A song from the darkest hour

It’s going to start with James. It has to; it’s where my journey started.

I will quite happily tell this story to anyone. I once told it to a man on the train going to Leicester because he saw me smiling and heard Tim Booth blaring from my headphones. I told it to my old employer at HMV and it got me the job. He went on to glare at me when I said I preferred working with DVDs than Music and said he gave me the job because of my passion for music.

When I was a kid, my family and I would go on day trips. This is not the quaint family life you see on television and read in books. This was not being young enough to stay at home. My parents for a time were happy. For me, it never meant that much. I liked going away to Scarborough or Bridlington because I got to choose the tapes for the car. My parents even let me make mix tapes and would look at each other, questioning ‘where did she hear this’ as the music from the Bee Gees was beyond the mind of a 7 year old. Looking back now, it means more to me than it ever did then and I’ve re-lived those moments a million times. I’m painting an idylic picture here though. It’s important to say that my parents would argue more or less the whole day. Over everything and nothing. To even out and to appease me, I would be bought a new tape or CD as a silent apology. In the car the music was a saviour, my escape from a dreary South Yorkshire town. If my parents sang to the music I’d chosen, I knew I’d made it.

My favourite way to hear music was through the radio. I did have, and still do to some extent, have a fascination with voices. It’s hard to describe this I’m afraid but rest assured, it’s no coincidence the men in my life have good voices. It’s no wonder then that I received a musical education when I was happy to tune into the radio every day to hear a presenter with such a dulcet tone. Both the radio and this obsession for voices are instrumental in my love of James.

There is this huge water tank on a road out of Doncaster. I know this route like the back of my hand, it meant we were going to the seaside. I used to time this route and pray we stopped at the traffic lights. The water tank – it’s massive. It’s opposite a boating lake but I never really took any notice of the right side of the road. The exact one is pictured here. You can’t really see it anymore because it’s been painted over but it used to say Natalie with a heart next to it. Someone had climbed up and written my name over it. Obviously it wasn’t about me but if I ever get the chance to time travel, I know a place that’s on my hit list.

Hearing Tim Booth for the first time was love. I got goosebumps. I looked at this tower and happily knew that this man was singing to me. It was whilst at the traffic lights that Sit Down was playing on the radio. I didn’t have a clue who this man was. I asked my Dad over and over who was singing this song and he just looked at me through the rear view mirror and said ‘James’ at me. I genuinely thought that this man James had written my name for the whole of Doncaster to see.

It wasn’t until years later that I realised James were a band. I’d only listened to their back catalogue over and over but it never clicked. It began with James because it was the right moment and right time. That’s my philosophy for music created in the mind of a 7 year old girl.

Water tower

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Je suis natalie

I am a history teaching, melancholic and I think about life as much as I live it. I spend time between records and books. There have always been ideas worth fighting for.

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