Monday afternoon, jetlagged and in need of distraction I started playing around in my garden, busting some rock goddess poses for my camera. The results definitely weren’t very goddess-like! Twenty two years ago I thought I had the Justine Frischmann scowl perfected, but in hindsight I suspect the look was less sexy smoulder and more petulant teenager.
Anyway, back around the same time I was girl crushing over Ms Frischmann and wearing her hair style I also had a questionable habit of living in coloured tights with fishnets over the top. That was me busting my Manic Street Preachers circa 1992 look. Next week I am off to see them (my favourite band!) with one of my favourite people. Ages ago I promised her I’d do a coloured tights and fishnets Sinful Sunday as a nod to our shared crazy tights past. ‘Mmm, they’re not really Sinful Sunday material’, I thought on Monday as I looked at the results. Five minutes later I spot that music is this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt. Oh how I love a bit of serendipity. Off I went, tripping down memory lane…
I have written before about losing my virginity to Blue Moon Revisited by The Cowboy Junkies and Goth me reared her head in Fuck Me and Marry Me Young but this week I started thinking about how deeply music is meshed with the memories of men who have mattered to me and how some songs will always call to mind certain times, feelings, experiences.
Spring 1995: the chemistry between S and I has been growing for weeks but neither of us has done anything about it. It doesn’t occur to me to make a move; at 20 I still thought it was the man’s job, but I wanted to prompt action. He and I talk about music incessantly. We pour over NME every Wednesday. Wake Up Boo! By The Boo Radleys is top 10. We love it. I see they’re playing in London on a Saturday. I think about asking him to go, but play it differently and go alone. I want him to think I’m ballsy even though I’m not brave enough to make the first move. When he asks on Monday what I did at the weekend I tell him. His expression changes: ‘You went on your own? I would have come with you.’ We get together that night.
Now, you suck, suck it hard, go down, baby
You suck, lick it hard and move your tongue around
You Suck, The Yeastie Girls
Spring 1996: S and I have fallen by the wayside. Friends and I are regularly tearing it up at a student night, pogoing and shouting passionately to You Suck by The Yeastie Girls. Inspired by cider and angry and bruised by S, I rant at a stranger sitting in my friend’s living room about oral sex: “If a woman comes and you haven’t gone down on her first she’s FAKING”. I know I know, a bit mad. For a few weeks after that night a hot bloke started to say hi when we passed in the street. One night he’s at a student night. “You always smile at me. Do I know you?” I ask. “You gave me a lecture about oral sex,” he replies. We get together that night. He didn’t learn the oral sex lesson but I learnt not to be too vocal about not liking a man’s mother. Bluetones’ Expecting to Fly had been released the day before we got together and it’s my album of that spring. When I hear it I am taken right back to us squashed together in my single bed in my grotty student house.
Well it’s a most peculiar feeling, like sunburn in the evening
With dark clouds on their way
And you think it’s most unlikely life could ever shine as brightly
Once the sun has gone and the pressure’s on
Don’t Need the Sunshine, Catatonia
My mid-twenties: Pulp in Finsbury Park. I meet N, the friend of a friend. I think he is a bit of an idiot. Halfway the through the afternoon my stomach lurches. Everything changes. For that summer, that year, and probably my attitude to relationships forever more. A week later he’s the first man to make me come with his tongue. A week after that we fuck for the first time. In a tent at a music festival. The tent collapses. We watched Catatonia as the sun went down and saw them many more times over the next few years. They will always be the soundtrack to us.
Is music still so intertwined with my memories of love and sex? Not in such a visceral way; I think the raw emotional responses we have to music, love and sex have a particular characteristic in our teenage years and twenties. But it’s still there, albeit in a more tempered less all-consuming way.
My early thirties and a man presents me with a compilation CD at the end of our first date, custom printed with my online user name. Surprised, I blurt out, “Would you have given this to me if you thought I was an idiot?’. He raised his eyebrows. There was only one more date, but I still listen to the haunting songs on that CD and wonder if life worked out OK for him. The half-brother he told me about as he smoked all my cigarettes will be a teenager now. I wonder if his mother ever found out the child existed? I wonder if he is reconciled with his Dad? Kate Rusby makes me think of him.
My late thirties and I am visiting a new lover in a different city. Something isn’t right with the energy in the room. I am trying to ignore the hollow pit in my stomach and not let the feelings of vulnerability and desire for my own home translate into tears behind my eyes. I talk to try and force conversation, a connection. The wrong strategy for that man. But we stumble across a shared love of the same band and the energy in the room shifts as we rummage through You Tube. An hour later I no longer need to fill the silences and sink into my book. Six months later in a different city we geek out and decide to create our perfect live set list for that band.
Praying for the silence
When we look into a mirror
Stained so patient
We measure the nostalgia
Show Me The Wonder, Manic Street Preachers
And so it continues. This morning, I’ve been playing Landslide by Fleetwood Mac on repeat. The seeds of that story were sown last night. Whether today’s fantasy becomes tomorrow’s nostalgia remains to be seen, but regardless, I know what images hearing this song are likely to bring to mind for many years to come