Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Capsule 0: Where it started

Originally written for Ms V when she asked me, "What record can't you live without?" Karen, this was my Town Called Malice.

My Bloody Valentine / Only Swallow
available on the LP 'loveless', Creation Records CRE 060

You asked me a very tricky question yesterday. For I'd always assumed that this song would fall into the category of 'Song that changed my life', and not any others. But when you put it in the way that you did, which was the one that I couldn't live without, well I suddenly realized that, blimey if it doesn't tick that box as well.

Its power – and it is an almost mystical grip that it holds on me nearly 13 years on after first hearing it – comes from the fact that hadn’t heard anything like it, and still haven’t heard anything like it. The moment at which I first heard the sharp staccato rap of the snare and then the explosion of noise is still burned into my memory: It was a Monday night in November, 1991. I’d just finished some homework, got up to pull the curtains and was about to go out of my room and down to the kitchen. Mark Goodier’s Evening Session (that’s how long ago it was!) finished, and the woozy fairground music of Mark Radcliffe’s Out on Blue Six started up. Then the snare drum.

I didn’t move for the entirety of the song. It was like being pinned back by some elemental force. And at the same time trying to answer the question, what on earth was that?????

I still don’t know what on earth it is like. It is probably interstellar or something like that. There have been so many reams of purple prose dedicated to the band that I won’t even try to add to the pile. Sonic cathedrals, whale noises, you name the outlandish metaphor. It’s still hard to credit that it was made by four people with olde world things like guitars, bass and drums.

No exaggeration: without hearing that I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have really discovered the NME, alternative music, a new way of looking at the world, a belief in creativity, difference and challenging – in whatever limited or contrived way – the obvious or the status quo.

But most of all it gave me an addiction; I’m still searching for the same rush up my spine that I had that Monday night. I’ve come close on some occasions, through people, books, films, other songs. But those opening bars were, and probably will remain to the end of my days, the best hit of all.


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