Thursday, 7 March 2013

What the Boy Was Waiting For

Tomorrow I am going to see the Stones Roses. I have waited 23 years to be able to say that. Twenty three years. To put that in context, the lovely young woman who serves me my coffee of a morning is coincidentally turning 21 tomorrow. So basically I have waited her entire life, including her conception and gestation and then some, to see a band who arguably hit their peak in 1989 - the year before I started waiting.

To be fair, 95% of this time there was no waiting going on; just a growing realisation that it was probably never going to happen. In the first few years the Roses were in a state of hibernation, hidden away from the world and pretending to record a second album. Back then everyone was waiting for Ian Brown, John Squire, Reni and Mani; not just for a concert but for any sign at all that the band was alive or that another album might be on the way.

Even after Second Coming emerged at the end of 1994, the stop-start story continued, most significantly with Reni leaving the band. Still, against more odds than I can explain here, when their first tour proper finally happened it included a show in my home town of Bridlington. Rather inconveniently, I was living 1000 miles away in France at the time. Missing this particular show – apparently one of their best and attended by just about everyone I know - was arguably where the waiting began.

Sadly a few months later Squire was also gone and before the end of 1996 the band was no more. Brown went solo, Mani joined Primal Scream and John Squire thought the Seahorses were a good idea. A possible reunion became the topic of choice in any interview for the next 15 years, with the opposing camps taking pot shots at each other about what drugs the other had taken or how mean the other had been.

As a result a reunion never seemed likely. Even as recently as 2009 Squire created a piece of art bearing the legend "I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses 18.3.09." Don’t hold your breath, seemed to be the message. So, I didn’t.

Yet all the while something else was happening, something deeply personal that I still can’t define or provide a reasonable logic for: I fell utterly and inexorably in love with the album, The Stone Roses.

This may seem rather obvious, not just for what I’ve written above, but also because The Stone Roses is regularly cited as one of the UK’s favourite albums. I’m hardly alone in liking it, and many better writers than I have gushed pages about why I should. I’ve also read enough comments by its detractors to know reasons I shouldn’t. I have a critical (enough) ear and I’ve spent enough time around indie kids to choose my words carefully when talking about things I love. And I’m a contrary bugger who likes to be different. Hearing other people like something is as likely to turn me off as on.

Yet listening to The Stone Roses is a visceral experience I can’t deny. Each and every time I the needle hits the groove or play gets pressed I am enthralled. From the gentle train-like chugging that precedes I Wanna be Adored to the breathless, blisteringly nasty ending of I am the Resurrection this is an album that picks me up, flings me every which way around, makes me soar, makes me angry, makes me sad and then drops me on the ground, emotionally spent.

Even re-reading these words I cringe a little. It sounds unlikely doesn’t it? It feels a bit melodramatic and maybe a little immature to have that kind of reaction from a record – especially one recorded by four blokes from Manchester. The Stone Roses? Just a band… right, Scroobius Pip?

So then how do I explain completely breaking down listening to Made of Stone on a bus one day on the way to work? What to make of the urgent need to dance to a song as utterly undanceable as Waterfall? Why the need to play jangly air guitar in front of other humans to Bye Bye Bad Man? Why do I lose all dignity during the breakdowns at 3:40 and 5:20 of Resurrection every single fucking time I hear it to the point where I yelled ‘Fucking COME ON!!’ from the dance floor of my own wedding? (I'm sorry mum).

Why? I don’t know. These things just happen. These things just are. This record just is. There are no words to describe the way I feel.

Scarily, they are all experiences that don’t even require a concert – they happen anyway. Given that, what has occupied my mind since the announcement of these unlikely concerts is ‘how will I feel?’ When Ian Brown unexpectedly played three Roses songs at a 2008 Sydney gig I burst into very real spontaneous big happy tears. Mrs Custard had no idea what to do with me.

Now, on the eve of a Melbourne show that finally brings together my love for my favourite album and the band that made it a quarter of a century ago, I expect my reaction will be what it always is: genuine despite myself. Somewhere deep down, when I’ve stopped pinching myself, I suspect it will all have been worth the wait.

Fucking come on.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


So today is my birthday. I haven't been in much of a mood for celebrating lately, but things aren't so bad really. Not really.

I got woken up by Mrs Custard with coffee, vegemite on toast and a faceful of licks from two excited dogs. I got a ticket to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in three weeks. If I hear There She Goes My Beautiful World it might be the best birthday present ever. That or my new solid metal jaffle iron, primed and ready for it's first campfire cheese toastie. That mother is going to be volcano hot inside when it's done.

I got a big old birthday hug from my Grandma. I don't remember the last time I saw my Grandma on my actual birthday. Maybe 20 years ago at a surprise party when I turned 18. She wrote in her card that she enjoyed being able to share her birthday with me last week, but she was even happier to be here to share in my birthday today. I love my Grandma.

Even Metro Trains' daily train-cancelling-rerouting-we-hate-you-commuters fuck up couldn't spoil this morning. I just sat there and felt the little buzzes of my phone as friends and family got in touch to wish me a nice day. I replied to each and every one of them. I didn't really tell anyone about today, but people still knew. I even got my first Facebook birthday greeting. 5 years ago I would have moaned on about the lack of sincerity of such an act; today I am grateful. Genuinely grateful for good friends and a caring family.

Outside of work the Big Issue seller was going nuts with his sales pitch, serving a hyped up and unlikely weather report predicting hurricaines and blizzards. As I bought a copy he enthused about a picture of a spritely looking Dustin Hoffman on the cover. "Looks good for 75 doesn't he?" I looked at the actor's squishy face, and his hand raised with thumb and index finger circled into an 'okay.' "He looks happy" I replied.

I'm not sure if I look happy; I'm sorry if I don't. But I can't say I don't have reasons to be. Not today and probably not ever. So I'll report that today, I'm happy. Hope you're happy too.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Full Tilt

People are mean aren't they? 

Not everyone, obviously. Lots of people are lovely. You're probably lovely yourself. If not, I'm sure you know at least a couple of people who would rank highly on a lovelyometer. At least a "7" - maybe more. And yet, whenever I fire up the internets I don't see many lovely people: I just see mean people.

I'll admit to being a sensitive little flower at the best of times, so I may be overreacting, but right now I'm a bit over the online proliferation of mean.

I guess I should be clear I'm not talking about websites and forums written for targetted audiences - be they racist, sexist, mysogynist or whatever. The internet is a big place and such things are easily - and best avoided. I'm also uninterested in the trolls: those folks who deliberately provoke angst amongst commenters by posting the opposite of what everyone else says to get a reaction.

No, my knickers are being twisted more by the adoption of mean by mainstream news websites - whether through publication of polarising attention grabbing articles (why, hello Ms Burchill) or through giving too much of an unmoderated voice to Jo(e) Public in their comments sections in the hope of increased traffic.

I suspect Tim Berners-Lee didn't toil over a hot keyboard in the 1980s hoping that his and one of mankind's greatest technical achievements would be used so people could share pithy comments about whether something or someone was shit or not. I don't know for certain but I'm guessing he doesn't feel much pride knowing that the primary use of his brainchild by some people is to put a pin into other people's enthusiasm and creativity.

I have a friend who likes to accuse me of tilting at windmills. Being less learned than her I had to look up what this means. Yes, I used the internet. Of course I did. Apparently it comes Don Quixote. It basically means I'm prone to unrealistic attempts to right perceived wrongs based on misplaced idealistic notions. In this case, people - nay, the world - is a bit mean and I think I can do something about it. 

Naturally my friend's advice is to just get over it. I should accept that those people who use the internet to tell people what they think or like is wrong own the internet too. Railing against them is, if you'll excuse me, like pissing in the wind.

And you know what, I do. I get that this is the way business is done. I get that given the option of contributing something positive, people generally do the opposite. Consequently I just don't read such articles anymore. I avoid trolling articles, rarely peruse reader comments and have just about given up on Twitter. 

So what's my point? I guess my point is it's not enough. It's not sufficient for me to hide away and leave people to it. It's not windmill-tilty enough for me.

In its purest form, his internet is an enabler. It creates possibility. It offers infinite opportunities for us to communicate, to access information, to learn. For some it creates the chance to connect, to be part of something. For others it offers anonymity; a place to be without being. It is what you need it to be, it is an extension of what you are.

And who am I? I'm a person with a great deal of unashamed enthusiasm for stuff. I'm someone who likes to connect with people meaningfully. I'm a person who was scared witless by the death of a friend whose rich, complex, beautiful personality is slipping from memory to become a series of dot points. I'm a person who who is starting to forget the things that made him who he is and what makes him tick. I'm a person who likes to write, even if no one is reading, for the love of writing but also so I don't forget either.

So here I am again, back in front of a keyboard and a blank screen. Online activity has moved on so far since I started on here. I've spent so long interacting with my phone that blogging feels like a chore from long ago; like sweeping a carpet rather than running the vacuum across it. But it still feels like the best place to be me. A place to gush enthusiastically about the things that make me smile, that make my chest heave with emotion, without wondering how may likes of retweets my feelings might merit in the eyes of others.  

Of course nothing I do here will hold the tide of cynisism elsewhere on the internet. It is what it is. But these pages can also be what they are and hopefully in some small way they can add to the balance.  

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Should old aquaintance be forgot?

Oh hello you. Well, this is a surprise.

It's me. You know... Mint Custard?  I wrote a bunch of stuff and nonsense? You occasionally stumbled upon it? Mostly by accident I'm guessing, but it was still nice. Well, it was for me anyway...

So, how are you? Good I hope. Bloody great, I hope.  

This all feels like a very long time ago doesn't it? Almost another life. 

Didn't robots threaten our very existence? Didn't I think writing about cooking was a good idea? Wasn't I permanently excited about Daniel Kitson and the Super Furry Animals?  Wasn't that when I read books?

It seems such a very long time ago. 

A time before Tw*tter and Faceb**k; before 3G and Tumblrs and Instagram and apps and androids and tablets. Well, I suppose they were there, really. But they weren't here.

Now look at me. Facebooking and Twittering like a champion; liking things, retweeting things. Being friends with people. Loads of people. Reading books? Pah and phooey. I have books. I buy books. But read? When would I do that? I have pithy comments to make and crap photographs to tart up on Instagram so I can put them on Facebook. I have several rounds of Words with Friends to get through. Everyday. Plus I just bought a Nintendo Wii,a full 2 years ahead of schedule. Reading book? Imagine. What would Mario and Luigi say?

But I must admit, it's nice this. Being here together again, just us two. Don't you think?

Sure, we won't get any likes and no one will leave any comments. No one will retweet us and the only people who really care are me and you.

But I think I miss that. I miss us. I miss this. Do you? Maybe you do?

What say we try again? Just me and you. We don't have to do much. We can do whatever you want; talk about whatever you like. I'll get overexcited and use bad grammar, and you can roll your eyes and think 'why does he bother?' Just like the old days. 

Tell you what, I'll be here again next week. Turn up if you fancy it. Nothing special, just the two of us? Just me and you. Butch and Sundance. The old team.

It's up to you, of course, but I think it might be rather nice.