A love foretold is a story based loosely around my life in Birmingham in 1992/93. It’s not an autobiography, so much as a fiction woven out of the actual facts of my life back then. Nearly all of the key events and characters are real and true- they’ve just been renamed and changed a bit.
The music of the time is a big feature of the novel: song titles form chapter headings and the characters, especially Sean and Cat, spend a lot of time going to gigs. A soundtrack list seemed like a good idea to give those of you unfamiliar with the grunge, Britpop and dance music of the time a flavour of what we were listening to- and what lyrics we were singing to each other. The sings are of course intimately woven into the memories and are inseparable from the texture of the recollection.
Here are the tracks- I hope you enjoy the selection:
- Primal Scream, ‘Moving on up‘- I bought this album very soon after my return to Birmingham in February 1992, following the breakdown of my previous relationship. You may (rightly) c0nclude that there’s some sort of subtext in the lyrics!
- Ride, ‘Leave them all behind‘- I’d got out of touch with the music scene in the previous few years and was only just starting to get reconnected. This was in the charts in Feb/ March ’92 and I was instantly taken by the dense, hypnotic swirl of noise (and melody). They called it shoe-gazing- it’s certainly pretty psychedelic and heady.
- Lush, ‘For love‘- I was single again, I needed excitement and I needed it badly. I’d heard this song on the Radio One chart show, stuck in a traffic jam on the M5 on a Sunday night in January. Soon after my return to Brum, Lush played the Institute in Digbeth. I went on my own. The band were hugely loud; it was an immersive experience of noise, lights and dry-ice. I felt old, but young again.
- Polly Harvey, ‘Sheila na gig‘- Another Institute gig I went to alone, because I was forlorn and had no mates (who wanted to go out on a Monday night to watch some lass they’d never heard of on her first tour). Well, they’ve heard of her now and this is still a formidable song.
- EMF, ‘Unbelievable‘- A fantastically catchy song from the Forest of Dean’s premier rave rock band (in fact the only rock band ever from Cinderford?). I saw them at the Hummingbird Suite, taking German lass Anke along with me. I’m really not sure what she made of it- and I don’t believe that ‘Dani’ approved of us going- but I enjoyed myself in the hedonistic mosh.
- Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, ‘The only living boy in New Cross‘- Carter were brilliant- political, dancey, funny. I also saw them at the Hummingbird Suite in Dale End in the city centre. It was the first night when I really perceived that romance was in the air with ‘Dani.’
- Cud, ‘Rich and strange‘- I saw them at the Wulfrun, Wolverhampton (and in the story Cat and Sean go to the same gig). They were not a band in the top flight, but this and ‘Purple Love Balloon’ still transport me back to the happiness of those times.
- The Wonderstuff, ‘A wish away‘- Partly, they must be included as representatives of that forgotten movement, ‘The Stourbridge sound’ along with Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and greebo exponents Pop Will Eat Itself. The Birmingham What’s On magazine raved about them when I first arrived in the city in 1986. I actually saw The Wonderstuff and PWEI and the Irish Centre in the late 1980s, so in temporal terms, this track is misplaced. The absolutely classic ‘Never loved Elvis’ had been released in June 1991 and tracks were still coming out as singles in early ’92 (I heard ‘Size of a cow’ in that same M5 traffic jam, somewhere near Stoke) and ‘Unbearable’ was rereleased in September 1994, reigniting my dormant love affair with the band, but the sentiments of this particular track were perfect for the situation between Sean and Cat in the book.
- Blur, ‘For tomorrow‘- I had loved their first album ‘Leisure’, but it was when when this was released in May 1993 that I suddenly appreciated that Blur were no ordinary band and that what they were trying to achieve represented a significant break with what had gone before. It was a rejection of grunge, it was an assertion of something very English, it was nostalgic but contemporary and relevant. To quote Wordsworth, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!”
- Manic Street Preachers, ‘Motorcycle emptiness‘ – This was released June 1st 1992- after my radio black out of three or four years I didn’t realise that this was such an early single from such a young band. It’s still epic and stunning and musically very impressive.
- Bjork, ‘Venus as a boy‘- I’d pretty much missed rave and the Sugarcubes and loads else, but when I heard this song it instantly grabbed me, persuading me that dance music could be intelligent and challenging and complex and gorgeous (those Indian strings!). It competes though with the lovely video for Big time sensuality and the intense drama of Play Dead (featuring Keef Allen, innit?). So hard to choose…. why not cheat and choose them all?
- Delicious Monster, ‘Snuggle‘- A sadly neglected band of the 1990s from Brum. They produced 5 EPs and, in 1993, an album, titled Joie de Vivre, which was full of charming and haunting songs. They split in 1995. This track is quoted in chapter 5 of the book, demonstrating that the songs are still in my mind twenty years on…