September 1, 2016
It’s a terrible feeling when you realise just how much you’ve let yourself down. When you know how an earlier version of you (from younger days, when the world was at your feet and anything was possible) would despise what you have become, and would disown you, want nothing to do with you, would spit at you in the street.
I have reached that point, and I stand here ashamed.
We need to go back in time. Back to February 1984. I was 21 and just out of university. I was sharing a house with some people who are still very close to me and will be extremely disappointed in what I have become; Trev Neal, my comedy partner, and Clare Eden, my manager. Both like family, and both (well, Trev at least; I can’t answer for Clare) about to disown me.
In February 1984 I was a recent graduate from Manchester University. Me and Trev had decided by then that we were going to be a double-act. Trev had another year to go at university, so I got myself a job at a college in Manchester; Cornbrook Library, close to the bridge that Joy division stood on.
I had this photo, and many others like it, Blu-tacked to woodchip wallpapered walls.
I would cycle to the library every day. I was the only one who worked there. I opened it, I closed it. I built it! I stocked the shelves and labelled all the books on their spines according to the Dewey Decimal System. No one ever visited the library. It was a small room full of business books. I say no one; occasionally a member of staff would look in to say hello, which would lead to “Oh, you’re a comedian are you?”, which would lead to “tell us a joke then”, which would lead to “I’m not really that sort of a comedian?”
At least I was earning money. Every Friday, as a treat, I would cycle through town and stop off at a fancy outdoor beer at the bottom of Peter Street, next to The Gallery, and buy a bottle of whisky. I once bought a bottle of Pig’s Nose just for the name of it.
Over the weekend it would get drunk by me and Trev and any passing friends. So, just me and Trev.
Then Monday the bike ride would begin again. 7am, sometimes in snow that Joy Division could have created.
And sometime that February I bought my first ever The Smiths single, What Difference Does it Make?
The chart for the 12th February 1984 was a crazy mix of music. Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Relax was no.1, and then Queen with Radio Ga Ga was at no.2.
As a 21 year old I didn’t know much. But I did know that Relax was good (even though I hadn’t a clue what it was about – the joys of pop music, and why we should never get too hung up about what the kids are listening to these days), and that Radio Ga Ga was shit.
Compare and contrast:
And everything I had to know, I heard it on my radio – Queen
Hang the blessed DJ, because the music that they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life – The Smiths
The charts were at war, and we had to choose sides.
That week alone we saw these momentous battles:
You had to know where you were with your music. And on that day, the 12th February 1984, I sided with Frankie, the Style Council, The Smiths, Madness, Swans Way, Big Country, and Echo and the Bunnymen.
I’ve always said that The Killing Moon is the greatest song ever written, Ian McCulloch
In the charts that week were also some of those songs that were tricky to a boy like me. I hadn’t yet figured out what I thought of Holiday, and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and 99 red Balloons. I think I was just too shy when it came to girls.
And so to the point. That I’ve been putting off. The betrayal by a 54 year old man of his 21 year old self.
I’ve been running a lot recently. it started when I decided to run 10k in May to raise money for The British Heart Foundation*. And I haven’t stopped. This last month, August, I have run the most I have ever run, managing 210km.
and I run to music.
I’ve been running to all my old faves… though Joy Division is a hard sell to my legs.
And I’ve been getting a bit fed up of the same old song. So I went and bought one of those 80s 12″ compilation CDs (A 12″ mix, in general, is perfect for measuring 1km of running).
And… oh, I’m so sorry Simon. I’m so sorry young me. I’ve let you down. No wonder the old you is running. Don’t stop. And pray that the 21 year old doesn’t take up running. Coming after you. catching up. Ripping those earphones out of your bloody ears…
All men have secrets and here is mine
So let it be known
On the 12th February 1984 this song was no.5 in the charts. And now I’m running to it.
(* If you’d like to donate to The British Heart Foundation I have a Just Giving page here.)