Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"
I wish that I could have the chance to say these things to you in person.
Maybe one day.
None of us know for sure.
Hope is important.
The very first time I fell in love, it was with a girl who had an older brother. He was cool. I don’t know what cool means, I couldn’t define it, but whatever it is, he was it.
My first visit to her home was when he was living in Japan. A missionary for the Mormon Church. That doesn’t sound all that cool, but when you consider that I served my mission in Essex… It was 1991, I was a few months away from leaving home for my mission. I arrived on Friday night, on Saturday morning we were left home alone. After we had exhausted ourselves of the kissing, the touching, what the pool attendants called “heavy petting”, we found ourselves looking through his record collection. I didn’t really know anything about you at that point. I had heard of The Specials, I had heard “Too Much Too Young” and “Gangsters”, but that really was about it. All of The Specials singles were there, The Bodysnatchers, The Selecter, early Madness…he was a rude boy, ruder than me, maybe not any ruder than you. But there were also singles by bands I hadn’t heard of, The Colourfield and Fun Boy Three.
“The Colourfield?” I asked.
“You have to listen to this,” she said.
“Thinking Of You”.
It was the most romantic, heart warming, beautiful, joyous, honest, pop song I had ever heard. “Do the things that just don’t matter, laugh while others look in anger…”
Do the things that just don’t matter.
I couldn’t think of anything better than that.
Doing things that just don’t matter.
Falling asleep together on a single bed.
Listening to records.
None of those things “matter”…but they were all I wanted to do.
We listened to it more than once.
The sun flooded into the sitting room through the huge bay windows.
Just the two of us.
“Here am I, next to your skin, about to let the show begin, I’m under your spell” This was “My Wild Flame”, the b-side to “Thinking Of You”.
It was like you were speaking to us.
I was next to her.
Some sort of show was about to begin.
I was under her spell.
Ready to fulfil tender duties.
A few months later I was trapped in a flat in Bury St Edmunds, hundreds of miles away from her, not allowed to call, unable to feel her warm breath burn on my body, or to hear her quoting Frank Sidebottom. One day an envelope arrived. It was from her. There was a letter, some sweets, and a tape…I managed to hide the tape from the prying eyes of the other missionary. In bed that night I waited until I was sure he was asleep and I put the tape into my dictaphone which I used to send home audio diaries to my parents. With the volume down low, the fuzzy foam headphones clamped to my ears, I hit play…
“Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby”
“Whenever we kiss, I get to feeling like this…”
I was lonely and fucking miserable.
You were there again.
The right song.
The distance between us disappeared, your voice connected us.
I doubt she even remembers any of this.
Why would she?
It was a long time ago.
After “Can't Get Enough Of You Baby” she had recorded a message for me. You can imagine. Then another song. This time it was “Little Things”, and when you lost it and started giggling and swearing, I started to cry. Laying on a bed, in a miserable bedsit, in a town that stank of sugar beet, in a room with a bloke I didn’t know, and feeling more lonely than I had ever imagined possible. But then the crying stopped and I started giggling too…then I started to laugh, really laughing. I laughed so loud that I woke him up.
I know that people will be talking a LOT about The Specials over the next few days, I know that lots of very earnest articles will be written, there will be people jumping on the grief bandwagon… using the fact that you’ve gone as a means of showing that they have the right records in their collections…you won’t be able to move for articles about “Ghost Town” and how it “captured the moment”.
Blah, blah, blah.
I’m not crying because you were a Special. I’m crying because you were special. Thank you, Terry.
I hope there is a God, and a Heaven.