I was on my way to work this morning. I couldn’t choose what to listen to so I put my iPod on shuffle and let it choose for me. Second song in and a song by Ocean Colour Scene came on. It instantly brought so many nostalgic memories flooding back that it almost moved me to tears. Not because the song was emotional in any way, but because the associations were.
I suddenly remembered what it was like to truly love music, and a particular band so much that you would go and see their gigs, buy their albums, wear their merchandise and just immerse yourself in their album art and liner notes. You would see what musicians played on what tracks, decipher the lyrics, and, once the internet appeared in my life around 1997, visit their website. Ocean Colour Scene, back in the mid to late nineties were my band. The one I loved more than any other. Sure, they didn’t reach the same critical heights as contemporary’s such as Blur or Oasis, but to my mind (and ears) they were infinitely better. They influenced everything for me. The music I liked, the clothes I wore, my wanting to learn to play guitar.
The love affair started when I heard their single “The Day We Caught The Train” on my alarm clock radio in bed one night, in the dark. I had never been a fan of music much before that. It was football, football, football for me. But, I happened to hear the song and, not wanting to sound hyperbolic, I guess it changed my life. I’ve loved music ever since. It sounds strange to say that “The Day We Caught The Train” changed my life, for it is hardly earth shatteringly ‘different’ like The Beatles or David Bowie or the Sex Pistols. But still, I went out soon after and bought the album hence it came, Moseley Shoals. My first album purchase, aged sixteen.
Skip back to today and as soon as I heard that OCS song on my iPod I knew I had to listen to Moseley Shoals again. I haven’t listened to OCS in many years, having moved on to musical pastures new. As soon as I listened to the first three songs “The Riverboat Song”, “The Day We Caught The Train” and “The Circle” I was holding back tears. Seriously! Suddenly I was transported back to being sixteen, with no worries at all. No cynicism, no bills to pay, no car to run, not saturated by musical and cultural influences like you are by the time you reach your thirties. I had finished school the June of 1996 and wouldn’t be going to college until September. I had over two months off to just enjoy myself. The summer was one of the best on record, England were hosting the football European Championships and Skinner and Baddiel released the Three Lions song. I basically played football every day until it got dark, hanging out with my friends, sound tracked by my new band, OCS. It is still probably the best summer I’ve ever had. Who cares that I only passed four of my GCSE exams. England had reached the semi-finals of Euro 96 (eventually losing to Germany on penalties AGAIN) and the sun was still shining.
By the time I headed off to college Ocean Colour Scene had released a new album, “Marchin’ Already” and it’s terrific lead single, “Hundred Mile High City”. I was in heaven again, especially once I had turned 18 and could legally drink in pubs. I was all grown up and OCS were leading me to Carnaby Street, to the V Festival and to all sorts of other promised lands. I swiftly bought albums by their pal Paul Weller, which in turn led me to Bob Dylan and The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. See how quickly this stuff suddenly escalates? Before I knew it I had gone from one album to hundreds, all the classics included.
Once college finished I was a totally different person to that of my fifteen year old self, and it was largely because of music. My first job coincided with two further albums “One From The Modern” and “Mechanical Wonder”. I’d seen the band perform live a few times, had bought every single I could find, as well as their “B-Sides, Seasides and Free-rides” album in between. I had hats and t-shirts and badges as well. In hindsight, it was clear their star was fading around this time, despite having the first number one single of the 2000’s in Britain with “Up on the Downside”. I didn’t care though, they were still the best band in town in my eyes.
I went travelling for a couple of months around Europe in the summer of 2001, eagerly looking forward to getting home to hear the band’s latest album “North Atlantic Drift”. Except, it didn’t ‘hit’ me like all the others had. I liked it, sure, but didn’t get into it heavily. Maybe I had changed as a person once more in Europe? Maybe, like all good things, my love affair with Ocean Colour Scene had just run it’s course. I mean, who can really hold a candle to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Clash etc?
The band are still a going concern, but have had line up changes since those glory days, and despite popping in for a listen every so often, their new stuff hasn’t caught my attention like the old stuff. It’s not them, it’s me. My musical tastes have changed in the last ten years.
Even if I don’t listen to the band any longer, at least not intentionally, I’ll be forever grateful to them for changing my outlook on life. For introducing me to some amazing music and for opening my eyes to the world. I went from a kid who’s sole interest was football, to someone who loved music, fashion, movies, socialising, travelling and a whole host of other things, and I can trace that back, in part, to when I heard Ocean Colour Scene sing “The Day We Caught The Train” on my alarm clock radio, eighteen years ago.
So thank you Simon, Steve, Damon and Oscar. You guys will always have a special place in my heart!