As the eighties tripped into the nineties, almost without warning my soundtrack of life suddenly derailed towards an E before I coloured landscape where I was suddenly the one out of time.
U2 did the honourable thing and bowed out declaring that they would have to go away and dream the whole thing up again, Echo and the Bunnymen rode away on horses, The Cure disintegrated, The Smiths turned the light out and, in an Orwellian twist, no one was allowed to mention the words, Brothers in Arms. Things were changing and even in the spot lit fog of the Broken Doll pub at Newcastle, The Stones’ Gimme Shelter failed to impress the afternoon grant funded drinking club.
We were only months away from the real world and without warning friends began to get their hair cut, started to wash, stopped drinking and, most alarmingly, started to dance. Whatever Charly said then anyone cool enough to be listening to The Prodigy did. We were in the North East but under the shadow of the West. Joy Division was dead and Madchester reigned with New Order in full club spangled party mode.
I have to admit that I was quickly becoming disillusioned and retreated back to Floyd, Zeppelin and Sylvian in the comfort of the not very expensive quayside student rooms. I tried to hide away but room mates constantly hopped into my darkening days with luminous anthems such as Come Home, The Only One and Fools Gold. Perhaps I was homesick; longing to watch the sun sink behind the Pennines with Shine On You Crazy Diamond in the background or sitting on the floor of the cellar bar in The Zetland with Lemmy shouting about his Silver Machine. Whatever the reason, the ideology of Madchester left me as cold and colourless as the very streets where it was born.
Days were getting longer and the inevitability of work was looming. First year students were beginning to find their feet muscling in on the secrets of Indie Nightclubs with their fake denims and floppy hair. Getting drunk was becoming unfashionable; as was pogo dancing. And just when things couldn’t get any worse a smiley face appeared. ACEEED! Whistles, Poppers, shoe gazing and hapless DJs trying to keep the whole thing together was the re-write. No longer could you whip a crowd to frenzy with The Only Way is Up: Fool’s Gold was the new cool!
Into this environment we enter the land of the Darling Buds. Recently downloaded as a good value greatest hits (hence the zero play), this week’s track finds a visitors pass to the great halls.
It was Indie night at Walker’s nightclub (Tuesday) and A Guy Called Gerald was playing with Voodoo as the soon to be inspired DJ began to loop the opening sequence of this week’s track into the acid house buzz. Suddenly, as the song burst into life all thoughts of Dexy’s begging Eileen to come and save the day faded to a euphoric chant of all I ever wanted/all I ever needed/is here in my arms. The music was intoxicating and for a moment I couldn’t think for the life of me who it was until the realisation that the south had invaded and left Madchester standing in its own shoe gazed polish.
Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode re-awakened the soul. True, the vinyl of Speak and Spell had been on the shelves for several years but it was the extraordinary re-invention of the Violator album that charged my senses. The music coupled with the art and film work of Anton Corbijn gave the music scene a genuine sense of purpose that would soon snuff out the mad spin of Mad.
I was already a big fan of Anton Corbijn following his work with the likes of David Sylvian, Propaganda and, of course, U2. Who doesn’t think of the iconic gatefold with the metaphorical tree and desert when you here the Eno and Lanois inspired opening to what fans call ‘Streets’.
Corbijn’s work for Depeche Mode was as groundbreaking; still rooted in the American Interior, this time the black and white was washed with Technicolor – a style that would soon follow U2 to Berlin where dreams where re-worked with a Trabant. Unless you’re lucky enough to track down an original version of the Violator film, Strange Too, which includes the inspired –this is how you make a pop video (clowns and donkeys included) – film for the track, Halo then opt for Videos 86 – 98.
In December 2011, Amanda and I returned to Newcastle to see the wonderful Unthanks perform the songs of Robert Wyatt and Andrew and the Johnsons at the homecoming show at the Gateshead Sage Theatre.
The Broken Doll is long demolished so after the show we escaped to another old favourite haunt of mine, the Red House. There we were met by a group of students challenging each other at the jukebox. Thankfully there was no Happy Mondays or Inspiral Carpets. Stone Roses made a guest appearance as the soon to be new millionaires of rock and roll and then in the dark of the night, Silence. All I ever wanted was the shout from the bar.
How did it get so late?
We laughed at the circle of life being witnessed in real time. I then had the realisation that Enjoy the Silence was as old as Gimme Shelter had been in those black and white days of The Broken Doll. We finished our drinks; it was getting late. As we walked back to our hotel I was reminded of the poem, Evening by Simon Armitage: home seemed so far away and so did our past.