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Gigs and nostalgia July 22, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A few weeks or so ago I discovered the Jesus and Mary Chain were playing Dublin later this year – the week of my birthday no less (cash, no cheques please). And my immediate impulse was to purchase tickets – not least because I missed them last time around earlier in the year. When that happened I was (briefly) irritated by it but I was surprised by my reaction this last week or so… not so much. Perhaps it is that if they’re back twice in one year, chances are they’ll likely be back again.

Anyhow then I thought, hold on a second, OMD are playing the following week and while I’ve seen the JAMC (on their 1987 Darklands tour no less where they played IIRC the SFX and mighty fine they were too) I’ve never seen OMD and given I’ve limited funds and OMD’s last album was pretty good… well I wound up getting the OMD tickets instead. I don’t even have a flicker of regret. Either the JAMC will be back or they won’t be, but I get to see someone who while I very much like are a half-step away from my usual comfort zone (however much I loved their first four or five albums I was always deeply suspicious of OMD’s post-Dazzle Ships uber-pop inflected career).

I’m all for nostalgia – up to a point, and the JAMC were genuinely innovative and I’d still be very very fond of their music. But I’m also wary of just reliving the past – or attempting to. My memories of the ’87 gig are scattered. It was dark and loud and there was a lot of feedback and the band was difficult to see. I didn’t drink before gigs at the time, so that fragmentary recollection is a bit inexplicable (unlike a shameful lack of memory of much of a Primal Scream gig in the early 1990s, and Nick Cave live around the same time slips in and out of mental view for much the same reason). Was it any good? I seem to think it was. But I can’t quite tell. If (or when) I see them again will they be good, or better, or revelatory, or what? Whatever else they won’t be the JAMC of 1987.

Neither will OMD. But nostalgia with them functions in a different way I think. Would I even think of going if their last album wasn’t as good as it was? I’d suspect not.

There was a good Tracey Thorn column in the New Statesman last month where she went to see Bob Dylan and came away unimpressed. As she said herself that wasn’t her intention as she likes Dylan a lot, but from her description it wasn’t great. But she argues that no gigs she attended ever matched the gigs of her teenage years. Ian Drury in 1978 stands out for her.

It was sex and drugs and rock’n’roll indeed. Or snogging and smoking and dancing. No wonder I count it as one of the best gigs of my life – but was that down to the band, or the being in a room full of hormones and possibility, on the brink of discovering who I was, buzzing with nicotine and electricity? Past a certain age, can any gig hope to conjure up that type of feeling? Even Dylan?

I didn’t have that experience – indeed that sounds more like my experience of what now sound almost quaint, the ‘discos’ and dances of my mid-teens.

Thorn was at Ian Drury at 16 and if I recall her autobiography correctly had been going to gigs for a couple of years at that stage. But I went to my first real gigs – as distinct from very small pub gigs (Winters Reign – natch) or larks in the park – in my mid teens. And gigs were not about the snogging at that point. Or after. At least not in my experience.

That that sense of possibility she describes came later for me, probably in the early 1990s when I started going to a lot of gigs, and that was very much bound up with the music. And by then I was in my mid to late 20s. I don’t think that’s left me, that sense when a gig – in whatever genre – is good that it does achieve a timeless quality. But reading her I’m glad that my sense of that isn’t so caught up with a perception of myself as young or my youth – that ship sailed many decades ago.

In a way I envy her her experience – and not least because it dovetails with punk, just about. Seven years later at one of what I consider my first real gigs – the Damned in the SFX – that energy and excitement was long gone and one suspects that the reason the different groups of goths and punks in attendance eyed each other with wariness and an edge of barely suppressed hostility was in no small part to knowing that that was the case.

Thorn asks an interesting question ‘what do I want from a gig?’. She answers that circuitously arriving back at her youth… ‘nothing can match those vivid gigs of my teenage years, where the night out mattered more than who was on stage, where what I wore mattered more than what they sang’. I see it the opposite way around. Who was on stage always mattered more than the night out, what they sang or played was more important than what I wore. I’d sooner save my money and buy an album than go to a group I had no interest for just to say I’d attended it. Again, I wonder is that a function of coming to gigs slightly older? Or perhaps that was economic. I didn’t have the money to waste so I didn’t go. And there were fewer, far fewer gigs in Dublin.

Thorn lived in England and close enough to an urban centre that had a vibrant gig life whereas things were sparser (and more expensive) in Dubiln during and after that period. I’ve mentioned before how it was really only in the early to mid 1990s with the Tivoli in particular that I started to go to gigs on a not quite weekly basis. I’d be curious if that was the experience of other people too?

Anyhow, I’ve name checked it before, but Thorn’s book on her career is a wonder. A genuinely compelling memoir of the 1970s onwards.


1. Polly. - July 22, 2017

Oh no. As I read this, my iPod is cycling through ‘Sidewalking’ ‘ Sweet Gene Vincent’ and ‘Love is Strange’. Time to go out and buy something recorded in Q3 2017.


WorldbyStorm - July 22, 2017

Not too shabby a selection tho as it stands!


2. 6to5against - July 24, 2017

I like Tracey Thorn, but I always feel a little sorry for people who define themselves in terms of the music they were listening to the first few times they got drunk. There’s too much great music out there – both old and new – to so casually dismiss any of it simply because you didn’t hear it when you were 17.

It reminds me of the Billy Bragg line, ‘…he was trapped in a haircut/ he no longer believed in….’


6to5against - July 24, 2017

And on that, I know we mainly note punk and new wave anniversaries on this site – and fair enough – but apparently its 40 years ago this month since this was released:

I’m inclined to believe that its been more lasting in its effects on music than the guitar rock that followed over the following few years.

Liked by 1 person

sonofstan - July 24, 2017

I agree. Back in the late 70s, I did some reviewing for a publication still in existence and got given a Munich Machine LP to review. I did my best sneery punk rocka scathe on it – I haven’t heard it since, but I’m pretty sure it was much better than whatever angry rubbish I was pretending to like back then.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - July 24, 2017

+1 6to5


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