I’ve been having a bit of a musical nostalgia trip for the past few months. It all started when this CD compilation came out last year. It celebrates UK indie pop music in the 1980s. I came in on the tail end of this period, in the mid to late 80s, courtesy of a small group of friends at school, but it was a big part of my life for a few years. So it was great to get my hands on such a comprehensive collection. Some of the earlier bands, like The Marine Girls, were the stuff of legend, and I’d never actually heard them, only heard about them from people way cooler and more clued up than me. Others were old favourites. It all sounded as chaotic, home-made, discordant, melodic, beautiful and occasionally sublime as it did when I heard it first.
As if that weren’t enough, this book was published just before Christmas. It’s called A Scene In Between, by Sam Knee. It features some fantastically amateur photos of the bands of the time. The look was as important as the music, and here are all the suede jackets, stripy t-shirts, retro anoraks, black jeans and floral 60s dresses that were so coveted by fans (and so difficult to get hold of). There are some excellent interviews in there too.
Finally, this Talulah Gosh compilation arrived in the post the other day (thank you Norman Records). I used to adore Talulah Gosh, and remember taking a photo of the lead singer Amelia Fletcher, cut from the Record Mirror, with me to the hairdressers so I could get my hair cut just like hers. And blow me if someone far more dedicated than me hasn’t posted that very article onto a website – the internet surely is a marvellous thing. I really did have my hair like that for a while.
I don’t have many actual records from the time, because they were mainly issued as 7” singles, they were often difficult to get hold of, and were only stocked in small numbers by specialist record shops (as discussed in my post about The Who).
You tended to tape them from friends, from the John Peel show on the radio, or from friends who had taped them from the John Peel show on the radio, and make your own compilations. The quality, often not great in the first place, was completely shot by this time, and it was astonishing to hear some of the songs on the Scared to Get Happy compilation in crisp, clear sound for the very first time.
I think it was the mixture of arch, knowing cuteness with something much darker and more complicated that appealed to me at the time; the sitting is a sunny meadow wearing sunglasses and agonising about the state of the world. Or more likely, the state of my world, rather than the world at large. Here I am looking suitably contemplative during my first year at university, sporting my Talulah Gosh haircut. The Another County poster was pretty much standard issue at the time. The third shelf up is lined with cassettes – I have no idea where they all went over the years.
Just to prove I didn’t spend the whole of the late 80s and early 90s brooding in a student bedroom, here I am sporting one of my much-prized vintage dresses. No internet of course, these things had to be patiently searched out, and finding one that you liked, and that fitted, was a major triumph. The pattern was grey and red, and I think it came from a shop called Backlash in Nottingham, which is apparently still going. It must be 1988 or ’89, and I’m on the beach in Lincolnshire, although I’ve managed to position myself in front of a concrete sea wall rather than the sea itself.
It’s wonderful to hear the music again, but it does all feel like a long, long time ago. I can’t help wishing I still had that dress though!