Thursday, 17 November 2011

University life – Fantastic life [PART 1]

On arriving in London – that long odd journey down with my dad at the wheel – thinking about that now – he was only 40 years old. That’s me this year. My mum helping with directions – specifically after the Blackwall Tunnel, but let’s say it hadn’t been an easy ride from Scunthorpe to the smoke – i blame the directions on the A2 – you want Blackheath take the Peckham turning. But we were not to know. My sister tucked in the car - journeying to London with her brother. 

And a girlfriend in the back – all young love and pots and pans, bowlheads and dreams. Well that wouldn’t last.

I wasn’t exactly fresh faced – I had grown up in a northern steel town – the girls there would break their arms just to get out of PE – but London was a different place - I say London – this was Lewisham [before the Police Station – still rocking the Army and Navy] Been rolling up that hill - been running up those streets – to Granville Park. It wasn’t a bad place to begin a romance with London. 1989 – Goldsmiths’ – halls with students and the fading grunge scene mutating into ecstasy and sharp suits. This was the ‘baggy’ crossover writ large – like the trousers I would wear. ‘Tell mum to get no less than 20 inches – otherwise they might as well be a pair of straight legs’ – I had said to my brother – as my mum took a trip down to Ashby Market – but hey Ashby has always been a touch seventies so the stalls had those loons stacked high- waiting – just waiting.

I had arrived deep in love with the velvets and leather – from our dalliance and then friendship with the Scream. Straight up to Camden – for fifty pound biker jackets and dreams of Sid Vicious like behaviour in the clubs as we bounced bike chains of NME journalists heads. We didn’t – but we did once shower Bob Stanley in fanzine confetti in Deptford because he said we were too obvious – all Mary Chain and predictable – when we thought we were loud and dangerous. We weren’t and he wasn’t right either but perhaps he didn’t deserve it – although I always hated St Etienne after – irrational but deep seated.

Being in London then was exciting –it still is exciting. I love the city – I was returning from Nottingham this weekend and as the 125 approached this sprawling mass I had to marvel at its size. It’s sheer bloody vastness. All stories and streets. In the city I’ve a got a thousand things I want to say you. And as a slightly vacant, opinionated and arrogant young thing coming to London gave me a further spring in my step. Student life started at Granville Park – all Victorian floors and grandness – I was coming out a three bed semi council house – this was a different experience completely. One wrapped in cheap cassettes and cigarettes.

I remember the interview at Goldsmiths’ – I’d had a couple already Liverpool, Birmingham and Bradford – and I ventured down to this one with a yearning to get in. I had chosen my universities and polytechnics because I wanted to see bands – go to gigs – feel the throng of the crowd – and of course London was the holy grail of gigs – of the ULU, Camden Falcon, the Town and Country Club and Hammersmith Apollo – all those adverts in the NME announcing tours and shows by singers and groups that bypassed the North East time and time again.

But to this fine city they came – again and again. I had travelled by train – my mum lying about my age and using the family railcard to purchase a ticket for a pound. I would leave her in central London and make my way to New Cross station and then follow the map round to university. Suited and awkward I travelled on trains – with my rucksack full of notes and this and that.

And there it was a simple building on a busy road. Home of the YBAs and soon to be Blur, the studying point for John Cale and Brian Moloko although not at the same time – the list goes on and they tend to with universities – they attract people – people that do stuff. So it was show around and wait a bit – me nearly blowing all my chances as I asked if my interview at 2pm could be moved – why – because I wanted to record shopping – I needed the afternoon to peruse the racks – turned out my interview was even later – I’d jinxed it see. Met Phil on that day too – a wonderful friend who I’ve since let go by the wayside –like the fool I have always been. He takes pictures now – he does stuff.

So ushered in to a small stuffy room expecting to quizzed on the ideology of Marx, or critique the construction of sexuality in the modern age – but Mike Phillipson talked about the fanzine I had written and put in my application. It was an instant connection – an anthropological trawl through the sub culture of style. This place had Dick Hebdidge – I wanted to go. Tutors talked of art, of politics and fanzines.

I wanted to go so badly. So I worked a little harder – it’s as simple as that.

Left as dusk was coming – I had to meet my mum at HMV on Oxford Street. Simple. No phones then – no text to tell how the interview had gone. Just meet outside at 4pm. So I got there. Get off at Tottenham Court road and walk up Oxford Street. And wait. Well buy a few records. And then wait.

Time ticking – darkness setting in. Waiting for my mum. I’m waiting for my mum.

Not panic – more frustration. She wasn’t showing – which meant I wasn’t going home – picking up the train and making our way back to sulphuric skies and blast furnace dawns. So what do you do? You can’t phone – you shouldn’t leave your spot – she might appear. I think I spent half my teenage years waiting at specific places for faces that I needed to see.

However – what you need to know in all of this is that Oxford Street is a fair size and HMV had two shops. You can work out the rest. Suffice to say we used the managers to convey messages and eventually made our way to Kings Cross and home.

Tucked inside the rucksack was My Bloody Valentine’s Ecstasy and Wine – a Lazy compilation to unite the chiming and bending guitars of the group who would go on to break Creation [I know this is a lie] I often return to this album more than Loveless and Isn’t Anything. It has a spine tingling beauty and youthfulness that I like to wallow in sometimes.

It’s filled with possibility – much like I was back then in London.

This also has added karaoke appeal