Sheffield, Sunday night, and the sky over the Peaks resembles the dark skies over the Dales in Channel 4's version of David Peace's Red Riding trilogy. Standing in the dimly lit street which houses The Leadmill - the city's most famous indie venue - it actually feels like you could be back in the '70s. I scan the road up to the traffic lights looking for Ford Cortinas and Triumph Heralds to emerge through the drizzle.
It is, if you'll excuse the shocking pun, a sign of the times that the debut album by Mongrel will arrive in the shops on Saturday, not in the racks of your local CD emporium, but at your local newsagent accompanying copies of The Independent.
It is the first time that a band's debut album has ever come free with a national newspaper. Although having said that, the Mongrel project is not without its (in)famous names. Fronted by motor-mouth Jon McClure of Reverend & The Makers, the band also features an ex-member of the Artic Monkeys (bassist Andy Nicholson) and a Babyshamble (Drew McConnell) in the line-up.
I can see myself walking towards him, even as I'm thinking, "This is probably a very bad idea." But for some reason I can't stop myself. Against my better judgment I march straight up to Louis Walsh and introduce myself.
"Louis, we've never met. I'm Steve Lamacq."
"I know you, you used to write for the NME."
The ghosts of Christmas Past even flitted among us in the pub beforehand, where Spizz (he of Spizz Oil, Spizz Engergi and other Spizz incarnations) thrust a flyer into my hand for the next Spizz gig (May 14th, at the 100 Club in London).
September 1978: The Buzzcocks issue Ever Fallen In Love as a taster for their second album. John Peel unveils the debut single from The Undertones. And all over the country a plethora of raw, new, bedroom indie labels are springing up, to release the next wave of punk and post-punk bands who are channelled through the Peel programme and the pages of the music press.
September 1978 - Colne Engaine, Essex. Population - tiny: I will soon be 14. Tonight though, I am standing outside the Chelmsford Chancellor Hall in a motley queue of punks, feeling just a tad anxious. This is my first ever gig.
I turned it off and turned it on again. I booted and rebooted and trawled the internet on my lethargic laptop looking for solutions, but still the damned Blue Screen wouldn't go away.
No amount of pleading and threatening and hitting it with a tree branch à la Basil Fawlty worked either. Mulrenan The Computer (named after my old English teacher, who I suspect Microsoft modelled their grammar checker on) was dead. It was an ex-PC.
So that was Sunday morning. Still gingerly recovering from Man Cold. And now a nervous tech wreck. Disconsolately I picked up a pile of demos from the floor, found The Neat's CD (see last post) and in the last act of a desperate man slung it into the player, prepared for yet more misery.
Elbow fans! I'm sure you may have heard about this already - what with the radio ads going off like car alarms all over the place - but if not, Saturday week (January 31) brings a special Elbow set recorded last weekend at London's Abbey Road studios.
Having been at the recording, it's not hard to see why they've been dubbed 'the people's band'. They look like a darts team. But at the same time they're suave enough on stage to be wine tasters. There is a little bit of the "all things to all men" about them. They are gregarious but humble.
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