It’s difficult not to create a subliminal soundtrack to your life. Every significant celebration tends to be punctuated with a tune: birthdays, weddings, funerals. TV and radio are littered with jingles as well as the promotion of the latest talent show winner.
And so often a song will play, out of the metaphorical blue, which twists your mind, transporting you back when…
I start not at the beginning. Instead, I shall try to describe the emotions music has made me feel, rather than the music I associate with a specific emotion or event. These two events were what music meant to me.
Thunder was the first band I saw in the flesh, albeit from the front row of the balcony section of wherever it was I saw them. I don’t remember the details – I was young enough for memory to have erased such simple things as where and when. I’m pretty sure my parents had recently split, and my mum was relishing her newfound freedom to enjoy such things as live music. The band, formed as Thunder in 1989 (when I was 3), was the favourite band of my Auntie S. They consisted of Danny Bowes, Luke Morley, Gary ‘Harry’ James, Mark ‘Snake’ Luckhurst and Ben Matthews. Their most well-known, though not most popular, hit was Love Walked In, which reached 21 in the singles charts.
As I said, I don’t recall the details, but my brother and I were the youngest members of the audience. I know this as fact because Auntie S, in her wonderful way, told someone important enough to get us a shout-out. I was quite happy screaming “Harry, Harry, Harry!” (always loved drummers) until I went blue, only to have the shade of my face turn to the other side of the spectrum when Danny Bowes called our names from the front of the stage. With us dangerously hanging over the railing in pure awe, Bowes commented on our leather jackets and my brother’s mullet hairstyle. He called us “rock and roll” and we almost cried with joy. Instead we most likely went back to screaming “Harry, Harry, Harry!” who then probably slammed his drumsticks together and introduced the next song.
The details weren’t important, but the memory of that second where our names hung on the lips of a man who could only be described as a rock legend clings to you forever.
But, I didn’t stay rock n roll as such. I took on my parents’ joint love of rock music and their open-minded view of politics and society, delving into a world encompassed by the Welsh wonder that is the Manic Street Preachers.
Formed in 1986 (the year I was born), this band became a solid part of my life and soul after the release of their fifth album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. I get quite floaty when I talk about how the Manics have been such a constant part of my life, so I shall not dwell. TIMTTMY was released in 1997, the year I started secondary school. It became my dream to connect with them in the way I felt when I saw Thunder live; to transform from the polished, shiny carcass of a CD played over and over and over each and every day, to the physical form standing before me in all their imperfect glory.
And at 21, I decided that nothing could stop me. I’d tried to see them live before, but life just got in the way. Parents of college friends freaking out over the train journey to the city, or cancellations, or simply being unable to fund the venture were hurdles to teenager. But for my 21st I decided that I would celebrate all the things I loved and all the things that made me me. And I would get to see the Manics live. Even if it killed me.
Do you remember your 21st birthday? Few do. However, I had managed to get tickets for the day of my birthday to see the Manics at Sheffield Octagon (in planning, it was perfection). So, all the drinking went on prior to this. Alcohol kicked me in the head, lack of sleep slapped my senses about and no sign of decent food shot my immune system. I turned up to the gig of my dreams with the worst flu I’d ever experienced. I could barely stand up straight. I was terrified that I would infect the band members.
Standing as far back as I could so that I could just see James Dean Bradfield’s face across the crowded room, I swam in the perfect bliss of simply being there.
I didn’t care that I wasn’t wearing a leopard print jacket, that I couldn’t put eyeliner on because I couldn’t actually see clearly enough to manage it with a fever temperature, or that I hadn’t spray-painted some literary reference across a t-shirt (all things I noticed ‘hardcore’ fans had done for the occasion). I just wanted to be there and feel the beat of Sean Moore’s drums, to hear the beautiful voice of James Dean Bradfield, and to taste the energy Nicky Wire brings to the stage.
These moments hang in my mind like pearls hang on the lips of an oyster. They never leave me. Details skip and jump and play around, but the intensity of the moment is always what cuts through, remaining a true and solid form. They are memories I can recall without much effort, because they are moments in my life which I shall never forget.