***I have an idea for a short story/novella/novel which has been buzzing around inside of my head for a little while now. I wanted to share a bit of what I have written so far to see if anyone was interested in reading any more. Here you are…***
“You’re listening to Britpop Now on Sonic F.M where we are tied to the nineties every Tuesday between 8 and 10. Kicking the show off there with “Freak” by Strangelove and coming up in just a few minutes we are going to be joined by Simon Marsden, lead singer with This Years Model who were responsible for a clutch of great singles and one fabulous album back in 1996 before…well, we will find out what when we speak to Simon after we hear their debut single “Open Your Eyes”…”
As the intro to the song bounces around the walls of the studio Simon Marsden forces a smile onto his still handsome face and tries not to reveal the truth of the situation. The truth is that he is tired. Tired of being defined by 18 songs that he wrote nearly a quarter of a century ago. Tired of being the former lead singer of a band that very few people remember. And why should they. They weren’t that good. Not really. Not compared to the big boys. Not compared to the bands he loved. The bands that had made him want to be in a band in the first place. No, they were, as one critic had said at the time; “A band that nobody asked for and that nobody needs.” Wanker.
“There we have it, “Open You Eyes” from This Years Model and I am delighted now to be joined, live in the studio, by lead singer with the band Mr Simon Marsden, Simon good evening to you.”
The air was heavy with forced joviality. Simon knew the rules. This was all part of the game. He was a token on the nostalgia board. Hawking tickets to shows in venues small enough to fit his bruised and deflated ego into. Bigging up songs that he now hated. Gushing about other bands who he hated at the time and whose continued success now made him want to kill either them or himself.
“Good evening Matt, great to be here. Great to hear that song too…good for the bank account!”
He made it sound like a joke. It wasn’t a joke. The trickle of royalties that arrived every quarter were the only thing keeping him from a job in the local supermarket. They provided enough to supplement the live shows and pay his child support.
“Let’s go back to that time then Simon, looking back now do you ever feel like you didn’t achieve what you should have? Three singles, one album and then…”
“Fuck you” Simon thinks.
“Maybe Matt, maybe. But you know we lived the dream for a while. Played around the world. Played alongside some great bands. Had a lot of laughs along the way. That’s more than most people manage.”
“That’s true. But if it hadn’t been for…”
Simon cuts him off, “Listen, Matt, you can’t live your life thinking about the ifs right? Things happen and you either deal with them or you don’t. What happened with Stu was just one of those things. There is no ill feeling.”
That was a lie. A big one. The atmosphere in the studio changes.
“Really?” says Matt “Your lead guitarist and songwriter leaves you to set up shop with another singer…”
“Stu did what he felt he had to do. He’s been incredibly successful so it was clearly the right decision for him. If we had stayed together none of us might have enjoyed the success we have.”
“So you think that you’ve enjoyed a successful career still?”
“Fuck you twice and then fuck you once more for good measure.” he thinks but instead says; “Matt, I know everybody want a feud and I get why…it’s entertaining. And I know that people want me to be bitter. People like that too. But the truth is much more boring. I have a great life…I play regularly, I get to do something I love and I was part of a time in British music that still means so much to people. I’m not a millionaire and, unlike Stu, I ain’t headlining Glastonbury this year but…I’m happy.”
There was a feud. A bitter and ongoing one. Nasty. He was bitter. Twisted. His life was shit. He hated playing those songs over and over and over again every night. He didn’t love it. He should have been headlinging fucking Glastonbury and he would have been if it hadn’t been for fucking Stuart.
They had gone to school together. Two kids from a nowhere town in Essex. Simon had been in the year above Stuart but they had both played football for the local youth team. Simon had turned up with a copy of the NME one week and Stuart had told him that he read it too. Their town wasn’t really indie music territory. This was the late eighties and rave culture had gripped their area. Even at the end of term disco kids who didn’t know how to spell ecstasy were pretending to be under its influence as they danced to “Shake Your Love” by Debbie Gibson under the watchful eye of Miss Martinez the headmistress.
By the time they had reached sixth form in 1990 the two of them were thicker than thieves. Best mates. Inseperable. Identikit outfits. Subtly twisting the school uniform to reflect their newfound interest in Mod culture. White Fred Perry style polo shirts with their school ties knotted skinny side front. Loafers. Parkas. Stuart was the arty one and the two of them had spent a month of lunchtimes in the art room where he carefully painted Mod targets on the back of their army surplus parkas…not proper fishtails but those German army ones with the detachable lining.
Stuart played guitar too and Simon had started to write lyrics. Lyrics. Sixth form poems. Valiantly trying to write like Jam era Weller. Humdrum words about their humdrum town. Slowly, painfully, they started to stumble towards some actual songs. Good songs. Not songs that sounded like copies of the bands they liked but songs that sounded like…something else. It wasn’t difficult to work out who they were listening to; a Johnny Marr guitar riff here, a Kinks nod there, a bit of the social commentary of The Specials. Out of all that came This Years Model. They had taken the name from the Elvis Costello album and, tragically, thought it meant they would always be “in”.
What they didn’t know was that other kids across the country were doing similar things. Listening to the same records, desperate to find a voice other than an American one that had something to say about their lives. Grunge wasn’t doing anything for them. Simon and Stuart could barely conceal their disgust when some of their peers started turning up at social events like the local indie disco with their hair unwashed and their jeans with holes in. “The only holes you should have in your jeans” Stuart used to say to them “Are the ones you put your legs through.”
That attitude, those clothes, their songs had all come together just in time for what the music papers were calling the New Wave of New Wave. They were lumped in with bands they had nothing in common with like Compulsion and bands they had a bit more in common with like Shed Seven. The NWONW lasted for about seven minutes but that was long enough to have grabbed them a tiny piece in the Melody Maker and a deal with a small label. That meant that by the time the journalists had started talking about something called “Britpop” This Years Model were…cool.
The rest of the interview was filled with the usual questions which Simon answered in the usual way;
“Blur or Oasis?”
Not really, he hated both of them.
“What was it like touring with…?”
“They were great guys, we had a lot of laughs.”
Bollocks. Touring with anyone and everyone was bullshit. Everybody pretending to be mates but secretly being willing to murder one another if it meant going on last.
“How did it feel to be on Top of the Pops?”
“Awesome, I grew up watching it and to be on there was just surreal.”
It wasn’t surreal or awesome. It was shit. He had taken so much cocaine in the days before and got so hammered before the recording that he barely remembered any of it.
“Was it amazing having that number one album?”
“Of course, having a number one album proved that people loved our songs.”
They were my fucking songs.
My pretty boy face.