“By 1982 it was all over for 'Hair Tom' really,” said Nels, soaking up the heat from the Inglenook like a black towel laid out on a summer beach, “Matt, you know, Matt Score, was being a right pratt.”
Matt. Pratt. She was aware of the rhyme, she liked choosing her words like that.
Guy, the guy she met on the bus (Nels liked that, too), who had bought her a nice cloudy cider said: “but you did your best stuff after '82, I mean, 'Illustrations of Gargoyle, 1985...”
“Shh!” said Nels, striking a kestrel-on-the-alert pose, “that's 'Badly Drawn Boy', isn't it?”
“Um, I'm sorry, I don't know any of the locals...” said Guy.
“No! The album, 'The Hour of Bewilderbeast' by Badly Drawn Boy. They're playing it. Thought I heard something that sounded like it on the way in. Must be playing the whole record,” said Nels, taking a large glug of the strong cider.
“Oh, yeah. They often play whole albums in here. I heard the complete 'White Album' once. Don't know much about this pop stuff,” said Guy.
Pop stuff! Thought Nels, conjuring up the image of a spliff in her mind - this album always did. She remembered, she was holed up in a flat on Brighton seafront when it came out, back in 2000, the year the computers didn't crash. Matt had been paranoid about his state-of-the-art digital mixing desk exploding or something for months. He was a bloody nightmare!
Yeah, the flat. Brighton seafront. Salt-lashed and crumbling, part of a kind of modern 1930s place that had gone to rack and ruin [it's been renovated now]. Full of illegal immigrants and squatters. Nels and Matt were squatting with the remnants of a festival group, a mix of Hawkwind session guys and some bloke who said he'd been in the Levellers, although must have been airbrushed out of the band's history, if indeed he was ever part of it.
Dope was constantly in the air during that time. Probably no need to smoke a joint in that flat, just inhale the ambience of the place.
So, one day, Nels had skinned up a nice, mellow, early-morning-slowly-wake-up joint. A hazy sun was enveloping the horizon, turning the sea apricot colour, when the flippy floppy riff that leads into 'Once Around The Block' came on.
Nels can't remember who put it on, probably Pauley, it was his kind of thing. He was crashed out on the balcony. “I'm fascinated by your style/your beauty will last for a while/feeling instead of being/the more I live on the inside the more that I give...” Yeah. What a track. Must be a cover, who did it first. That fantastic “dooby-do-wah” chorus and the inbuilt crackles. No. (she glanced at the cover) It's an original! What a song. What a writer. 'Hair Tom' and prog-rock seemed a neolithic age away. This was vital. “Take a left a sharp left and another left...” Even a little solo on the vibes [vibraphone] as the track fades out. Retro, yet soooo fresh. And then 'This Song', trips in like when 'Abbey Road' fades out to 'Her Majesty'. Hmmm.
Nels remembers placing the stylus on the first track, sparking up her spliff and listening to the whole thing, all the way through. It played like a patchwork of the best riffs, words and melodies that someone could come up with, jammed on a totally-full two sides of vinyl. There were even glam rock and sitar riffs on there - in the same song (check 'Bewilderbeast', opening track, side two). Respect. 'Hair Tom' could hardly fit one song on an entire album towards the end.
It's funny how music, like smells, can take you to a particular place in time. Not just anywhere, a certain somewhere. That record. That flat. That day. That spliff. It turned out that someone had switched Nels's gear. She was monged out for the rest of the day after her wake up smoke. Missed rehearsals. Matt spoke about commitment, professionalism, got pissed in the Zap Club and got off with an 18 year-old student. Just to get back at Nels.
Back in the pub and Nels eyes resembled a stained glass window to Guy: glazed over, animated by the pictures created in the dancing flames of the open fire.
She shook her head and swigged some cider, coming round. “Where was I?” she said, as Badly Drawn Boy warbled about “causing a rockslide”, through the pub speakers.
“I don't know,” said Guy, “somewhere else. I think.”
“Yeah,” said Nels, “that's where I am. Can I have some Pork Scratchings?”