Thursday, September 23, 2021

#8 Some Dusty - Birdie

My favorite band of all time is Dolly Mixture. They'd not long started gigging in their hometown of Cambridge when I arrived there as a student at the tail end of the nineteen-seventies. Before the end of my first year at university the Dollies were everyone's favorite band, the one we'd go see whenever and wherever they played. 

They had friends or acquaintances in common with friends or acquaintances of ours so they'd turn up occasionally at parties we were at, sometimes even parties to which we'd been invited. I think they even played at one of them. Hard to be sure. We crashed a lot of parties, especially in my first year. It was a blur, even then.

I saw them supporting the Fall at the Corn Exchange, about as unlikely a pairing as you could imagine and one I might believe I'd dreamed if it wasn't for the retrospective magic of the internet. £1.65 on the night. £1.30 with dole card. Those were the days, eh? I saw them at Downing College and I saw them at the Locomotive, where the roof nearly came off. One of the top five live shows I've ever seen.


That was more than three years later. I think we'd all graduated by then. I'd gotten married and so had two of the crew I hung with. We'd mostly left Cambridge. I think we were back for a visit or maybe it was just before we went back to the places we used to call home.

Dolly Mixture were the gang of three. Hester on drums and Debsey on bass, Rachel with guitar... Just the cutest thing you've ever seen, in their own words.

After the band split up in the 'eighties, Rachel and Debsey formed Coming Up Roses and when that ended Debsey joined St. Etienne's touring ensemble. I'm unclear whether she was ever a full band member but she's worked with them on and off ever since.


Birdie was the 90s band she formed with another St. Etienne alumnus, Paul Kelly, also her partner in life. They recorded and released two albums, Some Dusty and Triple Echo, both of which are superb. I know Some Dusty far better, though, having owned it almost since it came out in 1999, whereas for some reason (*cough* EverQuest *cough*) I never caught up with 2001's Triple Echo until many years later.

Birdie's sound is unearthly, ethereal, drifting and sublime. I find it transformative, transporting, transcendent and impossibly beautiful. Like everything any of the Dollies ever did, in other words. When I said they were my favorite band of all time I didn't mean just the three years of stunning live shows, the astonishing double album or the scattering of singles and EPs they gave us when they worked together. I meant everything.

Everything Birdie ever recorded has the sense of a summer in decline, dust in the fields, the harvest over, sun low on the horizon, a pale, red haze in the air. It's watching a 1960s social realist movie a decade too late on a black and white TV on a weekday afternoon with the blinds drawn. It's a long, empty corridor in a silent government building in late August, shafts of light picking out the dust motes that just hang there, undisturbed.

Yeah, I'm not going to convince anyone by talking about it, am I? You had to live that life. 

Maybe just watch and listen and you'll catch a glimpse and wish you had.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide