I’ve been doing a sort of digital detox for a while now, which has given me back a lot more free time. I’m reading loads and the gaps in my day that were (I realise now) filled with scrolling through Instagram or just pointlessly hopscotching from app-to-app-to-app on my phone now give me headspace. My mind wanders. It’s great; I have ideas and I write stuff down. I still struggle to start anything – but baby steps, eh?
I’ve been thinking a lot about records; specifically, those that really mean something to me. To clarify, there are a few types of ‘meaningful records’ in anyone’s collection I think; I have some records that:
Mean a lot to me cos they are expensive (sad but true; I’d be gutted if they were damaged or lost),
Some that are just fantastic in their own right but might not be pricey or have and emotional value
And finally, those that have particularly sentimental value.
It’s the latter that I started cataloguing in my mind while I was holed up in a caravan recently, and I decided to document and share for posterity and for the interest of my many, many, avid followers.
The first of these is ‘It’s good to be in love’ by Frou Frou; specifically the Watkins Dub.
I'm adoring you It's all good You're so beautiful I'm black & blue all over
This came out in 2003, with I imagine little fuss or fanfare. I have to admit that before putting pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) I knew absolutely nowt about Frou Frou. At the time, I would have picked this up seeing Watkins on the sleeve, as I knew his work from stuff of his I’d bought on Shaboom records (he’s probably best known now for ‘Black AM’). I’m glad I did the decent thing and googled Frou Frou though, as it turns out they’re none other than Imogen Heap and Guy Sigsworth. Guy’s name I know from Talvin Singh and Bjork productions, and Imogen Heap is an absolute fave (I included her track ‘hide and seek’ on a mix of some of mine and Mrs. K’s favourite songs that we burnt to CD and gave to all of our wedding guests, so writing this has actually increased the sentimental value of the record).
At that time I was working in Durham City, training to be an architect. I spent my lunch breaks rifling through the racks at Durham’s only record shop – ‘Concepts’. Concepts was a great little shop run by a gent called Dave (I think! Might have been Paul?). They stocked loads of stuff; mainly CDs at the time but they had a great little vinyl section and got some decent US and European imports.
Concepts was where I really caught the digging bug. I’d go in there most lunchtimes, five days a week. The selection was relatively small, so week to week I’d know it by heart. I’m pretty sure they only had one shipment a week, but I was there most days – flicking through the racks, listening, memorising and listening again. Those relatively small racks (compared to the HMV ‘megastore’ in Newcastle that I also frequented), and my small weekly wage burning a hole in my pocket also led me to widen my musical scope and palette. The shop had a listening station for records, but not CDs – so when I’d exhausted the racks of vinyl I began to explore the CDs, buying on a whim or at the recommendation of the guys behind the counter. At the time I bought the usual staple of new albums; your Chemical Brothers, your Daft Punks, your MOS mix CDs – but Concepts led me to discover so much more, getting me into metal, indie and more experimental electronics, and really appreciate the album format.
Anyway – back on topic. ‘It’s good to be in love’ didn’t really fit with much I was playing at the time, and was one of those records that went into my racks and were normally pulled halfway out and pushed back in without getting a play. Thinking about it now, I had many such records that were bought probably just for the sake of buying something. I think at the time I was trying to play darker, dubbier, tribal stuff – where the Watkins dub of ‘it’s good to be in love’ was very much peak-time, though I think it flew under the radar of most or perhaps wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve certainly never heard it anywhere else other than my own man cave.
Around that time a friend (Fyzal Kirk – now an amazing local wedding photographer) was putting on nights in and around Durham city. Some of these regular parties took place at a venue in Durham called ‘The Fish Tank’. The Fish Tank’s name had a sort of double meaning; firstly it was situated upstairs above a fish shop. Secondly, and importantly- it was tiny. Squeeze fifty punters in there and you’d feel claustrophobic. That was ideal though, as it was a bit of a family affair – the same friendly faces would show up at every party, and everyone was a mate or a friend of a friend. It was a great venue and a great vibe; friendly and intimate – and it felt like it was ours.
I pestered Fyzal to let me play at a few of his parties. I was a little shy back then, and not very confident of my skills as a selector (nothing’s changed really) so generally, when I did convince Fyzal to let me on, I’d get an early slot. I’m not entirely sure how it came about, but I ended up playing a later slot at one of the monthly parties. I’m not sure I was the ‘headliner’ but if I wasn’t on last, I’m pretty sure it was second from last. This was pretty big for me, so I think I sort of ‘gave in’ and decided to play a set of ‘bangers’ – back to back peak-time house. So, when I was studiously preparing my set (I’m pretty sure that’s what I did; practised mixes and memorised play order!) I pulled out the Frou Frou record and this time it wasn’t pushed back into the racks.
Now I must stress that the reason this record means so much to me is it evokes memories. It has to be said that on the night in question, I did have quite a few drinks to calm the nerves, and no doubt there were other substances floating around in my system. In those days, when I still drank – I generally woke up the next day with only slivers of the previous night committed to memory. There are pretty much entire years of my life like that. What I remember was that when it came round to my turn on the decks I gave it my all. I remember the crowd in front of me. They were dancing. They were eating out of my hand. They were whistling and whooping and cheering on every track. That is what I remember, but that’s not necessarily how it went down. As I say, booze was involved and it does (did) funny things to me. There’s a good chance any smiles on the dance floor were brought on my shoddy mixing or drunken antics behind the decks…
What I do definitely remember is dropping the Frou Frou track last (after a BeeGees sampling record by someone called the ‘lovefreeks’ – as I said, all bangers), pulling off my hat (an orange beanie I think), swinging it about and throwing it into the crowd. Completely ridiculous, but in that moment I obviously felt validated enough to grace one of my adoring fans with a memento to take away with them (I got it back later, thank god). I’d had the time of my life and the music was all that mattered. The dreamy vocals (“I’m adoring you, It’s all good, You’re so beautiful, I’m black & blue all over”), the rising string-laden pads, and the drop followed by the simple funky little three-note bassline. Positively euphoric.
So, even though it’s not hugely well known, even though it’s not a seminal classic, even though it’s not a collector’s item (pick a NM copy up for a few quid in Discogs if you’re so inclined), it is one of my most valued records. Every time I play it, every time I even see the sleeve I’m reminded of that night, and I smile from ear to ear.
Would I play it in a set today? Probably not. To be honest, It’s not a particularly amazing track, and probably a guilty pleasure, but I love it. I think what’s special about records is that everyone hears something different. What I hear are the whoops and the whistles. And I think those records; those that evoke fond memories of the halcyon days, of new friends and new experiences or old friends and old jokes; those records are the best records – regardless of if they’re cool, expensive, popular or successful. For me they’re timeless. For me they’re classics.