Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time – No. 2

tilt

Number 2 – Scott Walker – Tilt

I am well aware that very few of the people who read this article will have heard this album, and even fewer will like it. It is infamously one of, if not the, most difficult album ever released by a major artist, but before I tell you how good it is, a bit of context.

The Walker Brothers, in 1964, were the biggest band in the world. Bigger than The Beatles. Belting out magnificently rich and melancholy ballads, they were rabidly pursued by teenage girls who were confused by their hormones, wherever they went. As one story went, they were once surrounded by a legion of screaming harpees in their getaway car after a show, and they were so tenacious in their desire to gain contact with these impossibly handsome stars, that these sex-craved harridans actually managed to tip the car onto its roof, where underneath Messrs Engel, Maus and Leeds (none of them were actually called Walker) all sustained serious injuries. Noel Engle, who had been the bass player, and had played the part of Scott Walker, had been forced to the front of the band when a song called Love Her had called for a deeper voice. He was the best-looking member of the band, and after providing lead vocals on mega-hits The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and Make It Easy On Yourself, retreated into himself, desperate to maintain his artistic integrity, terrified by the trappings of fame and fortune. In one interview, which is possibly the single coolest moment in the history of humanity, while his bandmates yapped away about on camera about how great it was to be making money and pulling endless broads, Scott lounged in the corner of the dressing room, his face masked by enormous shades and his shoulders wrapped in a shawl, a bottle of beer dangling from his fingers, and drawled, “I’m in it for different things…” you can see it at 13:49 in this clip. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB8NKS17U98

Scott became increasing arty and obscure, crafting intricate, gloomy operettas and covering songs by sweaty Belgian cabaret singer Jacques Brel. In particular he performed an incredibly morose ballad entitled My Death on his Saturday tea-time TV show. It is often said that George Michael was the first pop star to eschew commercial success for artistic credibility; nah, Scott Walker got there first. His solo albums continued to top the hit parade, due to the sky-scraping beauty of his own compositions, his impossible good-looks and bravado, and the manner, similar to The Smiths and early Suede, in which the listener could live in his songs. He was a star on his own terms. Then, something strange happened. After the top three success of Scott 1, Scott 2, and Scott 3, Scott 4, his most accomplished album to that point and one which would take the number 31 spot on this list, was released in the midst of the hippy revolution in 1969. And it bombed. Not as in, it failed to crack the top ten; it failed to chart at all.

Nobody quite knows why this happened, and the album was deleted soon after. Walker was deeply scarred by the snub, and after releasing a couple of lacklustre albums comprised mainly of MOR cover versions, he disappeared for a few years and descended into drink. A comeback with the Walker Brothers came in 1975, by way of the hugely popular break-up song No Regrets, and with one album left on the deal, Nite Flights was released in 1978, a twelve-track album on which each member composed four songs. The compositions of Gary and John were perfectly serviceable, but Scott’s tracks were so far ahead it was almost embarrassing. The Shutout, Fat Mama Kick and Nite Flights were pounding, visionary pieces, reminisecent of Station To Station-era Bowie and later Joy Division, but his final track on the album, The Electrician, was astonishing; cold, suspenseful and spiralling; as if they’d put a torch song on the Eraserhead soundtrack. It was almost note for note ripped off by Ultravox for Vienna, and the aforementioned David Bowie calls it the best song ever written. This was the direction he would pursue on his next album, Climate Of Hunter (1984), and in the age of Bon Jovi and Dire Straits, this brittle and fascinating album would shift less than a thousand copies and is said to be Virgin’s worst-selling record ever.

And then… silence.

Eleven year’s worth of silence, to be precise. Tilt would be released in 1995, apparently having taken six years to record. It sounds like the work of a man who had not spoken to another human being in a decade. From the cover art to the bizarre lyrics, it is the most starkly self-possessed record ever made.
When I was about nineteen, I bought this album, with the view to completing my Scott catalogue. I’d snapped up the first four, and everything else was unavailable on CD. Nothing could have prepared me for the stylistic chasm between Scott 4 and Tilt. The first track, Farmer In The City, is something that has no parallel in this far reaching medium of popular music. There is a road about six miles away from where I live, which acts as a bypass between the local villages of Dunswell and Beverley. There are no streetlights down this road, no houses for miles and if you travel down there after dark, only the headlamps of traffic will cast any sort of illumination. About halfway down, on the left, is a derelict barn about five hundred yards from the road, which will be lit fleetingly when a lone car drives past. In my imagination, Farmer In The City was recorded there.

This song must be listened to in the dark, alone, preferably on headphones. It is simply the heaviest piece of music ever written. I don’t mean in the way that silly bands like Metallica and Slipknot are heavy; I mean in the sense that when you listen to it, it weighs on your shoulders, it drags your senses down. It starts with a faraway tinkle of a triangle, then the deepest, most gravity-laden pull of double bass you’ll ever hear. A few plucked acoustic guitar notes and then Walker starts singing. And it’s different. That soaring baritone of thirty years earlier is now smothered in chloroform, hopeless, abandoned, like the voice of an oncologist who finds himself singing on his way home from work. Strings lurch to and fro behind him and the relentless procession of ugly-beautiful noise illuminates the intensely surreal lyrics that this loneliest of all men wails. Seemingly obscure literary references and snapshots of half-remembered dreams, the words to Farmer In The City are apparently about Italian film director Pier Paolo Passolini, who was murdered at the premiere of his hugely controversial and quite frankly revolting movie Salo, which was considered blasphemous by a bunch of hardline Catholic nutcases. The repeated “Do I hear 21?” refrain is possibly about the age of military conscription in Mussolini’s regime, and the passage from 4:42 to 5:46, where he howls of how he “Used to be a citizen” as the string section carry this twenty ton weight to the heavens on a other-worldy crescendo is absolutely incomparable, the most dramatic moment in the history of recorded music. The last line, almost an afterthought: “Paolo, take me with you.”

Anyhow, that’s the first track. Six and a half minutes long, and offering a wider scope than most artists manage in entire careers. The second track, The Cockfighter, begins with a bizarre, near-silent montage of wails, distant gusts of wind and odd scratching noises that you have to strain to hear until a terrifying moment after about a minute and a half when an industrial cacophony slams through the speakers at full volume as Walker howls “It’s a beautiful night, yeah.” After a while the track settles into a Joy Division-esque pounding rhythm and multi-layered voices intone lyrics that again, make absolutely no sense. It also features an instrumental break that sounds like someone beating a cow to death with a guitar. In Bouncer See Bouncer, we start with the sound (honestly) of scuttling and chirping locusts, which is laid over a relentless thump of a bass drum, whilst the mantra “Spared, I’ve been spared” is repeated, along with other deeply esoteric lines. It is staggeringly bleak, bringing to mind scenes of men in death camps marching to their end. After four minutes of this nightmare, the black clouds break and a ray of the most exquisite sunshine shines through in the form of harp and pipe organ as he sings beautifully of how much he loves this season, before the death march starts again.

Elsewhere, Manhattan features an enormous, slashing chorus of organ and ravaged guitar, along with lyrics such as “Scalper in the lampglow/scalper on a chair/stick wiped shirt?/and his arm somewhere” No, I don’t know either. Rosary is a simple piece for voice and reverbed electric guitar, and was performed live on Jools Holland in 1995 on condition that he would only take the stage after the studio audience had all left. The title track is arguably the most accessible track on the album, and the only piece here that could be played by a conventional rock band, even though it does feature guitars that seem simple yet are somehow disorientating, in the same way that you can inexplicably lose your balance in a hall of mirrors.

The two tracks at the heart of the record, Bolivia ’95 and Patriot (A Single) are vast, deeply layered compositions, cinematic in their scope, both featuring operatic structure and amazingly intense vocals. It is a testament to how far this man retreated into himself that a line as seemingly innocuous as “I brought nylons from New York/Some had butterflies, some had flecks.” can sound as like an incantation of death for the whole world. The chorus line to Bolivia ’95 is “Lemon bloody cola.” and he sings it has if he’s just heard that his mother has died. It is dense to the point of being impenetrable.

Tilt is the bravest record ever made by a major artist. It is far beyond the realms of pop music, and far beyond the realms of rock. It is heavier than anything by Nine Inch Nails or Einstürzende Neubauten and it’s more intricate in its make-up than the works of the electric Miles Davis or even Rite Of Spring-era Igor Stravinsky. The only album in mainstream rock’s cannon it would compare to would be Bowie’s Low, but only then in terms of the soundscaping and introspection. It is not a record for the MP3 generation, as it is to be consumed as a whole, and the artwork and the format of the lyric sheet are very much part of the package. It is not a record to be enjoyed, rather it is to be appreciated, and I’m well aware that the majority of people who will check it out on the strength of this review will absolutely loathe it. It is a record completely without precedent, it has influenced precisely no-one and will never appear on Top 100 Albums Ever lists. It is, however, a staggering artistic achievement, and it will haunt you for a long time after you hear it, much in the same way that you can’t shake the image of Brad Pitt’s face in the last scene of Seven. If you are interested in any way in what can be achieved in the medium of recorded sound, how one man can interpret the sounds in the darkest corridors of his mind in the most extreme way possible, then you should listen to Tilt. It is a terrifying, punishing, but deeply rewarding experience, and in my opinion there has only been one album ever made that is better than this one.

The lyrics don’t make any sense.

Best Tracks: Farmer In The City, Bolivia ’95, Patriot (A Single)

Best Moment: The afore mentioned passage from 4:42 in Farmer In The City. Listen to it on headphones, loud, in the dark, with your eyes shut. Your body will start to vibrate.

Like this? Try: It’s a tough one, but I’ll go with Up by Peter Gabriel (2002)

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Self-Disgust Is Self-Obsession Honey by Allen Miles

disappear I was never cut out for a career. I’m too socially awkward and I never found anything that stirred my passions enough to attempt to forge a livelihood from it. I have a job, but I refuse to be one of the arse-kissing yes-spitters in my workplace so I’ll never get on the ladder. I have found people who I get on with at work and they have similar principals/flaws (same thing, these days), which is why they’ve become my friends. If I enjoy any success in my lifetime it will be through something out of the ordinary, and I’ve known that since I was about twelve years old. It was obvious by the age of about eight that I was never going to be a professional footballer, due to my lack of a left foot and inability to, as my Dad said, “Get my head up”. By the age of fourteen I wanted to be a musician. I learned, very slowly, to play the guitar, and wrote lyrics. By the age of seventeen I had met someone who thought similarly, and we put our plans in progress to conquer the world with our punk band. And we told exactly no-one. This is the problem I have with my writing career. It was exactly the same as when I was in my band. Back then when someone would ask me if I was in a band, I’d raise a hand to my face, shuffle my feet, look at the floor and mumble “Well, yeah, sort of…” when I should have been drawing myself up to my full height, drilling my eyes into the questioner’s face in the manner of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and saying with all the arrogance in the world, “Damn right I’m in a band, we’re brilliant, and pretty soon you’re gonna be hearing all about us.” Even when we were in a position of promise, my inner-Costanza would race to the surface, making me spout forth a woefully misjudged joke or attempt to be ironic. I remember once we played a venue that was absolutely rammed with young emo kids who had come to see the band we were supporting, not exactly our market but one we certainly could have worked on. Rather than seeing the potential, I took the mic and sighed “Good evening, we’re Sal Paradise, you won’t like us.” The reasons I don’t brag about my literary endeavours are three-fold: The first is, I think, pretty acceptable. I hate it when people who have no interest in literature ask me questions about my book. The question is always “What’s it about?” and the answer I want to give is thus: “It’s a collection of short stories and prose, based mainly on themes of isolation and escapism, it’s pretty dark but has a fair bit of black humour in there. . In many ways it’s a reaction to the way our society has become so fleeting and impersonal in recent times. I nicked the title from a Scott Walker song, and I drew lots of influence from the work of Albert Camus, Charles Bukowski and John Fante, as well as the lyrics of Elvis Costello and the life and times of Howard Hughes.” But I don’t say that. I say: “I dunno really, I just wrote a few stories about things that I’ve seen…” Secondly, I worry that I’m no good. Well, not exactly that, but I’ve always been wary of becoming an Adrian Mole or Brian Griffin-type figure, someone who constantly tells everyone loudly that they’re a writer, and when they eventually produce a piece of work it is absolutely abysmal. These characters, along with hundreds of others that I’ve seen Facebook posts by or met on various writers forums, have absolutely zero talent but astonishing faith in their own ability. I’ve never been able to develop that level of confidence, precisely for the reason that if I did march about telling everyone I’m great, and they all buy my book, they might think it’s terrible, and despite me having 100% certainty that my work is brilliant, the consensus is, it’s shite. It’s not shite, obviously. My book is very good, but delusion is so common in the literary industry, and I’m terrified that I’ve succumbed to this disease. Last week I took morning refreshments with one of my best friends, she asked how my writing career is going, and I mentioned that there had been various developments, including interest from local bookshops and the possibility of a signing at Waterstones. “Wow, that’s great,” she said, “When is it?” I shrugged my shoulders and told her that I probably wasn’t going to do it as I was worried that no-one would turn up. Her facial expression hit some sort of mid-point between frenzied aggression and exasperation. This stylish, sexy and not-at-all-kindly woman then charged up to me and pretended to wring my neck. “What is wrong with you? Why are you constantly trying to sabotage your own success?” I couldn’t answer. The third reason is, I don’t like referring to myself as a writer. I have made very little money from my published work so far, and until I earn a living wage from it, I will describe myself in employment terms as an underpaid and undervalued healthcare assistant who works for the NHS, as I have no right to do anything other than that. The writing industry is a very cynical one, as are all what might be termed “creative” industries. You have to know the right people, and you are expected to pay homage to people whom you have no respect for. I don’t review other people’s work, mainly because I don’t feel I have any business judging them, and also because if I don’t like their work I would feel like a charlatan if I gave them a good review. The fact that I adopt this stance has hamstrung me in many ways, as I have very few friends in the business and I’m quite happy to keep it that way, which means I’ll get very few plugs, and very few breaks. My single proudest moment since I first wrote a story came not from reading a good review, not from signing a publishing deal and not from receiving praise from some big-wig in the industry. It came from a brief text message sent by my mate Wes, a builder by trade and a good man whom I don’t see as often as I’d like. It read: JUST SEEN YOU IN HULL DAILY MAIL. HONOURED AND PROUD TO CALL YOU MY FRIEND. A simple message of encouragement from a person that I like. Sometimes that’s enough. I mentioned the very few friends I have made in the business, but those few have shown massive faith in me, and for this I am grateful. Mrs Hoffs, Mrs Johnson and Messrs Bracha and Quantrill have given me huge encouragement, and Darren Sant has shown an almost biblical belief in me from the day we met, blind-pissed at a all-night party. I’ve also had ego-boosting support from many of my work colleagues. To continue to sub-consciously sabotage my career would be to let them all down, so it ends here. I am immensely proud of This Is How You Disappear, it is the best work I have ever produced, and it’s better than ninety percent of the shite that sells millions every year. It is not always pleasant, it is not a “light holiday read”, it will upset you in places, but it will also make you laugh. It will put images and thoughts in your head that you are not necessarily comfortable with and it will challenge your morale values, but it will also introduce you to characters who you may feel sympathy and affection for. If whoring myself at public signings and readings is what I have to do to sell this book, then so be it, I’ll do it, and if I make a living wage out of it, then, and only then, will I call myself a writer. It’s out NOW on Amazon, the link is below. Buy the paperback and I’ll sign it for you. “I’m looking to open people’s eyes. I’ll fail, but in the process, I’ll get self-satisfaction. And I know that a minority, a strong minority, will listen, and that will be enough for me.” Scott Walker   Allen Miles, authorAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He’s got a new book out. It’s really good. Get it here: http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Ten (ish) Songs by Allen Miles

A disclaimer: I’ve decided to compile this list without wittering on about The Smiths, The Manics, Joy Division, Tom Waits or Bob Dylan, because no-one needs to hear me bang on about them anymore than I do any night in the pub when I’ve had five or six pints. And I’m well aware that there are more than ten songs on this list, but it’s my site and I’ll do as I bloody well like. Yeah.

1. Oasis – Live Forever
I had no interest in music until I heard this song. I think I was about thirteen and it was used as the backdrop to a Sky Sports review of the 1994-95 Premiership season. My mate Astroman lent me his copy of Roll With It which had a live version of this on the B-Side and I must have listened to it fifteen times a day. Within weeks I’d bought Morning Glory, Definitely Maybe and all the singles for the B-Sides, and I count myself fortunate to have witnessed one of England’s greatest ever bands at their absolute peak. Like all of Noel Gallagher’s best songs, it makes you feel glad to be alive.

2. Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing

Placebo were a very important band for me for it was they, along with the Manics, who broke me free from the tracksuit bottoms and Adidas sweatshirt shackles of my high school years, and into the world of androgny and make-up. I loved this song, I originally heard it on a Q Magazine best of 1998 CD when I was at sixth form, and while everyone else was listening to shite like Embrace and Gomez, me and my mate Jamie were listening to this weird man/woman who looked like an eye-linered parakeet sneering this spidery song about drug addiciton. To this day, I get a nostalgic shiver down my vertebrae whenever it pops up on my i-pod.

3. Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
The summer of ’99. Ah, yes. This was the era of record-shopping. Myself and Mr Ware used to work split shifts on a Saturday; 10:30-1:30, then 4-6. This two hour thirty minute gap gave us time to get the bus into town and spend all our wages on CDs almost every weekend. During the weekday evenings I would sit in my bedroom compiling a database on my laughably outdated PC of the records I’d bought and I’d listen to them in full repeatedly as I typed. This song is as epic as four minutes of music can possibly get and will forever remind me of the romance and introspection of those balmy evenings down Bricknell Ave.

4. Mellow My Mind – Neil Young
Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night album is the soundtrack to my realization that young romance is always doomed. I was living in a flat that was little more than a squat when I was eighteen, with my first girlfriend. I lost my job in late October and had nothing to do with my days except drink cheap plonk and watch the rain from the rotting window. One Sunday morning I woke up to the sound of her leaving to have Sunday lunch at her Mam’s, and I had a hangover so bad I could barely open my eyes. I propped myself up on my elbows in bed just in time to see a mouse casually stroll across the ledge that the stereo was on, while this song was being played by a band who were so pissed they were on the verge of passing out.

5. Plastic Palace People – Scott Walker
I first heard this song on an NME sampler CD sometime in late 2001, when I was living by myself in a flat down Hartoft Road. It is the closest I’ve ever been to hallucinating through music. To love the work of Scott Walker is to be given the key to a world of rooftops and bedsits and salty seadogs and European cinema and smiles through the smoke of cigarettes, all sung by an impossibly handsome man with one of the most spell-binding voices of all time. No other musician has ever embraced the idea of being an outsider like Scott Walker has, not Morrissey, not REM. He is the musical equivalent of Roald Dahl.

6. Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen

In the summer of 2002, myself and Andrew were both reading On The Road, and listening to Nebraska. We had decided that we would conquer the world with our rock and roll band and every night we would walk in enormous circles around Hull each dangling a bottle of wine from our swinging arms as we plotted. One night we went to County Road park with a Discman and a couple of shitty Argos speakers and laid on a hill, as an electrical storm cloud loomed in the distance, and this song, the stand out track on The Boss’s stripped back collection of acoustic noir, was playing. So evocative.

7. Black – Pearl Jam
I’m a very stoic person by nature, and I don’t allow myself to get effected by other people foisting their feelings on me, but I find it very hard to hear this song without feeling a bit of tension in my jaw. It starts off as a pleasant enough mid-paced wistful ballad, before descending into a howling litany of bitterness, regret and anger, and those are my three favourite emotions, which is probably why I love this song so much. The final three lines are one of the saddest pay-offs in any song ever.

8. Concierto De Aranjuez – Miles Davis
I can’t imagine that many of our dear readers will have heard this song. It is as close as the Jazz genre ever got to classical music. It is fifteen minutes of astonishing musicianship, played by one of the greatest collectives of musicians ever assembled. It should be listened to in the summer, whilst sat in a garden with a big drink. I don’t like a huge amount of Jazz, but I’m a big Miles Davis fan, and for me Sketches Of Spain, the album that this is taken from, is actually better than Kind Of Blue, which is recognised by the critics as his best. It is a piece of music that you just have to sit and absorb, and each time you hear it you discover something new.

9. Blinded By The Lights – The Streets
This is a song that taught me that there were different ways to make music, at the time The Streets sounded like no other band on Earth, brilliant story-telling and completely relatable. On a personal level, it reminds of an occasion in eight or nine years ago when I was absolutely pissed out of my brains on a night out and somehow I’d managed to lose all my mates and there were no taxis to be had so I ended up walking all the way home by myself. It took me about two and a half hours, even though it was only three miles. This song perfectly captures the experience of rooms spinning, sounds all merging into one big din and simply not knowing what planet you’re on.

10. Hope There’s Someone – Antony and The Johnsons
I first heard of Antony Hegarty whilst reading a gushing article in Mojo magazine during a train journey to Blackpool. I listened to a sample on Amazon when I got home and went to buy the album straight away. He is one of the most original singers I’ve ever heard, haunted and keening. Again they made me realise that there is always music out there that you’ve never heard anything like before. This song is delicate and impossibly sad and at the end it all starts swirling and wailing and one man with his piano conjures up a raging snow storm. Bleakly beautiful.

11. Lorca’s Novena – The Pogues
For Christmas 2007, my missus bought me an iPod. I’d always been quite proud that I never had one, preferring to toddle around with an Aigo mp3 player that I bought from Argos, but as soon as I opened the box it became an absolute staple of my life. The first album I put on it was Hell’s Ditch by The Pogues, just because it was sat on the coffee table at the time. The standard Christmas Day routine for as long as I could remember was after having a drink with my dad in the pub we’d nip to see my Grandad and then go to my mam’s. Sadly my Grandad had died a few months previously so I decided to walk to my mam’s by myself with this menacing sea shanty about “Lorca the faggot poet,” on the iPod and it seemed like there was not a single other soul on the streets of HU5.

12. Afterglow – The Small Faces
This song reminds me of the day Gabbers was born. I’d been awake for about fifty hours and after she’d finally arrived and I had been told to go home I stood in my garden feeling at a bit of a loss cos I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do and this song came on the Pod at random. It’s a very uplifting song and it has the 2nd best chorus of all time, containing the line “I’m happy just to be with you.” and I thought, maybe that’s what being a dad will be like. According to my play count, I’ve listened to it 84 times since that day.

13. Dwr Budr – Orbital
I find it difficult to deal with the dance genre as a whole, but I’ve always loved Orbital, and particularly their In Sides album. I was listening to this song on repeat when I was writing my first book; I wrote it in five days and practically didn’t sleep at all during that period, whilst doing ten hours a day at work and pumping myself full of caffeine every day. Dwr Budr has a swirling, incoherent feel to it, as well as wordless vocals from Alison Goldfrapp, and that pretty much encapsulated how it felt to be almost totally sleepless and spending six hours a night frantically typing out a really disturbing piece of work. I don’t actually think I’ve listened to it since.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Paradise (A Story Of Shambolic Failure) Part 1 by Allen Miles

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In many ways, it is dealing with one’s psychological problems in front of people. They say that everyone who gets on stage does so to confront, or suppress, some mental dichotomy. For my own part, I am a natural show-off but I have absolutely no confidence. I hate the way I look yet I spend most of my life posing. I can play the guitar to an adequate level but I don’t like to do it in front of people in case they think I’m shite. When we did our first gig on the 14th of September 2004 at The Haworth Arms in Hull, I told exactly no-one, because I didn’t want anyone to turn up. The line-up that would take the stage that night had been together for seven weeks. It was idiotic to do a reasonably big venue so early. I expected a few stragglers from work that Andy had told, and the crowd that the headlining acts would bring in. I was absolutely terrified even to get on stage in front of those people, even though it’s so much easier to perform in front of strangers. As it turned out Danny had told Jamie, Jamie told Cousin Devvers, and Cousin Devvers told everyone. Eventually about forty people that I knew were in the audience on top of the fifty or sixty already there. Petrifying.

I had been at work that day, washing pots, making lasagne and frying chips. Everyone knew we were doing a show, yet until a week or so earlier, no-one had given a toss. They had made their derogatory remarks and told us that we were deluding ourselves. Until this one new girl who looked like an alien supermodel with her cheekbones and eyes and personality managed to whip everyone into line and demanded that they march down to the Haworth. At about four o’clock that afternoon, they all man-handled me into the corner of the prep area with their questions. Are you nervous? What if you forget your words? What outfit are you wearing? Yeah, that really helped.

What outfit are you wearing? It hadn’t even crossed my mind. I got home from work at about six o’clock. I ran up to my room and pressed play on the video (I didn’t have a DVD player in 2004) in the hope that whatever was in there would distract me. It was the tour video of Suede’s Dog Man Star album. Anderson wore a fitted white shirt and tight black trousers. It looked pretty cool. I had the same in my wardrobe. I put them on. I’d been drinking heavily for the previous three or four months, so my hair was short, as it always is when I’m on a bender, as if on some sub-conscious level the neatness of the appearance would mask the excessive behaviour. I looked okay. It would do. I hadn’t eaten all day in an attempt to prevent any on-stage stomach problems and I’d drank nothing but coffee. I threw my guitar into its bag and wandered out into the drizzle to wait for my cab.

When I arrived at the Haworth the nerves really started to overwhelm me, especially when I saw so many people I knew filing through the doors from my vantage point at the top of the stairs. Shindig were headlining, it was their show and we practiced in their studio. I can’t remember who was on second, then there we were, at the bottom of the poster, no logo yet, just SAL PARADISE in bold capital letters. We did the soundcheck, which when it becomes part of the routine turns into the most boring experience anyone can go through. That night however, it was just something else that caused my heart-rate to fluctuate. We did a verse and chorus of Hate and Regret. It struck me that I could hear my voice coming back at me from the other end of the room. It was a decent P.A. I picked up my pint of Tetley’s, and wandered over to the emergency exit door, which was open. I stood on the fire escape and lit a cigarette. Then another. And another….

The stage fright had now become all-consuming and desperate. Only one experience in my life could equate to it and that was from when I was about eight years old. My father had taken me for my first swimming lesson and I was absolutely petrified of the water. I did not want to go in that swimming pool. I stood there practically wrestling with my dad at the side of the pool while the rest of the class and the instructor looked on, slack-jawed. Eventually he got me changed and took me home. I can’t swim to this day. And that night at the Haworth was the same. I did not want to go on that stage. I was stood on that fire escape shaking as I chain smoked. But why? This was not running across no-mans-land in the First World War. It was not the fire fighters running into the Twin Towers on 9/11. It was a 22 year old kid snarling a few punk songs at a crowd of about eighty people who, in two hours time, would be too pissed to remember whether we’d been any good or not anyway. I’d seen Phil Wilson do it God knows how many times. Matt Edible too. And they did it by themselves. Solo. Without the band to fall back on. My Dickie’s satchel was at my feet. I knelt down and pulled the setlist out that I’d so lovingly typed up the night before.

HATE AND REGRET
FLAMING RAYMOND
I CAN SEE A BOY
SPASTIC ROMANTIC
INTROVERT

And then, at the bottom of the page, I’d handwritten a quote, in that pretentious, wish I was in The Manic Street Preachers-way that I would do on every single setlist we ever had.

“I’m looking to open people’s eyes. I’ll fail, but in the process I’ll get self-satisfaction. And a minority, a strong minority, will listen.” Scott Walker

Your head is full of magic when you’re that age.

As I contemplated ringing the bar from my mobile to tell them in an Irish accent that I’d planted a bomb, Berry stuck his head round the fire door, drumsticks in hand.

“You ready?” he said. I suppose it was now or never.

I tried my best to swagger over to the stage, but it probably looked like I was walking to a bus stop. I looked at Andrew, who had already strapped his bass on. I looked into his eyes. It had been our idea. Just me and him, from the start. Leigh’s guitar was red. Danny’s was blue. Here we were. I closed my eyes, held the mic for dear life and counted 1-2-3-4. A screaming cacophony emanated from behind me and I didn’t open my eyes for the next twenty-five minutes. It seemed like thirty seconds.

We came offstage to good applause. Even some cheers from the work lot. I wasn’t shaking anymore. I bought a pint and a shot while the rhythm section had their first ever traditional after-show hug. We dropped our gear off at Danny’s brother’s house round the corner and walked to Piper to get lashed. We stood there, all five of us, euphoric after putting on our first ever show. It felt good.

Little did we know that it felt as good as it ever would.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 23 month-old daughter whose favourite band are The Ramones. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written by anyone ever. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx