My October Symphony, Part 2 – The Great Storm (The Album)

Intro Note: when I look back upon this post, it will probably always be with a sense of shame that I never quite raked its leaves into anything neatly heaped and richly coloured, but left them blown about the garden, and trailed, some, inside the house.


In another post in Fisher Lane I mentioned the troubles of buying ‘western’ pop music in old Hong Kong without recourse to money lenders, triads or the raising of funds from the extras I could offer along with my English language tuition (the French tongue also available), but in October 1990 I was surprised one evening after hours to come across a new Pet Shop Boys release on sale in handy cassette format in a small music shop on Nathan Road – a few blocks north of the English Club (the HKEC) where I, ahem, taught – and, the air being thinner on Kowloon Side generally, I bought the bugger, Behaviour, right there on the spot. Unusually for me I don’t recall the price, which probably means it was the kind of outrageous, insane splurging which I customarily blank from memory, much the same as a pseudo-vegetarian student might, for example, pretend the battered sausages never happened.

Far-East End Boy. Me hanging out at Cheung Sha beach in 1990. With my biggest fan.

I fell in love with this album, Behaviour, straight away, and, in an obscene, absurd tease given that opening, will come back to that love’s specifics some other time.

Apart from a briefly uncertain start –  characterised by some whining about how they (PSB) were bringing nothing to the party that Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and The Human League hadn’t already brought in wheelbarrow-loads, a mean-spiritedness of scarcity-theory quashed on hearing West End Girls and that bass-line on a decent set of headphones – I was a fan anyway, and Please and Actually and Introspective had seen me nicely through university with a sound and production that was a lovely addition, a parallel and a ‘not only but also’ to the more raggedy romance of The Smiths and Moz beyond; was tighter, cleaner, and for all its staginess and light operatics, easier to imagine as pop music I too could produce (under what circumstances or in what partnership I couldn’t say), for to anyone, like me, with a half-decent synth and appetite for deliciously sequency riffs, this was entirely getable, loveable music.

On the night of the 15th October, 1987, Britain was booted about its streets by what anniversarists today call The Great Storm. I was living in a rented house in Reading, Berks. On the morning of the 16th we (me and other art studes) went looking for our dustbin lid, but we never found it. Victims, we were thus, of the storm. What had we done to deserve this?

In late October 1990, I listened to Neil Tennant singing very highly about such a gale in one of the odder numbers on Behaviour, ‘Only The Wind’ – a song that includes the exquisitely un-poply line ‘someone’s dustbin lid, playing havoc with the peace’ (a lyric matched in its surprising mundaneness only – as far as I know – by The Human League’s line ‘and where there used to be some shops’ in The Lebanon), and there, or here then, in typhooning Hong Kong, I was reconnected by October and by headphones to a little life I’d just left behind, and got then a small taste for ready, instant nostalgia and the entire business of pop music marking, should you wish it to, every step you take; and the steady, reliable feed of a pop group’s album releases always and forever tracking you down.

The actually truthful and for real authentic inlay card from the actual cassette referred to. I kept all my inlays but hoy’d the tapes into the bin. (Please note that I cannot go back in time and undo that behaviour. Actually.)

© Steve Mitchell, Fisher Lane, 2012


About Stevie Mitchell

I come from a long line of cartoons and beer. I was once peed on by a tiger. Hoping the resultant super-powers are yet to come, cos if these are they, then, grrrr....
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2 Responses to My October Symphony, Part 2 – The Great Storm (The Album)

  1. Ian Simpson says:

    And I thought Only the Wind was about Tennent’s somewhat difficult to shift stomach pains….. learning something every day! And Human League only got the Silver Medal in the Sheffield Mundane Lyric Awards, beaten by Martin Fry’s recollections of his childhood visits to Grandma’s: “have another piece of apple crumble” – a lyric which will never be usurped, not even by the South Koreans or, quite possibly even the North Koreans, who probably do mundane to the highest of highs, but then again they’re probably not permitted to sample that most western (or is it Northern?) delicacy of stewed fruit and broken biscuits with sugar with lashings of Bird’s Custard – which always in some obtuse way reminds me of Crass “Bird’s put the turd in custard, but who put the shit in Number 10?”

  2. Good work. It’s a specific kind of Mundane… one that slips a dustbin lid and ‘some shops’ into otherwise grandiose themes. Squeeze (did you see that documentary?) obviously layered the everyday on the everyday, like custard on crumble – southern Shuttleworthians such as they was. I shall turn my good ear, with its ivory trumpet, to catching other instances of the toothpick in the epic.
    Well done everyone!

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