We had “dated” before.
For a little while.
We had met at a Church youth camp that was held at some sort of outdoor centre near Aberfoyle. The highlight of these events was always the disco on the Saturday night. Of course nobody ever said that, as God fearing Mormon kids we told everyone loudly and with great conviction that the real highlight was the opportunity on the Sunday to share our testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel with each other. We were lying. It was the disco.
At one of these disco’s the two of us had slipped away to sit on the swings and talk. Heaven knows what we talked about…I’d like to think I was witty and urbane but, in truth, I was probably a mumbling, stumbling, mess of adolescent nonsense. She was younger but, as a female of the species, she was already infinitely more self aware, mature and intelligent than I was.
There may have been a kiss.
I don’t remember now.
I do remember a short spell of letter writing that lasted for a few months before, inevitably, petering out. I don’t think anyone ever said “You’re dumped” and I don’t think anyone “ghosted” anyone. It just…stopped. She may tell a different story…and that is the one you should believe.
It is the 28th of July 1991 and I have travelled to Glasgow with the father of a boy that I occasionally babysit. I have just turned eighteen and in a few months I will be living a monastic existence as a Mormon missionary. For now though I am still a normal teenage boy.
There is no such thing in life as normal.
Let’s go with “ordinary”.
I was an ordinary boy.
We are in Glasgow to see Morrissey.
He is appearing, after an earlier appearance was cancelled due to ill health, at the Concert Hall on his “Kill Uncle” tour. I have already seen him on this tour more times than I could count but I am filled with the same feelings of expectation, anticipation and near religious fervour as ever.
We take our seats up in the balcony and marvel at the array of quiffs, NHS specs, gladioli and Smiths t-shirts that surround us. A sea of identikit Moz disciples, each loudly proclaiming their independence and difference to the herd. “I’m not like you…my hoody has ears” as Daniel Kitson almost put it.
As I look around the venue I turn to look along my row and there she is.
The girl from the swings.
She is there with her even more beautiful older sister and her boyfriend.
The immaculate bob of beautiful red hair, dressed entirely in black and staring at me with what can only be described as…contempt?
Maybe it didn’t just peter out.
Pleasantries are exchanged.
The mood thaws.
Some lunatic flings themselves from the balcony onto the speaker stack and then onto the stage…I feel confident that this is the future lead singer of Glasgow indie scenesters Butcher Boy but that may not be accurate.
The gig ends.
We say our goodbyes.
On Monday I make a ‘phone call…01505…I still know the rest of it. Over the next four or five months I call it every single day and soon we are a “thing”. That, with hindsight, wasn’t a great idea given the impending two year mission…relationships that start off with that sort of trauma looming rarely end well.
We were young.
I visit nearly every weekend, taking the bus to Glasgow and then the train to her town. Friday nights at the indie disco in Paisley…me stood utterly bemused by Mudhoney and Janes Addiction while she flings herself around the room like a dervish. Back to her parents house for adolescent snogging into the earliest hours of the morning. Saturday waiting for her to finish her shift at the pharmacy. Sunday making the journey home.
Less than a year later and she calls me to let me know how it was.
“A-ma-zing” she says.
“Absolutely amazing” she says.
She probably used some Frank Sidebottom-esque word to describe things too…fantastic in all likelihood. She was a bit obsessed with Frank (and little Frank) and loved describing her mood as “dis-com-bob-u-lated”. She was a bit weird. Peculiar. Intense. Eccentric. Fun. All sorts of good stuff.
She has been to see Suede in concert at King Tuts Wah Wah Hut the night before.
“The Drowners” has either just been released or is just about to be released. Either way, we have both been converted to the Suede cause thanks to the efforts of Heather. Heather is the goth girlfriend of my Morrissey comrade Stan. Stan comes from East Grinstead and we have become penpals after meeting outside of the Caird Hall back in 1991 before Morrissey’s appearance, a truncated appearance, there. Heather is…weirder, more peculiar, more intense, less eccentric and more dangerous than my girlfriend; if I am being honest she terrifies me. But she was on the Suede bandwagon before their was even a Suede bandwagon to get on.
The King Tuts gig has been a massive success…my girlfriend has managed to secure a drum stick. A piece of rock and roll memorabilia that I hope she still has. For my part her enthusiasm meant that my own excitement ahead of seeing them the next night in Edinburgh at The Venue was pushed so far off the scale that it invented a new scale all of its own.
I can remember exactly what I was wearing the night I saw Suede for the first time.
Black Doctor Marten boots.
A Morrissey t-shirt with a topless Mozzer (see below).
A green, velour shirt.
A green velour shirt.
I probably looked a bit like this…but in GREEN VELOUR…
Try to control yourselves.
I know, I know…faced with that sort of raw sexuality it is difficult but, please, reign it in.
What I witnessed that night will stay with me forever.
I had never seen anything so real.
Not even reality.
Suede were furious, ferocious, frantic, frenetic, frenzied.
For the first two songs I stood in the middle of the packed, but tiny, venue and felt myself being battered, beaten and bruised, not just by the surge and swell of the crowd but by the power of the songs, the energy of the band and the emotions I felt.
I fell in love.
At some point in the proceedings Brett Anderson was stripped of his shirt.
Their was no barrier between band and audience.
The stage was no more than a step or two higher than the crowd.
I stepped up.
Took off the green velour shirt.
Draped it around the lithe, lean, naked torso of the hottest front man in British pop music and jumped back into the crowd.
Within minutes that shirt had gone the same way as whatever frilly blouse Brett had started the evening in.
It is all over before it really begins.
A dozen or so songs…probably less…some of them over in less than a couple of minutes.
Bernard Butler all fringe and cool.
Matt Osman all tall, elegant, hip, insouciance.
Simon Gilbert fuelling the whole thing with pounding, violent, drums that rattle your bones.
And Brett…yelping, strutting, Bowie-esque, Ferry-esque, Morrissey-esque, yet thrillingly unlike anyone who had ever gone before. Looking like a man who knew that this was it…that this gig, in this tiny venue, before these braying, sweating, demanding, hormonal, teenagers was his last chance at…something.
This was the Pistols at the Free Trade Hall.
It felt that significant.
This was the dawning of a new era.
This was a band I could love and that I could call my own.
For the first time.
Love them I did.
Love them I do.
I think I always will.