Is it wrong to wait for someone behind a door? For Dodgy and me it’s certainly no problem, but for some it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world. I remember that night so well, I was waiting for my lads at the pub. As always, I had my Discman with me. No fannypack needed, I had the 3 Second ESP model now. Sitting in the stairs, listening to Dodgy’s “In a room”, a girl from my school approached and asked what I was listening to. I gave her my headset and after 20 seconds she took them off and laughed, with a cocky grin to her face. She felt the “Waiting for you behind the door” lyrics was so ridiculous.
This was my favourite music, and she laughed at it like it was just a joke. I asked her what she listened to and she answered real music, like Nick Drake. I love Nick Drake, but I’m not bound to only listen to old time legends, drink red wine with a taste of morning tears, smoke tobacco from a pipe and feel like crème de la crème when it comes to knowing what’s right or wrong. She left, and I was back into the Dodgy-mode, digging it even more. I felt I had to represent!
The 90’s was all about this. As a mentioned in “The Music: Volume I”, everybody had to have their thing, their band, their extraordinary style and their way to be cool. I was no different. When everybody was meant to worship Oasis, I needed to like something else, I didn’t just want to be a guy in the middle of a crowd, I needed to stand out. I had Smashing Pumpkins as my band, but it was not enough. While the war between Oasis and Blur ripped Europe in half, I had fallen in love with the shoegaze and dreampop genre. Layers upon layers of floating, monotone guitars, bass, distinctive drums and insecure vocals. The shoegaze- and dreampop-sound still gives me the shivers. Ride, Slowdive, Lush, Pale Saints, My Bloody Valentine, Secret Shine, Xinlisupreme, The Telescopes, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Blonde Redhead, The Boo Radleys, Curve, Kitchens of Distinction, Chapterhouse, Swervedriver, Catherine Wheel and so on.
I remember being blinded by the love for this music, I had no filter that told me that some of the bands weren’t too good, I just loved the sound so much that I listened to everything.
My best friend was in the middle of the Oasis hysteria, but he also had a deep love for shoegaze and dreampop. He was slightly more determined than me and dived even deeper into the ocean of unknown bands. At some time, I wondered if he would ever reach the surface again. But thanks to his effort and stamina, I got to know a lot of new bands. We had the same base when it came to music, from Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins to many British alternative bands. In 1995 we decided that the best band in the world was Ride. The album was of course “Nowhere”.
As the time passed on, he got a part time job at the local student radio. He almost got fired in an early stage, because he dedicated a song to me on a live broadcast. “The next song is “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” by The Smashing Pumpkins, my best friends favourite song!” His boss told him never to do this again! 20 years later I find this extremely charming!
After a while he really got the hold of it, and suddenly he ended up with a chance of making an interview with Cocteau Twins. I didn’t know much about them other than I had heard a song or two and knew their name. My curiosity regarding this band was triggered. I went down to the local music store and looked for an album to listen to. I didn’t have a clue which one to choose, so I ended up with “Garlands” from 1982. I must admit it was not the easiest entry to Cocteau Twins… But as I learned to love this gothic, industrial, folk sound, I was head over heels.
My best friend had set sails to a softer harbour, the tweepop scene. I had lost myself into the industrial sounds of the 80’s.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy and of course Cocteau Twins. I loved the dark sound, the synthetic attitude and the style. I dressed up in black, at least for a while. It didn’t last for long, I got bored of the gothic sound and wanted to go back to the dreamy guitars again. Cocteau Twins joined me on my trip back to familiar grounds. “Blue Bell Knoll”, “Victorialand”, “Heaven or Las Vegas” and “Four-Calendar Café” were, and still are all-time favourites. The change in style, going from industrial gothic to floating, fairytale-like dreampop, with a Victorian sound as base, hit me right in the spine.
The fact that Elisabeth Fraser must be one of the best vocalists ever is not making it worse.
I know I have written this once or twice before, but it is important to remember that this was before, or just in the early days of internet. All this searching for new music was done manually. Some of the most interesting moments were when I bought albums only by the design of the cover. When buying shoegaze and dreampop, I had some references, but I often ended up with shitty albums with only one song that was god enough for repeated listening.
1997. The year that the gates of greatness opened. The ultimate venue for music lovers like me was ready to accept my ID. A venue that had served as a bomb shelter in the old days. Some years before my glory days, it was a famous place for metal heads. Some of the attitude was left in the walls, but it didn’t take long before we owned it all. Every single Friday we gathered. It was like a big party where all the lads showed up. The DJ knew what to play, and if he, of she, had a weak moment, we told what had to come next. The water was dripping from the roof, the beers were cheap and the music was epic! For years this was our playground. From easy nights in the bar to lifechanging concerts, this place was ours! When we got too drunk and the guards came to throw us out, we were the ones that told the guards to chill and get out.
It all changed when someone on the high horse decided to redecorate the place. The wooden floor was gone, we couldn’t smoke inside and suddenly the clientele was all different. Some of the reason was of course that we had gotten a bit older, but seeing the place that was ours, turn into a disco for tacky daddy-boys was a hard thing to accept…
There were other similar venues to go to, but nothing like the cave we had used as our own Britpop-party-apartment.
The autumn of 1999 had come and I had invited my friends for a couple of beers. We were a gang of five dudes, all interested in music and football. I had a closer relationship with two of the guys, but that was all to change. One after another they texted me and told me they wouldn’t be able to join. The only one that showed up was the guy I didn’t know that well. I had a feeling that it might would get awkward, but after a few minutes I understood that I were getting to know my new, absolute best friend. As we listened to music, had a drink and discussed bands, it was almost a bit frightening how we connected. We loved all the same genres and bands. It was much more than just liking a certain band or a song, we were so into it! Smashing Pumpkins was a favourite for both of us and we often ended up screaming over some guitar-solos, just to rewind the song and fall on our knees, playing air guitar and getting truly euphoric. We had that same understanding of details that made some music beyond great, at least for us.
Joy Division was one of the bands that made an impact on us. This was a band that I also found a bit difficult to enjoy in the start. The utter darkness, the haunted vocal of Ian Curtis and the fact that I couldn’t decide if the music was any good. In the start it was just the fascination over the vocal and how depressing the music sounded. I remember we all had a laugh over how dark it all was. After some time, I started to get more and more into it. The tragic history, how important the band was to the music scene, the unique sound and the brilliant songs. “Love will tear us apart” will always be one of my favourites, but behind that megahit there are so many brilliants song. “Shadowplay”, “Atmosphere”, “She’s Lost Control”, “Disorder”, “Isolation”, “A Means To An End”, “New Dawn Fades” and so on. Joy Division is, or was, so much more than a band. Every time I listen to their music I go into this mood, going back in time, trying to see myself in their place back in the late 70’s.
Joy Division was not always a proper band to play at parties. The closest thing we could get was of course New Order. The fancy and catchy synthpop was easy to enjoy. The red thread back to the music scene we were a part of, went through The Psychedelic Furs, The Human League, The Smiths, Happy Mondays, The Chameleons, Primal Scream, The Stone Roses and many more.
My love for music is not locked into one or two genres. In “Volume II” I told about the electronic part and how bands like Prodigy and Westbam, going to raves and house parties were a big part of me. I have always gone my own ways and never liked to be told what to wear or listen to. But the one thing that was a bit annoying, was the feeling of not being accepted by some Britpop purists. The Kangol bucket hat, Fred Perry pique and Clarks Wallabee legion seemed to think I wasn’t true enough to the game. I think some of the reason was that I listened to a lot of different music, some of it was on the opposite scale of Britpop. I had my Fred Perry, my Kangol and my Clarks, but not the proper models making me a purist. There were times where someone had to tell me how much they hated The Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan, and that if he had got to know that his girlfriend listened to such crap, he would kick her out. At first, I was a bit frustrated about that comment, but it didn’t take long before I just had a laugh. It was so delightful to think of the connection between New Order and The Smashing Pumpkins, and how he had to cope with that. Another huge favourite of mine is David Bowie. I felt proud when he announced, on his 50th birthday concert, that he had invited five of the musicians he thought were amongst the finest. Billy Corgan was one of those. Together they played “All The Young Dudes” and even if Mr. Corgan knows his trade, he looked and sounded a bit like a starstruck teenager. Who wouldn’t?
I had some mates that studied in England. One in Liverpool and one in London. One drummer and one guitarist. Extremely talented guys. In 2000 I called my friend in London and asked if we should travel to see some concerts with The Smashing Pumpkins. The “Machina” album was released, and they were on a European Tour. I travelled to London and stayed in my friend’s house for some days before we got ourselves to Glasgow. I remember the excitement, the tension in the air when we got closer to the venue. We bought some merchandise and lined up about 14 meters from the stage. I got a bad feeling right from the start. When the support band started, there was an aggressiveness amongst the audience. A very young audience. The sound wasn’t good either and it all ended up in a struggle to stand straight. Massive pushing, mosh pits and angry teenagers ruined the night. After the concert we had a long walk into the centre of the city. Cold and disappointed we got ourselves a room in an old hotel. I ran over to a shop to get something to drink and ended up with a bottle of Irn-Bru. That god damn Irn-Bru tasted like hell and every time I see a bottle of that horrible stuff I remember that evening. Bad stuff from A to Z.
The next day we took the train down to Manchester to see another gig. I felt gutted and feared that it would be the same experience as in Glasgow. We hooked up with the friend from Liverpool and went to the Apollo. It was a totally different place. An old theatre with red, velvet curtains and balconies.
I could feel, right from the start, that this was going to be a different world from the Glasgow horror. And what a concert it was! The music, the atmosphere and the audience were brilliant. When “33” was played, I couldn’t hold back the tears and I cried like a baby.
I had got hold of a playlist and knew when the last song was coming. Everyone in the audience screamed for more. I felt like the whole city screamed for more. Minutes passed, but no one entered the stage. Was this it? I could taste the tension in the room! Suddenly the speaker announced that David Beckham was on his way onto the stage. This was in his skinhead- hairstyle days. Through the bright lights a guy in a United jersey showed up. Then a guy with a City jersey. Then Liam and Noel Gallagher entered. They kept coming, heroes from Manchester, and suddenly I understood that it was The Smashing Pumpkins, dressed up as these folks, to celebrate playing in this musically important city. Billy Corgan kicked a football into the audience and asked if we were ready for some more, before they all exploded into the sound of “1979”!
Of all the concerts I have been to, that one is beyond anything else. I get goosebumps and feel the tears pushing just writing about this evening. After the gig of the century, we took the train to Liverpool, where my friend had an apartment. It was late, and the pubs were closing. How to solve a five-minute-window before we had to leave the pub? Two quadruple Vodka & Redbulls each. Two pints of fuel, in 5 minutes. The Smashing Pumpkins afterparty was an energic, air guitar-filled, euphoria.
The last thing I remember from that night was when I almost blew the apartment to pieces. I was going to fry some bacon and was not familiar with a gas stove. Where I am from, it was normal to turn on the heat some minutes before cooking, just to get the temperature right. I did what I thought was the right thing to do and after some minutes my friends complained about the smell in the room. I then realized that it was a gas stove, and I was to light it up. It all went into slow motion. My friends screamed “NOOO!!!” when they saw me trying to ignite my matches. Luckily my hands were a bit shaky after the drinks at the pub, so the disaster, that was so close to take place, didn’t happen. It was time to go to bed…
The next day we went back to London. To this day I can’t remember if we took the train or flew. It was delicious to have some relaxing days before I was going home.
Some time after I had got back home, me and my friends went to have a beer at our favourite pub, inside the cave. One beer became many and as I was dancing like a drunken master, I noticed two girls sitting just outside the dancefloor. I had seen one of them before and I was in a mood where I dared to approach. One of the girls surely felt I was just a drunk idiot and was close to push me away. I managed to ask for her friend’s phone number, and surprisingly she wanted to give it to me. I ran down to the bar and grabbed a napkin and borrowed a pen. I had just got the number to what has become the love of my life. It took some time before we got together. Movies at the cinema, evenings at cafés and clubs. It was a great time, but the final step was missing. I started to think it wouldn’t happen, that we would not be a couple. It was hard to think of not being with this girl that loved The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Lush, Bowie, The Smiths, wore anoraks and Dr. Martens.
Christmas was just around the corner and she was heading home to her place to celebrate with her family. We kept in touch and I remember the amount of text messages increased as the days went on. Suddenly I felt we were back on track and I certainly would have a problem when the phone bill was coming. The amount of text messages costed a fortune, but was worth every, single penny. 3rd of January 2001 she returned, and we met in the cellar in a rock club. I must be honest to tell that I don’t remember too much, other than I almost fainted when I decided to try to lay my hand onto hers. My vision was blurry, my heart was beating like a double pedal drum and my legs were shaking. How would she react? It was all or nothing, heaven or hell. I took her hand and had my heart on a plate. Seconds became years. Was this really happening? Suddenly I felt her hands around mine. This was really happening! I opened my eyes and the room felt different. From being a dark cellar in a rock club, it had turned into a cloudy and bright room. The music had changed from stoner-rock to angels playing harps. I was in love and I had struck gold. To celebrate this, I had to show what a gentleman I was. We left the club and I insisted on getting something to eat. I didn’t ask what she liked and wanted it to be a surprise. As the culinary genius I am, I thought kebabs was the way to go.
She was waiting outside and when I came out the door, with two enormous kebabs wrapped in tinfoil, she had to laugh. She was a vegetarian… I am a man for big impressions.
The days went on and I felt like on top of the world. I worked in a clothing store and she studied art, and one day when I visited her in my lunch break, she had to tell me that she was moving to Copenhagen to study. My heart stopped for a while and I wondered how this could be solved. It was not supposed to not end like this!? Suddenly, with a lowered voice, she asked me if I wanted to come with her. I don’t think she was expecting me to say yes, but I was crystal clear about it. It seemed like this was becoming a reality, she actually wanted me to come with her.
I was thrilled, and I used the last minutes of the lunch break to write my resignation on a piece of paper and then call my mom and dad to tell them I was moving abroad. Some weeks later she moved, while I had to work my last days before I could leave it all, in the name of love. The time in Copenhagen was absolutely fantastic! Today, when I play music that we were listening too, I get thrown back in time. It’s especially one song that sticks out. “Kangaroo” from This Mortal Coil, a project by the man behind 4AD. It’s originally a Big Star tune from the 70’s, but this version is fantastic. When listening to that song, I go directly back to the sidewalk outside a bakery. A cold February day with grey skies. I was buying a bread and was heading to her school to meet her. I felt like my feet didn’t touch the ground and the world spun around my head. I was the luckiest man around and I had the best time of my life. Later she told me about the evening I got her phone number. It was my Smashing Pumpkins T-shirt that made her give it away. Who can say that music is not fantastic and life-changing?
Even though there are many years from then to now, filled with music, concerts and festivals, I feel this where I will end this story. These years made me the person I am today. From Britpop to German Techno, from Joy Division to Westbam, from Fred Perry piques to lightsticks, from raves to hippie-festivals and from a young dude to a grown-up man. There are so many bands that I haven’t mentioned, and I feel bad about it. But at the same time, you have got a little glimpse of what my musical world is made of. The music is still very important to me and I wouldn’t last a day without it.
I have to admit I get very emotional writing about these memories, and know I have to go upstairs, where my love is working towards an exhibition, to ask if I’m allowed to publish this personal story, that suddenly included some of the most important persons in my life. I’ll put on “1979” with The Smashing Pumpkins, I think that would give me the advantage…