Sunday, 3 February 2013

I liked The Cult as a teenager


The transition from juniors to secondary school has faded somewhat from my mind. I can’t remember whether I was full of fear or excitement. It was just another school – you know just another brick in the wall and all that. Blazers, ties and band allegiances – I’d cultivated that at an early age. That’s probably why I can’t quite remember the feelings – blotted them out with Shakin’ Stevens and the Sex Pistols. We used to have school discos in the main hall at my juniors – at lunch times – you could bring your own records – I would follow ‘Hot Dog’ with ‘Friggin’ in the Riggin’ – I was a shock jock then.

I’ve always been eclectic maaaaannnnn.

I arrived in secondary school clutching on to the late 1970s – early eighties rock n roll revival. Not quiffed yet – that would come two years later with The Smiths and awkward moments on the dance floor – or should I say cringe worthy moments. The thing is – I like dancing – we want to dance and have some fun – but I must have spent a fair part of my youth with arms flailing and fringe swinging. It used to make the girls go giddy - well actually – it didn’t – that’s artistic licence for you – I could say that it did and you’d just have to believe me. Still I’ll write about the dance floor again another day. This is about the switching and changing of musical taste of hearing something new and embracing it – which you’re ripe to at that early age – sponge like and not set in our ways. Saying that – I wasn’t open to it all – this whole thing is a ball of contradictions – it preaches have a listen and then puts the boot in too.

I’ve always been like that you know. Contradictory and opinionated. You could say I’m not that easy to get along with. The family recognise it – my friends recognise it – I care not to and blindly carry on doing it. Saying one thing – meaning another – tying up my tongue in frustration and incoherence.

So how is this going to get to talking ‘bout (love) Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy – this chief and warrior union through glam goth rock and the stomp of something rocking? I had a cousin further up north – so far in fact it’s another country – and she was a few years younger than my brother – they enjoyed the dark music – they embraced the backcombed in their lives. Now as I have previously stated – I wanted a piece of the alternative too – I once wore a ribbon in my hair in a heady tribute to Porl Thompson of The Cure (at that time) However, I’m not sure the wider general public of Port Seaton recognised the dandy in me – it was more likely that they laughed. See you – aye – see that ribbon.

So you could say I was open to suggestion at this point – it was time to move on from ‘Shirley’ and ‘Green Door’ and Matchbox weren’t cutting it anymore – I didn’t want the girl’s to cry on my shoulder. I didn’t want Jump the Broomstick – at Heslam Park Rugby Club disco – I wanted guitars, scarves, chants and emotions – I wanted an alternative. And The Cult initially filled those transient times – they weren’t The Cure – Paul (my brother) had claimed them. That sudden shifting from the Top 40 to all things independent. You know what it’s like with men – we’re just looking for a perfect list. So it seemed that the mainstream wasn’t quite cutting it for me. The arrival of the music press in the house was slowly shifting my agenda and ideology. Writing could do that then – I’m not certain that the current readers of NME (.com) ever get that feeling. I maybe wrong – but the newspapers back then had articles about music and misery, unemployment and anger coursing through those inky pages. Writers who wanted to write about music and about life. There were four page interviews – you know – lots of words and that.  Oh I know it was affected – isn’t this?

And as my cousin played me Spiritwalker and Resurrection Joe – up there in the bedroom at the top of the house  – there was something different –a kind of groove – mixed with yelps and the feeling that it was alive – I couldn’t reference The Doors then, and this in itself was a good thing – because you know how I feel about The Doors. 

I hadn’t even seen them – at this point. I don’t mean live – I just mean moving. It had been still photos and words on pages. I was reading something the other day from an American about The Smiths and there was a line that resonated with me – he said he never saw The Smiths move until 1986. This lack of internet look ups – DVD sales and promo videos – you know Derek Jarman made the first Smiths videos or should that be films and they weren’t in them – all this music coupled with all those static images – it meant you had to think what they would look like moving – grooving – playing and dancing – even just walking.

Nothing could have prepared you for Ian Astbury – this hip (shaking) shaman – this screamer and bawler in leggings and leather – feathers and fur. He was cartoon like in state – larger than life – and the songs referenced tribal gatherings and dream walking and all that spiritual shit. Beside him quiffed and ready for action – Duffy heading up the troops – all blonde hair and low action.  But I fell for it – I liked the fact that Resurrection Joe was eight minutes long – it wasn’t digitally produced – it was flawed – in production and composition. You don’t come out fully formed – you kind of grow into it – and boy would The Cult grow – into a muthafucking rock stomping behemoth of a band. All hair and Gretsch White Falcons – double bass drums and Marshall stacks – by the time Love Removal Machine emerged – Astbury was inflicted with a rock tourettes all yyaoowws and yelps – screams and yeaahhhs. Sweat pouring down his made up face – more bloated than Morrison – a sort of Rob Zombie version of Mick Jagger.  He’d eventually slim on down (to the other side) and join The Doors 21st Century – life – art  - you know the saying. He made a good Morrison though – but it’s weird watching it. It’s studied – it’s knowing – it’s honest – yet it doesn’t quite feel right. Like the wig might slip.

I stuck steady with The Cult – well I was steady with the Cult from their Southern and Death incarnations – and then when She Sells Sanctuary crossed over – in appearances on TOTP and The Tube. This single line floating melody that kicked in with a bang and made all our heads turn as this band from the Midlands (with some northern parts) made a beeline for the top of the charts. Okay – it got to number 14 – but to us ‘outsiders’ looking in that was success  - that was gate crashing the party. And then came the long player – Love – I liked it – I listened to it a great deal. I was part of their cult. I was into the gatefold cover – the graphics – and the tunes. The Cult felt like a band that was mine – they weren’t overly gothic – they flirted with it – but there was a straight rock ethic flowing through it. Plus they were always brilliant - self-deprecating in their interviews – it helps to have the ability to laugh at yourself  - it’s taken me about 30 years – but I’m getting there.

And then suddenly they ‘broke’ the US – and that was that – an almighty clash of Zepp and AC/DC – they went proper raaawkkk. It didn’t scare me – just disappointed – I hung in for a while – but eventually we went our separate ways. I just happened to come across an odd glam rock version of She Sells Sanctuary that my band did years ago – in a Scunthorpe bedroom and it brought me back to the original – that first dalliance with the Cult.

It was good to be friends with them – through vinyl and reported speech. It was a decent dalliance. Cheers Ian.