Strange One


This is the sound of youth.








I know.

You are just like me and your youth was rarely, if ever, any of those things…at least not for any extended period of time.  In truth my own adolescence was a messy blend of acne, angst, anxiety and self-loathing.  These were not salad days, they were rotten days more often than not.

And yet…and yet…every single moment when I was not gripped by fear and loathing is captured on “I Should Coco”.  In fact, even the moments when I was gripped by fear and loathing are captured here.

They were young, they were free…you know the rest.

The hair.

The sideburns.

The glint in their eyes.

Cock-sure but never cocky.

Supergrass were the band that everyone wanted to be in.  It was as if they had been assembled in the laboratory of a mad scientist searching for the perfect pop group.  Quite why a scientist of any sort would be interested in such a thing isn’t all that important.  Let’s just be grateful for his, or her, efforts.


Ah, yes…the scientist didn’t actually exist.


I was three years older than the leader of the gang Gaz Coombes and, because of time operating in a linear manner I remain exactly the same number of years older than him now.

That means that when Supergrass arrived from the ashes of The Jennifers in 1993 that Coombes was 17 and I was 20.  He would have been a couple of years below me in school…but we could easily have been friends.  Of course that is impossible, not just because he lived in Oxford and I lived in Edinburgh but because I didn’t have any friends and certainly none who were capable of forming one of the most important bands of the era.

When they played at the “Showtime” gig in support of Blur at the end of the Parklife tour I found myself sitting beside them outside of the Ally Pally.  They were sat together at a nearby table and they looked like a proper gang; huddled together, complimenting (but not matching) outfits, good hair, better facial hair and talking in hushed tones about important things that I couldn’t make out because of the hush of the tones.

In a parallel universe I introduced myself and became part of their inner circle.

In this universe I just looked at them.

I don’t remember how I found out about Supergrass.

A Melody Maker new band feature?

A line in an NME article?

I do know I was there from the get go.

I bought “Caught by the Fuzz” on the day it was released from Stereo One in Paisley and listened to all three tracks back in the attic bedroom I rented from Edna and Danny Stables.

It sounded…thrilling.


The police!

Disappointed parents!

I hadn’t ever tried any drugs.


I was reluctant to take Paracetamol if I had a headache.

I hadn’t even tasted alcohol.

Not a drop.

I’d like to tell you I was high on life and drunk on love or some such but the truth of the matter is that I was a very frightened young man who believed that God was watching his every move and that the imbibing of alcohol and the partaking of drugs was sure to incur his wrath.

When Leah Betts died in 1995 after dropping an E (is that how you talk about it?) I was absolutely convinced that this was the price that I would pay should I choose to ignore the teachings of my Church on such matters.

Yes, really.

Listening to “Caught by the Fuzz” was a familiar tale for thousands of kids across Britain but to my ears it was the sound of an alien world, I couldn’t connect in any meaningful sense.  This wasn’t my life story but the story of my friends lives.

I was nothing more than a voyeur.

Neck distended in a guernica of distress as I tried to peer into the lives of others.

I loved it.

I was like Eve looking at the fruit on the tree in the Garden of Eden.

I knew I shouldn’t be enjoying it…but I couldn’t help myself.

That was it.

I was in.

Supergrass were going to be the sound of the life I couldn’t ever lead, a blistering glimpse into what it was like to be rebellious, to break free, to do the things you wanted to do, to live with something approaching abandon…I felt glad that somebody was living that life, even if it wasn’t me.