I don’t know exactly when I stopped listening to Radio 1. It was an organic process, something that happened subconsciously without me noticing. Like the bags slowly taking permanent residence directly under my sunken, bleary eyes; this didn’t dawn on me until it was too late. It turns out I’m old. I genuinely own – and revel in using – a nose trimmer. Just the other day I walked past a gaggle of teenagers in Strand Street and they genuinely brushed past me convinced I was the ghost of Noddy Holder. I hadn’t the heart to tell them he’s still alive.
So how could this guy even dare to listen to Radio 1: The steaming sh!t tip of feverish chart toppers and banging tuuuuuuunes, mate? To listen to Arianna Grande whilst plucking my greying, sorry monobrow would surely be cause to put me on some form of sex offender’s list.
It wasn’t always like this. There used to be a scene, man.
I remember sweaty nights spent at the Villa watching the Battle of the Bands with my mates. Or gigs at the Cornerhouse, one of us drawing the short straw of shuffling nervously to order the drinks in their most stentorian and booming man-voice. We’d get the bus from Ramsey to Douglas, dressed in obscenely thick combat trousers, black hoodies and swig secret gulps of rancid cider. We were forging friendships, existing through the songs we loved, splitting the earpieces of our Sony Discman and trying not to get boners over girls that never knew we existed.
There was a nervous buzz as we entered the ‘arena’. The potent concoction of teenage angst, p!ss and punk was heady. They were mostly cover bands but there seemed to be a brotherhood of local Manx bands then: The likes of Aftermath, Welm, Slimpig, Chosen Rejects, Twisted Faith; these bands were bloody exciting for us then.
When I was 16 I went to my first gig and – unheard of in those days – it was an actual band from the telly, playing on the Isle of Man and everything! Ash. The gig itself was a blur and I recall very little of it. I was never a massive fan of the elfish Northern Irish power-pop trio but, at the time, this was a big deal. My friends and I lost one another in “the pit” and it was my first proper experience of the primal force of live music. I was near the front and essentially spent 90 minutes being violently buggered from behind and thrown around like a rag doll. Sweat dripped from every pore and I sang along with the mass throng of fellow drunken idealists: We were unified and one at that moment, it was blissful and transcendence in one, like an echo of time collapsing under its own immeasurable weight. Then some bastard threw a bottle of piss at me. No lid, either. Incredibly, that was the first time I pulled. Drunk on hopes and dreams and reeking of a stranger’s urine: It’s safe to say we were not attached for long.
Music still flows through my veins, of course. Not literally as that would be mental. I’m forever entangled within it; my essence is defined by the bands I grew up with. And that’s the thing: I’m drowning in a vat of musical nostalgia; I am the personification of the edgy punk heroes getting back together for one last payday. And instead of cool, irreverent vitality, all they offer up is jaded, cliché guff. I even listened to Radio 4 the other day. AND I BLOODY ENJOYED THE POLITICAL DEBATE. I’M A F*CKING DISGRACE.
When my 4 year old son chastised me for listening to Tony Blackburn, I knew that was the final straw. As LCD Soundsystem sang “I’m losing my edge”. And, less pertinently, as gorilla-browed Spanish spunk-factory Enrique Iglesias sang, “I don’t know why but I love you to see you cry…I don’t know why, it just makes me feel alive”. The latter lyric isn’t especially relevant to this piece but they are the words of a psychopathic Latino sex case. And that’s worth thinking about.
On the brief journey from work to home, I went gung ho and put Radio 1 on the wireless. Whilst eating a Werther’s Original. Who was I kidding? The sounds emanating from the speaker were alien to me. There was a continual whirring warble, a sonorous whine piercing through my skull, wreaking havoc on my psyche. It was the intro for the news. I flicked to Radio 2 and exhaled deeply. Chris Rea was about to sit me down and soothe my soul with a tale of the road to hell and I, for one, was looking forward to hearing how this played out.
It’s ok to be nostalgic, I think. I’m 33 now. I still buy new music, I still frequent gigs. The real love for music was forged during that sepia-tinged, romanticized period: the coming of age years. Great days watching Manx bands live out their own dreams by playing a game of fantasy rock star. I’ve no doubt the bands out there today are doing much the same.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Classic FM to tune into.