Some things, experienced in younger days, are transcendent.
A few months ago I fell out of Fibbers in York clutching an armful of merchandise. It was safely encased in a tote bag emblazoned with a pixelated image of a smiling man smoking three pipes. Praise Bob.
As usual the gig had been transcendent, all the singles had been played and few more tracks for good measure. The bag contained a badge, a copy of Black Crown comic and two t-shirts. The morning after the gig I gave my eleven year old daughter her t-shirt. Her expression told me she wasn’t convinced; a sentiment she confirmed later. It was still the most appropriate gift I could have given her.
My first encounter with the group was an encounter with the coolest people on the planet. A house party at my mate Simon’s house. His parents had gone away for the night and left him in charge. Our usually sedate group had thrown a party. The Thunderbird flowed and the music rocked, but not so loud as to annoy the neighbours. We wanted to rebel, but not to get in to trouble. As is the way of these events the music attracted professional partygoer; those individuals who seemed to appear as if from nowhere, each clutching a couple of cans of strong lager. We knew they would drink all our booze and possibly trash the house, but we were too young and feeble to stop them coming in. Plus they had a BASF C90 cassette with a copy of vinyl record. This was the first time I heard When in Rome, Kill Me.
The house survived; the only damage caused by a piece of chewing gum that had become welded to the fibres of a gloriously golden shag pile carpet. The next day in a panic Simon cut it out of the carpet leaving a sizeable hole: a shiny spot on a head that had gone unexpectedly and prematurely bald.
My vinyl was swiftly transferred to a cassette and that tape was carried in my Walkman. And the Walkman went everywhere with me. (I used TDK cassettes for my most favoured records, although by now I had stopped using Letraset transfers for the track listing. A trip to Camden market (1989?) brought me treasure, including a 12” Mind the Gap and, of course, the Peel Sessions. The cover of You Sexy Thing, Strange Kind of Love and You’re the Boss sat nestled amongst tracks by the Smiths, the House of Love and the Stone Roses pumping out of the ghetto blaster in the sixth form common room. Lunchtime is a good time for an indie disco.
Further albums and singles followed, along with a t-shirts, NME articles and many gigs. A friend organised a performance at Doncaster Ritzy where many of us had worked. There was also the Leadmill, the Adelphi and the Tower in Hull, somewhere in Bradford, a couple of places in Leeds and the Toby Jug in Doncaster – on a couple of occasions I think. And a gig at the infamous Minsthorpe School – 1989. Probably others.
I first heard Heywire in the Toby Jug, it was the same gig where a friend had a copy of Dung 4 on cassette.
A friend gave me a bootleg of a Hull University gig which I copied on on my tape-to-tape machine. I had always been attracted to the racks of bootleg cassettes that I’d first seen in Camden. This one was recorded on a dictaphone in his pocket. You can just about hear the band over the rustling of his parka and the rattling of his loose change.
As the Walkman gave way to a Creative Labs MP3 player and then headphones plugged in to a phone digital copies of their albums remained a presence. Reissues with extended tracks taking the place of the originals. When they reformed (had they ever broken up?) I managed a trip to the Irish Centre in Leeds. Whilst waiting for the support act to take the stage I noticed that the bloke stood next to me at the bar looked just like Miles Hunt.
After Miles performed an unexpected and remarkable acoustic set (I hadn’t read the press about who the support act was going to be) the main band took the stage. I later went to see them at their final ever gig, but then I’ve seen the final ever gigs of many bands only to see them again a short while after. Praise Bob. Both of trips out were rare, my daughter’s arrival getting closer and closer.
My daughter was born in the early hours of the morning. After the inevitable stress, elation, panic and joy of the birth I was handed my daughter by the midwife as she took my partner out of the room. Having no frame of reference for what to do next I asked; ‘What should I do.’ ‘Do what comes naturally’ came the answer. Then we were alone together, her cradled in my arms. So I did as instructed and sang to her. To the coolest person I had ever met. ‘Only a Prawn in Whitby.’
Fancy continuing this chat? We are hosting an event at York St John University on 13th and 14th July 2018. Titled Twisting my Memory, Man: Music, Memory and Memoir, it is a two day programme of talks, performances and a chance to chat with like minded music fans and readers. We have Tom Hingley of the Inspiral Carpets opening the event with a talk about his own memoir Carpet Burns. We are also delighted to include a keynote address from the wonderful Lucy O’Brien, journalist, memoirist and writer of the landmark She Bop: the Definitive History of Women in Popular Music. We will also be joined by William Potter and Carl Puttnam from CUD who will be discussing their comic strip Rich and Strange: The Return of the CUD band (published in Black Crown comics). Events and speakers are being added all the time and we would love to welcome you along. Tickets can be booked here. Let us know if you want any more information.