In my teens I used to proclaim (somewhat smugly, I think) that "nostalgia is the enemy of the future". Although most of the records of my teenage years (during the 1980s) are available on iTunes I've generally avoided revisiting them, with a few notable exceptions (Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, Scary Monsters, Sulk). This might be a reflection, cynics would suggest, of the generally ephemeral quality of much of the music I was passionate about in the 1980s, a lot of which now sounds amazingly dated (The Brilliant Corners? The Bodines? The Close Lobsters? The Woodentops?), but I also have a sense that there is more than enough interesting new music around without the need for retrospection.
In a conscious departure from usual practice (which in a strange way actually made me feel a little ashamed) I recently downloaded del Amitri's eponymous first album. Recorded in more innocent times (1985, to be precise), before they embraced Americana as many Scottish bands do, it still holds up fairly well: many of the lyrics are obvious juvenilia (the definition of "irony" in the lyric to "Former Owner" is as inaccurate as Alanis Morrissette's), but much of it still sounds as fresh, clean-cut, and passionate as Justin Currie used to be.
At the time, I was obsessed with the record; even now I can recite the lyrics by heart despite a gap of at least 20 years since I last listened to it. I wrote to them and got nice letters in reply. My sister and I went to see del Amitri in a club in Tollcross, Edinburgh, not long after the album came out. There were only a handful of people there and we stood slightly awkwardly on the dancefloor watching. Afterwards, leaving, we met the band packing their van for the return trip to Glasgow. They offered us a lift; we declined. They weren't looking for groupies; they just thought, being the nice boys they were, that we might need a lift home.
I moved to Glasgow in 1987. After the success of their subsequent records on the back of their second album "Waking Hours" (1989), which I of course snubbed, due in part to their massive popularity - no longer a minority taste to be proud of - and also to what I saw as their capitulation to the mores of mainstream success by embracing a much more laconic, lazily rockin', American, and accordingly less distinctive sound, I used to see Justin Currie loping along the streets with his pointy cowboy boots, skinny jeans and massive sideburns. I also met him a few times at the Cul de Sac in Ashton Lane, Glasgow, near the university. I told him how much I'd loved their first record and he smiled ruefully and said he loved it too. And listening to it now reminds me of things which are worth remembering.