Boys.

It was going to be about The Smiths.

You see I was reading an inarticulate interview with the former Manchester miserablist and thought to myself - you're a bit of mug really - and I'd heaped so much adolescent adoration on that old blouse and gladioli that I wished i'd embraced the techno roots that were being carved out before Paul purchased 'Hand in Glove' on 7 inch from Record Village and This Charming Man, the NY remix from WH SMITHS on 12 inch. Actually I say techno roots - i think i was buying various Wham related records at this time.

But by the age of 13 I had seen The Smiths - and all that self pity and sad poetry was given vent in their sound - this band who sang to my heart - and my hair. They used to be concert coaches advertisements in the Scunthorpe Telegraph - you'd wait for Steelbeat on a Friday - the local music scene column and there beside it would be the concert coaches advertisement - so for 10 pound you could go see AC/DC at the Apollo, or in our case The Smiths at Sheffield City Hall.

And I remember catching the coach - Paul and I getting on and the nerves kicking in - as we sat down amongst the older youth of the day - it was the first Meat is Murder tour. James supported and to be honest I think they blew me away more - it was straight down Record Village to order 'Hymn from a Village' the next day. But nonetheless The Smiths were a marvel and a wonder,  a relief from the corporate capitalism I thought was being pumped at me through tinny speakers and mono televisions.

I met Morrisey eventually, despite waiting for him and the rest of the smiths several times in various places. I had been invited down to the Love Music Hate Racism concert at the Astoria - now sadly ripped away to make way for flats - by my then friend Phil Fisk [we fell out because I was lazy] and he was documenting the return of the Libertines - and it was truly amazing concert for so many reasons -Doherty and Barat really do have a chemistry that means you can't take your eyes off 'em. Cheeky.

So that night was wrapped up with passess and access to this and access to that - and quiet pints sipped free of charge and all of that razamatazz. I'd already met Mick Jones in the first 10 minutes of arriving - so I kind of felt that this night would be one I remembered for years to come.

It was just before the Buzzcocks were going to play - i looked up from my pint and there was Morrissey seated with Pete Shelley deep in conversation. And it struck me what a big heed the man had - i mean he is big but his head could match my granny's anyday. Thoughts crossed my mind - this youth from Scunthorpe who had religiously taped every session, every new play by Peel was now in the room with his hero from the past. Yes we had had the whole NME backlash and to be honest I wasn't buying his albums - I'd pretty much stopped after Viva Hate. But it was Morrissey and I thought no matter what I would talk to him.

I waited for the conversation from Pete to dry up - i actually think Steve Diggle butted in - or dragged him off leaving Morrissey and his other friends perched at a table overlooking the stage. I seized my moment - witness tha fitness - leant over and said to him, at the age of 13 I saw Wham and The Smiths in the same year - I think I made the right choice -and  I just wanted to thank you for that.

And that was it - he was pleasant said thank you we shook hands and then continued to watch the concert. All done and dusted.

So here's to The Smiths - a companion for youth and little more. Listening to Morrissey spout his nonsense these days - doesn't rile me - but just makes me lament the days when every word meant something. But sometimes your heroes turn out to a lot thicker than you are.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Doing it for the kids

There is always a moment of genuine disappointment with any musical find - that point when someone else connects with your band, group or singer  and you feel they have invaded your house with their rowdy ways and sullied everything.

This used to happen a great deal when I was younger - thinner but thicker - as I clearly missed the point that record companies only wanted our money and anyone's loyalty. But there were record labels that tried not to sell out - at the beginning - and had an independent spirit - a small scale cottage industry approach to getting the 'new sounds' to the kids.

So when Paul bought a Velvet Underground record - or I found a Bachelor Pad record it was because we had somehow taken that journey to that discovery by ourselves [with a thousand other people - but it felt like our own] I'm not certain that I care about the 'find' anymore - it used to be the defining moment of an 'indie kid's' life - but having three children that tire you out - that take up all your thoughts and fears and hopes and therefore your love doesn't leave much space to devoting your life to The Driscolls and all that they released.  But there was a time when I remember that record arriving at my house and finding its blend of chiming sixties beat pop and catchy simplicity to be a discovery akin to Darwin's. It wasn't and I find myself thinking more about Darwin these days than i do about the Driscolls.

To be honest I'm not certain how my children will discover music - my house had a few records in - good ones and bad ones. Elton John's Greatest Hits, Queen's Greatest Hits, The Rolling Stones Greatest HIts [no Beatles - pure rock n roll my parents] Simon and Garfunkel, and an Elvis Presley gatefold live affair that I seriously thought had been signed to my mum with 'Mary Thanks Elvis' - clearly it was 'Many Thanks Elvis' and it was a real signature it was part of the 'personal design' - in fact if you think about it if it had been signed I'm not sure why my mum would have kept it in a cabinet with the telephone on it. But there you go. My parents weren't keen to school me in the ways of popular culture - they didn't have time.

I actually saw a kid yesterday with a RAMONES t-shirt and different coloured Croc sandals - he was about eight and his mum was with him [clearly coming out of her goth revival days] now that kid might like the RAMONES. He really might have found the RAMONES for himself. Actually I don't know why I feel so bitter about it - I am certain my children will rummage through the records. Although we are currently dancing to a 7inch of Scottish Country dancing and a french song called Mashed Potatoes.

So this brings me to the Jesus and Mary Chain - a McGee discovery on the b-side of a cassette tape all fuzzed up, feedbacking fuckery. Whilst Upside Down was the breath of [dirty] air I was inhaling it was 'Never Understand' that really made sense to me.

I remember the red cover of the  Jesus and Mary Chain 'Never Understand' - it's simplicity and brutality there on the sleeve - now clearly the JAMC had switched to Blanco Y Negro - but McGee had some how orchestrated this move to keep with the independent foundations of Creation [well i'm saying that now] But it was that initial Creation release that led to this - the rise of the independents - their moving into bed with the big boys - oh it came back to haunt them but still - i still view 'Never Understand' as an independent record. So let's return to putting this slice of honest angst on the record player. Again if I remember - Paul had somehow found his way into the JAMC vibe and was introducing it to his younger brother - this 7 inch single purchased in WH SMITHS i think - rotating steadily at 45rpm.

The simple crackle of a rotating disc as the needle finds its way into the sounds contained within. A slow shriek of feedback growing ever monstorous as those Spector[ish] drums help us navigate the feelings of people just getting you wrong. You never understand me - you never understand. It's this heavy thrill of rock n roll at the core surrounded by the scottish temperament - there's a coldness - an estate mentally that says we live here - we hate it - you hate us. This machine kills all idiots. I bought a t-shirt too - a JAMC t-shirt - always show your allegiances - well you do at that age - and i can just about fit into it - in the mornings generally. The t-shirt is 25 years old. The Mary Chain still matter. Some things are as simple as that.

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Never Understand