The Strokes - Is This It
In 2001 I travelled the length and breadth of the UK to go and see The Strokes perform this album. At the time they were a band who were making raw rock sounds with waves of punk weaving through - something quite unique at a time when RnB and garage were dominating the music scenes.
Each gig was electric as I absorbed the band’s New York style nonchalant swaggering. One night I was stood in the front row centre of the stage, a few songs in and Julian leans his thighs on my face. I remember at the time thinking to myself, ‘What do I do now, am I supposed to do something?’ Julian didn’t move away and neither did I, silently cheering inside I embraced the face/thigh frolics. A few songs later Julian projectile vomits all over the stage and it’s simply a gig of chaos and mayhem surrounded by melodic hooks and attitude.
The next time I went to see them I had to be at the front again, not because of what had happened previously, it was purely based on the full force of everything they had to offer. I had to work hard to get to the front, the venue was packed out and I had to pass hundreds of people to wangle my way to prime spot. I was two rows from the front, so close, then POW! Next thing I remember I’m being crowd surfed to the back of the venue right towards where a couple of paramedics are on standby. I only went and fainted!!! All that effort to get to the front and here I was at the back again sucking on a couple of Lucozade sweets that the paramedics gave to me because of my low blood pressure. Rock n roll, rock n bloody roll. As a result of my fainting episode I was put in the disabled section of the venue for the whole show. To be fair it was right above the stage and the view was amazing.
I was booked to fly to NYC in September 2001. I wanted to see The Strokes in their home city so I emailed their manager to see if I could get tickets. I have no idea how or where I got his email from but we had some communication prior to my trip. Unfortunately, they weren’t playing during my stay in NYC but did have shows for a few days later, I considered extending my trip but finances prevented that and so it wasn’t to be.
When returning from NYC and arriving into Manchester airport I put the car radio on as I drove home. There was breaking news. Flames were coming from the Twin Towers. My phone was going crazy from friends and family asking if I was okay. I had no idea what was going on until I got home and watched the news for six hours straight. I was walking around those Twin Towers the day before and I felt extremely emotional about the whole situation. Communication continued between me and the manager of The Strokes, it was fleeting and it was brief, I wanted to send my thoughts and well wishes. At one point he responded by commenting that he had never messaged a fan as much as he had me. He’ll probably never remember those emails, and Julian will probably never remember laying his thighs on my face. But Is This It will always hold a place in my heart because I’ve never seen an album being played live as much as I did back then and because 2001 was a very memorable year!
De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising
At aged 15 this was the first album to really, and I mean REALLY, get me addicted to listening to an album on repeat. I mean how many bands can say that they’ve sung about potholes in their lawn? Honestly though at aged 15 I didn’t actually know the song was about other artists stealing their lyrics rather than having to deal with some holes in their back garden. I spent much of my time drawing flowers and peace signs on my school books and pencil cases, whilst at weekends wearing hi top trainers and baggy joggers with the world’s biggest backcombed fringe. This ground-breaking album was (and still is) a joy to listen to, it brought a whole new angle to hip-hop with its free-thinking attitude. To this day my school friends who I keep in touch with always say that when they hear De La Soul music, they always think of me.
Prodigy - Fat of The Land
1997. What a time to be alive! I’d left University the year before and was living my best life in Nottingham. I was surrounded by the most amazing friends and feel like this was a period in my life that really helped me to find my true identity. I think everyone remembers the time they first saw Keith storming down that derelict underground tube with a song that was so far away from their Charlie Says and Out of Space days, his reinvented devil horned spiked hair and dance march resembling a goliath pyrotechnic let loose in a tunnel was pretty spell binding.
I had a huge eclectic mix of friends at the time but fondly remember the time I travelled to Brighton to see The Prodigy in all of their helter-skelter-on-acid glory. We travelled up with some friends from a well-known punk band, humungous mohawks and safety pins were full on flowing (on them, not me). Prior to setting off on the fairly long drive the singer had eaten a bacon sandwich and admitted that some of it had gone down (or up) the wrong way. When we arrived at Brighton some three hours later the piece of bacon resurfaces from the singer’s nose as he swiftly pulls it out of his nostril! How on earth does that even happen???
Firestarter was the only track I had heard prior to going to Brighton, I thought it would end up being a lukewarm affair but the Prodigy didn’t disappoint. The show was turbulent, fierce and positively riotous as they invited the crowd onto stage with them. In the morning at the B&B with sore heads and bodies we ate a cooked breakfast before heading back to Nottingham, each of us remembering to swerve the bacon.
The Fat of the Land was continuously played throughout 1997 (and thereafter) and where I would recreate the album artwork whenever I saw a crab on the beach and had my camera handy. Overall a fantastic album that really brought The Prodigy to the heights of their musical career.
Delays - You See Colours
I relocated to Southern Africa in 2006 to do crazy things with big cats including being a lion handler. In 2006 My Space was a big deal and I had met some amazing people via this platform, one of them being the manager of the band Delays. Just before I hopped onto that plane to seek wildlife adventures I was invited to go and see Delays whilst on tour in the UK and fell in love instantly with the electro intelligent swirling sounds of their songs, my favourite being Valentine.
In 2008 when I had returned from the depths of the African bush and was messing about in the UK not really knowing what to do next with my life I was invited to come and work with the Delays by going on two UK tours as their photographer and merch seller. I can honestly say that these are some of the most memorable and fun weeks I have ever had, and they really helped me to deal with the anti-climax of returning back to the UK after such wonderment in the wild.
Radiohead - In Rainbows
In 2007 I had been living in the African bush in both Zimbabwe and South Africa working on various projects whilst training to work in big cat conservation. At one point I lived in a semi desert region for six months to attend a college that would teach me what I needed to know in protecting myself and surviving in the wild. It was a truly isolating life that meant I could fully absorb myself into the beautiful surroundings, no internet, no phone, no TV. I could go on forever here about the things I lived and breathed, if life was for living then this was it.
I was 33 at the time and had very limited contact with the outside world, the nearest internet café was an 80-mile round trip and even when I was there the connection was so slow, I would only get to read the subject header of my emails before I was timed out. Occasionally I would manage to sneak a quick reply to messages on My Space and as a result some lovely people who I had never met in person would send me letters, cards or parcels to a PO Box address in the nearest village. One parcel was sent to me from a lad called David who I spoke to on My Space regularly. Sadly we’re no longer in touch but I’m sure he will remember doing this. In order to receive his parcel (which I was informed contained a CD) I literally had to plead with one of the staff at the college accommodation to take me to the village which was an 80-mile round trip away. This might not sound too bad until you realise that due to its remoteness the place was lawless and some drivers would take advantage of this by drinking and driving. It meant they could go to the pub but still drive the 40-mile trip home. Crazy. This worker was renowned for drinking whilst driving, yes that’s right, whilst driving. I was so keen to collect my parcel that this worker held a glass of vodka and coke in his left hand as he drove using his right. These are the risks we used to take to get to the nearest village – there was literally no other way to get there.
Once received, I opened the box like it was Christmas Day. There it was in all of its glory - In Rainbows. It lay there next to a Lion Bar, which was sent over due to my work with lions, along with other little bit and bobs. One of the other students kindly let me listen to the CD on her laptop, this was the first time I had listened to music for months and it was wonderful as my ears felt the love. The song that resonates the most during that time was All I Need, it’s haunting melody sprawling across the desert dunes as the sun projected red flames across the sky was something of pure beauty.
And just in case anyone is curious - the worker who enjoyed a drink whilst driving continued to do this and one day ended up overturning his car into a ditch resulting in injury and high costs to repair his car and the land in which he damaged. So, don’t drink and drive, and don’t get into cars with people who drink and drive either.
Bjork - Debut
There were quite a few albums during this period that had a significant impact on my life. I’m talking 1993-1996 where I was at University and music was heavily influential with what I did, what I wore and who I spent my time with. Albums such as Dummy, Leftism, Black Sunday, Becoming X, and Protection were constantly on repeat. I’ve chosen Bjork’s Debut because of her honest lyrics and musical variations where one song can be full of emotion and swirling tones and others foray into jazz-like melodies and clubby beats.
The album is a masterpiece that I connect fondly to my university years. Being at university may not be a big deal to many, but to me it was huge. I grew up on a council estate and things weren’t always easy. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would end up with a degree, and if I’m honest I don’t think anyone else did either. Had it not been for this achievement I truly don’t know which of life’s paths I would have ventured on, but honestly speaking, the path I ended up on was a pretty great one.
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Although this was released two years prior to the birth of my twin daughters, this was the album I continuously played to them both inside and outside of the womb. Having been premature and with a complex pregnancy there were evidently risks along the way this album is what brought strength and positivity to the situation. The line from The Suburbs ‘That I want a daughter while I’m still young, I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty before this damage is done’ used to bring thankful tears to my eyes whilst holding my delicate girls and swaying them gently to the beautiful melody. The listening experience of this album with its intensely melancholic, ghostly and at times fragile twists and turns is something to cherish, especially as both my eight-year-old daughters have flourished into wonderful and kind individuals, and as a bonus they also have fantastic taste in music.
Pixies - Doolittle
I got into this album when I was doing my A Levels and working my way into art college, it was 1991. I had ditched the backcombed fringe and hi top trainers from 1989 and replaced them with Doc Martin boots and blue food colouring which I used to put in my hair to quirk it up a bit (I also put candle wax in my hair, but that’s a story for another day)!
We had gone on a school trip and were staying in one of the turrets at Boddelwyddan Castle for a couple of days. One of the staff who welcomed us to the castle informed us that the turret was split into two, the upper part was known as heaven and the lower was known as hell where the naughty kids stayed. As he was leaving the turret, and not in the presence of our teacher, he also informed us the drawers were all made from old ouija boards. Looking back now I am more than sure he was telling us this with the full intention that we would pull all of those drawers out and sit in the hell section of the turret to summon the dead to our presence.
When we weren’t being swayed into ghostly activities, I set my goals on listening to Doolittle on my Walkman. I remember lying in between heaven and hell (because you could do that too), eyes closed, absorbing the wonders of this album like the room was filled with stars with a magnitude so large I forgot where I was.
This album’s power and influence inspired the likes of Kurt Kobain, Blur, PJ Harvey and Radiohead to name but a few. There isn’t a single weakness on this album, and today in 2020 it is still as captivating as it was all of those years ago.
Living in M27 with husband and two daughters, Cat 46, is a manager for a health and wellbeing service with a side-line in graphic design.
Cat’s passions are centred around conservation, environmental issues, wildlife, music and sports.
You can find Cat on Twitter @jammycat8