So, a fairly regular theme of this blog, if such a thing can be drawn from its sporadic viewership, is the toxicity of nostalgia. Consider me an ad-hoc futurist, I look forwards and try not to dwell too much on the past. After all, time gone doesn’t really exist beyond memory, and any such codified moment (books, film, music etc.) can only ever be perceived through the subjective prism of the now. We accrue knowledge, you see. Little insignificant drops of understanding build up over time in ways we couldn’t deny even if we tried. For me, this means that while I can still love certain musics as I loved them in the past, I can only ever listen to them from the perspective of the now. Kinda like how I can’t listen to anything by LostProphets without feeling repulsed. Like, nothing is really stopping me listening to their music if I really wanted to, but I would really have to own my actions in doing so. I’d have to maintain the awareness that I am listening to them regardless of my heightened knowledge, and likewise own all the moral dilemmas thrown up in the process [though I stress that by this point, LostProphets are pretty much dead to me]. Nostalgia is this but without the moralising. It’s wallowing in the media of the yesterday purely to regress to that time without the difficult knowledge and without the adult responsibilities. I hate it. I’m one for owning your choices and taking history, life, and existence at face value. None of this re-writing bollox so adored by the body politic. But then again, we live in odd times, very, very odd times, and as everything seems so uncertain it may seem quite nice to just dip a toe in those forbidden pools. Only a little bit. Just to cool off a little. To that end, let’s talk about Let It Rain by East 17.
Bloody hell, I was 10 when this came out! That is an…unsettling fact. Not that I’m old or anything, more that this time period in particular is apparently my nostalgic comfort zone. Never saw that coming. Anyways, I digress. East 17 were, in terms of early 90s British boybands, always better than Take That. To me at least. Though you also have to remember that as a child I was terribly nice but fairly forgettable which, inevitably, led to being bullied by what felt like the entire school. Of course I would end up gravitating towards the cultural bad boys. It was likely a subconscious attempt to leech some of their achingly cool street cred in order to better support my social standing. Then again, maybe it was because the music of East 17 was closer to the dance and jungle my cousin listened too. A realm of music that he relentlessly plied us with whenever we saw him. I don’t know, even my memory doesn’t stretch back that far. But man, I do know that I was desperate to be cool. So, so desperate. Poor little me had another 15 years of that ahead of him before realising ‘cool’ never existed in the first place.
As the years continue to pass my respect for East 17 has only increased, due in no small part to the scarcity of their cultural footprint. I mean, Take That and Robbie have, between them, flattened the British cultural psyche. Everyone knows them, everyone sings their songs, and there was a solid three year period when you couldn’t watch the telly without hearing at least three of their songs under some advert or other. But East 17, they just kinda imploded, reformed, imploded, reformed, ran themselves over, reformed, and imploded. They still struggle along with one original member (Terry Coldwell for all you trivia fans), but such disruption isn’t exactly helpful if you’d want to maintain a career. So they faded from the public, but not in my memory, and as the bubble had burst long before I began buying music in earnest, memories were the best I could hope for.
Fast forward a decade to my first room north of the Thames in the beautiful but remote Welsh city of Bangor. My parents had left me for university and I was scared and alone. None of the mountain of CDs I had brought were making me feel in any way better, and all I wanted to do was crawl up and regress back to when life was easier. To reset and run away. Let It Rain just appeared to me from out of the depths and gave me the most intangible craving to hear it. One quick YouTube search later and I was recharged, ready to tackle the future as it lay before me. That moment solidified this song as my go-to in times of deep anxiety. I wish I could say it was the only nostalgic hit I partake in, but that would be a lie. The late 90s, early 00s have been on a constant loop in my house this past month. I admit freely that this has been done for purely nostalgic reasons, fingers-in-my-ears, running from reality reasons. But I own my decision to do so. I do it not for the irony, or the lols, or even that dreaded cool. I do it because I admit that I am weak. But if ever there was a time to let in a little weakness in order to care for your mental well-being, it is now.
Strange times indeed.
Stay safe, stay calm, and wash your hands!
I’ve been writing this blog on and off for a while now, so why not dip back into the halcyon years by having a read of these related posts:
Judge not, lest ye be judged. If you feel the urge to subjectively critique my own musical work you can find it by clicking here.