“Things are getting kind of strange ‘round here, I think I’m falling in love. It’s a strange kind of love.”
(Strange Kind of Love)
Every year we would gather at Aberfoyle.
Mormon teenagers from all across Scotland.
A weekend of outdoor activities, Scripture and the bearing of testimonies.
But on the Saturday night there would be a disco.
That was why we were really there.
The disco was Heaven on Earth, a glimpse into the sort of thing that ordinary teenagers were doing but which we were warned against lest Satan himself should take us in his wicked grasp and lead us away from our true purpose.
She had the most beautiful hair.
Cut into a classic Byres Road indie girl bob.
I spotted her on the Friday when we arrived.
At the disco we peeled away from the body of the assembled horde of God’s children and ended up sitting on swings, talking about goodness knows what. I don’t know how we ended up on those swings. I’m not entirely confident that the swings existed. But that’s my memory of things.
Did we kiss?
Oh, I don’t know.
The next week I called her (I still know her number now, thirty years later) and we talked for a long time. At some point I asked her what sort of music she liked and she told me she liked this band and that band, all of them bands I liked too. Then she said that she really liked Cud and asked me if I liked Cud too.
“Do I like Cud?” I replied. “Who doesn’t like Cud. Of course I like Cud. Love Cud.” I hadn’t heard of Cud.
She was always so much cooler than me.
She had an older brother and two older sisters, her brother was a bit of a rude boy, he had a big collection of Two-Tone singles. Her older sister was too much older to be any sort of influence. Her middle sister was too cool for school. Black hair, the Byres Road bob, Breton stripe top, faded Levis, Doc Marten shoes. Can we be honest with each other? I sort of had a crush on her too. Those two siblings gave her a massive advantage over me when it came to knowing about which groovy bands I should be hip to.
We organised a time for me to come and stay over at her parents place and I knew that I couldn’t arrive for that date without finding out all about Cud. If I didn’t like them I could fake it but if I didn’t know the name of a single song, if I couldn’t recognise them when she played them…I was done for.
Sleeves was just off the High Street in Kirkcaldy and I made my way there after school the day after our telephone conversation. They had one album by Cud, “Elvis Belt”. I bought it and took it home. I don’t know if I have ever been more anxious about playing an album. I really liked this girl. I didn’t know it then but I would fall in love with her. My first. What if I didn’t like Cud? What if it wasn’t my kind of thing? This could be a deal breaker.
Somebody on the front cover was wearing a belt with an “ELVIS” buckle.
I didn’t like Elvis.
My parents were Mods, there were no Elvis records in my home.
I was worried that this Elvis belt was a sign that the band were going to be a bit…Elvis.
Record removed from the sleeve and inside, as well as the record itself, was a comic strip which gave a potted history of the band: drummer Steve had a drum kit he found in a skip, Mike, the guitarist, bought his first guitar from a mail order catalogue and William, bass, was banned from putting stickers on his bass. It also informed me that the album itself was a compilation of early singles.
I liked the comic strip. It was drawn by someone called Will Potter…who I figured out was the same Will who was playing bass. I liked the photograph of the band on the back of the album too, they all had good hair…OK, nobody had a quiff like what my favouritest pop star of all, Morrissey, had, but they looked cooler than me. Like some of the older boys in town.
I had seen enough to calm my nerves and so I dropped the needle to the vinyl. Crackle.
It was furious.
A little bit funny? Not “ha ha”, but peculiar…angular, a canted angle in musical form. I loved it.
I wasn’t even half way into the first song, “Slack Time”, and I was already falling harder for the band than I had for the girl and, believe me, I had fallen very hard for her…so hard had I fallen that I’m not sure I ever got back up again.
The voice was a thing of wonder and beauty.
He sounded like he was the sort of boy I wished I was.
The same insecurities but with more resolve to escape the life that other people had mapped out for him?
The music sounded like it would fill the dance floor…not at the disco at Aberfoyle, there was too much menace for it to have found its way onto a Church approved playlist, but at a real indie disco. You could dance to some of it, you could jump around to lots of it, you could sway to all of it. Dancing, jumping, swaying, singing…what else do you want?
But then something happened.
First came “Treat Me Bad” which was a bit darker than “Slack Time” and “Make No Bones”. It sounded a bit like Jesus and Mary Chain, feedback and anti-melody melody making. “Well you can treat me bad…you can do anything that you wanna…as long as you treat me to another night”. Oh my.
I knew what this was about.
I think I knew.
Sex was forbidden.
Heavy petting was reason enough to have you dragged before Church Elders and warned of the consequences of the pleasures of the flesh anywhere outside of the conjugal bed.
I should have lifted the needle right then.
“Punishment-Reward Relationship” was worse. By which, of course, I mean it was even better. “The things that you do and the way that you do them, are the sort of things that make me want to sing along…from the look in your eyes I think I know your kind…the clothes you wear show you’ve got a dirty mind…your blue dress unzipping…your flesh exhibiting…correction…erection”
This time I did lift the needle.
This was rude.
I knew that my Church leaders would, very definitely, not approve.
What to do, what to do.
What to do.
What. To. Do.
I put the needle back on the record and let myself fall.
“Urban Spaceman” made me laugh.
“Lola” was familiar.
“Only (A Prawn in Whitby)” was the indiest thing I had ever heard.
When it had all finished I lay back on my bed and thought.
Did she know about “Treat me Bad” and “Punishment Reward Relationship”? If she did what did that say about her.
A good Mormon girl wouldn’t listen to records like that.
Which could only mean that she either hadn’t heard them or that she had and that, like me, she had decided that the way they made her feel was better than the way sitting at Church on a Sunday felt.
Two sinners destined to fall into each others arms.
Like I said, I fell hard.
But that’s all I should say here.