Every now and then Facebook will throw up a new trend that everyone simply has to get involved in. There were some horrors, the one where everyone started a cartoon version of themselves, the ice bucket challenge, where what started as a fun way of raising money and awareness lead to teenagers literally breaking their necks (if there's a better metaphor for social media I'd like to hear it). The latest one is people posting a photo of one of their favourite albums with 'no reason to explain' and then one was supposed to 'nominate' someone else and the loop would go on and on.
This rubbed me up the wrong way for two reasons. One, what's wrong with, you know, writing about art that means something to you and two, how do you pick? Records and songs are like kisses to me. Some are better than others but they all mean something and equally special for different reasons.
Some records to stick with you forever, however. Whilst The Smiths dominated my twenties, Let's Get Out Of This Country by Camera Obscura was and is, by country mile, the most important LP of my thirties. I discovered it in 2006, I was on a Teenage Fanclub message board (remember those?), and asked the board elders to recommend some new music. Someone posted a JPEG of the sleeve, no further information. My curiosity must have been piqued, as the very next day I found myself on a train back from Manchester cradling the record. It was well worth the investment, it's an astonishing album. It was also like a gateway drug, a gateway to other message boards, other bands and other people. Indiepop was just about to hit it's absolute peak, and I just about found myself in the right place and the right time. Everything was exciting all of a sudden, there seemed to be a new gig or a new band or a new records to excited about on a weekly basis. It was a thrilling time. Then my dad died.
I'll not dwell on here about his death as I've already written about it on this blog, I've also written about the personal aftermath, but some of that, for context, bears repeating. I'll keep it to a minimum, not through shame (it's our duty normalise anxiety and issues of mental well being) but because I don't really want to re-tar roads already covered (I once got politely but firmly bollocked for writing too personally on the internet by Tjinder Singh. True Story).
SO: My dad died and for about six months I was a bit of a mess. Confused, isolated, withdrawn, angry and with a worrying dependency on the drink. Things came to head when I found myself on my own reading a book in the dim light of an awful nightclub. It was around my thirteenth pint of Guinness when it dawned on me this had to stop. I found myself talking every week to a lovely grief counsellor called Marilyn who got me off the drink and back to communicating. “What do you enjoy? What makes you happy?” she asked. “Music and writing I replied” “Well do that then” she said. This seemed like good advice.
So I started writing this here blog, which started as three line posts about what excited me then grew and grew (you're reading my 200th post) and started me communicating with the outside world. I started to finally leave my bedroom to got to gigs. Like a talisman, Camera Obscura were touring a fair bit and I went to see them in pretty much every city in the country. These were great day, possibly the band and their peak. The familiarity and comfort in clapping in time to Come Back Margaret, knowing the band had a good gig because they had refrain of Call Me Al in Lets Get Out Of This Country and the melting heartache of the fade of Razzle Dazzle Rose which meant it was time to go home.
It was a world of support bands, merch tables, set lists and pints of coke in plastic pint glasses but it still seemed like I was slowly getting back in touch with the real world and starting to feel like me again. Music has the power and ability to that. I even started talking to other human beings. One guy recommended a night called Kissing Just For Practise, a Belle and Sebastian disco run by a lad called Jamie in Manchester. I went and it was that night, talking to strangers from Leeds about Comet Gain and The Clientèle, dancing and laughing, that I felt like my old self again. I even, inspired by the evening, daydreamed about starting a club night myself. There was always a gig, always new friends to meet. I went to a Tender Trap gig in Manchester which was great, but what really caught my imagination was the DJ playing Sensitive by the Field Mice and people actually dancing. Wow. The thoughts of club night started to solidify from liquid form to something more tangible and touchable. I went to thank the DJ's, Kev and Linda for their amazing set and they in turn thanked me for coming and we must have stood for twenty minutes smiling, chatting and shaking hands. Them were good days.
Eventually I started to go to less and less Camera Obscura gigs, not because I went off them but because my life had slowly returned to normal (for which I owe them a great debt) and other things and other people became important again. They still stayed in my life obviously. Someone who knew someone who worked at the NME sent me a hooky promo copy of My Maudlin Career, which excited me to the degree that on release I bought it on vinyl and CD so I could play it on the decrepit CD player at work. I went to see them at the occasional gig, much much bigger gigs now, but no less wonderful. I even got to start a club night with my pal John Kertland. Just Like Honey ran for five amazing years, leading to playing at the Indietracks festival (playing Hey Lloyd and the intro causing people to stampede into the tent sending arms, legs, smiles and dust flying is one my favourite memories ever), a festival where I saw Camera Obscura head line the year before. It would be the last time I would see them play.
The news of Carey Landers passing was devastating. Carey had succumbed to Sarcoma, a very rare and to my mind very cruel type of bone cancer. It has taken the brightest, most beautiful and most caring person away from us. Right to the end, Carey was raising awareness and money for research into Sarcoma.
On the 14th of July at the Star and Garter in Manchester we will be holding a Camera Obscura disco, playing between the best CO tunes the greatest Scottish pop. DJ's for the evening will be myself, Kev and Linda and Jamie. All money raised will go to Sarcoma research. It's going to be an amazing evening and we hope to see you there. Xxx