Pop music. In its many guises, its genres and tendrils of cross-pollination, I’m on record as hailing 19xx as its most essential year. By which I mean my most essential year. Not necessarily the most important but the most dramatic, most evocative, the year the little red rooster was sacrificed on the turntable and we all danced about with its blood smeared like a proclamation across our foreheads (and yes – I’m aware that isn’t an analogy that works; should you think of something better, don’t hesitate to shout).
For all, there’s a moment of first becoming conscious of pop. A singularity of sorts, aged four or five or maybe six, like a mysterious stranger knocking at the door with a gift-wrapped package just for you. An urge to open surreptitiously, for fear the grown-ups could never understand nor approve, the excitement otherworldly, the tension a novel experience for one so young… and then it’s there, alive in your palm, that lifetime pass to the realm of pop. Pop not as wallpaper, or frippery, but as possibility, as portal. The argument that it’s this first pearl of a musical consciousness that signifies the most vital period in a listener’s experience – it’s a strong one. Persuasive.
There’s also a secondary marker – a teenage point of connection – when the rush of serendipity has you encountering a record so exotic, so without precedent, that the rules of self-definition are instantly rewritten. From this stage on you’ll cease being such a sponge, and have your allegiance declared for band or genre or era, not necessarily forsaking all others – musical monogamy will never be a virtue – yet branded by a certain sound that will always represent that preliminary hit, the mark of conquest – and it’s this awakening (or so the theory runs) that’s the most vital moment in musical history.
Of course both of these contexts ring valid; the greasy, cherub-faced oik, spellbound by the crackle of ‘Wuthering Heights’ on the transistor radio. The even greasier (and in no way angelic) upstart chancing upon a copy of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, then having his world rearranged. These are different sides of the same slab of vinyl to an extent. And yet…
I don’t know; perhaps vitality functions on multiple levels. The above hypotheses are so convincing yet I’m still going to hang on to 19xx as something beyond all that (and bear in mind I’m sat here, riffing upon vague musical ideas with a glass of red wine in my paw, patiently waiting for the new Morrissey LP (that I’m yet to hear) to knock on the door; I am not necessarily to be trusted). 19xx is such an arbitrary year. Four distant digits strung across the past like soiled bunting. I’m not even going to identify the period in question because this is less about that year x > year y debate – we’ll save that for the pub – than an emphasis upon the sleek lines and lush textures that comprise perfectly-crafted pop (or rock, indie, nu-folk, deep ska, post-punk, Philadelphia soul, Northern soul, skiffle – the terminology is far less important than the devotion). The Kate Bush / Cure moments – you’ll have your own soundtrack, but you get the point – are seismic on every level; that a random year and its release schedule can creep in unannounced and – in an era when I was all grown up (if nowhere near as clever as I thought I was) – ratchet up the metaphorical volume even higher demonstrates not so much pop’s durability as its continuing capacity to amaze. Should you turn your back on it, you’re lost to the world.
Below the words: something from the year in question. Velocette were three fifths of indie disco darlings Comet Gain before spats and strife got the better of all concerned; the latter’s David Feck rehired, Kevin Rowland fashion, and Comet Gain still make records to this day (new album out just a few days ago). Velocette alas made but the solitary LP – the rather fine Fourfold Remedy – before fading away to footnote status. Some things aren’t built to last; pop, on the other hand…
Velocette / Get Yourself Together