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“We are the Mods, we are the Mods, we are, we are, we are the Mods” we cried.
“No you’re fucking not” replied Johnny Dean with a twinkle in his eye and just the right amount of menace in his voice, then they were off, romping through their glorious set of glam poppin’ stompers. By the time it was over I was grinning from ear to ear and my heart was soaring so high it was threatening to leave my body through the top of my head.
That was my first Menswe@r gig at La Belle Angele in Edinburgh in April, 1995…it was so good that my best friend, Chris, and I travelled to Leeds the next day, ditching our lectures at university and without the security of having purchased tickets in advance. We struck lucky and bought two spares from a tout.
Any band that can convince two young men to drive from Edinburgh to Leeds in a beat up Lada and without tickets must be good.
But Menswe@r were better than good.
They were a riot.
All John Lydon snoot and sneer, great trousers and such roaring self belief that you almost couldn’t hear the music above it.
Don’t believe the hype?
Well, now you can listen to some of their set at the Shepherds Bush Empire from later in that same year. A gig I attended after an overnight coach trip, again with Chris, and a day spent wandering the streets of London, dressed like an extra from “Quadrophenia”.
Just six tracks are captured but each of them provides all the evidence you need to support the notion that maybe, just maybe, no other band better captured the spirit of the time. They were young, they were clean, they had all the right records in their collection, they blagged like their lives depended on it and, crucially, they had the songs. Not all of them were killers, but even the fillers were delivered with such assuredness and carefree charm that you couldn’t be too critical.
What is captured here is just how joyful and fun Britpop really was. This is British pop. A little bit camp, a little bit arch, a little bit silly, a little bit of plagiarism…but a lot of giddy, uplifting, thrilling, wonder. This was what it felt like if you were a part of it. Menswe@r looked like me, or I looked like them. What they were doing looked…achievable. I started a band shortly after this gig…we were called The Persuaders and we were fucking dreadful, we lasted about three rehearsals before we realised that what Menswe@r were doing required considerably more talent than any of us possessed.
26 years have passed but listening to this it all seems much closer, I’m smiling just as widely as I listen to “The One”, I can still feel Chris’ arm across my shoulder as we bounced around to “Daydreamer”, I’m singing along with as much fervour to “I’ll Manage Somehow” (a record I bought two copies of because I was convinced it was going to be worth a fortune in the years to come).
Menswe@r Live At The Shepherds Bush Empire is available now on all major steaming platforms.