And then I remembered Situ
Last night I went to the launch party/gig for the “Spirit of Talk Talk” tribute album and book. A few of the people who featured on the album were playing live, and there were visuals from James Marsh, who did the illustrations for Talk Talk’s record sleeves.
I got the chance to talk to Depeche Mode/Recoil’s Alan Wilder, who has put the project together, which was pretty much the ultimate fanboy moment for me. In fact, probably the only thing to top it would have been if Tom Baker had walked in as well.
And then I remembered Situ.
And I burst into tears.
I expect the people around me were thinking it was rather odd and a bit over the top to be crying just because people were paying tribute to Talk Talk.
Situ was in most of my classes at school from the age of 11 until sixth form. I lost touch with him after we finished our A-Levels. It was the early nineties, so without Facebook or MySpace or FriendsReunited that is how it was. I went off to University at Leeds, and lived in a flat that didn’t have a landline. There were no mobile phones then unless you were a banker, but my mum took the time to write a letter to me every week. For three years. And posted them. I wished I’d kept them all.
One day, when I was in my second year, the letter from my mum said that she really needed to talk to me, so could I phone?
I wandered down the road to a phone box, and put some money in it - or more likely did a “reverse charge” call - and called home.
And my mum told me that Situ had died.
He’d just gone to bed one night at his university lodgings, and not woken up.
I’ve got two really clear memories of Situ.
He was one of the few people I ever had a physical fight with. I can’t remember how it started, but one day we were scuffling in the classroom and, being stronger than me, he got me pinned down on a table. That turned out to be my advantage though, because he was so busy pinning me down with two hands that I got to keep punching him until people pulled us apart. Teenage boys have a lot of hormones swilling around that make them do dim stuff.
My other very clear memory of him is his review of Talk Talk’s “Spirit of Eden” album. He was a Talk Talk fan, and being in a small group of people who had alternative or unconventional taste in music meant there was an unwritten agreement at school that everybody bought different albums and then swapped them. Graham Sutton, of Bark Psychosis and Boymerang, was the person who had introduced Talk Talk to our little clique, and so when “Spirit of Eden” came out in 1988 I remember us going to the new-fangled chain record store that had arrived in Walthamstow to buy it.
Well, to listen to it anyway. I think it was Our Price who opened up in the shopping centre that is now “The Mall”, and they were very accommodating. They had a listening station where you could ask to hear a new album, so Graham and I got a few seconds each listening to the opening of “The Rainbow”. Which is mostly ambient background noise and some eerily quiet strings for the first minute. The guy behind the counter admitted that it was quite different from what Talk Talk had done before, and that it took a while to get going.
But we hardly ever actually bought albums from them - preferring the indie shops like “Sounds Right”, “Note for Note” and “Ugly Child”. We said thank you very much, and headed off to “Note for Note”, where Graham bought the album on cassette. We took it back to my place and made a tape-to-tape copy for me.
I actually ended up working at “Note for Note” as my first proper job. And now I think that if someone said to me you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, I’d choose Talk Talk’s “Spirit of Eden”. It is an amazing album. Remember, though, that it was evil home taping like I’ve just outlined that killed music.
A few days after it was released, having listened to it a bit, I remember asking Situ at school what he thought of the album. He was a big fan of the previous album, “The Colour of Spring”, and I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something along the lines of that it would have been a great album if it wasn’t for whoever let someone spoil it with all the tuneless guitar over the top of it. He wasn’t wrong. It was a difficult album at first listen.
I don’t believe in “the afterlife”.
I believe that we are biological creatures, and that at some point our biology stops working. I believe that once we die, we only survive in the memories of the people we knew. After he died, I went through a phase where Situ featured for a while as an incidental character in my dreams, and that kept his memory alive for me.
And then as I was watching the Talk Talk tribute show last night, I remembered that I had forgotten him.
If he was still alive, I guess there was a chance that he would have also seen that there was a Talk Talk related event on, and we would have ended up bumping into each other, and having that awkward conversation you have with someone you used to know a long time ago but who you probably don’t have much in common with.
But he wasn’t there.
Twentysomething is a really stupid age to just suddenly die of no particular reason at all.
I went to a funeral party for him, travelling down from Leeds to London and mingling with a load of old school friends at Situ’s house. We all promised to his parents to keep in touch with his family, but I guess nobody really did. And then we just got on with “doing stuff” with the rest of our lives.
It must be just about twenty years since Situ died.
I’m a parent myself now. Last night, when I remembered Situ, I realised that there cannot have been a single day for twenty years that his parents didn’t wonder “Why?”
Or think how the last twenty years might have been different.
Or want to give absolutely anything to see him again.
Tonight’s Talk Talk tribute made me remember Situ, and so then I wrote this. And I ended up thinking about how can you possibly end a blog post like this.
One obvious Talk Talk song title came to mind: “Life’s what you make it”.
So make life good and make life memorable.