What I said back then:
That first flat. It’s not something I remember being particularly fixated on; I stayed in halls rather longer than most people because I was quite comfortable there, but I was going to have to move out at some point, and find somewhere I could call my own student flat. And that turned out to be 15 Raeburn Place, above L’Aquila Bianca chipshop. It was a perfectly good flat, but of course having three blokes living in it, one of whom never came out of his room, meant that it was never going to be the height of sophisticated living. Still, we had our moments, and I do have many happy memories of that final year – and some very hazy ones of those final weeks. But this was the height of my ‘rediscovering music’ phase, and all sorts of things appeared on my red plastic record player (oh, we were poor in those days; we had to make our own entertainment). Some things I heard on the radio, and investigated further; some things I had recommended to me; and some things I bought or borrowed on a whim. Some of it was worthwhile, some of it was rubbish, and some of it was the Human League.
And then there was the odd occasion when I saw a name in the music press. (I should pause here to mourn the decline of the weekly UK music press, but of course I sentimentalise it – not everything was better when I was 20, and there’s no way that volume of newsprint expended on mostly ephemeral music was ever going to be sustainable.) At any rate, Everything But The Girl was one of those names which, once I saw it, I just had to know more about. There was no way it was going to be bad music with a name like that. Then I discovered that one half of the group shared – and still does share – my surname: this was a certainty. I’m sure I heard ‘Each and Every One’ before I rushed out and bought the album, but even had I hated it, I think I’d still have gone ahead. Fortunately, this was music which was easy to love, and I didn’t resist. Cool, jazz-tinged, and quite strikingly unlike anything else around at the time, it was like a breath of fresh air after all the noise I had surrounded myself with for so long. It also stands up to the passage of time rather better than most of the music of 1984, and is guaranteed to make me misty-eyed at the memory of Edinburgh, and Raeburn Place. I’m delighted that Ben and Tracey carried on doing what they wanted to do for all this time, and somehow the global success of ‘Missing’ seemed just reward for all that pleasurable music which reached me at just the time when I was ready for it.
What I think now:
I think perhaps I should have mourned the decline of the weekly music press a little more than I did; it doesn’t seem to me that there’s anything better out there now. I do, however, mourn L’Aquila Bainca. I went there in May – it has been replaced by (shudder) a Domino’s Pizza. Is nothing sacred?
I also would like to take a moment to consider EBTG in the context of Twitter. Unlike some I could name, Ben and Tracey are both avid tweeters. It pleases me greatly to be able to eavesdrop on the lives of people I feel connected to in that strange way enjoying music allows; I know we have something in common, because they made that music, and I like it. Now, that doesn’t mean anything more than that – I’m not their friend, and they’re not mine; indeed, it’s an odd, one-sided relationship, since they have no idea who I am. But it allows something which I think is important: for all that some famous people shun interaction with their fans, and others use social media as a revenue stream (you know who you are, faceless corporate tweeters), there are those who take enough of a leap of faith to be able to say – here I am, just me; I’m going to tell you bits and pieces about my life, and in return, there’s a door minutely cracked open, through which you might just be able to reach me.
And if that’s so, I’d like to say thanks.
When we moved to Canada, so much of my life was dislocated that I felt the need to have some of my old favourite music around – that which helps me focus on how much has changed, and how life went on through the various upheavals. One of the first things I did was download and burn to CD a copy of ‘Eden’. It’s part of the ‘leaving Edinburgh and really growing up’ phase of my life, and it helped keep me sane during the craziness of building a new life.
One of the songs on ‘Eden’, ‘Tender Blue’ was another of those I improvised over, like ‘Damnation’s Cellar. I’m not going to post another short story here, I don’t think: it’s not really polished enough, although I quite like it. If anyone really wants to read it, you know where to find me.