I broke my leg back in the summer of 1992. I was down at my friend Dave Taylor's house with the aim of meeting a girl I fancied.
Dave and I were hanging about at a park near his house watching other kids we knew playing football. They asked us to play and Dave was up for it. That meant the teams weren't even, so I had to play too, even though I had my new British Knight trainers and best Joe Bloggs jeans on.
The ball broke for a 50-50 challenge between me and an older guy called Steven Wilson. I nipped in and managed to nick the ball away, only for him to come crashing into my leg and I was down.
I immediately knew something was wrong. My leg was pulsing. The game stopped. Steven Wilson was in the scouts and urged me to try and put my weight on it. I foolishly listened! Of course, I couldn't and ended up being carted off to a guy called Keith Hooper's house next to the park. Dave's Dad came and ran me to hospital.
I never did meet the girl!
That summer I was laid up in bed with a full length cast on my leg (broken fibula and tibia) playing an early version of FIFA and Sonic The Hedgehog on a borrowed playstation. Dave lent me his James Live at G-Mex video and I must have watched it 100 times, marveling at the way frontman Tim Booth danced so freely and the wall of sound his fantastic band generated.
In addition, I remember lying in bed taping James live at Alton Towers off Radio 1. The band meant to record the show and release it as a live album, but there was a torrential downpour and apparently the recordings were ruined.
But James got me through that summer. The Seven (CD) and Goldmother (vinyl) albums and then I somehow bought their earlier albums on cassette. I don't remember where I got them from or why I got them on cassette. Perhaps they were presents to cheer me up. I also had a blue James t-shirt with a big J on the front, AM on the sleeve and ES on the back. Then a long sleeve white t-shirt with their classic flower on the front and their name down the sleeve. I'll need to see if my Mum has photos!
That was just over 30-years ago, but back to the present where James are touring with a 22-piece orchestra and choir to celebrate 40-years as a band. What a journey they have been on, what an adventure they have taken their fans on!
I've caught the band a number of times over the years. One time in the 90's my friend Wigs got on stage for Sit Down at the Barrowlands! Most recently, I caught the ban at The Hydro with The Charlatans. They blew me away. The energy that James generate on stage and in the crowd is incredible. James mix their setlist every night to keep things fresh and it works big time.
I'm looking forward to seeing them in the Armadillo on Monday.
It's been a while since I've written a 10 from blog. So here (at the time of writing) are 10 of my favourite James songs from their incredible 40-year career.
Like a James setlist, this could change regularly! Songs like Johnny Yen, What For, Born Of Frustration, How Was It For You?, Come Home, Ring The Bells, Say Something, She's A Star, We're Going To Miss You, Moving On and Curse Curse are another 11 that could easily have been included.
I'll start with James biggest hit. It's come to mean so much to me, especially after 26th May 1999 when I was in Camp Nou to watch Manchester United win the treble. The DJ played it after United won and as I sang along I wasn't the only United supporter with tears in my eyes! I bought a t-shirt shortly afterwards that has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrating his winner with the lyrics;
If I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor
I still have the t-shirt. Might be time to order a replacement!
My best friend Phil played the song when Lynn and I got married and everyone sat down on the dancefloor, swayed an sang along. Sit Down is a song that unites people in emotion, I think that's why it connected so much with the Hacienda/Madchester crowd. It still connects with me every time I hear it.
The Live at G-Mex version is my favourite. I love the bit when Tim is singing those who find themselves ridiculous, sit down next to me and he is looking at a guy off his face in the front row who is lost in the music. I'm moved every time I hear the piano intro and the way Tim and the band drop things down slowly to allow the crowd to take over. They sing their hearts out. Tim's face in the video is an absolute picture. The bit at around 7-minutes 30 seconds when the crowd just explode in appreciation is spine tingling ... and then they start singing the chorus again. WOW!
Sit Down is a beautiful song. Full of love, empathy and sympathy. In love, in fear, in hate and tears. A bonafide classic.
Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
Many years later (2001) James released Getting Away With It as a single. I fell head over heels for this song again back in 2016 when I was watching James live at Glastonbury on the BBC. It's probably been my most played James song since then.
The guitar riff is quite hypnotic, the band get into a groove and Booth sings about drinking like Richard Burton and dancing like John Travolta ... now. That little pause before now is lovely.
Check Tim in top form in the Glastonbury video.
Blow me away
Was that love you declared?
Only a word
Love can mean anything
I seem to remember a fact popping up on The Chart Show (a 90's Saturday morning staple) that the band nearly drowned on the video shoot. Rather than the water slowly being released, it all came out at once!
As Tim says at the end; love can change anything.
The expansive line-up of James can conjure wonderful sounds and jam their way into some special places, but they can also produce achingly beautiful and slow ballads. Dust Motes is rather gorgeous with Booth singing I'll forgive you, I'll forgive you but then the song rises as Tim sings if you die, if you die ... A powerful song when slow, it really strikes home when it builds.
I bought Sometimes on both 12-inch vinyl and on CD. My Mum then heard me playing it and then asked if I could buy her the cassette single for the car. So our household had it on 3 formats.
Sometimes is such a beautiful song. For me it captures the band and Booth jamming; free flowing lyrics over a driving and somewhat ferocious acoustic guitar lead to a head over heels romantic chorus.
The song allows a 7-piece band like James to open up and go with the flow, and oh how they go with the flow. Check these incredible live videos, firstly BBC footage from Glastonbury and secondly fan footage from a concert in Athen where the crowd just keep singing the chorus, Tim Booth joins in, then he starts dancing and the band come in with some synth and it turns into a little rave for one glorious minute. Spine tingling.
The choir and audience combining to sing this on Monday night will move many to tears. My absolute favourite James song.
This is an invitation to leave yourself ... behind
Tim Booth declares his intent from the off and doesn't let up throughout the song, urging listeners to strip away all your protection, laugh at the wonder of it all and to do everything you fear, in this there's power.
James really stretch out on this song, both on the recorded version (there is a 12-inch mix) and live. Check the incredible 10-minute version from 2001 below.
What a glorious noise James conjure up, guitars, brass, beats, bass and keys collide together to create something magical. To witness them in full flight is a delight.
Speaking of James in full flight, they don't need to stretch too much to get going, sometimes they just go straight into it. Yet again acoustic guitar is driving the song and eventually James take flight and soar. Sublime.
There's only one human race
Everybody belongs here
The last time I saw James playing live Many Faces really moved me. And when writing this blog I found this video from the 4th time James played the song live. It hadn't been released, the band are lost in the chorus/mantra, gradually fading out and the audience take over. Absolutely beautiful.
Out To Get You
Out To Get You is one of James most beautiful songs in my opinion. The lyrics are deeply personal, Booth singing of feeling so alone, lost in memories ...
Insecure, what you gonna do?
Feel so small, they could step on you
Called you up, answer machine
When the human touch is what I need
What I need, what I need, what I need, what I need
I need you
This is a f**king beautiful song, building from next to nothing to become exceptionally powerful and emotive. James at their very best.
It was a little risky & frisky to hear Tim Booth singing so joyfully and openly about sex back in 1993 when I was 17. Now, 30-years later I find it liberating.
This bed is on fire with passion and love
The neighbours complain about the noises above
But she only comes when she's on top
Laid absolutely flies by, a pure rush of joyful pop music about sex and infatuation. Brilliant.