Wear Your Old Band T-Shirt to Work Day

Hurrah, it’s that major event, BBC Radio 6Music’s Wear Your Old Band T-Shirt to Work Day Part IV today. Not that I particularly need an excuse as I work 200+ miles away from my colleagues at the moment. At least I won’t get the same random comment as my mate Jeremy did when he wore his Cult, Sonic Temple T-Shirt to play with his dad at their local folk club when we were teenagers – “Are they a band? Are you in it?”.

I don’t have many band t-shirts left and stopped buying them years ago as work meant that I spent rather more time wearing a suit than t-shirts. This means that most of the ones I have are approaching vintage status. The one in the photo is from Julian Cope’s tour to promote his Jehovahkill album nearly 19 years ago (gulp!) in January 1993. I went to the last night of the tour which also happened to be the last concert held at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town (to mark both events, Copey raffled off his “Cosmic Arsehole” mic stand – I didn’t win it). I was momentarily tempted to try and get my Faust t-shirt (similar to the one Copey is wearing in the photo) into the picture too but that would have been both too clever and too tragic.

I drove down from Oxford with my mates Martin and Rob in my clapped out Renault 5 (christened the Angemobile) which struggled up the hill on the M40 near Wycombe but somehow managed to last the outing.

It was a great gig in three parts, spanning over 3 hours. It started with songs from the album and its predecessor, Peggy Suicide (which, being partly inspired by the Poll Tax riots really ought to have been reissued by a nostalgic record label this year), then moved on to an hour of acoustic “typical Copey” poetry and finished off with a greatest hits selection of stuff from The Teardrop Explodes and his earlier solo career. We then piled back into the Angemobile and realised that none of us really had any idea how to get back from Camden and didn’t have a London A-Z (for youngsters this is what people used before satnav and googlemaps on their smartphone). Luckily, Martin was a Londoner, of sorts, and so when he hazarded taking responsibility for our route home we gladly accepted. Unfortunately, being from the leafy northern suburbs and not a driver, the route we took appeared to correspond closely to the route that would have been taken by the 3 different buses he would have taken to get home, right up to the point of including us driving past his parents’ house at 1am. Happy days!

Perhaps if I remember in time WYOBTSD Part V I might dredge up the memory of travelling up with Jeremy from Southampton in a sky blue Ford Fiesta with a rainbow on the bonnet driven by a strange Canadian girl who didn’t realise it was a manual so graunched every gear change there and back to see Sonic Youth and Pavement at the Brixton Academy in 1992. Or wandering the badlands of Brixton and a pre-gentrification East Dulwich for the Rollercoaster gig featuring the Jesus and Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine and Blur in 1991. Or maybe not. The writing has pretty much crumbled off the t-shirt for the latter and I’ll only get pulled up for anachronism for using a Washing Machine album shirt for the former.

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First Day of the Happiest Days of Your Life

Today OMB started his first day in Reception class at school. The first of 14 years in compulsory education. Apart from a few worries he had about being good at making friends hopefully it went well. It is a nice school and the children seem happy and confident there. I’m a governor of the school and the presentations we’ve had from the Year 5 and 6 children on topics like bullying and school meals have been better researched and more fluently delivered than many I’ve seen from adults in the work environment.

I hope that he’ll be able to build on the friendships he already has with the handful of other 4 year olds going who live within a few doors of us and that he gets a chance to learn well. I’m not sure about how good our local secondary schools are, but a lot can change in 7 years. I hope that we don’t ever have to worry or think about whether his school experience is a good one that sets him up for the long and happy life that all should be able to achieve. I don’t want to have to agonise over school fees and whether it is right to go private, moving house to get a “better” catchment area or even setting up a Free School.

Fourteen years is a long time. I recently saw a photo of myself 14 years ago cutting my birthday cake, looking unbelievably fresh-faced and slim. It is weird to think that my mum in that photo was only a few years older than I am now. Weirder still to think that the changes OMB will go through in the next 14 years could be even more significant than my journey of the last 14 years through starting my career, buying my first home, marrying, moving 200 miles away and having OMB.

Good luck OMB!

Desert Island Discs

Yes, that is blue gravy

The Book Club that I’m part of which is now a broader Culture Club did a Desert Island Discs theme in its latest meeting. Each of the six of us had to choose three pieces of music to take with us and this was then used to make a final selection of eight tracks along the lines of the long-running BBC Radio 4 programme.

The task of trying to boil down 25 years of music buying and hundreds of CDs to pick out just three tracks that had any meaning or rationale for being chosen to take away was a tough one. There was also a time constraint – both in terms of what would be realistic for the six of us to listen to in an evening and what would fit onto a CD for those who didn’t routinely listen to music on an MP3 player. So, out went some initial choices like The Diamond Sea by Sonic Youth, Cop Shoot Cop by Spiritualized, Gravitational Arch of 10 by Vapourspace or Echoes by Pink Floyd. Even though the exercise is a self-indulgent one, there have to be limits. Then, how could I not have something by The Fall, but what single track would make sense of the maddening genius of Mark E Smith to a group of people who didn’t already love his semi-coherent Mancunian curmudgeonliness?
The process reminded me of an evening some 15 years ago when, to resolve a ferociously drunken pub argument about the best music, my friends Jeremy, Martin, Kev, Rich, Scottish John and I foolishly agreed to put together a C90 tape of our definitive choice of the best music we knew. That really was a gargantuan effort where for a month or so each of us retreated to our rooms to thumb through racks of CDs and Vinyl records, picking out and discarding songs, fiddling with the recording levels and running orders, mentally preparing ourselves to defend our choices (I remember that I had Menswear’s Daydreamer on my tape so I wasn’t making it easy for myself). In the end, I think we did just about manage to listen all the way through everyone’s tapes, but apart from picking up some ideas for new things to listen to I don’t think we really nailed the answer to the question that started things off. Or expected to do so.
It was just six boys listening to and discussing music in the intense way that it seemed to merit at the time. We’d grown up with sitting by the radio on Sunday evenings perfecting the art of taping compilations off the Radio 1 Chart Show while expertly excising any of the inane DJ chatter with quick fingers on the pause buttons. I remembered Jeremy positioning himself amongst the competing groups in the basement Common Room at Sixth Form College to get to play his beloved The Who over the late 80s pop trash (the latter now spawning the careers of retro acts like White Lies and The Horrors who, worryingly, were no more than toddlers at the time). Driving to London from our universities to see the Rollercoaster tour (Blur before they were famous, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain – I still have the T-shirt) at Brixton or the last gig at the old Town & Country in Kentish Town (Julian Cope) with Martin, the token Londoner of that party directing me back to the M40 via his house in the suburbs as it was the only way he knew. Going to the Phoenix festival when Rich had to leave late because he was sitting his final ACA exam and so ended up listening to most of the first evening’s acts on his car radio stuck in a traffic jam in rural Warwickshire. Marvelling at Kev’s ability to fall asleep on the floor of a Megadog all-nighter.
I asked four of the others from that infamous night whether they still had their tapes or could remember what they had chosen (sadly, Scottish John has rather gone off my radar since he emigrated to Australia ten years ago). Unsurprisingly, all the tapes had gone in clear-outs over the intervening years, four marriages, six children and moves to other towns and cities after our early London years of living in walking distance from each other in South West London. However, everyone remembered at least some of the songs they had chosen – Jeremy started his tape with AC/DC’s For Those About to Rock, Martin started side A with Fred Frith’s Hello Music and Side B with The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s The Intro and the Outro, Kev managed to recreate most of the track listing for both sides (although I remember from sharing a flat with him all those years back that he affixed sticky labels on all his CDs with star ratings when iTunes and Spotify were the entertainment options for the jetpacks that Tomorrow’s World predicted for the future).
The 2011 version was fun and had a more varied set of choices – there was no room for classical, contemporary jazz or Mariah Carey in Tape Night. But the process of choosing just three tracks each meant that it was too difficult to try to be definitive or even representative. Sitting in front of iTunes and scrolling through the thousands of tracks on my laptop was far removed from the scholarly intensity of compiling my Tape Night offering. But, Jen’s amazing Desert Island themed dinner and Jem’s always great wines (http://www.vinceremos.co.uk)  were a definite step up from the takeaway pizza and bottles of ale of Tape Night.
Dessert Island Discs

A postscript

In the email nostalgia correspondence about Tape Night there was a suggestion of recreating the evening remotely using Spotify playlists and sitting in the comfort of our own homes.
The horror! The horror!