I do rather love music. Had you figured that out yet? Last week, this music lover got an early Christmas present when she scored tickets to the BBC 6 Music Christmas Party at Maida Vale.
Let’s backtrack a little here… I have been a 6 Music listener for many years now and this station makes up a large portion of the daily listening schedule as I work in my kitchen and in the home office that Chris and I share. The countdown to the end of each working day is always soundtracked by the dulcet tones of DJ Steve Lamacq, who occupies the 4pm – 7pm slot.
It should therefore go without saying that I would love to bake a cake for Steve Lamacq as, in a way, we hang out every day as I wait for an appropriate time to down tools and either start on dinner or collapse in a heap – depending on the day’s workload!
Chris entered a free ballot to win tickets to attend the event at Maida Vale as he knew that I would love the bands who were playing live. I’ve told you before of my love of Britpop but let me just affirm this for you again – I was 12 years old when Oasis released Definitely Maybe and it ushered in for me a period in which all of the very best bands were British and there seemed to be new music coming out every week. I would tape songs off the radio and blow all of my pocket money on albums from which I had only heard the lead track. I was obsessed. My shoulder ached long into each night from the weight of a school bag stuffed with cassettes, spare AA batteries, and music magazines. This obsession continued until the day that the wave inevitably crashed under the weight of its own inflated ego… the day that Noel Gallagher hung out with Tony Blair.
I have no problem with politics in music but politicians and musicians do not a cool music scene make. The last of the great analogue music scenes was dead. I would never consume music in the same way again; eagerly awaiting each new release, feeding my addiction with babysitting fees, rewinding cassettes with a Biro to save battery power.
One of the things that made Britpop so special to me was the abundance of female fronted bands and girls in bands. It feels like this shouldn’t even be an issue any more but, alas, it really is. In indie/rock music, you are still a girl in the band if you are a girl in a band. A band full of boys is just called a band. I had never seen so many girls like me holding guitars and playing the drums. I grew up around musicians and girls were normally allowed to be the singer but anything else was something of a rarity. Britpop made it feel normal… for a few brief shining moments.
Steve Lamacq was a big part of this as he was largely responsible for getting Elastica out into the world – releasing their album through his record company Deceptive Records. The impact of this sole album release from a band who epitomised the incestuous nature of this very small scene – frontwoman Justine and drummer Justin had been in a previous incarnation of Suede and Justine’s relationship with Damon Albarn of Blur would make her one half of Britpop’s premier tabloid power couple – was far greater than perhaps it should have been. Their perfectly crafted Punk Pop tracks could have easily been released 20 years prior or after and still sat well within teenage ears. As is so often the fate of women in the public eye, you probably just remember Justine for her clothes (I tried to copy them from New Look), her haircut (my Mum wouldn’t let me copy it), or for the boys in other bands that she went out with (I could only dream…). Justine rocked and she was everything that I wanted to be.
Last week, I was lucky enough to chat to Steve Lamacq live on air. Yes, I finally got myself scheduled as a guest on the daily Good Day / Bad Day segment in which a listener picks a track to play appropriate to whether their day has been good or if their day has gone badly. As a part of this interview, I was going to be asked about my first gig and my best gig, both of which were Britpop bands. I decided to pick two Britpop tracks; Great Things by Echobelly for my Good Day track and Vegas by Sleeper as my Bad Day Track. You can listen again to my interview by clicking here or on the picture below (skip to 1:50:00 to hear me).
Then I baked a cake for Steve Lamacq! Remember those tickets that Chris won for us in the free ballot? On Friday we went down to Maida Vale Studios in London to attend the BBC 6 Music Christmas Party hosted live on air by Steve Lamacq and featuring a live set performed by Sleeper. It couldn’t have been better. We missed out on seeing a solo acoustic set by Mark Morriss from The Bluetones by only 4 people in the queue (and you will need to listen to my Good Day / Bad Day to hear about my history with this singer!) but managed to get great places at the very front of the stage to watch Sleeper.
Of course, I took some more treats in for Louise Wener and the band! Click the photo below to read the Monday post I wrote about this wonderful woman and this fantastic band earlier this year. Sleeper were another huge influence on the kid with the sore shoulder from music magazines.
Then the most amazing thing happened; I got to interview Steve Lamacq! Me! Little me and my little microphone interviewing the journalist who has interviewed every icon, broken countless bands and new artists, who talks to me every day between 4pm and 7pm. Steve was kind enough to give me his time and his thoughts on Britpop.
Steve compared the height of Britpop to the height of Punk; there was the feeling that new music was constantly coming out – every week a new single, a new album, a new band – with a frequency that had not felt so concentrated upon such a short span of time since Punk.
“The end of ’93 was like 1976 was for Punk. There were all these records coming out almost on a weekly basis… it was incredible to be sort of in the middle of it really…. getting the job at the Evening Session for us it was a little bit of I suppose doing for Britpop what (John) Peel had done for everything else.”
The excitement from Steve Lamacq as he talks about this incredible time makes it feel as if it were happening again, right now, right in this minute. As the kid who was listening, I still feel it.
I asked Steve about Elastica and what it was about them that made him so determined to get them out into the world. The comparison that Steve drew was with Blondie – that perfect blend of New Wave Punk and Pop. He described growing up with and loving Blondie and said that, in finding Elastica, he had found “my Blondie.”
“They had that thing that I really like about a band which is they looked like a gang. I like groups where you see them walking down the street and you’re like ‘you’re a band, aren’t you?'”
Steve recalled how quickly the influence of Elastica’s strong sartorial sense started to spread. It was the week of the band’s first major single release, in the opening days of 1994, and at a pub/indie venue gig in Leeds,
“Even by that point the first two rows had started dressing like Donna and Justine and it was like every charity shop in Britain was at the mercy of people who wanted to look like Elastica.”
As one of the young girls who wanted to emulate every last fibre of Justine Frishmmann’s being, for bringing us Elastica and for his support of countless other amazing bands since, I would love to bake a cake for Steve Lamacq any time that he wants one! I’m sure it will take him a good while to get through the Chocolate & Ginger Cake that I made him last week!
If you love music – if you REALLY love music – you have to support it. Steve Lamacq not only champions new bands but puts his considerable professional weight behind supporting Independent Venue Week, an initiative to promote independent music venues across the country. I’ve made my case many times for Steve and the team to visit Bedford Esquires and see the amazing venue that I take for granted. That pub/indie venue I mentioned in Leeds? It’s not there now.
I have been listening for so many years that I sincerely hope that I have learned something from Steve Lamacq. I have certainly been inspired. Why was I interviewing this legendary journalist? It just so happens that I will be launching a podcast in 2019! Expect more on this shortly. It is safe to say that you will be able to hear my interview with Steve Lamacq in full very soon.
In the meantime, if you love music, go and see a band at your local independent music venue. Buy a record or a CD from the merch table as you can be pretty sure that this cash goes straight to the band and keeping a band going is not cheap. You get SO MUCH MUSIC FOR FREE and it is fantastic but you need to pay up just a little if you want the new music to keep coming. Are you still wondering why there hasn’t been a great British scene like Britpop since the Millennium?
And tune in to Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 6 Music every weekday from 4pm – 7pm. You never know, he may just introduce you to the next band that you fall in love with.