I am not sure this song saved my life; in fact my enthusiasm for it nearly cut it short. And it was definitely responsible for me having a huge lump on my head.
In 1996, I moved back home to Dartford to live with my mum and dad again, having headed off to University in 1990 and, holidays aside, I had lived in Exeter ever since. But by 1995 I knew I was in the wrong job and there didn't seem to be many prospects down in the south west. The big smoke was calling. and towards the end of that year, I went to night school to learn how to use Microsoft Office (I had never sent an email, let alone used MS Excel or any of this revolutionary technology). I didn't want to look like some provincial idiot, so learnt the basics and got myself a job at a professional body of accountants, ACCA.
My last night in Exeter was spent in The Hole In The Wall on New Year's Eve 1995, where my friends spun a bottle and one would choose the poor woman I would have to chat up, while the next would choose which Jon Bon Jovi lyric I would have to use. A series of women were then subjected to me explaining that "I used to work down on the docks; union's been on strike, I'm down on my luck, it's tough...". I then attempted to charm some rather confused woman by saying "I want to lay you down in a bed of roses". And, of course, to another that her "love was like bad medicine and bad medicine is what I need"...". Needless to say, I finished 1995, as I had spent it, single...
Back in London, I made lots of fabulous friends at ACCA, many of whom I still see regularly now. I got to go to some great gigs - Exeter was fabulous, but we often saw bands because they were the only ones that came to town, rather than because we were desperate to see them. Britpop was still a thing and I was back in London and at the centre of it, seeing Gene, The Divine Comedy, Sleeper, The Longpigs, Edwyn Collins, Shed Seven, The Bluetones, Manic Street Preachers, Oasis...it was a good year.
And I had moved back to Dartford, so I had an hour and 15 minute commute. This was a pain in the arse, but I read loads of amazing books as I sat on the train from Kent to Charing Cross (Hi-Fidelity by Nick Hornby, Lost In Music by Giles Smith and Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh were three from that period I sped through). I even saw the play of the latter, which was incredible - it felt good to be able to do more cultural stuff. That said, I missed Exeter, its lovely community and my seven minute commute...
Living with my folks was great and enabled me to save to buy a place. It had its disadvantages though - my love life had been moribund in 1995. The chances of resuscitating it in 1996 were severely hampered by living with an over-protective 6o year old Irish Catholic mother who insisted on blessing me with holy water every time I left the house and would have called the police if I didn't come home. So, a spontaneous one-night stand was far from easy, and "do you want to come back to my place?" could sound smooth as chat-up lines go, but it has less impact when you have to add it's 9 miles away and there is a risk a mad Irish woman will throw you out...
So, when the folks announced that they were heading back to Sligo for two months, there was much joy in North West Kent. They had bought a house there and were now retired, so went over to do some work on their place, before they finally relocated there in 1998. After much fretting, my poor father managed to drag my mother into a car, onto a ferry and away for a few weeks and my childhood home temporarily became my batchelor pad.
There were no shenanigans as it goes, save my first ever dinner party, catered solely by me. And I threw a party. Friends came, some camped in the garden, others crashed on my lounge floor and we drank too much beer and too much wine. I think I made cheese and pineapple on sticks and cooked vast numbers of cocktail sausages - I was classy. And I blasted the latest Britpop indie at people.
One new band I discovered then was Super Furry Animals, part of a clutch of Welsh bands that were rivalling Britpop with Cool Cymru - Manics, Stereophonics, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Catatonia and the Super Fury Animals, who were the heart of this movement, even getting a top 20 album sung entirely in Welsh in 2001. And they referenced Bill Hicks in their artwork - I had seen Bill live in 1992 and was in awe of him, so the Furries were clearly cool.
Hometown Unicorn had caught my ear when it was the NME's single of the week soon after I came home. The song charts the alien kidnapping of Franck Fontaine, a French teenager, who claimed he was kidnapped by aliens and returned a week later. The track was part indie, part Beatles (White Album period) and part Beach Boys harmonies...it stood out from the usual Britpop fodder.
It was followed by God! Show Me Magic, a 1 minute and 48 seconds killer, which the NME had said sounded like Blue Monday. It didn't, but that was enough to make me rush out and by the cd single in Our Price, splashing my hard earned £1.99 over the counter. Its brevity was refreshing and the song cracks along at an eardrum-whipping pace. It hit the charts, reaching a heady #33 and I loved it. It's a fast paced slice of conspiracy theory fear - about what the media are hiding from us, by distracting us with ridiculous stories of Freddie Starr ("Wouldn't it be nice to know what the paper doesn't show, what the TV doesn't say and what my hamster's ate today").
That summer party, with its seventies catering (I knew no better) and cheap lager was great fun. My stereo was precariously set up in my parents' kitchen, with the speakers facing out the windows, while my friends drank copiously. My friend Loz advised me that if my university friend's new boyfriend explained which A-roads he had taken to drive them to my place, she would kill him there and then. She's a copper now, so probably best she didn't murder him. She was right though, he was fucking boring....
Friends had travelled up from all over, including my much missed friends from Exeter. Stevey and his new girlfriend Jady were staying at mine, and I gave up my double bed for them to stay in. Well that was the plan. But much beer was drunk, much chaos was had and I kept taking over the stereo to blast God! Show Me Magic at people, now convinced in a way that only very drunk people can be, that this was the greatest song ever.
At some point late into the night, or early into the early hours, I decided it would be a good idea to pogo along to this. Pogoing probably isn't a good idea at the best of times, especially when you have absolutely no co-ordination or sense of balance. Add in a skinful, and it's definitely ill-advised.
Also, my parents, who were the loveliest people you can imagine, had truly terrible taste in decoration and that lack of interest in the aesthetics of things was particularly clear in the garden. Dad had built the patio outside our kitchen himself (he was super-talented), but rather than put some lovely fencing around it, he used spare iron piping from work - he fashioned a protective barrier around its raised edge. It wasn't pretty, but it did the job.
However, if you are balance impaired, pissed and pogoing, solid iron bars are not a good thing to be near and after yet another blast of this fabulous bit of psych-rock-punk, I fell over. It was inevitable. And I fell hard, whacking my head on these iron monstrosities. I don't remember much of what happened next, but I have a very clear memory of Stevey and Jady putting me to bed, rather than letting me crash on the floor with the others as planned. In my memory I tell them how lovely they are, but God knows what I actually said. God didn't show me magic, but he did show me my lovely friend, which is far better.
The party was cleared up, it was agreed I didn't have concussion and hadn't been sick, so hadn't cracked my skull. But I had a headache to rival all other headaches. Fortunately, the old dears weren't due home for another few weeks, so I didn't have to rush clearing up the detritus - no frantic calls, after flicking through the Yellow Pages were required (that's a reference that will mean nothing to anyone outside the UK, or under 45).
But whilst the damage to my childhood home and my head were temporary, I still love the Furries. Gruff Rhys, now an established solo artist, is one of my "go-to gigs", i.e. if he plays here, I will definitely go. In fact, I have been this week (see Cool Cymru! Gruff Rhys' new album plus live at King's Place, London, 7th February 2024). He doens't play their songs live, but if he ever does, I hope he plays God! Show Me Magic and I will pogo like a lunatic, trying not to fall over and do myself some damage...
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