Good old Facebook. Without it, I really wouldn’t have a life. OK, I’ll qualify that: without it, I wouldn’t consolidate what makes up my life in such a structured fashion. I’m not “into” autobiography (I found writing my own “about” section for this blog and for a State featured writer blurb hugely difficult) but the older you get, the more you realise that you are the sum of your memories. And what defines a person like me more than the things I collect – namely, books, CDs and ticket stubs.
Three friends ‘tagged’ me in a Facebook reminiscence about listing the first 50 gigs you went to that come into your head. I know I’m terrible for accentuating the negatives at times but sometimes they’re the funniest memories. However, all my great gigs came flooding back to me as well as some truly terrible ones, and, as always, I couldn’t simply list them, I just had to explain myself. And, after I’d written them out, I realised there were some silly omissions – but rewriting and rejigging weren’t in the rules. The other rule I applied to myself was not to include gigs I reviewed when I first became a journalist – so the list goes up to 2003 only. The hardest part was actually assembling them in chronological order, as I’m writing this on holiday without any ticket stubs or diaries to even check; however, I know I’m pretty much on the button with most of them, such is my peculiar type of memory – great for trivia, crap for remembering birthdays, phone numbers, appointments and what on earth I went upstairs for.
So here are those 50 gigs which which make up my so-called life story – self-indulgence sometimes rocks.
1. The Fall – 1983, Ayr Pavilion, my first proper gig. My dad didn’t want me to go because he said it was “mostly punks” buying tickets. His contact at the promoter told him they were ‘alternative’, which is probably how I got to go – the term must have confused him. They were great, of course, Perverted By Language era, but, very oddly, I didn’t go to see them again until 2002.
2. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – 1984, same venue. I was smitten. Still am, actually. Was a pleasure to interview Lloyd 22 years later and still feel like I was 15.
3. The Smiths – 1985, Irvine Magnum. Memorable for so many reasons, chiefly The Smiths coming to visit the town where I was born, but mainly for helping my best friend who almost passed out during the gig – I got her some lemonade and then watched her pour it over her head. Not the last time I had to help out a female best friend in need during a Moz appearance either.
4. Easterhouse – Very 1985. I was big into Revolutionary Communism in those days. Fine debut album too.
5. Jesus And Mary Chain – Glasgow Barrowland, 1986. 29 minutes’ worth, memorable for the biggest gob I have ever seen hitting Jim Reid smack on the mouth. He went into a huff and that was the end of a mind-blowingly brilliant gig.
6. Pink Industry – Glasgow 1986. They had a single out with Moz on the sleeve, which featured a line about being so besotted by someone, you’d even throw out your Smiths records to be with them. Crap sentiment, crap band.
7. The Housemartins – Glasgow 1986 I don’t care what anyone said then or what they say now, they were great. Would be hilarious if they reformed.
8. Stockholm Monsters – Glasgow 1986. When Glasgow audiences spit at you, it’s a sign of affection. But these Factory twats didn’t seem to know this. Awful.
9. Aztec Camera – wee Roddy had, in his own small way, conquered America in 1987, where he road tested his Love tour. By the time he brought the show to Glasgow, that album had come to life for me. Highlights were many but my favourite bit was when he sang the first line of Jump and some muppet up the front shouted ‘Van Halen, ya bastard!’
10. Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – Glasgow 1987. I never liked them but my then girlfriend loved them. Maybe she saw the future – keyboardist Shirley Manson went on to be huge in Garbage and Big John Duncan joined Nirvana in 1993. I just thought their overwrought lyrics were hugely embarrassing, in a local-band-made-biggish sort of way.
11. The Proclaimers – having seen them survive a hail of gob to win over a Glasgow audience the previous year, the geeky Edinburgh duo’s first headliner at Barrowland was a wee bit of an anti-climax. Cannae help feeling sorry for them, though.
12. Hue & Cry – 1988. Saw these several times over the years but the first time in Kilmarnock still sticks out. They managed to be the most hated band in Britain at one point but I’d say that was ‘they English’ having a go at them because Pat Kane was such a Scots Gnat. I never held that against them then – but I do now, obviously. Saw them in the T&C in Kentish Town years later where Pat Kane apologised for slating London – which he called, if I remember correctly, “a big Tory lump with no substance whatsoever”. Muppet.
13. Bros – Glasgow SECC, 1988. They were the boogie, you know. The big news on this tour was that Craig ‘Ken’ Logan was too sick to play. How ‘shocked’ we were when he never returned.
14. Brother Beyond – Edinburgh Playhouse, 1988. One of those weekend excursions that seemed a good idea at the time.
15. New Order – Glasgow SECC, 1989. I quite liked Technique but they were always one of those bands you were supposed to like rather than one who were actually any good. Bernard Sumner really is a very small talent indeed.
16. Tom Jones – Glasgow SECC, 1989. My dad steadfastly refused to take my mum to see her idol so I was only too delighted to buy her a ticket for his ‘comeback’ tour. Seen him umpteen times since and he always gets better.
17. Ride – 1990, went to Windsor to see them with a couple of cool people, including one Steven Long, just after the release of their 2nd EP. Ride rocked.
18. Milk – Camden Falcon, 1990. Student, hippy, slum-dwelling, squatting bastards who shared the same hedgegrowth haircut with middle partings. Maybe I was always just a permanent, intolerant grump.
19. Curiosity Killed The Cat – 1990. I bounded out of Notting Hill Gate Our Price to meet them when they pulled up outside in their teeny little tour van. They all signed their ‘difficult’ 2nd album Get Ahead for me and urged me to check them out at the T&C. Which I duly did; it was excellent.
20. The Charlatans – 1990, Kilburn. Baggy flavours of the month, or so I thought. Can’t believe they’re still at large. They were really good, though.
21. Cocteau Twins – 1990, Town & Country. Wibbly wobbly wonders.
22. Belinda Carlisle – 1990, Wembley Arena. Birthday present from then girlfriend who knew, full well, she’d be second to Belinda on the night. And every other night.
23. Kylie Minogue – Wembley Arena,1991. In Kylie’s own words, Better Than Danni Minogue.
24. Pet Shop Boys – Wembley Arena, 1991. Glorious.
25. Morrissey – Hammersmith Odeon, 1991. It’s too hard to pick a favourite Moz gig from the bunch so I’ll plump for the first time I saw him solo. Standing on the backs of the seats, arm in arm with fellow quiffs, and all his band in their boots and turn-ups, double-bass a-go-go. Joyful. And convinced me that the songs on Kill Uncle weren’t as bad as that record made out.
26. James Taylor Quartet – T&C, 1992. All the hits. A very memorable evening, all told.
27. Gallon Drunk – London, 1992. I remember going, I remember enjoying it but not much else.
28. Madness – Finsbury Park, 1992. Completely ruined by Nazi skinhead c**ts.
29. k.d. lang – Royal Albert Hall, 1992. k.d. at the height of her fame and powers. Frankly, I’ve never been surrounded by so many lesbians. Brilliant, brilliant gig.
30. James – Glasgow Barrowland, 1993. Having been a fan since 1983, I felt a bit of a fraud turning up amongst all the baggy kids during their sub-U2, stadium-seeking era. They got even bigger after this, so it was a surprise they were “only” playing the Barrowland. Went there, got the t-shirt, but I still believe Stutter is the most underrated debut album by a subsequently huge band, ever. If that could be considered a category.
31. Carter USM – Brixton, 1993. We record shop wags observed their swift decline and renamed them Carter the Unsellable Stock Mountain. How we drank.
32. Suede – Brixton/Clapham, 1992/93. Whatever people say nowadays, I cannot remember a more hyped, cooler-than-you band than Suede when they first emerged. First time I saw them, they were shite. Awful, awful gig. The second time, at The Grand, was a very special night; AIDS benefit gig, specially filmed backdrop sequences by Derek Jarman (who attended) and previews of their second album, complete with string quintet. I realised what Bernard Butler was capable of that night. Brett was still a tool, mind, but he was a bearable tool.
33. Menswear – 1994. And speaking of hype… I quite liked them, though.
34. Echobelly – London Astoria, 1994. I loved their first two EPs. Usual story, really.
35. Gene – London 1995. A great live band who could never really capture their raw energy on record. Great singles and b-sides, singer Martin Rossiter was a brilliant interviewee, but they were never destined for true greatness. Pity.
36. Elastica – Shepherd’s Bush, 1995. For me, Elastica was the best album of the whole Britpop era. They were excellent, and a dreadful pity they couldn’t get their shit together after that debut.
37. Marion – Brixton, 1995. They wanted to be The Smiths so badly, bless their hearts. Their debut single even had a harmonica intro. I just couldn’t find any love for them.
38. S*M*A*S*H* – Kentish Town, 1995. Awful, awful, awful band who were the sparrow’s elbows for about three months in 1994. New Wave of New Wave, my arse.
39. Adam Ant – Shepherd’s Bush, 1995. Having met him in 1990 and having been too wee to see the Ants, I finally got to see my ultimate pop idol on his Wonderful tour. Extraordinarily energetic, he played for nearly three hours and his hour-long encore was almost entirely made up of very early songs and b-sides. We all knew the words. Fucking brilliant.
40. The Divine Comedy – Mean Fiddler, 1995. First time catching the incredible little entity that is Neil Hannon. Tiny, jammed gig, in full Casanova mode. Charmed two ladies near the front and dedicated Woman of the World to them, before saying to the band, “take it away, boys.” I’ve always wanted to say that.
41. The Cranberries – Shepherd’s Bush, 1995. Dolores O’Riordan. For fuck’s sake. “Sing!” she exhorts, during a chorus-less rendition of Linger. No, Dolores, we fucking paid to hear YOU sing. Rubbish.
42. Pulp – Brixton, 1995. One of those gigs where the crowd were so appalling, it damaged my memories of the gig. I think they were really good but there weren’t half some cool twats in attendance.
43. Bjork – Wembley Arena, 1996. Squeaky midget on a big, huge stage, playing to lots of self-satisfied, early middle-aged Crowded House fans. Maybe I was just in a grumpy mood that night.
44. Supergrass – Astoria 1996. Love them.
45. Gene Pitney – Olympia, Dublin, 1998. My first gig in Ireland, oddly enough. Highlight was encore of Town Without Pity. Wonderful.
46. Fun Lovin’ Criminals – One of those American bands with practically no fan base at home, but thousands of fans in Ireland who ‘wannabe’ be every bit as cool as Americans who are very unpopular in America.
47. Paddy Casey – TBMC, 1999. Those of a certain age will remember the great Boy George debate: Is that a boy or a girl? I knew that one straight away but I was genuinely unsure about Paddy Casey the first time I saw “him”. He was crap, of course, and he’s never improved.
48. Redneck Manifesto – Whelan’s, 2000. A guy I worked with in Virgin was in a band who were about to release a single. I was quite impressed – because I didn’t realise that every other bloke who worked there was about to release one as well. Anyway, we all went to the launch in Whelan’s after work one night. I watched it all without getting drunk. I didn’t have a clue what to make of them. I’d better leave it at that.
49. Tony Bennett – Vicar Street, 2003. Cocktails, a three-piece jazz band and one of the greatest voices the world has ever known. Utter bliss.
50. Interpol / Franz Ferdinand – The Village, 2003. The gig that, for me, signalled the end of the worst period of popular music history, the late ‘90s/early ‘00s. Interpol hadn’t quite gone supernova but were superb. However, I was totally won over by the skinny Scots band who supported them. It was the beginning of a beautiful new era.