In adolescent times you could kick over the statutes by turning up the volume and raging at the world from the comfort of your bedroom – safe in the knowledge that you were in your room and no one was going to know whether you were playing The Birthday Party or Showaddywaddy. What now sounds like a confessional session but merely is thinking is that those rooms saved our lives many a time.
If I think what went on in my bedroom – it was the carving out of this.
There is a sense of unbridled energy lurking in the walls of teenage rooms. I was watching the classic albums programme about Screamadelica and there in those photographs of McGee, Innes and Gillespie was that energy – that building of confidence through shared understandings and mis-timed joking. Of microphone posing and record jockeying.
Bedrooms are the catalyst to action.
Once Paul and I recorded a feedback fuelled tribute to the death of Shep in minutes of Noake’s announcement that his trusty dog had left his side or hit record on the Amstrad Studio 100 as we attempted to out do the Butthole Surfers with a one stringed kazoo version of Hurdy Gurdy Man – that simply revolved around the speakers on playback all muffled and sat on.
Or forming a hip hop group as we sampled and scratched our ways through the beastie madness .And the list goes on, the T-Rex salute to She Sells Sanctuary or the pulsating drones of the Juno 6 as I tried to recreate Pink Allen’s Rising High ambient ‘sounds’. The tribute acts to Mud and the hyponotic tremors of Spiritualised meets David Essex – all happened in rooms with beds in.
Time and imagination fuels production.
When I had moved out and then returned it was with a different set of records in my bag – but it was still about getting your tunes played – as tapes were placed in decks and records spun in an attempt to get to the root of it all. I guess I should have been taking more time to actually learn things – find out stuff that mattered but playing Ill Communication followed by The Beach Boys, Denim an old funk 45 and the Dust Brothers Chemical Beats [purchased from Danny in Record Village that morning] was shaping the sounds and ideas in our heads. Ideas of escape for the most part.
I remember up in a loft in Brockley – sat with Richard as we listened, tipsy and smoke ridden, to demos of his band on portable tape recorders – all these moments of beauty locked into tiny spaces or staring out the top windows of grand houses on Granville Park as The Pixies or Teenage Fanclub provided a soundtrack to new living. Or cramped in Lee’s room as he played the solo from I am the resurrection by the Roses and we all sat in awe. Or seeing how far our Alba systems could go with young continentals and hard jazz sounds. In those rooms – you took risks and you were always looking to nudge that volume up – just that little bit more.
As I get older – and spaces become mine – not borrowed from others. Not that I resented my parents having a front room. A record player of their own. But now I am that adult – that responsible being with a record player in my front room – the bedroom is just that now – a bedroom. I don’t think I make the same racket as I used to – I know I don’t - the volume is louder in the car than in my front room – well only room. Open plan – maaaaan.
I think the responsibility of age is a good thing – it’s not endless late nights and german acid tracks making the walls bounce or atonal post punk rock that communicates with cats – it’s different now. At times I will seek to enlighten the family with an obscure gem pulled from the racks. But my selector days are quieter now. Currently the Jonny album is in the CD tray, it replaced Beethoven who slid in after the Aphex Twin Ambient Works Vol.1. The Minus records album is in the car, alongside Justin Robertson’s Art of Acid or Weatherall’s Fabric Mix [Number 19 if you want to buy it]
Still the thrill of hitting start and letting the music course through speakers whether tiny or woofing never really leaves you. Before we moved to this house – we had a place in Lewisham all Victorian stories and that and I put the record player up in the top loft rooms alongside the vinyl haul – and in part it felt like those early days in rooms with others letting sounds ring out and making us all scream and shout and talk about that production and this bass line and that snare and this sample. I have always been fun to live with. I listened to Smile for the first time – when Wilson had deigned to redo it – up there – up in that room – in my room. Blew my mind.
This weekend I will play a record in my front room.
Not loud. But just let it play in salute of all the bedroom revolutions taking place. And I am racking my brains and trying to tap into memories to decide on what it should be – so many times I stepped up to the record player and pulled a tune from a sleeve and waited with anticipation for it to begin. From the sha la la flexis to records that arrived through the post or were discovered in charity shops and caught my eye or cadged of friends to take home and tape. There are simply too many of them to choose from.
Perhaps it should be the first single I ever bought – XTC Sergeant Rock – a staccato psychedelic exploration of ‘manning up’ as John Terry would say – a Top of the Pops glimspse, a 7inch from Boots and descent into music autism for the rest of my life. Thanks Andy Partridge – thanks. Although now I’m not certain whether that was the first 45 I bought – it may have been Motorhead and Girlschool ‘Please don’t Touch’ that garage chug with a glint in its eye. No, I’m sticking with Sgt Rock – and so will you.
There isn’t a great deal to say about XTC – I was never really a fan. And then Paul got hold of the Dukes of Stratosphere albums and clearly there is a great deal to XTC.
Born out bedrooms see – it’s where it all begins.
XTC Sgt Rock – purchased one month before Motorhead [I googled it]