Muddy Foot Prince

The near-religious experience that is The Flaming Lips live, Saturday

Some days, it’s all about memories. Either reliving them, or creating them, hopefully most – and by that I mean just about over half, not necessarily more – of your hours awake do this for you. Saturday was one of those very rare days, where wistful reminiscence and the realisation that something wonderful has happened before your eyes you hope you will never forget, happened almost concurrently.

It started in the kitchen. Actually, it started in the car coming back from Wales (see previous ramble). Listening to an album that’s 25 years old, and was recorded by a certain Prince Rogers Nelson. Sign O The Times is a stone cold classic record, but the sound is appallingly low. Even the vinyl at the time, regardless of the depth of sound, invariably had a hiss as you tried to extract greater volume. The ever-enlightening Mrs Pause suggested that I should “get the remastered version, ‘cos this sounds shit”. So, on Saturday morning, ironing in the kitchen, it had its ceremonial blast. It is crystal clear. For any purists out there – and yes, I have been known to be more precious and pompous than most when it comes to this sort of thing – I know what you’re going to say. And yes, by remastering it, you are deconstructing the way it was created, to gloss it up for a digital consumer, blah, blah. But, frankly, up your bollocks. Now you can actually hear it. And it’s brilliant.

It also delivered to me hi-definition memories of the late 80’s, a time of relative innocence as a 15 year old, believing that – as a fully signed-up Smiths fan – that world was more likely to end than it was to begin. A time of parties at people’s houses once their parents had gone on holiday, trying to get booze you hated the taste of, smoking cigarettes that you hated the taste of. But, occasionally this did impress a girl, and the start of the chase began. I have no idea how young people communicate in that stomach-turning excitement phase of a possible relationship – it’ll all be about Facebook and BBM-ing each other, I’m sure. For me, the killer communication tool was the compilation tape: a surefire way of expressing feelings through the language of song, in a pain-staking arrangement of story telling, over two sides of a stolen-from-your-Dad BASF cassette. An analogue exposure of the heart. An itunes playlist just doesn’t do the same thing, but it’s probably the closest thing we’ve got.

Perhaps I should have asked a few of these mythical young protagonists, as I slipped and slid my way into Platts Fields in Manchester for the Parklife festival on Saturday? With the rain having fallen at biblical levels for a week or more, this was going to be nothing other than a mudfest. So, instead of asking about cassettes and courting, I had to question, several times in increasing exasperation, at what point ANYBODY thought that pink shorts and espadrilles were going to be appropriate male attire for such an occasion? It wasn’t. Whilst I detest women in wellies on the high street- nearly as much as Uggs and pyjama trousers – a sturdy pair of Hunters, or a jaunty pair of floral boots come into their own in such conditions, and as such act as a perfect leveller between sartorial elegance and rigid practicality.

The mud also acted in a similar, equalising way, as it ensured everybody staggered around, regardless of their mental state. I know it’s been a while, but I was genuinely amazed at how many people were eye-bogglingly, lock-jaw-munted by 5pm. It’s a long two days in those conditions, when you’re peaking with six hours to go on day one. Mrs Pause reported a character sat near them stroking her friend’s cardigan and having a nice chat with himself, at 4.30pm. Bless.

Fortunately, though, these blessed folks were there to witness a couple of musical moments that I genuinely will never forget: firstly, Johnny Marr joined Nile Rogers and Chic onstage, and as the darkness rolled in, the white shirt of Marr provided the perfect link between 70’s disco anthems, and the Mancunian gloom. As they stood shoulder to shoulder, they could have been Prince himself, separated in two parts.

After a stagger about in the mud, peering into a few of the dance tents where the mental carnage was sure to be amplified more than the bass, my excellent co-pilots for the day secured beers and took our place to see one the best live bands around. Wayne Coyne has been fronting The Flaming Lips forever, but it is only in the last few years that their stage show has taken such a huge step towards being a genuinely religious experience: 20 girls dressed as Alice in Wonderland danced onstage; two 10ft lizards meandered about; Wayne gets in a huge bubble and crowd-surfs; and there was streamers and coloured smoke in the air after 100 giant balloons were released. And the songs to match.

You didn’t need any other mind-altering substances to enjoy the show. It was anthemic and joyous for ninety, fun-filled minutes. On the other side of town, Coldplay were also incorporating ticker tapes and multi-coloured sensations to their show. I have nothing against Coldplay, but their music has become colourless and predictable. Not my thing, but I can appreciate and understand why they are so globally huge, in this time of brand consistency – why do you think Starbucks are so big? Because people know what it tastes like all over the world. It’s predictable, and safe. Comfortable. But occasionally, try a different taste. You might like it. But then, that might just be the sign of the times.

Follow me on twitter @benopause, the Benopasusal facebook group exists so you can get instant notification of new posts, and please keep pressing that little share button below if you enjoyed it. I’m in Vegas. Heaven help us….


  1. Damien · June 12, 2012

    A cracking read! The Sign o the Times album is an absolute classic. I was a little older than you when it came out but it is still one of my favourites. Haven’t seen the Lips live yet but fully intend to after several recommendations like yours. Thanks for posting and happy listening. D

    • benopause · June 12, 2012

      Thank you sir. I appreciate the feedback. I’d forgotten how good that record is from start to finish, and it definitely stands up today as the masterpiece I thought it was then. Hope you keep reading.

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