Things are weird at the moment- it goes without saying really- but despite now having got into a routine during the lockdown period and the weekly events becoming ways to mark the passing of time (weekends free of virtual and online/video work, Tuesday putting the bins out, Thursday night clapping) there are moments when the sheer otherness and scale of what is happening hit home. The community that is being fostered, especially on streets like ours where people live close to each other and while the sun has been shining people have been socially distancing in their front gardens, talking to each other across walls and hedges, is a definite feature of 2020. But there are times when it’s all a bit much. The silence outside. The absence of the people you’d expect to see every day. The strange atmosphere in supermarkets. The crossing the road to avoid people when out for a walk. The new normal seems normal and then something happens that makes you remember how un-normal this all is, how far from normal we are.

As I type this a hearse with a coffin in it and just two cars following has driven past my window.

I’ve seen several links to newspaper articles about people experiencing more vivid or more lucid dreams during the lockdown and I have found myself waking up suddenly, in a jolt, from some very vivid dreams. I don’t think the dreams themselves are especially strange- often they seem to be work dreams- but they do seem to be very real.

In May 1991  Creation’s dance act Hypnotone remixed The Lilac Time. Hypnotone remixed other Creation artists, memorably Primal Scream and Sheer Taft and had several great records at the time themselves. The remix of Dreaming is a lovely piece of dance pop, warm and open, ambient and bleepy, and the voice repeating ‘all the people on this earth… I am talking to you’. A record totally in tune with the shift that had taken place at that time.

Dreaming (Hypnowah Mix)

Somewhere Down The Road

Last week the Madchester Rave On blog posted up a 12″ single from May 1991, remixes of The Lilac Time’s Dreaming by Creation dance act Hypnotone. I’m not even sure I knew that these remixes existed and if I did I don’t think I’d heard them before. Hypnotone had a classic 1990 release on Creation, the magnificent, bleepy Dream Beam and an excellent eponymous album in the same year. They remixed Primal Scream and Sheer Taft. This remix of Dreaming is very 1991 and a very chilled, spaced out affair. The whole 12″, with the original song and a different version of the remix was posted by MRO here.

Dreaming (Wave Station Remix)

The Lilac Time started out in 1986, an indie/jangle-pop/folk band founded by Stephen Duffy (formerly Stephen Tin Tin Duffy) and his brother Nick who veered from major to indie in the 80s pitching up at Creation around 1990 and being managed by Alan McGee. In 1987 they released a beautiful, jaunty but melancholy single called Return To Yesterday, a song I never seem to get bored of and one I’ve posted before.

Return To Yesterday

The lyrics, written over 30 years ago now, seem to take on a new meaning in the light of our current political situation.

‘It was the day before the day before yesterday
When we thought everything would now go our way
We inherited a fortune of innocence
And they took it all away
We travel on the last bus from sanity
Through province town to cities of obscurity
And somewhere down the road it occurs to me
That I might have missed my stop
But I will not return to yesterday
Or smooth out the human clay
We’ll face this new England like we always have
In a fury of denial
We’ll go out dancing on the tiles
Help me down, but don’t take me back
I heard a lover calling to Saint Anthony
Sadly treating love like her property
Only battles can be lost and so it seems we do
But I’m hoping for a change
I left you at the bus stop in working town
Now the service has been cut re-named slumber down
I can see you on the bars of your brother’s bicycle
Now I hope you’re not alone
And all the politician creeps
I know they want them back
And the couturier weeps
She knows they won’t come back
And the lovers who seldom speak
I know they want them back
And me falling back into your half term kisses
No I will not’
Duffy seems to be writing about loss of childhood and how the future isn’t what it was promised to be, that adult life is emptier than it seemed as a child. I can’t help but feel Duffy is coming out against nostalgia here, he isn’t wanting to go back to childhood or teenage years, despite the lure of the half term kisses, but something has been lost.
Both sides of the Brexit argument could fit in to this, the Leavers who want to return to the mythical England of their imagination and the Remainers who feel they’ve been betrayed, sold out and ignored and who suddenly in 2016 found themselves in a country they didn’t recognise. The chorus- ”we’ll face this new England like we always have/in a fury of denial, we’ll go out dancing on the tiles”- speaks for itself.

The Girl Who Waves At Trains

Ha! Another one- although this one is The Girl Who… rather than The Girl With…
Stephen Duffy’s Lilac Time have get plenty of gems hidden in their back catalogue- this is one of them.

The Girl Who Waves At Trains

The Lilac Time ‘Return To Yesterday’

A lost gem from 1988 this one, having little in common with what else was happening in that year. Stephen Duffy decided being a solo pop star wasn’t his cup of tea, so formed The Lilac Time with his brother. They’re still around in some form today. I havn’t got much else by them but this is a cracking little song, very English sounding. It’s got brisk drumming, a lovely melody, crisp and perfectly pronounced vocals, finger picking and folky banjo, and a tune that the milkman can whistle. I’m not really selling this one yet am I? The lyrics seem both nostalgic and rueful, but at the same time the chorus keeps telling us ‘No I will not, return to yesterday’. It goes on

‘We’ll face this new England,
Like we always have,
In a language of denial,
We’ll go out dancing on the tiles’

Which seems pretty English to me.

As does complaining about the cutting of rural bus services, as he does in the fourth verse.

I know you probably don’t really care what I think about the lyrics, this isn’t an English Literature lesson, but this gets into my head and nags at me, and I think Stephen Duffy really nails something here. So come on, even if you normally come for the dancier, more leftfield stuff (as the mediafire download stats tell me), click and download this one. It’s a good ‘un.

Today’s post is dedicated to Mr Michael Foot, the last socialist leader of the Labour Party, who died today aged 96. Keep the red flag flying.