THE TAPE (#thetape)

This piece appears in issue VII of Rig Out magazine, which is in stores this week;   “Featuring the usual mixture of photography and nonsense about stuff – Palace editorial by Ewen spencer, articles by Phil Thornton, Michael Richardson and Ian Hough, Baracuta editorial by Neil Bedford, Paul Mittelman interview, stuff by Antony Crook and more. All sewn up nice and bonny by our very own Saville (Peter not Jimmy)-Esque designer, Andy Bird”.


THE TAPE (#thetape)

I was 15 when I first heard the tape (#thetape).  Up until the tape (#thetape) I was just a teenage lad driven by nothing other than football, wanking and football. I did the normal teenage lad things that normal teenage lads do but the only culture my youthfulness had experienced up to this point was that forming in my undies drawer.  I didn’t have any sense of style beyond high-street sportswear (and there was nowhere near as much of that around as there is now) and had no real interest in music, art or fashion.  That all changed with the arrival of the tape (#thetape).

It would be called a mixtape nowadays and Lauren Laverne, Stuart Maconie and that Irish one with that face have probably appeared talking about ‘their favourite mixtapes from when they were young’ on BBC3’s ‘I Love Mixtapes’ but no-one…no-one… called them mixtapes when I was 15. (I suppose it’s probable that Ice Cube was calling them mixtapes in Compton High School but in North Manchester High School it was simply the tape (#thetape)).

My mate Mark made the tape (#thetape) in spring 1987 and it’s not being remotely eggy to say it changed my life. It was the first time I became drawn to music, style and a culture that would continually influence me all the way to here and now. Obviously I’d heard music on the radio and TV and liked some of it but I was never into anything. Back in the day I was intoHey You The Rocksteady Crew’ but not enough to want to own it (though I did tuck my jeans behind the tongues of my trainers for a week).  I later owned some Electro, some U2 and the Best of The Doors on tapes but they were just background interference really. The tape (#thetape) was the first thing my ears were really drawn too, the first music that ‘spoke to me man’ and the first music that made me want to find out more about it and then everything about it and the lifestyle that went with it.

The tape (#thetape) started with Swamp Thing by The Chameleons. I’d never heard of them nor anything like the sound they made and rest of the tape (#thetape) just went from there.  It had Temptation by New Order, Tart Tart by Happy Mondays, Johnny Yen by James, Sally Cinnamon by The Stone Roses , April Skies by The Jesus & Mary Chain, something by The Mighty Lemon Drops, some Bodines, Easterhouse, Railway Children and half-a-dozen more I can’t really remember.


Sally Cinnamon was instantly my favourite. Mark had already played me the 12” of it that he’d bought (probably the day it came out) from Piccadilly Records after hearing it on Tony the Greek’s show on Piccadilly radio. A few months later I was walking out of the same shop with records by The Desert Wolves, Mirrors Over Kiev and The Waltones, bands that I hadn’t heard of two months earlier and most people had still never heard of. Part of the appeal of youth cults is a desire to be different and coming from an all-boys school in North Manchester where everyone was into Fight For You Right To Party-era Beastie Boys or Pink Floyd, being one of a select few into local bands was cool as fuck (as one of the less cool of those local bands would have it a few years later).

Within weeks of hearing the tape (#thetape) I’d swapped tracksuit bottoms, Farrah pants and trainers for a denim jacket, black jeans and suede shoes and though my hair remained a two-quid job at the barbers for now I was spending serious time giving serious thought to serious  fringes. I started buying more records and within just a few purchases realised that I was obviously going to have to start collecting records if I was going to get serious about this (and I deffo was).

A few months after first hearing the tape (#thetape) I went to my first gig. Pre the tape (#thetape) I don’t think I knew what a ‘gig’ was. It hadn’t really occurred to me that you could go and watch bands play but then I’d never wanted to before. For my first one I went to see The Stones Roses at the International club in Manchester and I thought everything about it was absolutely fucking brilliant (I missed a song as my mate had a nosebleed or was sick or something so I went to the bogs to see if he was ok but even that only added a bit of danger and exhilaration to the adventure). The support band were The Monkey Run from Rochdale and I went back to Piccadilly Records the next week and bought their EP*. Once you’re in, you’re in (*Waiting for the 409. And it was brilliant. It still is).


The clothes I wore were directly influenced by the bands I heard and saw. Over a period of about 18 months I copied (or tried to) the clobber I saw on The Bodines, The Waltones, The Stone Roses, New Order then Happy Mondays. I went from suede brogues back into suede three-stripes in about 18 months but I’d made the choices for far different reasons than I had since the first time I pulled on some Adi’s a few years earlier. Within another 18 months my style had evolved into something completely different but similar again but that’s another chapter about another culture or the continuing evolution of the same culture depending on how you view your cultures and that.

With modern technology making music as easy to access as hospital wards were to Jimmy Savile, I should really have created a Spotify playlist of the tape (#thetape) for you to enjoy as an accompaniment to this piece but really that would be an affront to the style and sensibilities of the beautiful TDK artefact in question and there’s also some conjecture as to the actual track-list.  Another original recipient of the tape (#thetape) remembers the Echo & The Bunnymen tracks on it but I have no recollection of there being any. He’s undoubtedly right but then I’m undoubtedly right about the inclusion of ‘Help’ by Yargo yet there remains some dispute over that.

The tape (#thetape) is a lost artefact of contemporary youth culture. Others must have similar artefacts and felt their effect. I know they have. I often think that archaeologists are just chancers, frauds and story-tellers. Wild speculators who create lavish theories about lifestyle based on the most mundane of found objects but I reckon if a future-generation Tony Robinson happened upon the tape (#thetape) he’d be able to build a pretty complete profile of the lifestyle of a certain type of late 20th / early 21st century North-West English man.

Those mid-to-late teenage years are the years that shaped me as the person I was/would become/am (aren’t they for us all?) and a lot of it started with that tape (#thetape).  It influenced my musical taste, politics, style, literature, taste in the arts, socio-cultural identity and most crucially, taste in jackets and shoes. It was also the first thing that really opened my ears and kick-started what has remained my fucking cool taste in music. Cheers Mark.


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