A GUEST SERIES
5 – Sidewalking – Jesus and Mary Chain (1988, Blanco Y Negro Records)
Released as a single in March 1988 (Reached Number 30)
Unlike the Reid Brothers, I can explain exactly what I am doing standing in the rain. I’m looking for the late-night chemists. The problem is I can’t find it and if and when I do, I think that as it is now well past eleven o’clock it will probably be shut.
I’ll rewind a bit. Its 1992 and OPG and I have just gone to see the Jesus and Mary Chain at Brixton Academy. If my memory is correct, this makes it December and not only is it cold, its damp as well – hence why I remember it raining. OPG thinks that it would be a great idea if we spent the weekend at her brothers. He is a student at Queen Mary’s and has a house over in Mile End, we are going there after the gig.
OPG’s brother is a cool guy, I have no idea what he is studying, something science-y I think, but he has a vast record collection, lots of brilliant guitar pedals, and a computer with Doom on it. So I’m happy.
We watch the Mary Chain who are they usual combative brilliance selves. They were a band that OPG and I had sort of fallen in love to, they soundtracked our lives together I suppose, it sounds daft, but I can’t think of a better way of putting it. It was a show that we had been looking forward to for a long time.
They play a two hour set, during “Happy When It Rains” OPG grips my hand tightly and I stand there grinning, not wanting this gig or this moment to ever end. In the last few months our relationship had developed or if I was writing novels, I would say it had blossomed and life was at that point with her was brilliant. I was 17 I had a beautiful girlfriend, a great bunch of friends, and no real problems in life. I was lucky.
We spent the next day bumming around London, we went shopping – I distinctly remember buying a Frank and Walters TShirt from a shop on Carnaby Street and eating something in a café in an old church near OPGs brothers house. Around 6pm OPG’s brother tell us that he and housemates are all going to the Students Union for some drinks and we decide to join them. It is dark when we leave his house. We walk there, as being students, they have no money, besides it’s a twenty minute walk tops. He takes us down a couple of side roads, down a right dodgy alley and on to the main road where the Union is.
We have a fun time and at around 10pm OPG whispers something in my ear. She whispers a question to me and the only answer to that question, no matter how much fun you are having, is to get your coat, grab her hand and leave, because what she whispered is way more fun that anything else that you might do that evening.
Which is what we do. We tell OPG’s brother that we will see him in the morning. We jump in a taxi and head home and this is where things get complicated. We get comfortable, and things are going really smoothly, we are, shall we say in a state of undress. Which is when I reach for the small bag and the even smaller packet inside that bag, to find it empty.
I swear. OPG looks at me, and I’m stood there, and she tells me that the taxi passed a chemists that was open, but that was like 20 minutes ago or something. If you run she says….
I leg it. I leg it down the side roads, down the dodgy alleyway, I literally leap over a sleeping homeless person and onto the High Street. I jog up and down the bloody road looking for this chemist but it is not there. I ask a random student if he knows where the chemist is, he points across the road at Boots. Which is shut. Obviously its shut. OPG did not mean Boots. The man is clearly crazy.
I check the watch. Its been fifteen minutes since I left OPG in the house, I picture her under the duvet, waiting, an image which makes me run down the road a bit faster. Still no late-night chemists magically appear.
It started to rain about ten minutes ago, I ran out the door without a coat, my lust addled brain telling me that I can run quicker without it – and socks, I have Converse boots on with no socks. I am soaked and as a mood killer, this really works. I kick a handily placed rubbish bin, regretting it instantly because it hurts my foot, and I’m standing there cursing my luck.
Today More Than Any Other Day – Ought (2014, Constellation Records, Did not Chart)
It’s then I see the Marquis of Grandby Public House, my little ray of light, they will have a machine in the gents for sure. I check my wallet I smile and I pull out a couple of pound coins and with a swagger I push open the door, like a gun swinger in the Old West…
…and like the Old West I walk straight into a bar fight, well I say fight, the precise moment both my feet were inside the bar, I see a man get thrown across a pool table and two men run across the bar towards him. A man sitting about ten feet away from me looks at me and shakes his head. I do the quickest about-turn that I have ever done and walk out.
I’m somewhere on Mile End High Street, freezing my gonads off, and by now I’m miserable, so I decide to give up and tell OPG that I failed. I convince myself that she will, when I tell her, dump me on the spot, and that would be that. I walk back and just before I reach the dodgy alley I see a shop that is open. Its literally two shops away from the alley I would have run past this place, three maybe four times.
It’s not a chemist but it is a general store. I walk in. They have some. I’m not embarrassed to say this but I punch the air in delight. Two minutes later the purchase has been made and I’m off again, renewed vigour flowing through my veins. I jog happily back down the alley I jump over the still sleeping homeless guy, lazily dropping a quid or two in the hat next to him. I skip merrily down the side roads and back to the house. There I find OPG, her brother, his girlfriend and three other students sitting in the lounge, rolling joints, listening to My Bloody Valentine and eating toast.
OPG looks at me and smiles and then picks up another piece of a toast, a glint sparkling in her eyes.
Soon (Andy Weatherall Mix) – My Bloody Valentine (1990, Creation Records, Did Not Chart)