Saturday, 31 January 2015

Early on new year's day, I played some old tapes, and found myself feeling a pang of poignancy, hearing 1963 by New Order. It is one of the songs that bridged the way from commercial dance music to more guitar based stuff for me, as a young teen. Essentially, going from, say, MC Sar and the Real McCoy to The Smiths!

I got transported back to January 1995, and my absorption in the single as its video played on The ITV Chart Show. I don't remember the video being quite so quirky (it stars Jane Horrocks larking about), but I do know that the tune was one that had me heading to the music shop straight after the TV show, to buy the single. And I still have it, on tape. The cover is ace:
I seldom write blogs harking back with nostalgia, but I think this year will inescapably remind me of the magical year I started to discover a good deal of the bands that would mean so much to me. I find myself reflecting on how odd it was in 1995 for me as a provincial (and female) 14 year old to be listening to stuff like Billy Bragg, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, Mega City Four, Joy Division, Members, 80s synth pop, obscure early 90s indie outfits... I would unearth all this music through borrowing from the local library, raiding my aunty's compilations, reading music books and magazines, listening to 'retro' radio, secondhand record shops, market stalls with bootlegs... 

It was weird to be young and yet be heading backwards in time, then, and in an unprompted way: rare. Whereas now, it's taken for granted, with all that's available online, everything's reassessed and everything up for grabs. Back then, at my school, there were either dance fans (Helter Skelter, Nicky Blackmarket, Dreamscape, rave), or metaller kids (Iron Maiden, or Nirvana), and in between, just your current chart pop fans. I was totally alone in my corduroy flares, velvet suit jacket and Nick Drake tape from the charity shop. But this was what was to come... the borrowing from the past, the music revivals, the reissues, the album special gigs. I didn't know it then but what The Stone Roses' second coming, and then Pulp, Blur and Oasis and the like did for indie guitar music, in making it mainstream and entwined in popular culture and fashion was the beginning of all that, and nowadays, looking back to previous decades is more the norm. In general with all music, not much is left unearthed, left to the alternative or to the dusts of time...

I remember how ethereal Killing Moon by Echo and The Bunnymen seemed to me at that age, when I saw the video on TV:

It's just nice to think back fondly to how otherworldly it all seemed to me, and how secret it all felt, how I was almost enjoyably alienated in this sepia musical world that I could only find scant traces of, that I really had to dig around to discover, because there was no easy click of a computer button and instant access to history and details. I spent a long time listening to The Cure, for example, without any idea of what the band looked like. The only way I could obtain a poster of Robert Smith was later when I got my dad to photocopy an album sleeve, as borrowed from the library. Of course, the following year, they made a return to the fore, and I could live in the present moment, even see the band live, and meet Robert Smith himself...

I was muddling through and finding my own way independently, without any guidance or notions. I went out on a limb, and I actually had more in common musically with my 40 year old music teacher, who used to daub Fall lyrics on the whiteboard of a morning, and hum Smiths songs. It was more likely that any taping of albums I wanted was done via my dad's mate at work (in his 40s), than via anyone of my own age (Blackmarket Clash comes to mind).

So perhaps kids are luckier now, in a sense, as archive stuff is much more easily accessible and distributed... and widely welcomed.... But I still cannot help but feel a kind of warm romance to think back to my clandestine discoveries, my grappling with the unknown, and my mixed up music fandom, and all my delight within, all the same.

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