All entries for Tuesday 12 July 2005

July 12, 2005

Music:Response 1984–1997

It occurs to me that it's been about ten years since I started really paying attention to music as a form of entertainment and significance beyond it's previous role as background noise. Not for my single figured self was the hi-NRG flame and ballady gloop of late 1980s/early 1990s pop. It's funny, I remember Kylie the first time, and Robbie Williams when he was in Take That, and East 17 who came from the very eat of London like I had. But it never meant that much. I was in thrall to parental whims, and by default those of my extended family. It was Hilary, dad's younger sister, who put Green and Life's Rich Pageant onto a tape for my dad and said "there's this band from America called R.E.M.*, you'll like them.

Oh the hilarity of being told in later years how my parents sang loudly over 'Bottle Of Smoke' by The Pogues to protect their two children from such lines as "twenty fucking five to one/My gambling days are done". We never noticed. But then again if that's what you play to your children. That and R.E.M., U2, Tom Waits, punk like The Clash, the B52s, Crowded House. I guess all the Stock, Waterman and Aitken pop was just too cheap, too nasty for me as a kid, I was happy with what my parents had.

But at ten years old (i.e. as of 2nd November 1994) it was becoming obvious to me that there were newer bands who were more interesting. From the moment someone decided that Suede were the dogs bollocks before they'd even released a single, Britpop was condemning me to what can only be described as taste.

Sure, my parents were still the ones buying the music. They wanted Parklife and Definitely Maybe as much as I did. I was already polluting other people as well. The school disco love of Pulp's 'Common People' meant I bought my best friend their album for his birthday. It was quickly copied and distributed to all and sundry.

I didn't really realise till later how much of the 1995–6 music stuck with me. Later reintroductions to undeniable classics like The Bluetones' 'Slight Return', Sleeper's 'Sale Of The Century' or, significantly, Elastica's 'Connection', showed how much I did absorb though lack of any money meant I did not really consume. Taping the Top 40 was, as for so many, the only real choice. It's funny. As I type my brother is sending me, via MP3 an album only available in America. If I like it I might buy it. But it seems a world away from scrabbling around for recorded versions of the song you wanted, complete with Bruno Brookes jabbering over the top. Yes, Bruno Brookes. I am that old.

And as much as I loved Blur more than Oasis, much as I was happy to infest the world with Sheffields most witty beanpole (love you Jarvis), I hadn't really found my band. The one whose album I bought, not my parents. And then I did. I am not ashamed to say I feel in love with the tongue in cheek, smartarse indie-pop of Space.

Oddly I don't own any of their stuff on CD but it doesn't really matter. Honestly I doubt I'd like most of their stuff now. Beyond the singles the albums weren't great but I can recite the significant tracks off by heart. Test me. I'll give you all of 'Neighbourhood' in a flash. Somehow Mr Miller was a more engaging Britpop clergyman than any of Mansun's stripper vicars. Plus he was a serial killer.

Space were the first band I swa live. Me and my mum in the Stoke Sugarmill. But that was in 1998. Firstly there's the matter of 1996 and 1997.

I didn't realise it at the time but 1996 was the year my favourite album was released. But at the time I liked my Britpop even as it died on its arse, as posing non-entities which I don't recall a single song by (Heavy Stereo, Menswear) allowed Alan Magee to pontificate. Blur's The Great Escape ain't a great album. Don't mention Be Here Now. Pop kicked back with the Spice Girls and Boyzone and an infinite supply of Ibiza choons. I wondered whether I would go to Ibiza when I was 18. Glastonbury was not seen as the option for the 11 years olds of the time.

I think 1996–7 was the dying roar of a musical generation. The big heros, as good as they were, were old. The Verve were the rock big shots though they were being strongly challnged by an even older proposition, three Welshmen calling themselves Manic Street Preachers. They had released their first material in the late 1980s. I didn't quite get it. I didn't quite have someone I could connect to. The easily accessible nature of Britpop drew kids with short attention spans to guitar music. Denser stuff like 'Bittersweet Symphony' was for people older than my 11 years. Also the cult of Kurt Cobain was growing to epic proportions. For someone who never really loved Nirvana, as much as I can recall the entirety of Nevermind as my mum loved it, this didn't engage me. I needed a hero, like the people in the car as a kid, the man with the incomprehensible lyrics about man on the moon, the drunk sounding sweary Irish guy, the pissed off cockneys complaining about London. They were my parents' heros, I needed my own.

Seek and you shall find. This kid, on the verge of losing interest in music, was about to collide with the country down the road from her county.


*I have to add the dots as apparently Michael Stipe says they chose that name because he "liked the dots". This from a man who paints his face blue, by the way…

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