Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Imaginary sounds of the suburbs

School discos were an essential part of growing up - school discos in bleak northern Britain were and mostly still are the high point of a low year. Actually – i don’t think they have discos anymore – nowadays people want a prom. All borrowed cliché and romance from fatuous films predicated with an inane pop soundtrack and ending on a wonderful high where everybody has their moment. I was always more Carrie than Glee. Do you get me?

I remember the anticipation.

The getting together of the look – the style – the outfit – with as much fondness as the girls in my year did. To be honest I think everybody cared in some way or another – because discos are rituals. We map out our territories, desires, ambitions with the shake of a hip and our sartorial stylings. We cast our net and hope for a catch – of the rough and the smooth, of the slap and the tickle.

I went to many youth discos – they used to hold a regular one down near The Comet public house – it was known – quite catchingly as Comet Disco. There was big disco and little disco – the rites of passage marked by your ascendency to the ‘big’ one. And of course there were intermittent school ones – with gin swigged from miniatures and fags shared between three, four and sometimes five hapless teenagers.

And hopeful dances and embraces in dark corners and empty parts of the school grounds. I was a bit of an idiot looking back – but to be honest I didn’t care. This was heartfelt, passionate – always about the music – on the dance floor to the mix I believed to be authentic and straight off again when I felt I‘d swam into shallow waters of mediocrity and Top 40ness.

Well I almost always stomped off.

I never held back for the ‘smoochers’ – I’d dance to anything then as long I was able to get up close to which ever girl I had fallen headily in love with that week. In fact Wham’s Last Christmas could well have been my song – as I flitted and crossed the floor several times in the space of an evening. Once bitten – twice as likely to show off more. So what has brought this nostalgic rush of school days back? I heard from an old school friend this morning – one I had dreamt about many times [and I fell out of bed twice] and all those heady glances came rushing back sound tracked to the eighties power ballads, ska skankings, electro beats and indie janglings.

And just for the record – i wouldn’t change anything about the now – i can see the real me – but those school days with their musical backdrop formed this Scunthorpe lad – that and the acrid sulphur filled streets and bleak industrial townscape that rattled through my dreams. I could choose a whole heap of tunes for this post – and I need to turn the writing from nostalgia to music again – i’m getting all sentimental [said i wasn’t going but I went still.]

In some ways the post should be about True by Spandau Ballet, or Careless Whisper by George Michael – but I want to delve deeper into those discos and parties and remember why I wanted to get out this place [if it was the last thing I ever did.] I was invited to a party - i was most likely seventeen – spotty and opinionated – bowl headed and wearing a brown anorak as a sign that I had embraced the post C86 scene with abandon. I would take records to parties – they didn’t play my kind of music – i mean I would take sha la la flexis, Sarah records, the Fall and the Pistols to surburban houses where the Top 40 was moving and shaking the masses. I was a fool – but one who thought little shiny pieces of floppy plastic could break the capitalist system – by passing the fact I was part of it by producing and buying into it.

But who said you can’t be naive?

So here at David Ashton’s house party I attempted to play Anorak City by Another Sunny Day [ i would also do this in Rotherham – forcing some hairies to play Pristine Christine on the decks – until he started taking the piss out of its production on the microphone – kind of like an indie battle rhymer – yes – check out the urchins and their jangling sound, this fake piece of psychedelic underground – and all the bowl heads love to shake their stuff to it, but I’m the MC and this song is shit – it kind of went like that. It didn’t because the MCing scene had not yet hit the biking fraternity of Wath upon Dearne - but you can half imagine it]

So I force this smaller than usual flexi on the record deck – that fizzing and popping of cheap production as the drum machine kicks in and the incessant drive of chugging fuzzed up guitars begins – take a ride to anorak city – the singer enthuses – all soft and twee as I danced, fell, awkwardly stumbled in the dining room. As sport billies sized me up with a single glance and then a rush of blood to the head and a push and a shove and the walls came tumbling down and I am involved in a quarrel of epic proportions – can’t anybody see this is the real deal.

This is disposable pop.

And I was preaching to an audience of one. Well perhaps two.

And I still play Anorak City – you don’t hear that on Radio Two – where I can tap into the memories of school fumbles and chances. You don’t hear Another Sunny Day on a regular basis on any radio station and once I dreamed that we would.