Snoop Doggy Dogg - Doggy Style
To this day I’m still not entirely sure how this album made its way into my life. Not in a metaphorical sense, I mean I’m literally not sure. I found a random cassette tape in the middle of our back garden one summer when I was about 12 or 13 years old. Presumably it had been launched over the hedges by one of the neighbour’s kids, but I never understood why... maybe they were fed up of listening to my dad blasting depressing Country songs about failed marriages and cowboys shooting their own dogs, and felt we needed schooling in something a little more upbeat... who knows?
Anyway, I rushed straight upstairs to play it. My adolescent mind had already decided that it was some kind of mix tape chucked over by a mystery admirer. But no, it was even better than that. It was 52 minutes of some of the most inventive California east coast swearing I’d ever heard in my life, and I bloody LOVED it!
Despite growing up on a Wythenshawe council estate, my relatively comfortable life with two working parents and a regular school attendance was a far cry from Snoop’s gang-banging, gun-carrying, weed-smoking, hustling existence in California, but nonetheless I was hooked. I played it about 10 times a day over the school holidays until one day, the ribbon on the cassette broke and then that was the end of that. It never even occurred to me that this was an actual album that I could’ve just gone and bought from any record shop. Instead I moped around until the school term restarted, treating the whole thing like some kind of ethereal holiday romance – fate had brought it into my life one hot summer’s day and now it was gone forever, and things would never be the same again. Well, until mp3 became a thing and I bought it for my gym playlist, but that’s not a very romantic ending to that story is it?
(Not so) interesting fact: I can still seamlessly recite every single word to Lodi Dodi!
Supergrass - I Should Coco
Around the time I bought this album, conversations about Supergrass normally went like this:
“Oh yeah, that feel aaaaallllriiiiight song. That guy with the massive sideburns?” or “Are they still going? Aren’t they from the seventies?” Me: “No that’s Supertramp” (add accompanying eyeroll)
They were just so much more than the tightly-t-shirted indie boys riding a sofa down the street in “Alright” looking as though they were no strangers to class A offerings. That album was just SO much more. One listen to Sofa of My Lethargy or Strange Ones was enough to tell you that.
Shortly before lockdown, I got the chance to revisit my youth and see Supergrass live at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. Even paying the best part of £6 for a pint didn’t detract from the amazing experience of bouncing around to Caught by the Fuzz and I wish I’d stopped to breathe in that whole experience as it was the last time I went to any public gathering before the restrictions kicked in.
Pulp - Different Class
Christmas 1995 for me saw the end of the cassette tape era and the introduction of these new things called CDs! Wait, so you mean to tell me that if I wanted to rewind something I don’t have to wait until my cassette player chugged its way back to the start of the song? I can just skip backwards and forwards between songs? Wow!
Along with my CD and cassette player deck that I got for Christmas, came this absolute beauty of an album from Sheffield legends, Pulp. I loved everything about it – the retro design, Jarvis Cocker’s slightly smutty intonation as he growled and whispered his way through Live Bed Show and I Spy. And whilst I didn’t really know what it was like to get “sorted for Es and Wizz”, be assured that in no way did this deter me from pretending that I did to anyone within discussing distance. I spoke with such inflated bluster about what it’s like to be off your face in a field in Hampshire that I’m surprised school didn’t intervene to ask why a 14-year-old was such an expert on party drugs!
I genuinely thought I’d discovered Pulp, so I had conflicting feelings of sadness and elation to find out that there were albums that had come before Different Class. Once I’d got over myself however, these proved to be a valuable use of pocket money. I genuinely thought I’d marry Jarvis one day. I still hold out a glimmer of hope that this might somehow come about!
R.E.M. - Automatic for the People
I think sometimes we’re all guilty of forgetting just how good R.E.M. actually are, aren’t we? Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty late to the R.E.M. party myself. So late in fact, that a whole 7 albums had whooshed past my nose whilst I was busy being born, growing up, drinking Hooch in parks and bouncing to Britpop. But running parallel to the adidas-striped chaos of Britpop, I always felt that R.E.M. was my calm button. The refining and maturing of this pigtailed, chaotic teen was kind of rooted in R.E.M. and their beautifully insightful melodies.
Again (notice a theme here?) I’d obviously decided I was going to marry Michael Stipe. My mum said “I think he’s gay, Kate” but no – when you’re a teenager in love with Stipey, your gaydar doesn’t exist!
I’d literally listen to this every night to drift off to sleep, dreaming of how cool it would be to go to Athens in Georgia where R.E.M. were from. I know someone who actually went a few years ago for work purposes. Apparently, it’s a s**t-hole. But that’s beside the point. At times like this I often think of all the starry-eyed Oasis fans from other countries, travelling thousands of miles to visit Burnage and inevitably end up either mugged, disappointed, or both.
And R.E.M. referenced other things I liked - Dr Seuss, Andy Kaufman, Elvis – so it was always set to be a winner with me. Kids today are so lucky to be able to Google the lyrics to songs if they’re not sure. They’ll never know the shame of getting into your twenties and realising that “Call me John Major now” are in fact not the correct lyrics to The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite – who knew eh?!
Sex Pistols - Never Mind the B*****ks
I initially bought this album to annoy my mum and step-dad because they’d committed the ultimate offence of moving house, meaning that I was now over 20 miles and three separate bus journeys away from my school and all my mates. I was now “out in the country” in New Mills and not roaming the streets of Wythenshawe drinking in parks and being a chav...so in hindsight I probably owe my lack of criminal record to this tactical relocation. Not that I viewed it like this at the time though.
As I blasted God Save the Queen and Bodies at top volume with an open window, delighting in being offensive and singing along loudly at the sweariest of sweary bits, I knew an argument was on the cards. Not least because we lived next door to a nursery and I’m sure hearing Jonny Rotten’s dulcet tones ringing through the air isn’t exactly what they’d planned for the pre-schoolers to listen to.
I’d hereby like to take this opportunity to apologise. Not only to my own mum for that very difficult teenage period (noting I have much older sisters, hence she probably had to endure that album the first time round in the seventies) but also for any mums who picked up their toddlers to find them singing about being the antichrist.
The Strokes - Is This It
University didn’t work out for me. I’d started a BA Hon in English Language at Salford University in September 2000 and it had been a mistake from the start. Whilst at first it seemed a natural choice because of my love of writing, the course actually involved much deconstructing of classic literary fiction which I found incredibly boring and disingenuous. And, I wasn’t a huge fan of Shakespeare either, which was most of the first year’s content. This led to many clashes with my tutor, a large overpowering man called Professor Bergstrom who’d gained his doctorate on all things Shakespeare related, so this relationship was never going to work out harmoniously. Off I went from the basic surroundings of the student halls, out into the big wide world to look for somewhere to live.
In August 2001 I got my first flat in Lower Broughton (a proper ropey bit of Salford) with the rent setting me back a very reasonable £80 a week. This album reminds me of that first week living utterly, completely, totally on my own in this flat. I can’t remember actually buying the album but it must’ve been around the same time that I moved in. I vividly recall that first night in my flat when I didn’t even have curtains or a lamp yet, so I used a lava lamp for light which gave my bedroom a rather seedy-looking red glow, which in hindsight probably made my new neighbours think I was a prostitute.
It’s the only album I’ve had where I genuinely loved every track on it, so there was no skipping through any songs as I decorated my flat, putting up Jim Morrison posters, buying ethnic-printed throws for my sofa and basically spending any disposable income on kitsch tat that could be found in Afflecks Palace or OkLaHoMa at vastly inflated prices. In retrospect, it probably looked like some kind of hippie squat at the time, but it was my little nest and I was finally a grown up with my own place.
I worked for JD Williams in Manchester at the time, and because I worked on Saturdays, I had Sundays and Tuesdays off. One Tuesday in 2001 I sat eating my breakfast, watching a special news report on my tiny little £100 Argos television. Events unfolded that would go on to change the world. A passenger plane had crashed into one of the twin towers in New York, and the world was thrown into confusion and turmoil. What was happening? Was this terrorism? An accident? Would this mean World War 3 now? I remember pulling out the old faithful Strokes album later that day and listening to New York City Cops, just feeling incredibly powerless and weird about the whole situation. I found out later that week that subsequent album releases of Is This It in America had this particular track removed, out of respect to all the police officers and other emergency services workers who lost their lives trying to help civilians as the towers collapsed.
It’s made me wonder what feelings might be towards this track in the current political climate?
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Fast forward a few chapters. I’ve ended my previous relationship with my Indie-band-lead-singer-lookalike-but-completely-emotionally-void ex, I’ve met my (now) husband, and the flat in Lower Broughton is no more. We live in Sale, we drink red wine like proper grown-ups and we listen to cool stuff like Northern Soul and Ska. We have a CD shelf in alphabetical order (his doing, not mine) and we go to Interpol gigs on Wednesday nights just because we can.
My husband’s youngest brother gave us a moody copy of this CD when we visited him in York, so I don’t think I actually knew that Amy Winehouse wasn’t a middle aged, black, American soul singer until much later on. When I first saw this slightly awkward, heavily eyelinered, young white woman on the TV I remember feeling really shocked. A bit like when I saw that Rag n Bone man looked a bit like a WWE wrestler - proof that perceptions aren’t always reality.
Anyhow, I don’t even remember playing this album obsessively, so it’s a bit bizarre that I associate it so closely with happily married life. Still, I suppose I must’ve played it a few times as I know every song on it, and Wake Up Alone can still reduce me to tears on a particularly hormonal day. And always, always bear in mind that an incredibly poor karaoke rendition of Me & Mr Jones is only ever a few whiskies away for me!
David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Another chapter now. We’ve done the marriage, the child has arrived and as I write, I’m keeping one ear tuned closely in case this heated discussion about Lego between my husband and toddler escalates further and I need to intervene. Jude is 3 now, but when he was a teeny baby, I discovered this album on my phone and played it continuously. I don’t remember consciously buying it, but I suspect it was another hazy 3am breastfeeding purchase, along with the silicone avocado cover, anti-static dust slippers and all the other crap that I ordered online whilst completely deprived of sleep.
Some songs here are purely for my own indulgence, and I enjoy driving on my own (admittedly a rarity these days) belting out Suffragette City or Rock n Roll Suicide at top volume. But one in particular is for Jude. I used to carry him about in a sling a lot, and I remember spending a whole afternoon doing nothing but swaying gently from side to side, softly singing Starman, and praying that the effects of the Calpol and teething gel would kick in really soon to relieve his pain, and our ears.
Now and again he’ll ask me to sing Starman at bedtime, and I oblige. He asks for multiple renditions as he tries every trick in the book to extend bedtime (I’m under no illusion that it’s because I just have such a beautiful singing voice) and again, I oblige, because whilst I’d rather be downstairs watching Netflix, the sad reality is that there’ll come a day where he won’t need me to sing to him at bedtime any more. I might not even be allowed to enter his room without knocking one day... even if it is just to tell him to turn Sex Pistols down.
Kate Hook is steadily approaching the next big birthday and lives in Sale with her husband Christian, and her son Jude.
She works as a Communications Manager for Bupa and has recently gained a distinction in her Level 5 management apprenticeship with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) after just over a year of late nights, submitting last minute essays, and negotiating about who does bath and bedtime.
She’s also got a draft plan for her first book (as yet untitled) which she keeps threatening to sit down and write when she gets some free time...which may be some time yet!