This is a response to my good friend Rich McLean’s brilliant blog about left brain/right brain functioning and how it relates to musical experiences and memories.
Fundamentally, the right-hand side of our brain is all about the here and now and Rich writes about how music can transport you to a kind of nirvana where you are purely living in the moment.
So, here are some of those moments, when the here and now took complete ownership of my soul, when epiphanies were had, where I was transported to a euphoric acceptance of the magnificence of the energy of the time, the place and the music.
My first rave. Somewhere in the woods, West Sussex, 1991: I just remember the excitement of approaching this huge marquee in the woods somewhere. Hearing the music getting closer and then edging inside and feeling the warmth, seeing the ravers donned in baggies and miles of smiles, feeling the energy, the music. It was like being inside a computer game. Not a computer game nowadays – that would be normal life – but like being inside Space Invaders or something with the friendliest happiest human beings alive dancing and hugging and screaming and crying along. Then Human Resource’s Dominator comes on…. What the fuck is this sound? This, er, music? Knowing nothing will ever be the same again.
The Orb – Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, my bedroom, 1991: Ahead of my third or fourth rave, I ill-advisedly told my parents that I would be home at a reasonable time, having not been home at a reasonable time for quite a while.
At said rave, I ill-advisedly let a small square of Strawberry Fields blotting paper dissolve on my tongue in the possibly misguided belief that it would wear off quicker than ecstasy and give me a fighting chance of getting home at the promised reasonable time.
About an hour after the promised reasonable time, I decided I really ought to try and get home. This involved finding the car, then getting the car out of a bumpy field of (at least) knee-high grass, then driving very slowly past the police on the gate, then stopping 50 yards down the road for a much-needed piss. Then breathing a sigh of relief. Then driving (seemed like skiing) home.
Then sneaking up the stairs in the (very prettily patterned) darkness, before slumping in bed. Then breathing another sigh of relief.
Putting on the headphones and being transported to the Ultraworld. For years…until a drip, drip, drip started burrowing into my brain. Cue headphones being ripped from ears. Then breathing another sigh of relief.
Turning the tape, putting the headphones back on and tripping gently to sleep.
My Bloody Valentine at The Ritz Manchester, December 1991: awestruck and entranced by Only Shallow, To Here Knows When and ultimately You Made Me Realise. Knowing rock could not get further out. This was it for rock music. They came. Conquered. Topped it and tailed it. Nailed it. Dead. Reaffirmed and revisited at The Apollo on the Rollercoaster tour in March the following year and decades later at the Roundhouse in London in 2008.
Andy Weatherall DJing after Primal Scream on the Screamadelica tour in 1991: never before had I heard mountains of sound like this. Never since either. I think I was some way up around the ceiling for most of the set. I have no idea what was played but 30 years later I heard that this might have been one of them, which is both odd and makes perfect sense.
Sasha, Renaissance, Mansfield, 1993: Lying on the stage (I know, I know) with Andy Mitter and agreeing that Leftfield’s Song of Life is definitely the best song ever. Later, the best song ever is Gat Decors’ Passion. And later still, it is The Age of Love. No, no, no Andy. This one!
Andrew Weatherall, the Forum, London, sometime in the late 1990s: Weatherall played three hours of dub techno following Jah Shaka. Eyes closed. Floating. Sublime.
Olodum in the Pelourinho in Salvador de Bahia, 1999: The drums. The drums. The drums. The joy!
Fi Wi Sinting festival, Portland, Jamaica, 2010: Nyabjnghi in the jungle. Daughter Mika strapped to my chest. Echoes of Count Ossie. Life does not get any better than this.
Tinariwen, Village Underground, Shoreditch, 2014: It’s always about the groove. Searching for the perfect groove and the groove cannot get heavier than this, cannot get deeper than this. Ancient riddims. Proper trance music shaking the body from head through spine, ass, feet and into the earth.
[Reading this back makes me wonder if certain narcotics suppress the left side of the brain or stimulate the right. A quick Google only points to scholarly articles about potential long-term brain damage, which are best avoided.]
Some other (only slightly less) transcendent moments:
Massive Attack, Hyde Park, 2006: Horace Andy is singing. Knowing that no voice ever sounded so pure. Until Terry Callier came on to sing Live with Me.
Burning Spear, Brixton, 20??: Hottest night for 100 years. Sweat, tears, groove. Some sort of religious experience.
The Cure at Wembley Arena, Disintegration tour 1989: Darkness. Extended tinkle tinkle Plainsong. Pow! Two hours of joy and loveliness.
Pixies, Brixton Academy, 1990: The mosh. The sweat. The crush. The scream. The smile. Gigantic? Indeed. And a year later.
David Bowie, Sound & Vision, Milton Keynes Bowl, 1990: If you could bottle charisma….this clip still gives me tingles.