It was early March 1987. Probably (*1).
My then-girlfriend (Mt-g) and I are just starting the two mile walk from the one large supermarket in the city centre back to her student house. A VW Transporter van pulls in just ahead of us and I recognise instantly the face that appears out of the front passenger window. “Hey!”, I say, “It’s Karl Wallinger!”. I rush over to said van, barely noticing that Mt-g hasn’t actually moved at all. “Hiya, we’re looking for the King’s Head”, says Mr W. I politely inform him that there isn’t a King’s Head – does he perchance mean the King’s Arms, known for having rooms to let? He confers with the driver. They decide that it might be the King’s Arms. “In which case the bad news is that you missed the turning for it a couple of blocks ago. And the even worse news is that you’ll have to go right round the one way system to get to it now. Sorry – mad I know” (Thinking to myself all the time that I curse whoever came up with this bloody road system because I’ve just had to give some bad news to a guy who appears on some records that I own). Mr W seems quite chipper given the earth-shattering inconvenience that I’ve just made him aware of, thanks me very much and bids me good day. And off they drive.
I return to Mt-g. “Was he one of those people from your course? I thought you didn’t bother with them. (*2) What were you talking about?” Perhaps a little too smugly, I advise her as to who I’ve just been speaking. “Why didn’t you ask for some tickets for the gig tomorrow?” My next words are way too smug. “Er, because it’s pay on the door”. “Well you should at least have got his autograph”. At some stage in my life, I have taken to carrying a pen round with me all the time. This episode predates that. My response of “Haven’t got a pen on me” ensures an unusually quiet walk back to her house.
We did go to the gig – sadly, there was no dedication to “that guy in the audience with the glasses and the overcoat who gave us directions yesterday”. Half the audience were probably sporting overcoats. A reasonable percentage were probably bespectacled.
Private Revolution, purchased on cassette at some point in 1987, is an interesting album. Wallinger’s influences from the Beatles and Dylan among others, are very obvious, and it’s a very un-1986 album (apparently its year of release), given that students seemed to be the target audience. World Party were neither C86 nor goth, which covered petty much everyone else who performed there that term. I’d bought the title track as a 12″ single after seeing a clip on the TV and really enjoyed all the tracks thereon. Having played the album in its entirety twice over the last few days, there was a real familiarity which suggests I’d played it a lot more than I realised back in the days of cassette. I wouldn’t have said it’s my favourite World Party album (and all the ones I have were cassette purchases, so my view may change as I revisit those) but I’ve certainly reconnected with the song World Party, which I’d forgotten how much I liked. Sadly, Spotify users disagree and at the time of writing it has around 1% of the plays that Ship Of Fools has.
I’ll probably come to Ship Of Fools in a series I’m planning for the future about songs that never made the UK Top 40, but seem to have done a lot better elsewhere – or something along those lines. It’s an idea and no more right now. I’ll leave you with the title track that started my liking for this band.
*1 – the gig I refer to is not on Setlist.fm, but there were other Uni gigs that month, so March 1987 it was. Probably.
*2 – Mt-g and I had been an item for long enough that she knew pretty much all of my acquaintances. She thought it odd that I didn’t socialise with anyone who was on my course, but just with other music geeks, the radio station crowd and some board gamers. “But they only ever want to talk about the course”, I said, “and frankly I don’t. It’s bad enough going to the bloody lectures….” I got a third.
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