The Shoebox of Delights – #6
Scarfo – Alkaline and Cosmonaut #7


It was at a Scarfo gig that Our Price Girl dumped me for good. There was no going back this time.

Actually, technically it was at a Snuff gig that Our Price Girl dumped for me good, but Scarfo were supporting and it was during their (brilliant) thirty minutes set that it happened. To be honest it had been coming – since our week away on the Norfolk Broads (which had been to celebrate our A Level results – her 3 A’s (Sociology, English and weirdly RE) – me erm, Not 3 A’s) things had been going downhill. We’d been arguing, largely over the fact that we were heading off to University in two different parts of the country and it probably would have happened soon enough anyway.

We’d also as usual argued about music, she had recently started listening to a lot of grunge and American rock, well it was 1994 and since Nirvana exploded a lot of people were listening to bands like Soundgarden, Tool and the Jesus Lizard. Our Price Girl was listening to all this and Soul Asylum. Yep, ‘Runaway Train, never comin’ back’ wanky bland tosspots Soul Asylum.

We’d also argued about a guy who I called Mr Goatie. So called because he fucked goats – or had a stupid goatie beard – I forget which. Mr Goatie worked in the same branch of Our Price as OPG – I think he was the boss and he was really irritating he insisted on calling everyone ‘Dude’. Mr Goatie liked Soul Asylum, in fact Mr Goatie liked Soundgarden, Tool and all those other bands that OPG had started to like. All of a sudden. I decided that Mr Goatie probably liked Our Price Girl.

One Wednesday afternoon Our Price Girl said that there was a really good punk band playing in Reading and that we should go to the gig – besides it was three weeks before the Reading Festival and it would be good practice to see how long it takes to get there in my second hand Nissan Cherry. Being the sort of guy who was always up for a bit of live music, I agreed. Oh, the Reading Festival – a gang of us were going to this festival, me, OPG, a few of my mates, a few of hers and Mr Goatie, he was coming too, of course he was. Soundgarden were playing and he ‘was like their biggest fan, dude’.

We were about half way when Our Price Girl decided to put a tape on, now I didn’t mind her tapes, because usually they consisted of stuff she had ‘borrowed’ from the Our Price Stock Room and stuck on a tape – nearly always they were excellent and featured the up and coming acts of the time. This one however featured Soundgarden, Tool, the Red hot Chilli Peppers and Soul Asylum (and Therapy?). I sighed inwardly as ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ belted out but carried out driving but it didn’t put me in a particularly good mood. I decided I needed a toilet break when Soul Asylum came on. Although that didn’t stop her going on about what a ‘wonderful lyricist’ whoever wrote the lyrics was.

Did you make this tape? I asked as we rolled into Reading City Centre. Silence. I asked her again, on the off chance that she didn’t hear me over the caterwauling that was coming on the speaker – I was driving a second hand Nissan Cherry, possibly the worlds most boring car (well perhaps the Allegro comes before that) with (I think) Blind Melon coming out of the speakers fairly loudly, I must have looked so uncool.

“Stuart, made it for me” she said. Stuart was Mr Goatie. This was about the 900th time she had mentioned him to me that day. “Stuart’s trying to get me a move to the new Maidstone branch”, “Stuart’s put me in charge of vinyl orders this week”, “Stuart took me roughly from behind in the store room for about three brilliantly breathless hours yesterday” that sort of thing. Not that I was jealous or remotely paranoid you understand.

We got into the gig, it wasn’t very busy. There were two other bands on the bill – a local band who I think were called ‘Who Moved the Ground?’ (they were straight out of the crusty scene that was growing at the time) and a band called Scarfo. I’d only really heard of Snuff though – thanks largely to a friend called Justin.

“Stuart told me about Scarfo the other day” she starts, “he doesn’t like them, he says that they sound too manufactured”. Unlike Soul Asylum obviously who sound like they are recording their songs in a garage.

I decide there and then that Scarfo are probably the future of rock and roll and no matter how awful they are I will love them and talk about them ALL THE WAY HOME. IN A REALLY ANNOYING VOICE. It transpires later that this was in fact Scarfo’s fourth ever gig and they hadn’t released any records yet so it is highly likely that Stuart was talking bollocks. Anyway, we went to the bar and immediately ordered some drinks – I was obviously on the soft drinks, Our Price Girl had a Bacardi and coke.

Roughly six minutes later we are met by a familiar face. Yep, Mr Goatie himself. I honestly dropped my half pint of orange juice when I saw him. It slowly made sense, he had told Our Price Girl that he was going to this gig and she therefore had wanted to go.

They say hello – it’s well too informal – if I’d greeted a female like that, I would have got a kick in the balls and no chocolate for a week. I get dragged over to sit with ‘his gang’  – a bunch of older people, far cooler than me, none of whom, are wiping orange juice off their Pop Kid T Shirt, they are all drinking bottled beer, smoking Lucky Strike Cigarettes, wearing battered Converse and massive jumpers. I don’t get introduced to anyone – I may as well have been wearing a bell around my neck – that’s how popular I was. Something was seriously wrong here.

Anyway, Scarfo come on – they are tremendous, spiky punky indie, a band in their infancy who look and sound brilliant. Mr Goatie was well wrong about them. Our Price Girl wanders up to me about half way though and says “We need to talk”. That was kind of all I needed to hear. I was pissed off for two reasons, firstly I knew what was coming and secondly, I wanted to watch the end of Scarfo.

It wasn’t pretty, two people shouting at each other in the pissing rain outside a club in Reading and as relationships go it was a fairly rubbish ending if I am honest. I won’t go into details but it was definitely over. There was no coming back from here. Not Reading, obviously you can come back from there. I went back inside ordered a vodka and lime, downed it and then got my coat.

I spent two hours in Reading Burger King waiting for the alcohol to leave my system as I was shit scared that I would get pulled over by the cops. Oh and she left the tape in the car – my biggest smile of the evening was brought about by the satisfying sensation I got when I hurled out the window somewhere near Junction 11 of the M25.

Scarfo were formed in 1994, the brainchild of Jamie Hince, they released two albums and these two singles came from the second ‘Luxury Plane Crash’ and they were excellent.

mp3 : Scarfo – Alkaline
mp3 : Scarfo – Brazil
mp3 : Scarfo – El Topo

mp3 : Scarfo – Cosmonaut #7
mp3 : Scarfo – Alcatraz

You are getting both singles because, my daughter decided to put both CDs back into the same case after using them as roundabouts for her Peppa Pig toy. Bonus. You also get the rather wonderful cover version of the Elvis Costello classic ‘I Want You’ which is up there with the Greatest Covers of All Time.

mp3 : Scarfo – I Want You

Scarfo split late in 1998 I think, as one of the band was severely injured in a car crash – Hince went on to form Fiji and then more famously he formed The Kills and hooked up with Kate Moss.

Scarfo were much better than The Kills and The Kills are excellent.