What gets burnt into your soul when you’re a teenager tends to stick with you. Some folk read The Catcher in the Rye and get a little too connected to trying to spot phoneys. I listened to REM. I listened to REM a lot. I knew all the words to Fretless, which I heard as a b-side to Radio Song. I read Marcus Gray’s It Crawled From the South like it was a bible and I spent an awful lot of time trying to figure out all the lyrics on Murmur. I never bought into the off-song wisdom of Michael Stipe but without the guidance of the band I wouldn’t have found Warren Zevon or Leonard Cohen – they weren’t the kind of songs you came across often in a small village somewhere outside Carlisle.
When I saw them in the humungaplex Milton Keynes Bowl on the Monster tour it was an anti-climax. The personal connection wasn’t there but, despite that, some seventeen years on I can recall with vivid clarity the communion that was thousands of people enrapt by Strange Currencies. Eight years after I saw them again, having paid a scalper far too much I went with my wife to Brixton Academy to watch them. By then they were without Bill Berry and just about to drop off the popular culture radar but it was up close and personal. The energy was phenomenal. It was an incredible and beautiful night.
And now the remaining trio are to formally part. At least until the reunion tour that few fans will begrudge them down the line. The news sparked a rush of memories for me. Those concerts, but also that teenager who learnt all the words to Fretless. The guy I thought I’d left behind. But the past doesn’t let go so easily and those passions are never truly lost.