Some cultural phenomena you just find yourself ‘in on’ anyhow: which is to say without being where, or exactly when, it’s all taking place. It was like this for me with The Stone Roses, back in the day – and something that’s returned to mind with this weekend’s Manchester concerts and the tweets and the updates from friends who went.
It is 1990. Hong Kong. Along the South Lantau Road from Mui Wo, the buses serve Pui O and Cheung Sha, and there live most of the ‘teacher’ friends who make up our small incoming community. ‘Teacher’ because we are with just a few exceptions (the girls I live with in Mui Wo being two) a band of casual and uncertified blown-ins, who make a living in the English ‘clubs’, conversing the days away on Nathan Road with spirited women and businessmen with empty briefcases, all planning with various degrees of feasibility to high-tail it to Canada when the time comes.
There is no internet, no mobile phones beyond the bankers with the bricks at the ferry pier; phone calls back home are still arranged in advance by letter and made from special kiosks on the bridgewalk in Central. Music in shops is obscenely over-priced. I read about Spike Island in an NME brought over by a newcomer, mate-of-a-mate in need of a first-month sofa (our pad at Fu Kong Shan is untypically spacious); and it’s mates-of-mates who bring with them the cassette albums that will be copied across Lantau’s ‘teacher’ network over the coming weeks; their own compilations taking on a cemented reality of sequencing, so that to this day I can’t listen to the fade-out of Standing Here without mentally cueing up – and wanting – The Soup Dragons’ I’m Free.
The Stone Roses were my every weekday Walkman backing track on the early (sun still rising) ferry that took me to the bad gig I badly signed up for at The International School. Fool’s Gold is now ever-connected to slow-moving hills in the morning light and the boat’s exhaust as we back into Peng Chau. The donkey with the ten-ton plough is still heard with our wind-chimes’ percussion; and The Hardest Thing In The World is the soundtrack of the easy lazy days when the typhoon warnings kept us at home.
Nobody compared notes then, or discussed any trends back in Britain. We knew we were out of touch and our evaluations would be as malnourished as the island’s cats. These were rather the earphone-fed and solitary pickings of pale young men mostly, missing out on some business back home; but accepting of that and constructing our own private contexts instead.
So that when my Facebooking buddies now share their Heaton Park updates, I have to return to a Silvermine Waterfall that’s all and only my own.
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012.