Sometimes I just can’t listen to The Smashing Pumpkins. Sometimes I want to drown myself in them as I did when I was 23, in my final undergraduate year of uni. Liking them too late. Late for everything, as always. I started that habit the day I was born.
The Smashing Pumpkins; riding the crest of their wave 10 years before I was listening to them. How I, as a child in the grunge era, managed to avoid hearing The Smashing Pumpkins while my best friend was busy going to see them is an eternal mystery to me. “You liked Oasis back then,” she informed me dully.
“Why didn’t you set me straight?” I asked her.
“Well, it just wasn’t your thing then.” Rarely one to make an effort; I love her dearly.
So it was down to someone else, 10 years later, to show me the light. It happened in the darkness of winter, sharing bottles of red wine and joints in his attic room. I always think of that time as green and sparkly and Bohemian, back in 2006. I wore floaty dresses over baggy trousers; I lined my eyes with black kohl and green glitter. I wrote angry stories and edited them when I was high, before handing them in to have them marked with ‘A’s. That was the time, the crest of my wave with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness providing the soundtrack.
Sometimes, in the devastating months after the wave crashed and broke, I tried to remember myself in 1996; standing at the tram stop on the promenade, my short, silky skirt flapping in the ever present breeze of Blackpool. I imagined myself in a world where The Smashing Pumpkins were releasing Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; I wondered how my life would have been different if I had actually paid any attention to the skateboarders soaring from the top of the bandstand behind me. But 1996 was not the time to notice them; nor was it the time to hear The Smashing Pumpkins.
The green, hazy, first half of 2006 was the time to listen to them and notice him. The time to live in attics in the old, pretty city; the time to get lost in books, watch Dylan Moran and write unbelievable stories that were stranger than fiction. 2006; the crest of my wave, broken and washed away forever.
Pearl Jam. My favourite band ever; or so I claim. In actual fact, although I’ve listened to plenty of their songs, there are only a couple of Pearl Jam albums that I’ve listened to all the way through. One of them is Yield. Another, the first I ever heard, is No Code.
As I drive to the gym one night, wearing my Pearl Jam t-shirt, I decide to listen to whatever Pearl Jam I have on my ipod. Driving someone else’s large car along a country road in the dark, I realise why (apart from their music) I love Pearl Jam so much. It is the perpetual youth that the music stirs up in me; the fact that I will always be 17, taken back to driving another large, borrowed car along a different country road to see the person who first lent me No code. Ten years older than me, English with an American accent (after 10 years in the States), he had been there, caught up in the deluge of Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots. He had lived in that scene, experienced the gigs and the grunge. “This reminds me of you,” he said one day, as we drove along listening to ‘Smile’. He was always in love with innocent, 17-year-old me, although I continually rejected him.
Perhaps Pearl Jam is my favourite band because it has been the soundtrack to some of my serious love stories. Tales in which I was the object of desire; the Bohemian lover; the transgressing heart-breaker too weak to admit the facts. Wanting the bird in my hand and the one in the sky. Pearl Jam bonded me with people I loved and has played in the years since I was 17.And although their music has been attached to other people and newer, different times, whenever I am driving in the dark with Pearl Jam drifting through the speakers, I will always be 17, restored to a confidence behind the wheel that eludes me now. Seventeen, borrowing my parents’ bulky, diesel, Peugeot 405 (which, back then I could drive way better than the posh car my fiance lets me borrow now). Or I am 25 and in London, watching a DVD of Eddie Vedder unplugged on MTV. Or I am 31, promising myself I will listen to all of Pearl Jam’s albums before this Winter Solstice. Then I can sell my soul for a ticket when they next tour; truly claim to be a huge fan when I know what Ten sounds like from start to finish.
(If you are a Christian/cult member of any kind hoping for some divine revelation, then this is not the blog for you).
You would think that I’d have learnt by now. If I want my parents to visit me at 1pm, I should tell them to arrive at 1.30pm;then at least I’d have some hope of being ready for their arrival at 1pm. Eleven years after first leaving home, I say, “Come between 12 and 12.30,” naively assuming 12 will be the earliest that they will knock at my door. Why do I still hold out hope that they will have realised that my sister and I will NEVER- I repeat- N-E-V-E-R be ready BEFORE the time we say we’ll be ready? So today, following my 12/12.30pm invitation, why am I still surprised when my fiance shouts up the stairs, “Your parents are here!” just as I am turning off the shower? “Seriously?” I shout back.
“Sorry we’re early love!” yells my mum’s cheerful voice. But today, today is a revelation for me. Today, I step out of the shower at 11.45am (15 minutes before their earliest expected time of arrival) and I realise: it doesn’t matter. It does not matter that they are early, that they will have to wait 20 minutes while I sort out my hair and get ready. It’s fine. They are my quirky, irritating and loving parents. They are welcome in my home; it is their home too.
I shout, “Hiya!” wrap my hair in a towel, put on my bathrobe and head downstairs to point them in the direction of the teabags and milk. Today, as always, they are early and I am not ready. But today, it is fine.