March 16, 2010
Blur / Oasis on the cover of Melody Maker, 9th December 1995. Photo by Tom Sheehan.
So last night I saw the Blur doc, No Distance Left To Run which left me feeling a little disjointed. It’s hard to put my finger on why. I suppose, as the cliché goes, I’ve grown up with Blur. But it’s more than simple nostalgia. They’ve somehow bisected with my life in a way that no other band has and while I watched Blur’s youthful exuberance become slowly grubbied by alcohol, cynicism and (whisper it) heroin, I was repeatedly reminded of my various triumphs and failures. Mostly failures. Fuck it, it is just nostalgia isn’t it?
I was at art college in London in 1990, not Goldsmiths, but one very close by. One group of friends had come from Colchester art college and were good friends with Damon’s sister. One even ended up marrying her. It all came back last night and more.
I remember how I heard Leisure at a BBQ weeks before it was released. I remember Damon running off to get the tube after coming to our graduation show; and how shortly afterwards, Modern Life is Rubbish, ended up sound tracking my hateful commuter walk during the misery of my first full time job. I remember the lonely walks from Hackney to The Barbican on Sunday afternoons. I remember the Subterranea and how you could often find Damon puking his guts up in the toilets. I remember Britpop, the Loaded parties and the hangover that kicked in around 98 when we all suddenly realised we weren’t young anymore and had stopped talking to each other. I remember the scurrilous rumours, the friends boyfriend who’d shagged Justine and how I’ve had to leave that life behind me. I remember thinking how much they’d done and how little I’d done. I guess I felt sorry for myself.
But most of all…most of all, I remember thinking…make another fucking record.
Here’s a great recording of the pre-Blur Seymour, clips of which were shown in the doc.
Steve Sutherland interviews Damon Albarn, 16th September 1995. Photos by Kevin Cummins.
Seeing as I have the N.M.E. pile out and we’re all still flushed from seeing Blur on stage again at Glastonbury 2009 I thought I’d post this, the counterpart to this cover, which has proved extremely popular. Gasp again to the cut and thrust of Blur vs. Oasis; thrill to the shenanigans of Cuntry House and The Great Escape; or just simply drool over the lovely Cummins picture of the young Albarn.
The years are starting to show though aren’t they? Quite understandable for Albarn to change the lyrics in End of a Century from “the mind gets dirty, as you get closer to thirty” to fifty, given the circumstances. It doesn’t scan as well but I’ll forgive him.
So I dunno if I was naive, but I wasn’t expecting quite such a retreat to the ‘Britpop’ Blur – perhaps Damon & Co. needed to be reminded of what great work they’ve produced over the years to feel re-invigorated for the future? It has, lest we forget, been a long slog for them over the last 20 years. Something I was reminded of again today thanks to the serendipitous joys of Twitter when I read Rhodri Marsden’s first hand recollection of meeting Blur in their orignal Seymour form and then subsequently touring with them. Well worth reading and there’s this photo that shows why Dave gave up drinking.
It just so happens that I’ve managed to scan in a review from one of these early Blur performances where The Keatons supported. If you missed it the first time it’s here.
And let’s not forgot all of Blur’s festival unfriendly tunes. Here’s a Spotify playlist showcasing the gloomy side of Blur through the years.
Ok, ok…I know it’s been too long. Thanks for the kick up the arse Bete. And the spelling correction.Ye wouldn’t let it lie would you?
I’ve just realised that in two days time this blog is a year old. I know I’ve not managed to keep to the once a day post promise but I don’t think I’ve done badly overall. Anyway forgive the forthcoming scan vomit
Who remembers Sun Zoom Spark then? I don’t. Was it any good? Presumably not seeing as it folded. Thought it worth posting this as a record but also because I know the Blur fans will appreciate it.
Clearly it’s less of an investigation and more of an excuse to let Moose promote their new single by distancing themselves from their past, but that aside, I feel a bit of a rant coming on.
It’s a funny thing how occasionally this blog stirs passions and personal recollections about things I’d long since forgotten. I’m aware that there are some (most) people that read this blog who know a lot more about the history of these things and can express them a lot better than I can, however, I was there and this is my personal take on shoegaze.
Back in the day…way back 1988 or so, it was the early ‘proto-shoegaze’ bands that really got their hooks in me. Sure we’d all grown up with The Smiths and The Fall and other Peel favourites but these weren’t new bands, they weren’t undiscovered bands and crucially, a lot of them I didn’t really like them that much. However with burgeoning maturity [cough], a growing confidence and money from summer/Saturday jobs I found myself blowing meagre wages on more and more of the latest music press raves.
These days it’s hard to try and impress how difficult it was to find out about, let alone hear, ‘indie’ music, if you lived in a small market town like I did. Even if you knew what you wanted, and you had the money to afford it, you still had to order it out of a tiny Our Price stacked to the gills with CD’s of Dire Straights, U2, Sting etc… There was no flicking through heaps of tantalizing vinyl, no studying the artwork and turning your fingers lustily across the records cardboard stock. Buying records in those days was just an alternative form of gambling.
You’d walk into Our Price on Saturday. You’d endure the withering stare of some fool, a few years older than you, who thought they were fucking cool because they worked in a record shop. You’d write down your order on a little bit of paper, say thank you and leave. You’d go back after about a week, be intimidated all over again but with luck, you’d pick up a copy of a record which you’d never even seen the cover of before. You’d take it home with mounting anticipation. You’d put it on, close your eyes and wait. You’d wait for the sound of “1,000 volcano’s erupting over 10,000 vestal virgins” that you’d read about; the sound of “skipping naked through cornfields on the first day of summer” that you’d been promised. You’d hear the needle crackling, here it comes…and you’d think… “God that sounds shit”.
Yeah…nine times out of ten the record would be total shit. But you played it to death anyway because you only had a few records and it had just cost you £6.99. Sometimes you grew to like it but you never quite loved it. But then, just occasionally, you did. Sometimes what came back through the speakers made up for every single dud you’d bought up to that point. And as depressing and uncool as it sounds today, for me, some of those records were Ride’s first EP’s.
There had been others before Ride obviously. Some have stood the test of time, some haven’t, The Stone Roses & The Eight Legged Groove Machine. But it was that trilogy of EP’s Ride released in 1990 that really got under my skin. For a while nothing could touch Ride. I knew the lineage. The Mary Chain to My Bloody Valentine to Ride. Each band aping the one before it but in some intangible way, moving things forward, being original. Many scoffed but the fact is Ride made ‘noise’ palatable to me where JAMC and MBV had failed. Sure I’d kinda liked those other ‘cooler’ bands but I hadn’t loved them. Ride I loved and I wasn’t the only one. They had better tunes, better cheekbones and perfect hair. They were everything I wanted to be and Taste almost broke the Top 10, which back then was quite extraordinary. And while we were still inthrall to Ride, Slowdive overlapped these releases with a clutch of similar yet different EP’s which were just as engaging. Then, Chaperhouse – then, as I remember it – all hell broke loose and there were 1,000’s of bands all trying to do what Ride/Slowdive did but successively diluting the quality.
I hate ‘scenes’. I don’t mind broad genres of music, they’re helpful, but scenes serve no one in the long run. The bands that really stand out, who are doing something original, attract imitators. Very quickly there’s a whole bunch of bands that all seem to be doing the same thing. It feels exciting at the beginning. It feels like someone’s bottled youth. The bandwagon begins. Journalists scrabble to cover the new movement. New bands align themselves to this new exciting scene in a brazen attempt to get noticed and kick start their career. The more ferocious the scene becomes, the uncooler it gets. The original bands distance themselves from the sound that’s brought them their success then typically struggle to sell as many records as they used to. The third, fourth and fifth generation imitators can no longer look to anyone to copy and their records have all the substance of the froth from the top of a milkshake. The scene has imploded. The snide bitching begins. That once cool scene moniker becomes a term of abuse. You’ve passed from teenager to twenty something. You feel let down, disappointed. It’s a new feeling. Odd. Strange. You still love those records that were once so cool yet are now so derided. Future cynicism germinates.
So it was the summer of 1991 that Melody Maker invented the The Scene That Celebrates Itself – their own version, which never really caught on – of NME’s Shoegaze, which did. Originally a term of celebration, by the end of 1992 it was all over. And the mud remains slung to this day.
All of which is a flabby, over long preamble to try and justify why I hate the fact that Ride get called Shoegaze. To me Shoegaze is a term of abuse for all those shit also-ran bands. Catherine Wheel? Yeah sure. Chapterhouse? Definitely. Ocean Colour Scene before they jumped on the next bandwagon, abso-fucking-lutely! But My Bloody Valentine, The House of Love, Lush, Ride? FUCK NO! Apparently I’m wrong. Ride were definitely Shoegaze. Simon Price has told me so and well…that’s that isn’t it? Thing is I can’t see how you retrospectively apply a scene to bands who were around a long time before the scene existed. I know, I know…I’m *so* naive.
So what did happen to Shoegazing? Well the truth is it didn’t die but became [yawn] nu-gaze. I’m not sure when the revival – jokingly predicted to start in 1995 – did start exactly but it’s been mutating and evolving in its own quiet way for years now, as this 2005-present Last.Fm list of forum post attests.
This morning, quite unrelated to this I was sent a link to a youtube video. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. Or ears. It’s like the last 19 years didn’t happen. This was released in February 2009 – and in case there’s any doubt – this IS Shoegaze. If you like this go buy those first 3 Ride EP’s kids. Or failing that, Ecstasy & Wine by My Bloody Valentine.
Update 13th April: Thanks to comment left by David M who highlighted this modern day article by Paul Lester on the same topic. Still don’t agree with much of it but at least Moose aren’t plugging a single.
Touched by the hand of Mod – Taylor Parkes & Sarah Manning, 19th November 1994.
Taylor – this is the piece that Robin quoted on his blog recently.
November 17, 2008
Keith Cameron interviews Blur in America, 8th October 1994. Photos by Kevin Cummins.
This interview showcasing that annoying habit N.M.E. had of overflowing any content that didn’t fit the paper into the back pages. I always hated treasure hunts. Still, it’s nice to see that classified ad for Shed Seven T-Shirts isn’t it? One thing I’ve also noticed in scanning this is that every member of staff has their direct telephone number listed in the paper. This seems quite extraordinary to me now.
For the young ‘uns and those of you not versed in UK radio history that Lambretta to America title is a pun on Alistair Cooke’s very famous Letter to America radio program – “The world’s longest running speech radio programme began in 1946, and continued till Cooke’s retirement in February 2004”.
Co-incidentally Alistair Cooke would have been 100 this week and there’s a tribute show that’s been broadcast tonight.