Sunday, September 5, 2021

# 13 The Golden Mile - My Life Story

Original release date : March 1997

Since I seem to begin most of these posts either by describing where I first discovered the band or explaining why I can't remember, I guess I'd better go over this one again. I have mentioned it before, quite possibly more than once, but I don't flatter myself that anyone's going to remember.

It was some time in the mid-90s, back when I was still going out of an evening, now and then. I'd come home sometime after eleven, having had a few drinks with someone or other because back then I also had friends and I still liked a drink. Not sure how closely related those two facts might be.

I came in and switched on the TV. We still owned a TV. We even watched it once in a while. Anyone sense a theme developing? 

Mark Radcliffe hosted a show in the nineties called The White Room. It didn't last all that long. I mean, it lasted an hour, I think, when it was on. There were only a couple of seasons, that's what I'm getting at. It was pretty much all music as I recall. There were plenty of youth-oriented shows in the nineties that had bands on to break up the chat and tomfoolery but The White Room was nothing but bands, one after another.

I have no memory of who else was on that show, if indeed I saw any of the rest of it. It may be that I switched on right as My Life Story launched into 12 Reasons Why. That's how I remember it. That's all I remember, really. They did Sparkle, too, but I don't think I saw it. I only know from seeing it on YouTube fifteen years later.

It was one of those moments. I've only had a few of them in fifty years of listening to music. The first time I heard Heroin by the Velvet Underground.  The first time I heard Land by the Patti Smith Group. The first time I heard Frankie Teardrop by Suicide. The first time I heard Upside Down by the Jesus and Mary Chain. The first time I heard Virginia Plain by Roxy Music. Even, in a very different way, the first time I heard Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen on Rosko's Round Table and said "That's going to be a Number One record". Hmm. It's more than I thought and I keep thinking of new ones, too. I should do a post.

Topping them all, the time I asked to hear Lou Reed's latest LP in the old Virgin record shop, long before it was a Megastore, where they gave you headphones and you sat on a sofa like one of the hippies Richard Branson wanted you to think he was and the LP in question turned out to be Metal Machine Music and I lasted about two and a half minutes before I had a panic attack and ran out of the shop.

In those TV days I also had a VCR that was always cued up and ready to go in case anything worth recording popped up unexpectedly. I managed to hit Record to save the moment for posterity and next day I watched it again, when I was able to take it in properly. At the time, I was too stunned. I just sat there in a state of inebriated disbelief as the power and wonder of it all coursed through me like a class-A drug.

That VHS tape is long lost but now, of course, I've seen the clip countless times on YouTube. I watched it last night. Like most things that hit with that kind of impact when they take you unawares the effect fades with repeated exposure. It's still bloody amazing all the same.

In the mid-nineties I wasn't just still going out, I was still going to gigs. I don't think that stopped until the early 2000s. Over the next year, year and a half, I saw My Life Story three times and each time they were superb. Then I saw them a fourth time, a little later, that we won't mention, when they weren't. 

I bought all of their singles and the album, The Golden Mile, on which several of those singles also appear. Without exception, every track on the album and all the extra tracks on the singles were great. If you like overblown, hyper-dramatic, glam-inflected art rock, that is.  

Obviously I do. I also love rock songs with string arrangements and I have a long-held theory that trumpet is the most rock and roll of all the instruments that aren't guitar, bass and drums. My Life Story have every bit of that going on all at once and with the most aggressive attitude you can bring to playing the violin or blowing the trumpet.

If you watch the video of 12 Reasons Why, which you very definitely should, you'll see one of the band (the keyboard player, I think it is) stalking across the front of the stage like she's at some kind of coked-up fight club, holding up sheets of paper in sync with the lyrics with the numbers 1 to 12 written on them, tearing them in half and throwing them into the crowd. Well, as much as you can throw a flat sheet of paper.

I have one of those sheets, framed, on the wall over the fireplace in the front room downstairs. Not literally one from that White Room performance. Better. I caught it at one of those gigs I went to and let me tell you there was some heavy competition for it. I'd already missed several of the earlier numbers but I damn well wasn't going to miss the last one. Ripped down the middle, it's the best number. The title number: 12. 

There's also a card on the mantlepiece itself. It's from the band, wishing me a Happy Christmas. Sadly, it's not a personalised card. I got it because I filled out the slip that came with the CD, where you give your name and address and send it to the record company and they put you on a mailing list and tell you when you can next give them more money.

I was in my late thirties when I did all this. I'm not proud of it. Oh, okay, yes I am. I'm getting to the age now where i'm wondering if maybe I ought to do it again.

I was watching Starcrawler on YouTube for another of these posts the other night and I found myself wishing I'd gone to see them a few years back, when I would have been in my late fifties. They played not ten miles from here and I thought about it then I didn't go. I'd like to be able to say it's because I had some self-awareness or even a sense of shame but actually it's because it seemed like too much bother. That's really not a good enough reason.

My Life Story were never going to be big. Well, not commercially. They were big in another way, of course - too big. There were fifteen of them. Try trucking that around the clubs and town halls on the back of four or five singles that scraped the low end of the top forty and see how long you last.

They play reunion gigs quite often. They do all the songs everyone knows and the audience yells along. I wouldn't go to see anyone doing that, least of all someone I loved, once. Then again, I'm the one who refused to go see the Rolling Stones in 1981 because "they're too old and it'll just be embarrassing".

If I ever do start going to see live music again it won't be to see the Stones or My Life Story, long past their prime. It'll be to see someone who's at the stage MLS were when they made The Golden Mile. Someone just getting started, hitting their stride. Someone young, brash, arrogant, confident. Someone who still believes.

Waste of time, otherwise, theirs and mine.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide