Monday, 3 January 2011

Music That Made Me #1 - Monochrome - The Sundays

Every Monday this year Breaking More Waves will be publishing a new feature entitled The Music That Made Me. 42 songs – 1 each week till November. These pieces are a reaction against the modern world’s dispiriting movement to a more throwaway culture, great songs being quickly forgotten. These blogs are a personal, autobiographical and nostalgic view of music, showing the influences that make up Breaking More Waves and songs that are lovingly remembered.

I was born at the end of the sixties – 30th April 1969 to be precise. Eighty-two days later man walked on the moon for the very first time. On that summer day in the early hours of the morning, my mother, like millions of others in the country, sat in the darkness, her face lit only by the unsteady flickers of her black and white television as it beamed pictures from outer space. It was a moment when the whole world felt hope, yet in many ways this one great step for mankind signalled the end of an era of innocence.

My mother tells me that I was awake at that historic moment – warmly oblivious of the historic significance as I fed a little, far too young for memories.

It’s sad, but I can barely remember the tiny Isle of Wight bungalow where we lived for my first four years. I can recall the cracked white porcelain enamelled steel bath where frogs lived in the narrow garden outside and the swaying hidden tyre swing suspended from a gnarled branch where my dad pushed me back and forwards; it was located in a copse hidden from the view of the house, but that’s about all.

When I travelled back to capture memories in my early 30’s, the place had been demolished – four square characterless one bedroomed flats with UPVC window frames and false factory made chimneys scowled at me instead.

Years later my mother’s stories of the Apollo 11 were dug up like long lost artefacts when I heard this song. It came from a band that I had been smitten with for some time – The Sundays. Their debut single Can’t Be Sure – a softly chiming and jangling piece of ethereal beauty had captured my imagination (here), particularly the soft pattering drum pattern and Harriet Wheeler’s uniquely childlike vocal. When she sang “England my country the home of the free, such miserable weather,” it seemed so perfect, capturing the essence of where I lived at the time and how I felt about life. It came from the bands debut album Reading, Writing and Arithmetic which was a critical and relatively commercial success. However, it was Monochrome, the final track on their final album Static & Silence, released in 1997 that is my favourite song by The Sundays.

Recalling the moon landing, the song tells the tale of two sisters creeping downstairs “like shadows” to watch the event on their television. “They’re bringing the moon right down to our sitting room, static and silence in a monochrome vision,” Harriet sings. It’s so evocative you can imagine exactly what that excited moment must have been like, families huddled round to catch these incredible pictures. So this song acts as a memory that I don’t have, even although I was there. Thankfully the music will last forever – as proven last year when Kate Walsh recorded a blissfully still piano version of the song that is as gorgeously good as the original.

1 comment:

head_in_the_clouds said...

Thank you for this wonderful discovery! I already knew 'Here's where the story ends', but somehow I wasn't interested who sang it. But now I'm catching up :) and it's truly amazing! Too bad there aren't more albums.