I've been going through hell trying to come up with a subject for my first Sunday posting.
Especially after last week's tour de force by Dick van Dyke. How can I entertain you like that?
Or how can I communicate even a fraction of the conviviality and passion that JC demonstrates daily?
I've been wracking my brain, recalling every fragment of my musical make-up, and trying to figure out exactly what this blogging business is all about. What do you folks come here for? Is it the music or the words? Or is it the good company?
Should I be true to the title at the top of the page, and delve into the metres of vinyl upstairs in the spare bedroom? Almost certainly yes... but what?
OK, here goes. The first band I ever saw, that's a good start.
Not including a couple of family outings to see the Spinners (the ones from Liverpool not Detroit), it was The Go-Betweens supporting Aztec Camera at Birmingham Odeon on October 10, 1984. I was 14.
I didn't know who the Go-Betweens were. On a large stage viewed from a seat high in a balcony, two men with guitars swapped the lead vocal. The songs were wistful and melodic. I remember Part Company and Bachelor Kisses, but the one that stayed in my head for years was Five Words. Maybe because of the interaction between the two voices. Bury them, don't keep 'em.
Overall, though, the night was underwhelming, lacking the excitement that I'd anticipated, a too-gentle introduction to live music.
Twenty years later, I was fortunate enough to meet Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, and I recalled my first concert. "Ah yes," said Robert Forster, like an absent-minded professor pulling a dusty tome from a high shelf, "I remember that one. Gary Glitter was there." Gary Glitter was there?! Gary Glitter was at my first concert??!! But that was all he said on the subject.
I remember it was difficult to get to the concert. I wasn't allowed to take the bus and my mother wasn't prepared to drive into the city in the evening. Luckily a friend of hers volunteered.
mp3 : Go-Betweens - Five Words (Peel Session)
Which brings us to the present, a quarter of a century and several hundred gigs later, and it's difficult all over again.
On Thursday night my wife and I had tickets to see Natalie Merchant in Glasgow. The children were in bed, our coats were on, but there was no sign of the babysitter. Cue much panic and despair, until a neighbour was kind enough to fill in. We just about got there, a couple of songs in.
Like being back at school, getting to a gig is once more an achievement, a major production. Something rare, to be cherished.
And what a great concert this was: surprising, moving, hilarious. The beauty of her voice, the emotion of the songs, offset by a wicked frivolity, as she insulted the audience, laughed uncontrollably and forced her musicians to play songs they'd never played before as she danced in rings around them.
mp3 : Natalie Merchant - Golden Boy
Earlier this week, I was flicking through the new edition of Uncut. I came across a review of the reissues of Galaxie 500 's three albums (on Domino, like the forthcoming reissues of Orange Juice's Polydor albums). These were records which meant a lot to me, but I haven't heard them in years. I settled down expecting to read the kind of breathless, rhapsodic prose that the band used to inspire in reviewers, but I was surprised to see only three stars for each album.
"You're never sure," writes David Cavanagh, "what you'll find when you revisit a band 20 years after you went in separate directions. Naive maps of the past, perhaps, or Proustian chills as Galaxie 500 walk across your grave. It's unfair to ask once-precious music to retain its life-or-death significance after two decades..."
It's for an answer to this question that I regularly come to TVV. Can the music of my youth be as good as I remember? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
And can music - old and new - still inspire and unite?
Because, let's face it, we're all getting on.
Still, youth is just a state of mind. And Galaxie 500 still do it for me with this track...
mp3 : Galaxie 500 - Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste
which inevitably took me back to the original...
mp3 : The Modern Lovers - Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste
I hadn't imagined that I was going to post any of these tracks. None of them have exactly been constant fixtures in my life. But today they all sound great. Next month I'll plan it out in advance - and hopefully relax - but for now, did I get away with it?
Cullenskink, Sunday 31 January 2010