Our Remembering series does what it says on the tin: our writers jog their memories to reflect on what an old song, album or year meant to them.
This installment features Sam Atkins and James Spearing reflecting on the the year that can’t possibly be 17 years ago, 2005.
James: The first thing I thought when you suggested 2005 was landfill indie. That year, more than any other, exemplifies that time for me. But when it came to populating the playlist, although there was some landfill on there, I was pleasantly surprised by the wider variety of music that sparked specific memories for me. Much of the memory of landfill could have been from any blurry night out at 5th Avenue or 42nd Street (two Manchester indie clubs, popular with students) from 2004 to 2009. Your playlist Sam, oddly does a similar thing for me. They’re all songs I remember from nights out, especially ‘Gold Digger’. Listening to it brought back similar blurry memories, only from different student pubs and clubs. What memories do you associate with your choices?
2005 gave me plenty to choose from. I had over 30 songs to begin with, so it was a challenge to narrow it down to just ten. The first song that I knew would make it on the final list was ‘Positive Tension’ by Bloc Party. I know that Silent Alarm, the album it comes from, was a big deal for several bastards, myself included, but did it register for you at all at the time?
Sam: I seem to be the only Bastard that really has no strong feelings towards or against Bloc Party. I mildly remember the name during 2005, but it was probably from the times I would switch between music channels whenever a ‘guitar band’ would come on. Even in the years since all of you have banged on about how important Silent Alarm is, but I just don’t see it. It’s just pretty decent mid 00s Indie to me.
I guess we are showing an age gap when I wasn’t even at the point of ‘going out’ by this point, I was very much at the playing music really loud in my room and watching music channels for the rest of the day stage. To me I decided to stick with songs I had a genuine connection to at the time, whether that was buying the CD single/album itself or the artist being a huge thing for me at the time. It’s why I haven’t picked out all of the hits of the era from artists I’d eventually love, as I had no clue who they were at the time. Kanye is probably the outlier in that sense, I did absolutely love (and still do love) ‘Gold Digger’, but it was 100% from music channels and the radio. I hadn’t quite crossed over to fully getting into Rap at the time and wouldn’t buy my first Kanye album for another three years. Back to your list my initial moment of horror is that you made me listen to that godawful Kate Bush cover from The Futureheads. She deserves way more respect than that horrific version of one of her all time best songs.
James: Fair point on Kate Bush, but to its credit, this cover helped open up a world, or at least an album, of Kate Bush for me that I hadn’t previously been aware of. And I couldn’t have done a 2005 playlist without including some indie anthems. I always loved how the Futureheads fully embraced their Sunderland accents in they way they sang this, and all their other songs. So I stand by this moment of godawful horror! Much better than Girls Aloud or Kelly Clarkson anyway. I guess it was inevitable, given how massive pop talent shows were at this time, that some product of them would infiltrate your list.
I agree that Bloc Party will always be liked but those who like them and will be difficult to convince others when it didn’t mean something to them at the time. Silent Alarm for me I was in exactly the right place and time to appreciate. I know I wasn’t convinced in the same way by any of their other albums. At least you say it was decent though.
Going back to the going out point, other than maybe ‘Hounds of Love’, I’ve tried to stick with songs in this list that represent what I was listening to at home. I surprised myself in how much more varied than the abiding memory of landfill indie the final playlist was. What about both of our playlists was surprising to you?
Sam: The idea that you could even try to compare that mess of a cover to ‘Biology’, one of the best pop records of the decade is baffling to me. I was maybe surprised that I recognised so little of your list, there was lots on here I definitely had never heard before, ‘E-Talking’ and that song by Richard Hawley especially. But I quite enjoyed both of those. The Raul Midon song was most surprising as that didn’t sound like anything I would have been expecting from you. I have no reference point for that song at all, was it from an album you were listening to at the time?
James: I’m really glad you mentioned those three songs because I wanted to talk about each of them. I’ll go with ‘E-Talking’ first because I genuinely have no idea how I came to listen to this and buy this album. It’s so out of step with anything else I was in to at the time. It would be a couple more years at least before I was really enjoying anything else like this. My only guess would be that Soulwax were remixing a few of the indie disco tunes like The Gossip’s ‘Standing In The Way of Control’ and that this must have led me to their own album, Nite Versions. Raul Midon and Richard Hawley I both discovered from watching Later…with Jools Holland that year, and bought both albums off the back of that one TV performance. Richard Hawley went on to be Mercury nominated and work with Elbow, but I’ve never heard of Raul Midon again since, despite being a protege of Stevie Wonder. Maybe it’s time to revisit him.
There is another song on my list, the only one we have in common, that is also a big memory from Later…, and that’s the KT Tunstall song. If I remember rightly, she only played this one song on the show, but the performance absolutely blew me away. I’m convinced that Ed Sheeran also watched her that night, and then stole her act. Is this where you first heard ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’ too?
Sam: The timing of this couldn’t be better for you mentioning that performance of KT Tunstall’s as Ed Sheeran selected it as one of his favourites on the Jools Holland show I’m watching right now. It’s insane to think the impact that one performance had on her career though, it’s an all time great. I don’t think I first heard it on there though, I wasn’t quite at the Later… stage, so I probably only caught on when follow up song ‘Suddenly I See’ was released. That album would have been my most played of the year, I still think it’s a fantastic album and it was one of the first ‘singer songwriter’ type records I can remember properly getting.
I’ve only just realised the Soulwax remix link and now that song makes way more sense to me. Can we mention the elephant in the room? You have selected a band called Test Icicles which might be the worst band name I’ve ever seen.
James: Terrible name indeed, but I’d contend (controversially according to some other current and former Bastards) that this is still the best thing Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange aka Lightspeed Champion) has ever done. It always felt like a bit of an outlier from other indie bands, looking back. I think maybe they were a little ahead of their time – it could have been a big New Rave tune.
So if you weren’t watching Later… were you watching the shows that produced the likes of Girls Aloud and Kelly Clarkson? What do you make of them then and now? And you say ‘Biology’ is one of the best, but do you think acts like these really hold up today?
Sam: Oh I was definitely watching things like that back then. 2005 would have been the start of The X Factor I think, but that wouldn’t produce anyone decent for a few more years. I loved Girls Aloud and always will, basically a way for production team Xenomania to make some of the most interesting pop music ever. Kelly manages to avoid being a ‘reality star’ simply by having a fucking brilliant voice. What about the other massive hits on my playlist? Do you have any memory of any of them in particular?
James: Can’t say I’ve ever thought of Girls Aloud as interesting. I didn’t know the songs on your list from the title, but once I listened I knew them all. As you said, they were massive hits. Amerie has to be my favourite of them all, I would be happy to listen to this any time. I had definitely forgotten the J-Lo and Ciara tunes though.
‘DARE’ feels different from the rest of your list, musically as well as Damon Albarn and Shaun Ryder being the only white English men on there. But then I guess Gorillaz were as popular as anything else. Do you feel like it fits in for you?
Sam: Fun fact about that Amerie song, they blocked it from being released as a producer had earmarked it for J-Lo to rerecord and release herself. Amerie heard this was the plan so leaked it to a load of radio stations and by then it was too late. Still one of the defining hits of the era for me.
I do think Gorrilaz fits in, it was a refreshing sound on the radio at the time, but also fit nicely with how much US hip-hop had started to influence British artists I think. I only picked ‘DARE’ because I vividly remember being entranced by the music video whenever it would come on, that sort of demonic look on Shaun Ryder’s face has always stuck with me.
‘Ooh La La’ is the track that stands out from your list in a similar way. Goldfrapp was a bit beyond me at that point, my brother really liked them with his ‘music student’ friends so I remember hearing that album a lot. Were you already a fan by then?
James: Yes I can see that Goldfrapp would stand out, and it definitely stood out from most other things I listened to at the time. But I do remember loving it. I never massively got into their albums but enjoyed many of their singles and must have heard some from previous albums before ‘Ooh La La’.
So I have two songs left that we’ve not talked about. ‘Honest Mistake’ I can only describe as an honest mistake. The Bravery had a couple of ok tunes but they didn’t last. I saw them perform that year and they were far more interested in looking cool than giving us a good evening out. They played a cover that nobody knew, let alone enjoyed. The rest wasn’t memorable.
‘Breakin’ on the other hand is from one of the most memorable bands of the era for me, and the band that I saw live more than any other at that time, The Music. The first ‘proper’ gig I ever went to was to see them, and they released their second album Welcome to the North the same week I moved up to Manchester. It was perfect. Either of these have any memories for you or was this your first time hearing them? Any songs we’ve not covered so far from your list?
Sam: Definitely my first time hearing either of those songs you mentioned, even though I’m certain I’ll have unconsciously heard them in the background somewhere. I can see why you like ‘Breakin’ especially, it’s bang on brand for you. Can imagine this as the sort of song I’d casually sing along to while trying to fit in with my ‘cool indie friends’ at uni, while secretly hoping that they’d play ‘Hung Up’ by Madonna instead.
I think we’ve covered everything on my list, there’s definitely music from 2005 that I’ve gone on to really love, but I think this snapshot of a playlist really sums up exactly what I was listening to at the time. Next time I definitely need to pick a year when I wasn’t still a child.
James: Ok let’s say we both keep listening to Madonna and The Music and call it a deal? I enjoyed trading lists with you Sam – let’s try it again another time. You can pick the year but you’re not allowed to moan about being young.
Words by Sam Atkins and James Spearing