From February 2009.
In which your humble scribe tries to show that there’s more to him than jangly-guitars, indie-pop and great haircuts from days of old.
Back in the late 1990s, I was in a job that involved the occasional bit of overseas travel. To those of you who don’t ever have to do that for a living it might sound like a great way of life, but believe me, aside from the excitement of arriving somewhere for the first time and enjoying, if you’re lucky, a bit of sightseeing, the joys of being far away from home for a few days isn’t any fun.
It was in 1997 that I went on what proved to be my furthest ever jaunt, to Kuala Lumper in Malaysia to accompany my boss who was giving the keynote speech to a conference of civic leaders – I was there partly as the bag-carrier and organiser, but I was also around to make any last-minute changes to the speech and presentation. I have three abiding memories of the trip.
Firstly, it was very very hot and humid with the most amazing bursts of thunder and lightning I ever imagine I will see.
Secondly, as someone who is not a fan of any sort of exotic food, my participation in a 16-course banquet held in honour of the boss was torture of the worst kind – I was pretty ill for 48 hours afterwards but still had to be seen in and around the conference venue and elsewhere at all times. I made sure I knew where the nearest toilet was.
Thirdly, I heard Moaner by Underworld for the first ever time.
I was having real problems sleeping during the trip, and in the middle of one night I found myself tuned into MTV Asia. It was a station dominated by all sorts of American rock’n’roll stadium acts, particularly Guns’n’Roses who seemed to be on every other song. Then out of the blue came a video that seemed to be a soundtrack to the latest Batman movie – a throbbing, thumping, grinding, intense and manic bit of music that got louder and louder and hugely intense….and just when it seemed to be hitting some sort of ecstatic peak it disappeared without warning, leaving no trace at all of its presence. I was hooked and promised myself that if I ever got back in one piece, I’d immediately track down the song so I’d have one happy abiding memory from it.
This proved to be far more difficult than I imagined as the only way to get hold of it was to buy a single on expensive import or shell out for the soundtrack LP to Batman & Robin. In the end I did the latter. And while it is a soundtrack that I have never played in its entirety (too many things on it that were a total turn-off), the Underworld track became a huge favourite.
Coming in at more than 10 minutes in length, it was of course much longer than the version that I had heard back in Malaysia, but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. However, if the truth be told, for a long while I could really only listen to the opening six and a bit minutes up to the part that I so remembered from that first time….the ecstatic point where the vocal screams ‘down to the waterfront.’ I used to put the track on every C90 compilation of that era but I always hit the stop button right at that moment….but as time has marched on and the full song has found its way on to the i-pod I’ve learned to love every single note.
And despite the title of this posting, I can also say that I’ve never had the opportunity to properly dance to the track (i.e, in a club). Yes, i’ve jumped around an empty flat with nobody watching, and I’ve also lain on a beach throwing my arms above my head while singing along, much to the distress of other holidaymakers who are concerned why a lunatic has been allowed onto an otherwise tranquil Caribbean island.
And given I’m now nearer 50 than 40, I guess I never will get that dance. One of life’s few regrets y’know….
mp3 : Underworld – Moaner (album version)
Looking up info on the song it turnd out that it was released as a single in Germany and the USA with four different versions – ‘short’, ‘album’, ‘relentless legs’ and ‘long’ – with the version on the soundtrack being ‘album.’ Just over a year later later, it was included on the LP Beaucoup Fish as the closing track – the version being ‘long’ (confusingly, the ‘long’ version is in fact shorter than either the ‘album’ or ‘relentless legs versions.’).
This post is dedicated to my dear friends Ctelblog from Acid Ted and Drew from Across The Kitchen Table. If only I had got to know them a few years ago….they would have known where to take me to make my Underworld ambition come true.