Walked away, released, from all my crimes — Spain
I didn’t really understand music until I went to university. Oh, I’d listen to songs, and I’d like them, but the idea that one might be wedded to a band, that music was something to fight over, to be a part of you; I’d never had that. And then I had my viewpoint forcibly broadened by being thrown into a room with a bunch of people who knew more than me. Mike, who was obsessed with the Beatles. Nick, who was and remains technically the best guitarist I’ve ever known. Andy, who I christened “Indie Andy” during that first year. Jody, the world’s biggest and yet shortest fan of the Jesus and Mary Chain. I heard things I’d never heard before; things I should have heard before and hadn’t; things I’d never have listened to had I not been there.
Honestly, if I had to pick the thing we listened to the most, I’m not sure what it’d be. But, given that this was the year we collectively discovered weed, there was a certain commonality, a certain mise-en-scene in the albums going on. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Portishead’s Dummy, still to this day the greatest album ever released by anyone ever in the entire history of the universe. Exile on Main Street. Five Leaves Left, and everything else Nick Drake ever did, most of it on vinyl because we were just that pretentious. And The Blue Moods of Spain.
There was a chap, who I shall leave nameless for various reasons, who would show up every time to a smoking session and flake out an hour in. He later revealed that this legendary lack of fortitude owed itself to him skinning and smoking two neat gear spliffs before ever showing up, a feat which to this day leaves me breathtakingly astounded. But the soundtrack to these sessions almost always involved Spain. Spiritual stuck in my memory, not least for being covered by the late great Johnny Cash (in, honestly, a better version) on Unchained, another album that got played a lot. (It wasn’t the best song on the album, nor even the fourth best. But Cash having played a Spain song immediately lifted them further in my estimation.)
There are few songs I still play from those days. Every now and again I’ll go on a little voyage of memory, of nostalgic playback remembering what it was like sitting there on C Curve and arguing long into the night and listen to the background music. But a few tracks stick in the memory and get played today, not because they were great then, but because they’re great always, in spite of, because. Untitled #1 is one of them. If what you’re looking for is something intricate, langorous, filled with the fin de siecle because it was literally the fin of the siecle, then The Blue Moods of Spain is that thing that you want. I used to wonder what their orange moods were like. Maybe that’ll be what they do next.