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New Blur Express

1995… The Stone Roses pulled out of Glastonbury due to injury (John Squire had a bicycle accident) and were replaced by Pulp, who put on a scintillating show… Bands like Gene and Therapy? were music press darlings… and in the middle of the year “Britain’s top band”, Blur, were guest editors of the New Musical Express weekly paper.

This is from the 17 June 1995 issue of the NME, rechristened the New Blur Express for the occasion. I haven’t been able to find the original copy (I may no longer have it) so you’ll have to put up with the scans I made years ago for my old site Blurcentral. I can only apologise for that, but I hope you enjoy this post!

BLURGH! The NME staff has been off this week sipping sangria by the seaside while Blur have invaded the office and done some bloody hard work for a change.

Graham Coxon rants in Nag Nag Nag, chooses Ten Turn-On’s and illustrates Alex James’ review of Joy Division’s Permanent LP.

Dave Rowntree responds to your letters in Angst, while Alex takes us on a pub crawl through a week in his life.

Damon Albarn shares some insights into the pop psyche and helps producer Stephen Street’s sons review the singles.

A more normal state of affairs will return next week.

From page 9, Graham writes for the “Nag Nag Nag” column

Road rage is a glorious rejection of ‘Meek The Terrible’. Instead, hold up a post office with a fake gun that you can only use on Guy Fawkes’ night because its bark is much worse than its bite. Kick the panels in on that – f*** and make a bang in the face of f*** – le face fart freak nonfancy nice person.

There is always a tall crazy with bubble skin, striding up a main road with much ‘anger-comical’ staring and making some point about, “I buy cat food for my cat because it’s cheap and is nice on toast – yes, I eat it as well. What’s yer problem with that square boy?”.

Come to my house and I’ll make bangers and mash for you and fix you huge alcohols – see what yer like when you’ve had a bubbly skinful you ex-acne youth – you mad f***.

Often seeing mad ones around is a sandwich too far – sometimes it all gets all a bit ‘My Fair Lady’ but you cannot rely on Hollywood to do goody good. Stuck with a cross-eyed anger ridden, irrational rash ridden, road and pavement sitting crazy youth with Tennents’ Extra tin skin come bathe away your externals and let’s see some raw organs. Let’s see your tummy in a way that ain’t showing through, knowin’ to shock yer bowler hat twat, your pin thin ‘bin that suit’ stripe type.

Lewdy lewdy oh lewdy lordy one portly one say to other portly one, “Look at my portly parts you portly parted one. Come suck them – imagine gin on my ‘one'”.

Bless yer guv. Bless yer. Whatever happened to stocks and squishy tomato – make a soup outta them ‘omeless, could be tasty, low fat and lean queen Lancashire hotpot of tramp seasoned. Nice! No need to stick the vin in tramp au vin – come shrink wrap to please me. EAT THE HOMELESS.

By Morgan C Hoax
(aka Graham Coxon)

Oh dear diary, or am I unwell?

From pages 10-11, By Alex James, age 26

It’s Wednesday again. Hooray. It’s down to Radio 1 and I’m trying to think of three things to say to the listeners, but the taxi’s not here and I look like a potato. I get in a taxi and say some “Oms” but I’ve got the late fear and the potato fear, and they’ve started without me. Going on the radio is like talking to a nice girl you know; you think of perfect things to say and things to talk about but you can’t premeditate love or the media.

Damon goes off to meet some important people and I go to Tesco’s. Tesco Disco Metro. Hooray. Get a trolley full. I’m with the proper girls. It’s 6pm. I like listening to them talk. They make each other giggle.

Get some ice from upstairs and shake up some White Russians. Toss the Mars/Freud coin and Mars it is. Stephen Duffy’s walking up Endell Street and we say, “Hooray, it’s Wednesday! Just the one then!”. Mars is full of Campari slickers, so we take the Freud path to enlightenment. Plummy Tim Porter’s in there and Big Charlie Myatt. Decide to go to Barth Spar for the weekend as Duffy’s got a studio booked there.

Damon arrives from his secret meeting with the Government and we adjourn to his exclusive drinking club. If he goes to pubs, the poor lad just gets arseholes asking him when the next album’s out or whether he really is a sex flop. I bask under a veil of relative anonymity which is fine.

Damon’s club, The House, is very new and understanding. They do things like goat’s cheese “en croute” and it’s full of Eastenders’ cast and Cassandra from Only Fools And Horses. Chris, our accommodating host, sorts us out with a comfortable white Burgundy and our favourite table. Nobody ask Damon when the album’s out because nobody cares.

Phone Phil “Dirty” Daniels at the Vaudeville and arrange to meet him in his new pub, which is the nearest one to the theatre. When we arrive, the Americans are coming out of Sunset Boulevard – the worst sort of expensive, fat Americans who, like expensive, fat wine, don’t travel well.

We ask them for spare change or shout “Parklife!” and have some beer. Emma and Justine are playing the fruit machine and drinking all the brandy. Then it’s the Ed Wood party in a prison in SE1. Film parties are usually the most amusing but this one was up its arse; men in dresses and no vol-au-vents or dry martinis. Boo. Walked over Tower Bridge and got a taxi back to Mars. Had some huge brandy. Said some lewd things. Went home with the girls.

Michael “Sounds Great” Smith, my marvellous apologising publisher, is taking us out for breakfast. It’s very early and my hangover likes me. We go to Blacks. Salubrious Blacks. Hogarth prints, panelled walls and always some berk talking about finance on the next table. We have giggly, raspberry-blowing hangovers and the cherry juice is too high-faluting for us. We say, “Cherrehs” and “Hippehas” and “Arsnewl”.

The scrambled egg-wegs are a bit scary Mary, a runny, stringy business, but necessary.

Mike goes off to work and the sun shines on Old Compton Street. It’s going to be a day of contemptible, bone-idle boozing. Hoorah! The girls go off for some ackers and I take the hangover for a drink. A Bloody Mary. A naughty, delicious, morning, irresponsible BM.

We go to Mars to find out what we were doing last night. They put the Squeeze album on for us.

“I feel like I’ve got no lips and no eyes,” says The Ems.

“Put your shades on and put your lippy on,” says Jus.

Get some cheese puffs from Tesco Disco and stumble into the “Theatrical” Salisbury on St Martin’s Lane. Then we remember John Virgo’s snooker challenge in The Crown, Seven Dials, and floss up there. Cheers. Virgo’s trick shot. The suits have gone. Everyone is at work. We are drinking in the West End. The grown-ups’ playground. We are children again. We squabble and we snigger and we want some more sweeties.

Go back to check the Freud temperature, which is sub-zero, cryogenic, no fun. Go home to play cards and listen to The Bee Gees. The Mackey phones, Pulp’s midweek’s Two so we invent a new cocktail called a Brandy Alexbanana and play the “shithead” game.

Phone Streetie and invite him for mashed potatoes. He’s busy with Chrissie Kissy Hynde but will come at seven. We’re a bit funny when he arrives, a bit pickled, sloshed, in our cups, under the table, but the potato is a “triumph, deeply moving”.

Andy and Helen and Damon arrive and we go back to the John Virgo game. Someone asks Damon when the album’s coming out, so we have to go back to The House.

“I’ve only had a couple of c***s, drinkstable.”

I have a one-dimensional life. I have a nasty lump on my right forefinger. Oh dear, it’s the analytical, not very friendly hangover. I even dreamt about the music business. Up early for the photos that are on this issue’s cover. The EMI cab had 30 quids’ worth of arsing about in Notting Hill on the meter when Damon arrived.

Polaroid. Click. Polaroid. Click. Click. One more roll. Cheers. The next taxi driver has “got that Blur in the back of ‘is cab” and goes on about an old guffer jazzw***er who could “‘old a tune in a bucket”.

Go to the NME office on the 25th Floor and get jolly listening to Rod Stewart. Eat some goat’s cheese crap in the Mars and go to the football party at the Atlantic. Thought I’d better put in an appearance at the ‘I can do anything’ club. Talked about Twiglets at length. The only things that taste like Twiglets are Marmite and stilton. Gin martinis mate, rocket fuel. I see Russell “I’ve given up drinking” Barrett has given up drinking. Told everyone I’ve started writing a joke, and exploded.

Hangover: n, The delayed after effects of drinking too much alcohol.

Intense fear. The fear, the fear. The crapulent abyss, the chasm of the delayed after effects. Well, we were showing off a bit. Oh, but the fear, the sweaty nose, the nausea, the sky may crack, the legs aren’t there. Grim.

This is a bad hangover, an anxious one, and it wants to get its mates and go drinking right now.

The flat is a good metaphor for my head. Wednesday’s mashed potato gone brown and lemons everywhere. I don’t think anyone likes me. I certainly don’t.

We’re going to Bath, Britain’s poshest city, to make B-sides with old chum Stephen Duffy. Have to get the Jif lemon out as the pares are staying in the flat for the weekend. Oooh and hide the offensive Damien Hirst drawing, bleach the bog, all that stuff.

Stir up some Bloody Mary’s for the journey – vodka, lemon juice, Tabasco, Worcester, sherry, pepper in the thermos. Cheers, mates. We’ve run out of pants. Have to get some in Bath.

Leave the keys in Freuds.

Ben “Ha ha” Wardle is driving Jus and I down in his Dog Man Star. It’s one of those days when it takes an hour to get to Hammersmith. Can’t get anywhere with the bumper bank holiday crozzer either, apart from 63 across which is “nosegay”.

Have a Bloody Mary, put the new album on and cheer up, briefly. Then get a headache trying to play cards. Go past Stonehenge. Who does its press? It’s small. Actually, it’s worth mentioning, as it’s name-droppers week, that meeting famous people is about as easy as seeing Stonehenge, if you’re determined… but they too are often smaller than you’d expected.

A lot of fear miles later, we land in Beckington, Wool Hall Studios. Residential studios. Cheers, mates. A nice lady gives you chocolate cake and a cup of tea. Snooker, videos, library, log fires, proper! Monsieur Le Duffy, ladies and gentlemen, is feeling fine. A refined, resigned sage of a gentleman. We have to go to Bath to pick up bald Macdonald, our favourite photographer, and the pants and ginger beer. The nice lady cooks you dinner as well – it’s all a bit Famous Fivey when the homemade strawberry ice-cream comes out.

Beckingham’s got one pub, it’s called the Woolpack and known to us as the Fudgepack. In there we played the popular making up band names game. Geezer was the best one. Now everyone’s a little boisterous. The Hub Club looks like the best bet in snotty, snobby Bath, as there’s some dreadful-sounding roots reggae or other in the Moles. ‘E’ still seems to be popular in the provinces, as are shagging, drinking and dancing.

I bump into a clown that I know. He’s down pretending to be a cherub in the Bath Festival. He always smokes my fags. A nice man offers us a lift and collapses so we cab it back. Taxi drivers, God bless ’em – the pulse of the city.

Send Ben round to Real World to get Menswear to see if they want to play Scrabble but they are all tucked up in beddy-byes.

A lot of Armagnac is sipped and the trivial pursuit gets ridiculous. “Luftwaffe” is now a joke and is being told quite a lot. I find an enormous loudspeaker of cheese in the fridge and some of the local crackers.

I think I am playing ‘Blue Moon’ on the piano when the sun rises.

A fantastic slow-motion crispy vocabulary-enhancing hangover. Hoorah! Fortune flops me an ace. Find a great book called ‘Freaks And Wonders Of The Insect World’ which absorbs me over my Marmite on toast. I had a dream about venus flytraps last night. It was a short dream. There was one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom and they ate all the flies.

There is an impossibly flash-looking health club in Monkton Coombe so we give ’em a tinkle. A swim and a sauna is the second best hangover cure. It’s halfway up a hill and very splendid apart from the screaming kids and the dreadful ’80s aspect of the interior. Ben and I have no trunks and we don’t fancy the lost property very much so we have to pants it.

Play snooker all afternoon and table tennis as old Duffer is mixing another track. Nice lady makes up cauliflower cheese and roasties. My desert island dinner. The pears with fudge sauce firmly establish fudge as a joke as funny as “Luftwaffe”. Bash the song out after supper. It’s called ‘Tempis Fugit’ which is Latin for time flies. B-sides can have Latin names.

Play Scrabble with the girls and Donald and the cheese came out again. Watch ‘Performance’ with the volume turned down. Don’t like the business with the paint, get the horn in the bit where Mick’s getting his nose licked, though.

Take the insect book to bed.

Bank Holiday Monday
Get up very early. Have to be in Putney at 12.30pm for a rehearsal with my famous mates. Have a good run back listening to the local radio stations with their phone-ins and handy hints. My one-dimensional studio-to-studio existence continues.

Dave is making some tea and I say, “Oh cheers Dave, cuppa” and the moron asks me if I take sugar. For goodness sake, he doesn’t know! I’ve spent six years blah blah blah and he doesn’t know. Unbelievable!

Go and get an ice-cream with my silly hat on. Graham’s very quiet. The horn section isn’t coming after all. They’ve all got perfect pitch and perfect timing and they don’t need to. Damon’s got a keyboard that makes funny squelching noises and we amuse ourselves playing ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ with sarcastic squelches and muso expressions.

Do a Tesco and come home to watch the Bond. Mother has scrubbed everything, even the wok, and all the gin’s gone. Hooray, ‘Dr No’ mate, what a hammy load of crap. Deep fry some Camembert in the clean wok and eat it with jam. Cheers. Pop down to Our Price to get the Joe Jackson ‘Greatest Hits’ as I’ve been singing ‘Different For Girls’ all week. Go to bed for 14 hours and dream I’m a fish.

Where have Richard & Judy gone? I’m not sure about these two. It looks like rain. I see there’s another shite book out about us. Que faire, uh? Michael comes round for some coffees. We’re doing the ‘Late Show’ so it’s down to TV Centre, Wood Lane, W12 8QT. Hyde Park smells a bit manurey.

It’s great at the BBC. Cheese sandwiches are 32p and you get five balls on the Indiana Jones. Play a bit of Black Maria/Scabby Haggy/Hunt The C*** with Dave and Laura, our keyboard player. I don’t think the brass section can dig my sarcastic bass playing on ‘Country House’.

Have a couple with Wimpy, the resources manager, in the BBC club and cab it home with Graham. Emma and Jus are drinking tea. Make Bloody Marys but the TJ’s on the turn – ergh!

Go down to the NME photo exhibition and drink free beer for a good cause. Old fatty Cummins is looking very pleased with himself. Somebody pays £250 for that photo of us dressed up as Blondie.

All the usual mates are here, naturalich. The hipperati, the swingers… ooh, I could name names but it would be dull.

Find Jo who I haven’t seen for ages. Graham and I lived with her brother. He went to New Orleans with a hammock and he hasn’t come back. She’s mad. She bites people. She’s dead good-looking. Round to the Mars. Duffy’s having his birthday there. Even Dave’s come out. It’s all a bit lively. We’re on the monster gin. Probably should have eaten. Someone suggests a game of earsy-kneesy-nosey but we’ve got to go to Stringfellows to check out this silly cocktail band, ‘The Mike Flowers Pops Orchestra’.

In the past, Mr Stringfellow has made defamatory character references in writing to several of the tabloids but we’ve all passed a lot of water since then and it’s always better to be friends, kids. He’s drinking VAT’s so we join each other, briefly.

It’s very dark and Dunhill International and you have to shout rather than chat. I think it’s good if you’re beery drunk because of all the big bosoms but it’s not really a monster gin drunk place.

The band leader is wearing a good wig and they sound like the school orchestra. The Daniels arrives with a raised eyebrow, but I leave when Jo bites the photographer. The Mars bar is still rocking. Russell “Superman” Barrett is drinking again. The Mars is full of Camden and Julian the “funny ha ha” barman has got a bag on. He doesn’t get “Luftwaffe” either. No they have no Luftwaffe beer and no fudge vodka.

Go into the kitchen to look at Adam’s ladles. I’ve been having problems with my cheese sauce splitting in the oven and he says I should boil for longer and make sure the cauli is well drained. He is a ‘Dodgy’ fan. Bounce home to find some chips in the wok and collapse.

Nice to see R&J are back. Watch ‘The Herb Garden’ as well. Sage is having singing lessons. I love Lady Rosemary’s “I am Lady Rosemary, I’m very tall and willowy.”

There is a lot of nocturnal answerphone activity. Mainly Graham singing, “Diddy-diddy-didn’t-did”. Go down the laundry for some Mike Leigh-type action. The Cross Keys is the laundry pub, but it’s a bit funny handshake and I don’t fancy it. Go to Bodum and get a posh new cafetiere as the cheeseboard fell on the old one. Buy some flowers as well – glads and lily of the smelly.

I don’t mind doing the laundry. Actually It’s zen rich and wholesome. Jilly Cooper walks past. She probably has service washes or dry cleans.

Make a sort of parsnip thing that Justine laughs at. Go downstairs for a quick marguerita while Jus gets ready. I’m off my Long Island Iced Teas with OJ at the moment which is a shame as they make you very bold and daring.

Matthew “Daddy” Longfellow, who directed top rockumentary ‘Starshaped’, is having a triangular sandwiches and olives affair upstairs at the Windmill, Mill Street. Film parties are always the best – bullshitteramas, castles in Spain mate, ridiculous. “I’ll get my people to talk to your people”, breakfast, on-line, off-line, “deadline” and they all shag their secretaries, God bless ’em.

Kiss everybody and cab down to the Africa Centre to watch Heavy Stereo who are just Whirlpool without the fat one. The music business supreme high court is already there. McGees and Lamacqs and Ross’s and Reids ad infinitum.

I have some horrible fizzy beer and go outside to be sick. Someone follows me and asks for my autograph. The band are late on and we have to dive off to the, erm, Mars bar as Pulp are having their “Hooray, we’re Number Two” party. Nice to meet Big Chris Thomas, the real Sid Vicious.

Drink all the Mars bar vodka and start on the Toblerone. The entire music business descends and pretends to like each other. Andy Rossage calls it the Good Mixer Syndrome. It used to be just me and Russell and then Blur sold a million and Russ left Charterhouse to concentrate on his drinking. He is an expert and the Mars is popular.

Phone Uncle Jake at Browns, to ask if it is OK to bring 100 people down. He’s very reasonable and helpful. The big chap on the door is also extremely affable. You can tell how sophisticated a place is generally by how far they tolerate states of extreme drunkenness, provided it’s not violent or aggressive. In Bournemouth they don’t sell tequila as everyone wants a fight. In Canada they sell you two beers and kick you out for being drunk. But the person next to you in Browns is probably a boxer so you just don’t anyway.

Have a few beers and talk utter gobshite with Steve Mackey, my favourite bassist, and stumble home with the proper girls. Put the Kylie Minogue on and get the phone book out. Phone everyone. “Morning schmorning!” we scream down people’s answerphones. Play the entire Oasis album down the Albarn’s, and much worse probably. Pink gin, white Russian and ruby red Margaux. You only live once. Get drunk, be a tart, enjoy yourself.

The End.

From page 13, “Turn Ons – what’s on Graham’s turntable”

  1. Target – Fugazi (Dischord)
  2. Patti Smith Math Scratch – Thurston Moore (Geffen)
  3. Asshole – Beck (K)
  4. The Story Of A Soldier – Ennio Morricone (e.m.i)
  5. Click-Click – Slant 6 (Dischord)
  6. Within You Without You – Beatles (e.m.i)
  7. Kick The Can – Moss Icon (Vermiform)
  8. Every Bit Of Me – Thee Headcoats (Damaged Goods)
  9. Police Story – Black Flag (SST)
  10. Schizophrenia – Sonic Youth (Blast First)

I ate myself, I am a pie

From pages 32-33, by Damon Albarn

“Hello Mailbox/332 2.54 am. You have one message in your mailbox…”

“Hello Damon. It’s Brendan. Sorry to call you at such a ridiculous hour in the morning. I’ve just had a call from Karen at Parlophone and she says Steve Sutherland is going absolutely mental. He needs the piece, err, now… because they have to work on it today for the deadlines. Can you fax it through to the office now, or when you get up… end of mailbox. Thank you.”

Thank you, Mailbox. I’m in a hotel in Magic America. There is a Strauss waltz piping through the hallway and someone is listening to the porn channel at full volume next door.

What follows are a few obscure thoughts about pop people and about myself.

Thought 1
Pop people are defects.

Pop people are funny in the head and the more pop they get, the funnier their heads become.

Pop begins in bedrooms and ends up in supermarkets.

Thought 2
I ate myself, I am a pie.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, described herself as, “A person who had no idea how to function within the boundaries of the normal, non-depressive world.” Then she found Prozac.

Until last year, I had been someone who had never in their life felt even faintly depressed or suicidal. They were emotions that were as foreign to me as Japanese. Then, completely out of the blue, just after ‘Girls and Boys’ had come out, I woke up depressed. It was like the first day at primary school and a very bad hangover all at once. I found my whole upper body becoming incredibly tense. I had pains in my back and shoulder, panic attacks, and the only relief was to cry. I couldn’t rationalise what on earth was going on in my head and I was pissed off with myself for being so weak. Things like this just didn’t happen to people like me.

So I went to see a Harley Street doctor (the irony of this, I assure you, was not lost on me) who asked me whether I had been doing any drugs. I said a bit of cocaine, dope, quite a lot of drinking, nothing very out of the ordinary. The doctor, who I thought was a bit of a prat, took my blood pressure, looked in my eyes and said that cocaine had affected my nervous system.

The doctor slapped my wrist, gave me some anti-depressant pills and told me that it could take anything up to a year for me to feel completely normal again.

I tried the pills for a couple of days but they did nothing for me other than make the world appear to be coming out of a transistor radio. It was no help at all, so I stopped taking them. As our workload increased, I began to feel worse and insomnia became another little demon in my head.

I remember being at ‘Top Of The Pops’ for the single ‘To The End’ and thinking, “I can’t cope. Please, somebody switch me off.” I tried a back man, a herbal man, and an acupuncture man, nothing really helped and everyone had a different reason why I felt the way I did.

To cut a few months short, I didn’t go on to Prozac, take heroin or anything faintly cool or rock’n’roll. I did stop taking the small amounts of cocaine that I had done before (for people with bodies like mine, it’s actually a really stupid and dangerous drug to take). I stopped drinking coffee, started playing football and going down the gym twice a week. I still drink a lot and smoke a bit of dope but generally I think I’ve learnt how to be a sane pop person (except at times like this when I’ve got jet lag and it’s five in the morning).

I think my period of “otherness” was just part of a transition from one mode of living to another and not really proper depression (although there are strains of it in my family), and I don’t mention it because I want to jump on the misery bandwagon. If anything, it is because I loathe the idea that pop people are in a position to hand out some kind of DIY guide to depression and suicide. When I was 16, The Smiths were the best band in the world. We all wanted to dress like Morrissey, give up meat like Morrissey, and some of us went the whole hog and became Morrissey. The most important thing if you were Morrissey was to be miserable, so if you wanted to be Morrissey, you were miserable, too.

Yes, I have a very cynical perspective but pop people have pop emotions and they are not to be trusted. If Morrissey and happy Kurt gave you a run for your money, they are nothing on Courtney Love. She makes them seem bland.

I’ve always thought her and Pamela Anderson should merge into one being: Pamela Love, the Tabloid Medusa.

Thought 3
In the ’60s, people took acid to make the world weird.

Now the world is weird, people take Prozac to make it normal.

Thought 4
Pop people seem to be preoccupied with not being forgotten. They are all trying to join the Immortality Club. Some try kicking down the door and shouting, “Let me in! I’m for real, me!” Others go and give someone else’s name on their application form. Some sneak in through the toilet window and a few go and kill themselves or get killed.

There’s a brilliant bit in a book by Milan Kundera which is called ‘Immortality’ where he imagines two immortals moaning about where they’ve ended up. Here is a bit of the conversation between Goethe and Ernest Hemingway.

“That’s immortality,” said Goethe. “Immortality means eternal trial.”

“If it’s eternal trial, there ought to be a decent judge, not a narrow-minded schoolteacher with a rod in her hand.”

“A rod in the hand of a narrow-minded teacher, that’s what eternal trial is all about. What else did you expect, Ernest?”

“I didn’t expect anything. I hoped that, after death, I would at last be able to live in peace.”

“You did everything you could to become immortal.”

“Nonsense, I wrote books, that’s all.”

“Yes, precisely,” laughed Goethe.

“Don’t you forget about me,” was the popular stadium cry of Jim Kerr in the scary ’80s rock band Simple Minds who have, unfortunately for them, been largely forgotten but who, in a peculiar way, feature in my next pop cul-de-sac.

I witnessed one of the more obscure products of this condition a few weeks ago, while on my way to rehearse with The Pretenders (first link being that Chrissie Hynde was once married to Jim Kerr) for an ‘Unplugged’ thing, playing piano on a version of ‘I Go To Sleep’ (a song written by club member Ray Davies). As my cab drove up the road that the studio was in, I was distracted from my nauseous self-preoccupation by the sight of ten youngish girls hanging around outside the entrance to a particularly nasty ’80s riverside development. Later, I walk past the same building on my way for a quick drink. The girls have an alarmingly Stepford Wives-like manner about them. I ask one of them who they are waiting for and find out it is none other than Luke Goss, half member of scary ’80s pop band Bros.

This has worried me slightly so I have a couple of drinks in the pub. Later, back at rehearsals, I find out from someone that they follow him everywhere and that it’s a very organised operation involving portable phones and tip-offs from secret contacts in the know.

“Don’t you forget about me.” They certainly haven’t forgotten about Luke (the second link is that Luke is currently in a band who sound a lot like Simple Minds).

Are these people just plain bananas? Are the hordes of girls who wait, in vain usually, for a member of Take That to randomly appear at the arrivals exit at London Heathrow mad?

My mum has a book on Indian holy men, known as the Sidhus, who in some cases spend up to ten years in one place standing on one leg waiting for some form of enlightenment. Walking past those ageing Brosettes on that wet Tuesday afternoon, I thought of the holy men and how confusing the pursuit of immortality can get.

Thought 5: A postcard
When I started writing this a couple of days ago back at home, I decided the best place would be in the front room, looking out at the street. I thought this because I see Alan Bennett every Sunday, on my way to football, writing in his front room. Mr Bennett has got blinds so he can watch people without being watched.

I, on the other hand, am in full view in my front room. You might, at this point, be thinking what on Earth is he talking about? It is quarter to eight in the morning here and I haven’t been to bed so I’m entitled to a little meander.

Anyhow, I couldn’t think of anything to say so I went out for a drink. On my return, I found a postcard.

“Dear Damon. I had a great day in London. Went to Portobello and bought this card and some other stuff. When I popped the letter in, I saw you briefly (I wasn’t spying) and you seemed a bit sad. Hope you are OK.”

If you are reading this, writer of postcard, thank you for your concern. Yes, I am OK. And no, I was not sad, only in a mild state of panic over this piece. In fact, my frame of mind was reminiscent of the way I felt about homework on a Sunday evening when I couldn’t bring myself to miss ‘The Professionals’.

Thought 6: Word count
One last thought. The last time I wrote something for a magazine, I did not have a computer. Now I have an Apple Mac. Before I had to count in my head how many words I had written which proved a very arduous task. On one such occasion, we were approaching Madrid airport on an Iberia flight from Barcelona. I had counted just over 500 words when our tour manager, who was sitting next to me, grabbed hold of my leg. I said, “F*** off Ifan, I’m counting my words,” but he wouldn’t let go so I hit him. I then looked at the other passengers and noticed they had the same look of complete panic on their faces as he did. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “We nearly died.”

Apparently, the plane had approached the runway almost on its side with the left wing no more than six feet off the ground. Just before impact, the pilot had managed to right the plane so avoiding disaster and probably our death. For the rest of the day everyone got completely drunk and told all and sundry how much they loved them. I felt strangely distant as I had not shared the experience. Now I have a computer.

Now I have word count in my life.

I have joined the clever stupids.

By Dan Abnormal, Pop Person. 1995.

From pages 44-45, Damon reviews the singles
(with a little help from James and William Street, aged 4¼ & 7)

Zig & Zag
Hands Up! Hands Up! (RCA)

James: We like Zig & Zag, but we don’t think this is a very good record. We liked their old song better didn’t we?

Damon: Which one? ‘Dem Girls, Dem Girls’? The one that went, “I like to move it, move it”, sort of thing?

James: Yeah! We like to move it, move it!

(James stands on his head on the settee.)

Jesus & Mary Chain
I Hate Rock’N’Roll (WEA)

Damon: Do you know them? They’re sort of… well… never mind. See what you think of this anyway.

William: TOO LOUD!

Damon: Too loud? Blimey!

James: Too loud. It’s good but you can stop it now ‘cos we’ve heard it enough.

Damon: Alright. But if you want me to stop it, it’s not that good then is it?

William: It was OK.

Damon: That was called ‘I Hate Rock’N’Roll’, but he’s saying, “I love rock’n’roll” in the song. I don’t really understand that, do you?

William: No!

The Boo Radleys
It’s Lulu (Creation)

William: You don’t even need to put it on, because we know the song already.

Damon: How does it go then?

James: Wake up!

Damon: No, it’s not ‘Wake Up, Boo’, it’s a new one. See if you like this one as much.

James: I like it, but not as much as ‘Wake Up, Boo’. We know someone called Lulu.

Damon: You know someone called Lulu? Who is she?

William: A dog.

Damon: A dog? What dog?

(William starts to take a toy out of his pocket.)

Damon: Oh I see, is it a toy dog?

William (pointing at the pocket of his jeans): No, it’s a pony in our pocket.

Damon: It’s a what?

William: It’s a pony in our pocket.

Damon: A pony in your pocket?

James: Yeah.

(Ed’s note: A Pony In Our Pocket is, apparently, a pretty hot toy with the under-tens)

Damon: Er… right, I think that one got a thumbs up, didn’t it?

James: LULU! Going down the loo!

Damon: Going down the loo? I thought it was to do with that, at the end of the day.

James: My name’s James.

Damon: Yes, I think we know your name is James by now.

Search For The Hero (deConstruction)

Damon: Come on, what do you call Heather?

James: Pineapple Head.

Damon: Pineapple Head, is that because of her hair?

William: Yeah! I won’t listen to it.

Damon: You’re not even going to listen to it? You’ve got to listen to it a bit.

William: No, I’m not going to listen! No, I don’t like it. I don’t like any of Pineapple Head’s.

Damon: OK. Fair enough.

Joy Division
Love Will Tear Us Apart (London)

Damon: This is a very famous song. It’s by a band that were sort of the big band in Manchester before The Smiths, before daddy’s band. William’s looking rather depressed at the moment. Do you think it’s a bit depressing?

William: Yeah.

Damon: Do you think his voice is a bit… erm… makes you want to do that does it?

(James, for some bizarre reason, starts ‘goose stepping’ around the room until the song has stopped.)

Damon: This is how the singer, Ian Curtis, used to dance.

(Damon does the Ian Curtis dance and the boys just look at him as if he’s mad.)

Damon: You weren’t very impressed with that, were you?

James: No. Boring!

Damon: Boring! They’ll be saying “sacrilege” at the NME!

Bon Jovi
This Ain’t A Love Song (Mercury)

James: We don’t like any of Jon Bon Bogie’s either!

Damon: Jon Bon Bogie?

James: Jon BUM Bogie!

Damon: Jon Bum Bogie, OK.

James: Jon Bon Bogie! He’s very stinky!

Damon: He’s very stinky is he?

William: Yeah! He’s very stinky, and very boring! This stinks and it’s boring.

(James and William both fall on the floor and start making sobbing noises.)

Damon: Oh dear, it makes you cry.

James: It looks like you’ve got lipstick on.

Damon: Lipstick? Me?

James: Yeah.

(For some reason the boys think Damon is wearing lipstick. He refutes it, reckons it’s probably a red wine stain.)

Damon: Anyway, back to the record. Joy Division made you want to do the goose step, and Jon Bum Bogie made you want to fall on the floor. Is that right?

William: Yeah!

Damon: Well, we aren’t doing very well. Let’s play something you’ll probably like then. Let me think… right, this is a bit of hip-hop.

House of Pain
Over There (I Don’t Care) (XL)

(James takes his trousers off.)

Damon: Oh my goodness, don’t do that! Ha ha ha! Keep it decent James! Just moon!

Sarah, the boys’ mum: DON’T DO THAT! It’s not funny!

Damon: What do you think of this track?

James: Rubbish!

William: I like it!

Damon: So we’ve got a big YES, and a RUBBISH.

William: I like the beat.

Damon: The beat? Yeah it’s definitely a good beat. Fair enough.

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me (Atlantic)

Damon: This is from the new Batman film.

(James and William both start singing “BATMAN! BATMAN!”)

Damon: What did you think of it?

James: Thought it was a bit boring.

Damon: It didn’t really have a very good tune, did it?

James: I think it stunk.

William: I think it’s really good.

Damon: OK, let’s settle it this way. Thumbs up is good, thumbs together is OK, and thumbs down is bad.

(They do this all the way through the reviews from now on. U2 get a thumbs together.)

James: What’s that?

(James looks at the palm of Damon’s hand which has got the Streets’ address written on it. Damon admits that he was a bit confused when he got up that morning and had a very bad hangover (he’d been out with Phil Daniels until about six that morning).)

Damon: That’s your address, because I had to get out of bed, get into a taxi, and come here. See, I don’t get up as early as you because I’m lazy.

James: Because your band’s good?

Damon: Do you think so?

James: Oasis are good. Cranberries are good.

Damon: Ha… How can you like The Cranberries and us?

James: Because I like the tunes.

William: I like The Boo Radleys and PJ & Duncan.

Damon: PJ & Duncan? You like that?

(James and William start running around shouting, “Our radio rocks”.)

Damon: OK, so U2 are a bit old, and we don’t really like them – what about Batman? Do you like Batman?

James: Yeah!

Mike And The Mechanics
A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold (Virgin)

(James and William leave the room and start beating each other up in the hall.)

Damon: This is dreadful. Sorry, I can’t listen to this.

Prophets Of Da City
Da Struggle Continues (Nation)

(James and William return, run around a lot, generally get into the track then start beating up Damon.)

Damon: Ouch! You both liked that one, didn’t you? We’re getting a bit over excited now.

(William and James are screaming and shouting.)

Skunk Anansie
I Can Dream (One Little Indian)

Damon: Blimey! What does that sound like? Iron Maiden? What did you think of that?

James: Didn’t like it.

Damon: I didn’t like it either. I thought it was dreadful. It sounded like Iron Maiden to me, or more sort of Megadeth. I think they’re barking up the wrong tree myself, never mind. A big thumbs down then.

Dusty Springfield and Daryl Hall
Wherever Would I Be Without You? (Columbia)

Damon: Dusty Springfield was famous a long, long time ago. Even before I was born! What did you think of that?

William: OK, I don’t really like the singing but I do like the tune.

Damon: I think they’re both good singers but, erm… it’s not very good is it? Fair enough.

Molly Half Head
Shine (Columbia)

William: I didn’t like the singing.

Damon: That’s strange! You like The Boo Radleys and Oasis, and this is a similar sort of voice. It’s that same kind of Manchester drool.

(William starts shaking an invisible maraca and shouting, “MANCHESTER! MANCHESTER!”)

Damon: These are third division though, aren’t they? I didn’t really like it that much either.

Tribute To Nothing
Think You Should (Go! Discs)

Damon: This is on Go! Discs. They usually put out pretty good records, so it might be quite good. We’ll see. Tribute To Nothing, they come from Malvern, which is a nice town with a nice hill. What do we think of that? Not sure? It’s the voice again isn’t it? The voices are very important aren’t they? The beats and the voices, and if neither of them are working you’re not really interested are you? I don’t blame you. Our keyboard player lives in Malvern, at the bottom of the hill. It’s a nice place. I’ve only been there twice. What’s this lot called again? About Nothing? Oh, Tribute To Nothing. Maybe that’s what they should have been called, About Nothing.

Natacha Atlas
Leysch Nat’arak (Nation)

Damon: I like this. What did you think?

William: Yeah, I liked it.

Damon: Natacha Atlas. I think she does lots of belly dancing as well. OK, where’s James gone? He’s disappeared. OK.

(James is running up and down the stairs being told to calm down by his dad and basically creating chaos.)

Staying Out For The Summer (A&M)

(Damon, James and William all dance to Dodgy, then both boys take turns to get into the sack that had the singles in it.)

Damon: We quite like this song. Was it a good one?

William: Yeah!

Damon: Right, they’re a good band. A bit like The Boo Radleys and a bit like Blur. I think that’s the lot. What’s your Single Of The Week?

William: I like this one.

Damon: House Of Pain. So, William’s Single Of The Week is the House Of Pain. What about James?

James: That one.

Damon: Dodgy! I thought that one was good as well.

(There is much applauding and shouting and throwing around of CDs. Business as usual, really. Time for lunch.)

From page 48, Alex’s review of Permanent by Joy Division

Joy Division
Permanent (London/All formats)

Here are the young men, then. The ultimate sixth-formers. When I arrived at college, ‘Dead Souls’ was blaring out of the next room. Not what I’d expected at all. I thought I’d be the only one who liked Joy Division. Their obscurity was one of their charms. Morons just didn’t like the band because you couldn’t like them for the wrong reasons.

Young Mr Curtis crystallised the faraway romantic desperation of any lucid teenager. Morrissey with a badge and a gun. Drunk on his emotions and Holy with Youth, if you like.

The really powerful thing about the music is the primitive sort of counterpoint – you can hum all of Hooky’s basslines, even the crap ones. Actually, I love them just as much for being crap as for being godlike. Joy Division weren’t great players. It was what they naively aspired to and sometimes glimpsed that made them like us and us like them.

So much wank has been conjectured about these “art school” skinny boneses, it’s tempting to be cynical. They are easy to dismiss but isn’t anything? It’s probably true that more girls read Playboy than listen to Joy Division albums but then the best girls do read Playboy.

I’d never have believed I could play the bass if someone hadn’t showed me how to do ‘Isolation’ and ‘Transmission’. I could imagine being in this band.

It’s nearly 20 years since some of these tracks were recorded and packaged and everything is still relevant. New Order’s success has made the abstruse side of Joy Division all the more potently mysterious. Ian Curtis sang about his mother, his illness, his weaknesses. Kurt Cobain – lightweight Coca Cola advert.

The suggestive power of this music is X-certificate, dangerous, capricious, ambitious, delicious. The best band in the world ever.

A beginning, a riddle, and an end. (10 out of 10)

By AJ Sexmeal (aka Alex James)
Painting by Graham Coxon

From page 62, Dave edits ‘Angst’, the letters page
(for the sake of relevance, I’ve only included the letters that Dave replied to)

Tribal Shift
This is an open letter to the management of the Mean Fiddler Organisation. Re: Tribal Gathering.

I was amazed when I read the hype for the Tribal Gathering (Otmoor Park, Oxford, May 6, 1995). All that stuff about ‘People of all generations are invited to unite in spiritual communion’. Now, I know you’re not serious, guys, and that you are just out to capitalise on current youth culture and, naturally, make money. What bothers me is that somebody else might actually believe that it was a tribal gathering when in fact it was nothing more than a big rave in the countryside, albeit a very good one – well, for the music, anyway. I think the title Tribal Gathering is wrong and misleading. For a start there was no provision for children, so what’s all the ‘people of all generations’ talk about?

Also, the police presence was very high. There were car-loads ‘kerb-crawling’ everywhere (A very serious offence, I believe – Dave). You are supposed to be able to relax at festivals, not feel Big Brother’s disapproving eye on you all the time.

Finally, and most fundamentally, you had to pay to get in. All genuine tribal gatherings are free. As soon as an admission fee is charged, the objective of the event becomes to make money. I notice that there was no mention of any profits going to the travellers’ school or any other cause that helps ‘tribal’ people.

I suppose the idea behind the gathering was to show different kinds of dance music in one event. Fine, but it’s got nothing particularly to do with the traveller/squatting scene as I’ve already explained.

If you are thinking of holding this event again next year, please get off the bandwagon, drop the pretensions and call it something different. Mandi Peers

Dave’s reply : Some good points, but I can’t believe anyone goes to a Mean Fiddler event expecting the profits to benefit squatters or travellers. Anyway, is ‘tribal’ a kind of PC synonym for ‘crusty’ these days? Get a job, weirdo.

It Must Be Love

Courtney Love is a WIDOW. According to many medical experts and psychologists, widows are likely to display signs of emotional disturbance for at least two years after the death of a partner, regardless of age, background or family support or dependents. Add this to Courtney’s own circumstance of being in a profession whose integral function requires high-profile promotion of oneself and one’s product and the chances are very high that her behaviour will often alienate some of those around her, no matter how close/sympathetic they are to her.

On top of this the lass is the wife of a ‘celebrity suicide’. We must expect the poor girl’s behaviour to be unstable for many months to come. (Incidentally, Hole’s appearance on Jools Holland’s show was great and all credit to Jools for not even mentioning the obvious stuff.) Lorraine Pickering

Better Never…

All you mad people at NME, I thought I’d send you a note concerning a television programme I had the misfortune to witness on Saturday, May 13.

The programme was ‘Later With Jools Holland’. Frankly, I couldn’t believe my eyes, or my ears. The band’s name was ‘Hole’. Arse-Hole more like. What a complete and utter load of old bollocks. If this is where music is at the moment I think I’ll join the Foreign Legion. And to make matters worse they trundled onto the stage with the untalented Marianne Faithfull – what a row! I’d rather listen to an old broken-down cement mixer while at the same time performing oral sex on a female orangutan with dubious personal hygiene habits.

You may think I am a bit of an old fart pants but if you call that music, well God help us.

And the audience applauded. Wot!! They should be sent to Russia to work and toil in the salt mines. You’d have thought old Jools would have a little more taste. But lo and behold, he thought they were wonderful. What a joke.

Mind you, Miss Love has got nice tits. Bring back Dana. Sad Poor Bastard, South Wales

Dave’s reply : So there we have The Great Courtney Debate in a nutshell. Courtney Love – emotionally disturbed, grieving widow or middle-aged talentless slapper with nice tits? You decide.

Shed Who?
So, Rick Witter and his ‘band’ aren’t sorry for throwing their drum kit onto the motorway because they “wanted people to crash”. What a stupid f***! Hundreds of people die every year in motorway crashes. On May 23, ten people died in a coach crash after the driver swerved to avoid an object on the motorway. Go on, Rick, go to the memorial service at Christchurch, go to any of the countless funerals of those who died in crashes, and see how you wanted people to crash. See how long you last then. Victoria Paterson, Cambridgeshire

This letter is purely for that w***er Rick Witter. I can’t believe anyone can be so shit as to throw a set of drums out of a van while driving on the motorway. In the week in which ten people died in a motorway crash I just can’t understand the mentality behind your actions.

If you come anywhere near me, mate, I’ll throw more than a f***ing drum at you. Dave, Chesterfield

Dave’s reply : I don’t know anything about Shed Seven, so I asked around, and no-one else had heard of them either. So there we are.

Take A Walker On The Wild Side
Like most of your more elderly readers, I’ve heard millions of albums and normally it’s easy and natural to form an instant opinion. “This is the greatest album ever made”, I must’ve said it 1,000 times during wonderful drunken evenings. “This is the biggest pile of crap ever to venture near a pressing plant” is another common pontification. Everything normally changes after another couple of listens. At least I knew where I stood. But I admit for the very first time I am utterly bewildered.

Scott Walker’s ‘Tilt’ has given me my first pangs of mortality, my first sober realisation that I don’t know it all. Is ‘Tilt’ life-affirming? Or pretentious shite? I honestly don’t know. I REALLY JUST DO NOT F***ING KNOW. Is ‘Tilt’ the future of rock’n’roll? Or is it the embodiment of everything which wonderful rock’n’roll has freed us from? I DON’T KNOW. Help. NME needs a personal problem page – starting with bemused ‘Tilt’ listeners. Simon, Lyndhurst

Dave’s reply : I can’t help but feel a little bit let down by whoever’s review of ‘Tilt’. If a record needs 30 listens to decide if it’s any good, perhaps he should have listened to it 30 times. Call me old-fashioned, but it is after all his job. I remember The Blitz. They were hard days but we all pulled together – you could leave your front door open etc, etc.

I’m just writing to express my boredom at your tiresome habit of referring to The Good Mixer in every other sentence of your elitist rag. Daniel, The North

Dave’s reply : The Good Mixer has become such a cliché that even Graham, who practically lived there for a year, and was virtually adopted by the landlady, says he rarely goes any more. The long-standing ban on cloth caps is still in force though.

Raisin Hell
There is something in the air. I am really excited. Oasis are on the top of my playlist, and I cannot wait for the ‘lad-like’ sounds of Black Grape. Basically, I would just like to say ‘F*** The Stone Roses.’ Dell, Darlington Bank Top 2000

Dave’s reply : Oh joy, I was worried that I might have to make a few letters up if I couldn’t find enough that featured bands and swearing. I’d like to hug you, Dell.

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