On May 28th 2021 Del Amitri release their first album for 18 years “Fatal Mistakes”. It will also be almost 32 years since I first heard “Nothing Ever Happens”. All the talk of the new music has sent me on a journey back to the years before, during and after the time that the band went beyond being purveyors of pleasant songs about life, love, regret and sadness with a country feel and gorgeous sideburns to become the very essence of my existence. “Bloody hell Dave, a bit dramatic that”. Maybe, but to celebrate… probably the wrong word, to recognise the release of “Fatal Mistakes” I need the catharsis of sharing why they seeped so far into my soul that they took me over like a some parasitic denim clad alien bit by bit until I became defined by them. Even now, 18 years since they released a record.
1989 was a huge year for me. It was the year my life went from carefree lad about town to co habiting with my future wife and her young son. It all happened so quickly. Met her in March, living with her by July and life completely changed. I’m sure I’d heard “Kiss This Thing Goodbye” on the radio when first released in August 1989 but it hadn’t really registered. Why would it? Why would a country music song register with my still pop loving ears and new happy home life? It meant nothing to me so it passed me by. I do remember the first time I heard “Nothing Ever Happens” though. I thought it was Sting. No internet meant I had to wait to hear it again, and thanks to Radio 1 I heard it often. It made it to number 11 early in 1990 and put Del Amitri on Top Of The Pops. There they were on their stools looking like nothing else going on at the time but something triggered in me. I know for a fact I wanted to look like Justin and began to grow my hair. Then I definitely heard “Kiss This Thing Goodbye” when it was re-released in March 1990 as the life changing honeymoon period was over it completely resonated with me. Those opening lines
“It seems like weeks since you looked at me baby, without that look of distaste. I don’t know why your feelings are changing but I’ve seen it in your face”
For the first time Justin Currie had stared into my soul and found where I was at and began to gnaw away at my psyche. I’m not going to talk about too much personal stuff. I made mistakes and we’ve all moved on eventually but not without a lot of pain on all sides. This is about the music and how it devoured me. I had to own “Waking Hours” and bought the cassette. Every song was like a gut punch. I will confess here that as a young, inexperienced man looking for explanations to how my life was working out these songs set out a narrative that I allowed to define my life. “Let’s Kiss This Thing Goodbye”. Yeah why don’t we? But I didn’t…
“Why do you take the opposite view? Is it something in your nature that makes I hard to say, “Baby I do”. You don’t have to agree when someone says they love you but you don’t have to take the opposite view” Bloody right Justin…
“From this side of the morning I couldn’t care less.. “ well actually I couldn’t have cared more but you get the picture. Ten songs each an emotional roller coaster confirming and validating all my thoughts. Why didn’t I run? I cant tell you. Naivety, ignorance, immaturity, a sense of responsibility of needing to make it work? Well that and another child on the way at the end of 1990. So at 25 Del Amitri were the soundtrack to a life I was completely unprepared for yet up to my neck in. The vicious circle continually turning between real life and the life depicted in “Waking Hours” until I couldn’t separate one from the other.
My son arrived in 1991 and no surprise the pressure increased. Like the frog in the pan of boiling water so loved by psychologists life was heating up around me but I just didn’t feel it. I was just in it, boiling away. Then in 1992 Del Amitri released “Change Everything” it changed nothing for me but was another collection of songs hewn from the genius of Currie’s writing and transported into my increasingly fevered mind. More validation where I didn’t really need or want it but I absorbed every word. Just the titles of the songs. “Be My Downfall”, “Just Like A Man”, “I Won’t Take The Blame”, “The First Rule of Love”, “The Ones That You Love Lead You Nowhere”. HOW DID HE KNOW??? How was every song, every lyric, every knowing couplet delving deeper and deeper into my life.
I think you get the point. Two more albums during the 90s “Twisted” which included “Driving With The Brakes On” that I still struggle to listen to to this day such is the sadness it brings with it. “Some Other Suckers Parade” just full of more of the same. Even the lighter “Not Where It’s At” was absolutely prescient of where my life was. Songs like “No Family Man” just reaffirmed my belief that I was failing at every turn.
“Have you got something to prove with your own little you?
Have I wasted my time, cut through the family line?
In the race to life, I am an also ran
But I’ve run enough to know, I’m no family man
Yeah, I’ve done enough to know I’m no family man”
Why did I keep listening? You may as well ask why drink or take drugs or gamble? It made my life make sense and made me feel perversely better. Just a good old wallow in self pity. I was failing, not good enough. The reality of course was completely different. Holding down a job that was increasing in responsibility and hours to support a family that was growing trying to make a home life work but I couldn’t see that at the time. Looking back now I did ok but more on that later. Then the buggers released a best of with the B Sides in 1998 called “Lousy With Love” (just for you Dave). I found another B Side “Learn To Cry” buried away on the back of “Always The Last To Know” ready to strike me down once again..
“A familiar face with a loving smile greets you every day
And failure seeps a little deeper through your life
Yeah sure you gave some girl your heart, but you never used it anyway
Sayin’ boy, you better learn to cry
Boy, you’d better learn to cry”
That just kept topping me up so that by the time “Can You Do Me Good” was released in 2002 they were no longer just a band they were MY band that narrated my life through my thirties, into my forties and understood me like no one else. Obsession? Absolutely. “Can You Do Me Good” was clearly a parting shot from the band. There was no way back, they were over. No one to take their place, just that back catalogue which I would dip into when my self esteem looked like it might be on the up. Back in your box Dave.
Bloody hell I’m exhausted, well done if you’re still with me… So what happened next? I sort of got on with things. My boys were getting older and showing an interest in music mostly US skater rock Green Day etc or UK indie and for a while I went with it but still in the car on my own it was the Dels that kept me company.
Then Myspace happened and Justin released some covers, were they coming back? I discovered blogging and a whole new world opened up where I could wallow further and share my misery. Oh happy day! I had the seed of an idea and wrote the script for a play using all these great songs to build the story around. Based on “Move Away Jimmy Blue” It was dour, bleak and semi autobiographical touching on many of the events of the previous 15 or so years. I found or tripped over The Word Blog trying to find someone who might be interested in it and it became another obsession for a while. This is when Dave Amitri was born. Just a throw away user name. The tribute band I could never be. I couldn’t possibly face the world as me but behind my mask of misery and my cape of regret I could be whatever I wanted to be and say whatever I wanted to say. Twitter, Facebook, The Word Blog became second homes to me. God I made some mistakes but Dave Amitri became my escape and I also discovered on the boards and the socials other Del Amitri fans like me. People of a certain age who too had been cocooned in Del Amitri’s web of melancholia. I wrote once when reviewing “Can You Do Me Good”
“Imagine a band from the 90’s who weren’t a boy band, weren’t Brit Pop, weren’t from Manchester, you couldn’t rave too and wrote songs, proper songs with lyrics that meant something. That band was Del Amitri. So uncool that they attracted a certain fan, a fan who didn’t fit anywhere else, a fan who was going through some personal drama and a fan who didn’t quite “get” the latest thing. “
It felt good but the real me was still boiling away in the pan of water getting ever closer to the edge. It finally overflowed in 2008 and took me with it. It was a tough time but was a personal turning point for me. I’d at least made a decision that something had to change. I got proper help. It will come as no surprise however that Currie’s solo career also played a part. 2007’s “What Is Love For” is an album of separation and sadness but also with a sense that it’s going to be ok. He knew again.
“If I ever loved you how come I feel alright? How come the nights are so easy and the mornings look so bright?”
My introspection has gone on far too long, sorry but I have one more story to share before concluding. Fast forward to 2012 and I’m now seperated after 23 years and alone but looking forward. Currie is playing live and I’ve got the momentum to do something serious with the script for “Jimmy Blue”. I take a colleague from work to see Currie and that colleague over time becomes more. A production company from Manchester wants to put on “Jimmy Blue” and Justin Currie offers help for a Kickstarter project to fund it in 2013. Yes Dave! Well unfortunately I wasn’t ready to expose the real me and my bottle went knowing the script wasn’t really worthy of the songs I pulled out and that was that. Dave Amitri would have pulled it off but not the real me. It’s never really surfaced again.
So here we are 3 days before another Del Amitri album is released. My family are all doing ok, we’ve sort of found a way. The colleague from the gig became my partner, we’re still together and I’m happy. Dave Amitri is still my only social media presence. I still like to hide behind him. More people “know” him than know real world me and that suits me just fine. None of my family except my partner even know he exists. I can write as him without fear of anyone judging me. It’s a hobby I love and having here to share it is doubly rewarding. It gives me a freedom. There’s no way I could do the things I do as Dave Amitri as me. As for Del Amitri I still care for those songs but it’s very rare I feel able to listen to them. I’ve ordered tickets for the live shows and a vinyl copy of the album. How do I feel about “Fatal Mistakes”? I’m really not sure. If Currie and Co really do have insight into my soul then the album will be wiser, a bit battered round the edges but with a new purpose and real joy at what the future might bring. If it is expect a review soon. If it’s not, if it’s more of the same I might not listen more than once. Like any addiction just one sample could bring a relapse. Perhaps then I’ll put it in the loft like a vinyl “Picture of Dorian Gray” to decay in sorrow. Perhaps it’s time I put Dave Amitri up there too and face the world as a happy, confident, relaxed Dave Ross and finally kiss this thing goodbye…