I listened to Pacific Street today. So What? you may ask. Well, if I tell you that it is probably my favourite album of all-time, but I haven’t really listened to it for years then you may start to understand why it was a strange experience. There are a lot of albums that I personally have labelled ‘classic’ without listening to them for years. Upon revisiting them, it has not always been a pleasant experience. I recall some years ago saying how great Edwyn Collins was and that his solo material compares with Orange Juice. I said his album ‘Gorgeous George’ was on a par with ‘You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever’. I listened to ‘Gorgeous George’ a few weeks back. It sounded awful. I listened to ‘You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever’ yesterday. It sounded majestic.
So, what of ‘Pacific Street’ ? Why did I play it suddenly ? It was going on Yorkie’s website that did it. Him talking about Egypt For Now and how he introduced Mick to ‘Love’ and saying Chris was a lovely fella and that Jock Whelan was a member of Dance Party. Just got me thinking of ‘Pacific Street’ again. So I played it.
Now a few things have to be noted here. I have always touted the Paleys as the band of my youth. I believe it was Michael Head who got me listening to bossanova and Bacharach and Love and Simon & Garfunkel. I likened the Paleys to the nucleus of my musical world. They were the centre, the core that everything revolved around. Jobim, Bacharach, Roddy Frame, Edwyn Collins and Roger McGuinn were the electrons that rotated freely around this nucleus. Excuse the chemical analogy, but for me it fits perfectly. The electrons kept coming as my listening habits ebbed and flowed but the nucleus remained constant and there was always a thread that linked everything to The Pale Fountains, the positive attractive core of my musical universe.
Anyway, enough of the quantum chemistry and back to the music. How could the Pale Fountains be linked to Astrud Gilberto, Nick Drake, Brian Wilson, Pearlfishers, Carpenters and Bobbie Gentry ? How could a bunch of young Liverpool lads be at the centre of such an esteemed lineage that practically comes from another time, another place ? To be honest I don’t really know. But for me the fact is that music begins in 1982. The timeline then moves not only forward but also backwards. The Beatles followed The Pale Fountains in the same way that St Etienne did, only in opposite directions of time. But then I think maybe I’ve rewritten history with such statements. Music really began in 1984. Sure, I’d heard The Paleys in 1982 and loved ‘Thank You’ with a passion, but I didn’t go out and buy ‘Forever Changes’ or ‘Reach Out’ on the back of ‘Thank You’ alone. No, it was the release of ‘Pacific Street’ that really rocked my (musical) world. And I know exactly why that was. It was the sheer breadth of music contained within a single album. In A Nutshell (to quote the esteemed OJ) it was Pure Pop with a Latin, Jazz, Easy, Rock twist. Flutes, strings, horns and guitars combining to open my mind to a wealth of musical possibilities that up to that point had been restricted to bass,drum, guitar (and possibly synth). That was 1984.
So what did I hear today ? Well, for starters I hear an awkward vocal delivery “Johnny Red-Eyed, met his mark……………’Cos I’ve got bonds that I’ve saved up for a while………”, but then suddenly, on cue, music is created, the big-bang, the beginning, the ‘CREATION’, from nothing to something in the matter of seconds. On the first day God created ‘Reach’ ! It is Euphoric, it is uplifting, it is STILL like nothing on earth. “In the morning when you rise – be sure to know your destiny ‘ cos its ALL worth while”. It sounded as pure and as brilliant as the first time I listened to it all those years ago. And I almost felt vindicated. This album truly is worthy of any of the hyperbole that I can throw on it. And then I listen to the rest of the album and its true meaning hits home. I now understand that ‘Pacific Street’ created a world that I was not yet fully aware of. At 14, your life does not extend beyond your childhood/schoolday experiences. Your world is a very small one, containing a small amount of people and a small amount of places. Beyond reality, your only perception of the big-wide world is found on tv, in books or in music. And in 1984, The Pale Fountains created an imaginary world beyond my ‘real’ small world. I remember watching films like ‘Georgie Girl’, ‘Whistle Down The Wind’ and ‘Up The Junction’ as a kid. Films that portrayed a bygone time that in reality probably never truly existed. But Pacific Street sort of acted like a soundrack to a similar world. The jazzy trumpet of Andy Diagram hinted at some of the sombre soundtrack music that accompanied these films. It evoked black and white images of fields covered in mist and cobbled terraced streets with a pretty young girl walking home at the crack of dawn after a night out. There was nothing contemporary or ‘New Romantic’ about this music. It was organic, it was down-to-earth. It was out of my world. So when I listened to ‘Southbound Excursion’, I now realise I didn’t think of a young scally riding the InterCity express from Lime Street in his Sergio Tachinni trackie. I believed it was a young ruffian, with holes in his boots and a leather jacket that never left his back, riding a steam train from some outpost in Cumbria to the bright lights of London where all the girls looked like Julie Christie. The inspector man looked suspisciously like John Mills with a moustache – and fortunately he did pass the carriage containing our Northern hero.
This was what I felt. This was what I actually SAW ! “There was a lonely boy, or should I say, he was 17, or should I say…….”. A lad rooted in a time so seperate from my here and now that it actually belongs nowhere but in MY mind. A preacher man dressed in a long black robe, an imposing figure, a man respected, but feared, a land of make beleive.
And that my friends is it. Fridays Field is a place that exists in my head, all misty and quiet, but filled with an air that just cuts through your lungs. An air that makes you feel alive. Crazier is a beach in the carribean, free of tourists but for the solitary French beauty with the Claudine Longet haircut that walks along the shoreline letting the waves lap against her feet. And Abergele is a town in North Wales that just oozes charm. It attracts the most beautiful girls who ride around on their bicycles and blush at the site of a suitable male suitor. You can laugh. But I can only be honest. This was what was in my head. Of course it is not true. But I listen to it now and I still see the same images. It IS my nucleus.
(c) Geoff King. January 2005