It's Not A Whistle, It's A Signal
Chucking out a heap of rubbish and cultural detritus recently, I was forced to sit and choose which vinyl records I needed to throw away or keep. I don't have a record player. But I decided to keep hold of Tigertown Pictures by Comet Gain. I've only ever heard it once but I feel like i need this record. This is an attempt at explaining why, and you can probably compare my experience with something close from your own history of aural obsession(s) too.
First, always judge a record by its cover. Especially a vinyl LP. A quote on the inner sleeve on this one reminds us that "The size of an image has dramatic purpose." Tigertown's has a colourful purple/red/ornage border with a big b+w picture of a young man lying on the carpet, as if reading intently, his tv switched off and a motherly figure peering, somehow mysteriously, at him from behind the doorframe. All the best records have covers which either are comprised of a painting, or a still from an old b+w film (or a photo which looks like it COULD be).
Inside and out, the listener/reader/viewer/fan gets an embarassment of information. A back-sleeve essay by one 'Charlie Damage' on the meaning (?) of the album - " I had to learn and love from the movies and to a lesser extent Motown 45s." There is a photo of a terrorist wearing a tiger mask. The four band members captured in glorious passport-booth grainy colour. The song titles - 'Record Collections', 'Radar', 'Jasper Johns'. Another essay (cobbled together lyric exerpts). Pics of the band and their friends, hanging out in poster-covered bedrooms, watching subtitled films, holding up a copy of a Shop Assistants album. A free 7inch single. What does all of this mean? It's an extension of the universe we created when we first got into pop and culture. Surrounding ourselves with not just friends (the lucky ones!) but films, tv, records, radios, fanzines, letters, badges, the precise way in which tippex peels off a graffitied army parka, the fading ink smudging off paper and onto our fingers, the smell of booze as you enter a tiny club, the clatter of isntruments; all there to protect you as you learn about the (your) world.
And i've only heard it once. I remember the excitement of feeling like even I could have made this album almost. The feeling that this was bashed out in a garage, cheap instruments ringing around the walls, 60s soul-pop drums, jangly guitars, amateurish girl vocals, amateurish boy vocals, punchy bass (duh duh dum).
The reason any of this actually matters is obvious but pertinent. I need this. I need to remember what having ideals meant, what it was like to not rely on mainstream media. And I need to know that this isn't an ideal from the distant past, that I/you/they are capable of such things, that our hearts and our heads still mean something, can still MAKE something, something beautiful, something alive, something like this.
I need to get a record player.
"I felt like a different person, In a film I was in... I watched that film many times.. It's the detail I need to focus on."
© Dee Dee McGowan 2002