Sunday, 10 June 2012


As a forgetful person and wannabe writer, I have always kept notebooks in one form or another.  I generally have a number of them on the go, ranging from cheap, pocket notebooks that don't spoil the line of my immaculate tailoring, to more substantial hardbound items.  As these fill up at different rates, the wear and tear on them, and the chronological span of their contents, can vary widely.

Recently, I came across some thin little spiral-bound notebooks I had kept in coat pockets in the late 1970s / early 1980s, and which now look like archaeological finds.  Their pages are virtually welded together at the edges, and much stained.  Once opened, however, they are perfectly legible, and offer some surprising insights into my 25-year-old self.

Apart from concluding that I am considerably less interesting now than I was then, but much happier (those were the proverbial Interesting Times), I noticed that I had been in the habit of noting down tracks, mainly heard on the radio, that had got my attention.  I'd forgotten about that.

That post-Punk era was a car-crash of styles, musically, and these notebooks reflect that.  To give you a flavour of the times, these are some of the tracks I had noted down, 1979-81.  I've omitted albums and band and performer names without tracks.  It's a curious mix of the fab, the forgotten, the forgettable, the frightening, and the funky.

Prince Far I, No More War
Ricky Grant, All For One
Throbbing Gristle, United
The Jam, Eton Rifles
The Delta Five, Mind Your Own Business
Smack, Edward Fox
Glaxo Babies, Stay Awake
The Fall, Totally Wired
Tom Waits, Jersey Girl
Stray Cats, Runaway Boys
The Mechanics, Talking to the Wall
Talking Heads, Once in a  Lifetime
Barry Andrews, Win A Night Out With A Famous Paranoid
The Bush Tetras, Too Many Creeps
The Cure, Forever
Linda Ronstadt & J.D. Souther, Hearts Against the Wind
The Spizzles, Risk
Chaka Khan, Heed the Warning
Orchestral Manouevres, Joan of Arc
Steve Winwood, There is a River
Any Trouble, Girls Are Always Right
Marianne Faithfull, Ballad of Lucy Jordan
Tom Waits, The Piano Has Been Drinking

The thing is, of those 23 songs, I can now only really call to mind six.  A session with Spotify and Wikipedia did shed a little light, but  I forget, I forget...  It's a lesson in how useful notebooks are, but also in how much we become strangers to ourselves as the years go by.

I mean, Orchestral Manouevres?? Really...


Dave Leeke said...

I've just been informed (about two days ago) by Mrs Dave that I am now banned from buying any more Moleskine notebooks. For quite a few years I've been writing in A4 Pukka Pad Vellum books. They're ringbound and nice to write in - I bought loads a while back because I thought they had stopped making them.

Then I got into using Moleskine notebooks in various forms because they are light and easy to keep in pockets - I often find them in old jackets. Definitely historical documents!

As far as playlists go, they're always going to show a vague interest - one hopes) - they're not damning! However, I got very excited last night watching the BBC London songs when they played The Jam doing "Strange Town". I love that song and it was so nice that they put that on instead of one of the obvious ones (Down in the Tube Station At Midnight, for instance). The Jam were one of the best bands I have ever seen live.

The past really WAS a different country etc - it's great to come across little bridges to it.

Mike C. said...


Moleskines are nice, but the little ones could do with being half as thick, I think -- great as a bag book, but not ideal for coat pockets. Also, the binding fabric is a little more vulnerable to damage than it ought to be, at that price. I do currently use an 8" tall one as my "home" notebook, though.

I'm quite keen on those cheap hardbound "police" style notebooks that are bound on the narrow side and flip over, and at work I use the green vinyl hardbound A5 unruled paper notebooks you can buy in Rymans -- I love those (great for doodling in meetings).

That playlist has taken me way back this evening, and I'm groovin' and jammin' to Ijahman Levi's "Are We A Warrior" -- still brilliant after all these years... "Faith is a mountain"...

The Jam are great, I agree -- not much music from that time weathers as well.


Martin said...

Well, I recognised ten artists and three tracks. 1981 was a good year for me, working in a Cornish entertainment complex, where I got to sit in on various rehearsals and sound checks. Highlights - meeting The Jam and going shopping for honey and lemons to soothe the throat of Ray Davies. I'm hopeless at keeping notes, though.

Mike C. said...


If the ten include Glaxo Babies and Bush Tetras (or was it The Bush Babies and the Glaxo Tetras?) I'm impressed. Everyone remembers The Spizzles, of course.

Remarkably, most of that lot seem to have survived into the present, one way or another, including, unbelievably, The Fall (or at least Mark E.Smith...).

If you really don't keep a notebook, you should!


Tony_C said...

Great! At last I've got a playlist to fill in the years when" actually WAS in a different country (,Dave)! If I'm listening to Ken Bruce's PopMaster, and don't recognize a "name the year" question track, I can usually guess it's 78-80. Very few, though, are a patch on the quintessential pop masterpiece you mentioned recently: Legend of Xanadu. "You'll hear my voice, on the wind, 'cross the sand / If you should return to that black, barren land that bears the name of [here you may insert an appropriate trisyllabate place-name of your choice].

Mike C. said...


Yes, I know what you mean -- I'm blank on "pop" from about 1982 to the mid 90s -- just stopped listening for about a decade.

Was Xanadu the one with the whip-cracks, or was that something else?


Tony_C said...

Yeah, that one.

P.S. Did I mean "trisyllabate" or "trisyllabic"? Woteva