Music Features

The Culture Bunker #4

He left the North, he travelled South... with his increasingly frequent trans-national exploits, it seems Peter Mattinson is trying to keep Virgin Rail solvent on his own. Recently he's been to London to experience the end of something precious, and visited his own personal Holy City. For no good reason he's telling you about it in yet another pointless article...


There are events that happen in your life that completely destroy your faith in whatever grand plan there might be to this fucked-up collection of atoms we call the universe. And several months ago, one of them crept up on me and booted me hard in the teeth.

For my favourite band of recent years, the Lollies, decided to call it a day after several years of banging their heads against too many brick walls. It's almost enough to make a boy want to throw his record collection out the window and take up stamp collecting instead.

Yet I try to take what good there is from the situation, because I know I'm one of the privileged few. Skip forward to five, ten years time and while Libertines, Hot Hot Heat and Strokes CDs are gathering dust in lofts over the world, some of us can clutch to EPs, 7" singles and one exceptional album and know what it was to be part of something that meant something, even for only a fleeting moment.

But that's a different story for another time, maybe. Temporarily escaping the clutches of my situation to go see the Lollies' final gig meant another trip to London, an experience that always means head-trip central for me. Having lived all my life in small towns (from Cumbria to Surrey) dropping myself into the middle of one of the world's busiest places always takes days to get used to. By which point I'm cramped on the seat of the train home.

Residing memories are those of cramped tube carriages, weird Eastern European women with babies strapped to their back asking for your change and what looked horribly like a dead body in Oxford Street station. Being caught in a Tsunami of people heading the opposite direction to you and being sickened by the sheer number of McDonald's or Starbucks on every street corner.

More recently, I went to Manchester - the first time in my life I'd took a really good look round the city. Coming as I do from the middle of absolute fucking nowhere, Manchester seemed to me (and friends) as some kind of mecca - home to the bands we loved, the best football team around and mythology that seemed to beat anything the Capital had to offer.

When you've got ideas like that in your head, you know you're always climbing to fall. So in four days I wandered Manchester's streets and spent a lot of that getting soaked to the bone. Yet this somehow only added to the pathos of the situation I was in, so I went out and bought the Strange Times album by the Chameleons to complete the scene.

I'd only heard of the Chameleons in little snippets - the briefest mention in an article, a song or two on the radio - and when you discover a band who could well end up challenging your perspective on how you think about music and the way if affects your life, it's a wonderful thing. Strange Times will forever be my 'Manchester' soundtrack, it's echoing guitars and lyrical themes of weird characters, isolation and loss seemed way too apt for the city.


On a brighter note, I've received literally hundreds of emails since the last Culture Bunker. Sadly, most of them were offering me Penis and/or Breast enlargement operations or the opportunity to watch exactly what my kids are looking at on the Internet. Ho-hum. However, Gill Thomas of Leigh-on-Sea writes:

"Dear Peter. On reading your thoughts on Daley Thompson's Supertest, I was wondering if you could help me with something that has been bugging me for several years. On the sequel to Supertest, the equally joystick murdering, wrist wrecking Daley Thompson's Decathlon, would you happen to know the correct technique for successfully completing the High Jump event?"

Well, Gill, to be honest I haven't got a fucking clue, it constantly frustrated me as well. Yet as I write, the No Ripcord lab boys are already working double shifts to work out a formula to ensure a perfect jump. Or perhaps someone out there can help? Do you know Daley Thompson? Can he help, perhaps by using a magic bottle of specially endorsed Seoul '88 Lucozade? Answers, recipes and hate mail will be much appreciated.