Remembering: 1995

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 Fliss Clarke and Fran Slater reflecting on the oldest year we’ve covered yet: 1995.

Fliss’ playlist

Fran’s playlist

Fran: Hi Fliss,

So, I thought I’d get us kicked off with this trip down memory lane. To start with some context, I want to warn everyone reading that I can’t be entirely sure that everything I’ll discuss here actually happened in exactly 1995 – I was eleven then, and my brain was barely formed – so if anyone who knew me responds to say the time I sung ‘Country House’ on stage with my shirt open in front of most of my school year was actually 1996 – well, I apologise in advance. 

Anyway. So this is definitely the furthest back in time I’ve been for one of these remembering articles, and in a way that made it the most fun playlist to put together. This is before I had any sense of cool, I suppose. I was just enjoying songs before I became a cynic.

From your playlist, it looks like we were in a similar place. So tell me, how was the experience of putting the list together? And what embarrassing memories did it stir in you?

Fliss: Sure, we can start with the shame. Also aged 11, I was up town one Saturday in summer 1995 with school friends in a bookshop. It was very quiet and I did a thunderous fart. Too mortified to laugh it off, my horror was catnip to the “friends” present and the incident led to a catastrophic falling out. I associate this memory with ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, which is why I plumped for ‘Acquiesce’.

Flatulence related friendship breakdowns aside, this was a fun year to look back on! The first iteration of this playlist was all cool songs from the year that I subsequently discovered, when really in 1995 I was mainlining Top of the Pops, Smash Hits and the weekly Top 40 countdown.

Brings us back to ‘Country House’ and the peak britpop moment of Blur vs Oasis chart battle – were you team Blur? What do you remember of that? And what are the songs on your playlist that most evoke a memory of the time?

Fran: Ha ha – well, that is fantastic. If nothing else, I am glad we did this just to get the fart story. Amazing.

I’ll be honest, and I am sure we will come to this more later, but I am quite surprised by the levels of cool throughout both of our playlists. There is some cheese, sure, but we were either 11-year-olds with fantastic taste in music or something else was going on. I suppose we’ll find out.

I remember that chart battle well and I was very much team Oasis, but looking back there are far more memories tied up for me in that Blur song than in ‘Roll With It’ which was, to be frank, a steaming pile of turd. Possibly Oasis’s worst song. I was a huge Oasis fan, though, so was backing them in the fight – but Blur had the better of the two songs. 

It’s an interesting question about which songs on my list most evoke memories, because they all do in a way. I found this a hugely nostalgic task. To delve further into the ‘Country House’ shame, we went on a school trip overnight for the first time and I sang this with some friends during a ‘talent’ show – all I’m going to say is that I went home from that trip with two girlfriends having started the weekend with none, so I must have been amazing.

But ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ is another one for me – my first gig, the first single I ever queued up to buy – this was a major year in my music memory.

How about you? Which of your songs take you back the most? Any non-fart related memories to share?

Fliss: Sounds like an absolute triumph! Assuming this stellar performance wasn’t documented? An incalculable cultural loss.

The dance tracks are evocative. I had the privilege of growing up in Stoke-on-Trent, home of the UK’s no. 1 indoor tropical aqua park, Waterworld. On Friday evening there was an Aqua Disco which was, as I recall, excellent. Clumsy prepubescent lipsmacking in the rapids to Livin Joy and the like then Maccy Ds for milkshake and fries. Good times.

My first single is on here too. I remember seeing Elastica doing ‘Waking Up’ on TOTP, buying the single and playing it on repeat. Still think it slaps. “Have a cup of tea, put a record on” is sound life advice.

Can we talk about ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, which appears on both our playlists? It’s a weird song to appraise in 2022, but it was everywhere, went to number one. Why did you pick it and what do you make of it re-listening now?

Fran: Well, not to be a downer but you’ve actually just managed to bring up the only two tracks on your playlist that aren’t really nostalgic for me in any way. I didn’t get Elastica then, and I’m afraid I still don’t now. And I always found that Livin Joy song annoying. Sorry!

How about you? Any on my list that do nothing for you? Or that make your blood boil?

As for ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, that was probably my song of the year. It’s also maybe the most interesting song on either list, given the contrast in the stark and heavy story it tells and the way it became seen as almost a fun, catchy song for all the kids from Stoke and Derbyshire to rap along to in their rooms. I loved it. We all loved it. And I still think it’s an absolute banger. But its point got somewhat missed, I think – and this was highlighted by the fact that Coolio was seen as a bit of a novelty act by many. So why’s it on your list? And did you have any idea about its message at the time?

That actually leads me to another question I had for you, too. There are some deep songs on our lists – ones our 11-year-old minds should not have fully grasped. ‘You Oughta Know’ is an absolute cracker, but what were you getting from a song like that at such an early age?

Fliss: I have no major gripes with your playlist, although I think ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ is an unrelenting dirge that has no business being almost five minutes long. Were you into Radiohead at the time?

You’ve hit on something that’s been really interesting in this process. Of course, I knew all the words to ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ but had no real grasp on the gravity of content. Same goes for ‘Waterfalls’ and ‘You Oughta Know’. The depths only became clear later.

That said I think ‘You Oughta Know’ was and still is a radical song and while I didn’t entirely get it age 11 there’s no mistaking the emotional heft. That anger hits you hard: no one has done female rage more eloquently or artistically than Alanis. Don’t think it’s an understatement to say that Jagged Little Pill was revolutionary for the emotional lives of women and girls.

How has your relationship to some of the songs changed over the years? What has developed from those 1995 seedlings?

Also we’ve got a Take That hit battle on here: respectfully requesting your case for ‘Back for Good’.

Fran: I was indeed into Radiohead at the time – The Bends was probably my favourite album that year, but I do think they’ve far surpassed it since and ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ is nowhere near their best songs. Loved it then, though, and if I’m being honest it’s probably the only song on either list that I still hear semi-regularly.

Totally agree with you on Jagged Little Pill and had a couple of options from it on my longlist for this, but in reality I think I was a few years older when I got into it. Maybe because it was saying things my 11-year-old brain couldn’t grasp.

In terms of how my relationship has changed, I would say I’ve gone off a lot of the indie rock songs as my taste has changed. But then songs like ‘Waterfalls’ and ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, which I maybe saw as a bit novelty back then, have shown themselves to be pretty timeless in this process. It’s interesting that we both picked these two. How about you, what’s been your journey with the songs here?

As for the battle of the Take That’s, it’s easily ‘Back For Good’ right? ‘Never Forget’ is okay but even then it was a little too dramatic for my liking. Plus, I’ll always remember playing Back For Good to Sally Martin (Hi Sally) down the phone after she dumped me in McDonald’s. Didn’t end well.

Definitely want to touch on the Connells song you chose at this point. I totally forgot about that one and it was the one song on your playlist that I had entirely lost touch with. Loved it then and am glad to give it some time now. Does it have any particularly meaning for you? And were there any songs on my list that you’d pretty much forgotten about?

Fliss: Impressed you got into Radiohead at that age. A most intriguing and complex picture emerging, advanced angst meets ‘Country House’ swagger meets hopeless romantic gestures. And so Sally can wait, she knows it’s too late…

There are songs on the list that feel firmly stuck in 1995, like ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ and ‘Dreamer’, while others transcend, like ‘Waterfalls’ and ‘You Oughtta Know’. My enduring memory of ‘Set You Free’ is in the clurrrb, most specifically Majestiks in Leeds at a midweek student night in 2002 but also elsewhere. I wonder how much it depends on what enters the popular canon?

I love ‘74-75.’ God knows what it’s about but I think it’s a beautiful all-purpose melancholy ditty. The instrumentation is lush. And on your list I’d totally forgotten about ‘Peaches’! Loved it then, a lot of fun, both as a song and to return to.

You are probably right about ‘Back for Good’. However, I have a theory that ‘Never Forget’ is Barlow’s ‘Bo Rhap’ and enjoy imagining him being deeply uncompromising about the whole camp drama of it all. It’s also important in the historical context of Take That: Robbie left during the promotion of ‘Never Forget’ – I will never forget – and it gives a whole new poetic dimension to the distinctly Robbie vocal delivery of “we’re not invincible.”

ALSO never forget = remembering. So appropriate.

Fran: Ha ha – you’ve definitely given that Take That inclusion some real thought and I’m here for it – I’m even tempted to grant you a win for effort.

Yeah, I agree with the idea that some of the songs seem very stuck in the era – although weirdly it is different songs for me. It’s the Britpop that seems most stuck in place.

Well, Fliss, it feels to me like we are coming near to an end here – I may have shared enough embarrassing stories about myself now – but, before we move on, there are two songs that haven’t got a mention yet – and I am particularly interested in what those two songs are.

When I chose Leftfield’s ‘Release The Pressure’ I imagined you, and any readers, thinking ‘there is no way an 11-year-old was in to this’ – and that was my immediate thought when I saw ‘Sour Times’ by Portishead on your list. I can justify the Leftfield as it being a favourite in my house, both for my sister and my dad, and that it was played so much that I definitely did love it at that age – and still do now, in fact. But what about ‘Sour Times’ – what story do you have to justify that being on your list? Because it’s a little hard to picture 11-year-old you turning off ‘Never Forget’ and switching on some Portishead…

Fliss: So glad you’ve brought us back to Leftfield as I wanted to touch on it but got very distracted by Take That’s opus on staying humble. ‘Release The Pressure’ was the one song on your list that I was completely unfamiliar with. What a tune! I’m inspired to check out Leftism as I’m to understand it’s important. Your household soundtrack sounds very cool.

Aaaand you’ve got me. Truly rumbled. I was not into Portishead in 1995 – it’s the one track where I cheated. I just couldn’t let Dummy go unacknowledged, but it wasn’t on my little Alba hi-fi in the mid-90s. Thusly you win for authenticity. I’m willing to cede the title to have ‘Sour Times’ on the list in a spot that by rights should have gone to ‘Boombastic’ or such like.

Fran: Oh mate – to think I could have been listening to ‘Mr Boombastic’ for the last couple of weeks and you denied me that opportunity. Gutted. Also, sorry for outing your lies there – I was truly expecting to reveal a fantastic story about how the bookshop farter developed into the cool kid introducing Portishead to the masses in the course of a year.

As for Leftfield – colour me shocked that you don’t know Leftism. You will love it. Stop what you’re doing right this second and put it on, it’s a masterpiece.

And now that I’ve given you some homework, that feels like a pretty good place to call it quits. Thanks Fliss, I have enjoyed this immensely – glad to learn we were both covering ourselves in shame while striving to be cool in 1995.

Peace out.

Fliss: As we walk through the valley of the shadow of shame, we take a look at the lists and realise there’s nothin left. Cos I’ve been chatting Take That for so long that even Fran now thinks that my mind has gone..

While adapting the entirety of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ to this situ feels like a worthy creative endeavour, I’ll leave it there. This has been so much fun! Thanks for the 1995 adventure – I’m off to do my homework. 

Words by Fliss Clarke and Fran Slater

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