As I write this, I can say with total certainty that I’m doing exactly the same thing I was this time a whole decade ago: listening to Mansun’s brilliant ‘Six’ LP.
No; my memory isn’t usually that accurate, but today one of my all time favourite albums celebrates its 10th anniversary. When I got the email about this a few weeks back, I did a bit of a double take. Misplacing August is one thing, but blinking long enough to miss a decade is something else altogether! This time back in 1998, I’d recently turned 12 and just started my second year at high school. I can clearly remember that feeling of sitting there, through another tedious geography class, eager to dash to Woolies and get my hands on this record. It’d taken me ages to save up for, but albums always used to feel that little bit more special when you'd spent weeks putting aside your pocket money for them. This one was particularly special, although I must admit to being pretty taken aback when I got back to my old home (3 Ansbro Avenue in those days), made a cup of tea and stuck it on the stereo.
Even today, it’s true to say that ‘Six’ is a baffling album; full of lengthy songs, darkly eccentric humour, multi-part epics, obscure idiosyncrasies, 'teapot solos' (to quote one magazine review a few years later) and the inspired addition of Tom Baker’s dulcet tones on the bizarre interlude. I quickly grew to love this brilliant, if downright weird, album and still count it among my favourites to this day (more on that one very soon). It’s also been the soundtrack to a lot of memories, both good and bad, and listening to it nowadays makes me realise just what a chaotic 10 years it’s been. It wasn’t long after this album’s release that I got ill, and whilst it has obvious associations with that particularly dark period, it reminds me of so much good stuff too: going to see the band live on the tour (the poster still hangs on my wall), crammed into Blackburn’s ‘King Georges Hall’, full of sweat and a heavy cloud of questionable substance. I’m sure my mum remembers that one too! This album was partly responsible for me meeting my closest friend (and definitely responsible for me rifling through his collection of ‘Prisoner’ videos.) It became as much a soundtrack to my years at high school as the Levellers did later on, and can probably be levelled with the charge of helping me discover Pink Floyd and progressive rock. Since then; I’ve been to college, visited so many amazing places, had several shit jobs, been to gigs, played gigs, made friends, lost friends, published my first book, grown my hair only to chop the lot off again and now here I am. God knows where the hell I’ll be 10 years from now, but I wouldn’t bet on it being where I expect. Probably quite the opposite, in fact. Even then, I can’t say for sure whether the world will be ready for the inspired madness of ‘Six’.
To be continued…