Thinking about memorable gigs for this piece, there were a couple that I considered; Bitch Magnet in Birmingham (probably Edward’s No. 8) that damaged my hearing for good or Buffalo Tom in the same city and most likely the same venue, on the night of the England and Cameroon World Cup quarter-final. But the one that I have chosen is one that really did change my life. It wasn’t just my life that was changed by this gig, it was also where Tracey Thorn met Lindy Morrison, which she chronicled in her recent book ‘My Rock ’n’ Roll Friend‘.
Orange Juice were important to me. I still have their early Postcard singles and ‘You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever‘ is one of my favourite albums. The thing was when I first listened to ‘You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever’ I didn’t like it, it was a disappointment, but I was a poor student and after spending money on it, I persevered, and gradually it became like a friend and before I knew it I had fallen in love with it. Orange Juice were riding high. ‘Rip It Up‘ had been released and they had appeared on Top of the Pops; it was packed.
The Marine Girls were ramshackle, resolutely lo-fi and hugely enjoyable. The first time that you hear Tracey Thorn is memorable, in this setting perhaps even more so.
That night was the start of another long love affair. It was the first time I’d seen The Go-Betweens. I think I owned a copy of ‘Hammer the Hammer‘ which if memory serves they played and I definitely remember hearing ‘Cattle and Cane‘ and most of ‘Before Hollywood‘. What I did see though was a fantastic band, with two frontmen each with their own voice, writing songs that could be prickly at first but that were beautiful at heart (the outright beauty came later) at this time they had rougher edges. Songs like ‘Ask‘ or ‘That Way‘ had a kind of angular charm, almost a shyness. Months after this when I was writing songs which I thought were excellent, I realised to my horror that they were all retreads of Go-Betweens songs. I’d internalised them. I’ve carried The Go-Betweens around with me ever since, seeing them whenever I could. And as I noted they changed my life, bonding over a mutual love of the band, I made important life-changing friendships.
Is there anything new that can be said about Orange Juice? Following a superb run of singles, to the first album that I can still recite from end to end today, they were the sound of young Scotland. Then came ‘Rip It Up‘ which marked a huge turning point James Kirk and Steven Daly had left, Malcolm Ross and Zeke Manyika replaced them and the febrile sound became tougher but at the same time still as fey as ever. The change was sign-posted by ‘Two Hearts Together‘ then came ‘I Can’t Help Myself‘ which elegantly straddled the two eras, itchy new wave guitars with a Motown influence and more expansive production. Then came the monster of ‘Rip it Up‘ that hit the top ten and as was the way in those Smash Hits days, catapulted Edwyn to heartthrob status and meant that the gig was sold out.
For me a boy from near Grimsby finding myself in London at the largest venue I’d been to, it opened my eyes and ears and opened up pathways for my life. It wasn’t the best gig I have ever been to, but I have both of the Maine Girls albums and pretty much everything released by both Orange Juice and The Go-Betweens. Part of that is I think due to it being a rite of passage, part of making me who I am today. Felicity, I guess so.