03 April, 2006

Slight return

Where did you go?
When things went wrong for you...?
When the knives came out for you...?

Heading back towards Leicester Square station after work, I was greeted with the sound of what seemed to be The Stone Roses booming out of a giant stack of speakers.

As I got nearer, the jumble of jangly guitars and distinctively out-of-tune vocals resolved itself into none other than 'Ten Storey Love Song', a number 11 hit for the titular band in March 1995. This felt like a very odd choice of song, regardless of the context in which it was playing. Of all the Stone Roses' ostensible hits, why on earth go this hardly-known one, taken from the tail end of their abortive second coming in the shape of, erm, 'The Second Coming' LP?

As I then walked through the square itself I recognised the now familiar sights of yet another film premiere stirring itself into life: the crash barriers, the giant hoardings, the batteries of security men, the armoury of photographers, and the dozens of bemused-looking tourists wearing the look that suggested they thought they were about to meet the royal family. And still The Stone Roses played on.

I hadn't heard the song for years. Its pointedly meaningless lyrics reminded me of how, at the time, it was briefly mooted that the title was actually 'Tense Tory Love Song' and hence some kind of anti-John Major rant. Its woeful musical arrangement and half-arsed production, meanwhile, reminded me of another thing I read somewhat after the event, along the lines of John Squire ascribing the sloppiness of 'The Second Coming' to "too much cocaine and babies".

It was only as I passed by the cinema in question (and there are about half a dozen of them within Leicester Square) that I realised it was all in aid of the premiere of the Ant and Dec film Alien Autopsy, which is set in, yup, the mid-1990s and which is presumably blessed by a soundtrack bursting with Britpop's finest. Cast, Dodgy, Northern Uproar, Shed Seven...just some of the band who don't qualify for that description. The Bluetones, however, now they were a different matter.

I think in years to come the mid-90s will take on some kind of potent yet ambiguous reverence in the hearts of my generation akin to that of, say, the late 60s or early 80s, the latter of which I lived through but can recall all-too little about (being born in 1976). It will forever be a very evocative yet rather salubrious period, a tapestry of just as much good as bad culture (and politics, for that matter), and a time into which everyone invests far more significance and emotion than they were willing to do at the time.

My own feelings towards the mid-90s change every week, shuttling between a profound nostalgia for the music and TV and radio and potential of those years, and an alarming revulsion for the misguided optimism all those things created coupled with a dread at how young I was then and how old I am now. Yet I know they'll always remain a precisely etched and carefully bracketed era within my mind, filtered and packaged in a way few other periods have managed to be. Or continued to be.

Suffice to say, rushing back from work trying to fight my way to the Underground, the last thing I wanted to hear was Ian Brown's off-key caterwauling. Yet it did the job of piquing my interest in what was going on, besides activating that part of my brain wherein resides all the cultural capital and critical junk associated with the years 1994-97. Which also, somewhat unfortunately, happened to be the three years I spent at university. But that's for another time. As is 'Ten Storey Love Song'. Hopefully a long long time.

Now why couldn't it have been The Bluetones? So many Top 40 hits to choose from!

All this will fade away
So I'm coming home
But just for a short while.


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