Listen: Soon / My Bloody Valentine
Alan McGee had invited me down to an early My Bloody Valentine show at London’s ULU during February ’89, just after he’d signed the band to Creation. Seemed like every time I’d get back from the UK, there’d be a good reason to return straight away. New groups literally materialized overnight. It was a dream come true for an A&R rep with a frequent flyer miles addiction.
I timed this visit to take in the latest media invented genre, shoegazing, with My Bloody Valentine being crowned the apparent rulers. I do wish I could recall who else was on the bill that night. I want to say Silverfish and Spiritualized. Regardless, the whole thing was dead boring. Not a flipping song in sight the entire evening. Then and there, I never saw the point of this appropriately described genre. Dreadful stuff.
But fast forward a full year and a half. ‘Soon’ is the band’s new single, one of those records you hadn’t heard of when you left New York, but was everywhere upon arrival in pre-internet July ’90. Gary Crowley played me it that first afternoon. It was even on the car radio when we left his apartment. Just about every office at Island seemed to be blasting it the next day, each attempting to out hip the other. ‘Soon’ was most definitely my soundtrack to that visit.
The following winter, the band played the new Ritz in New York. By then, the club had moved uptown to 54th Street. Although most of the magic the original place had was now gone, there were still plenty of great shows. Both Jane’s Addiction and The Red Hot Chili Peppers peaked their club band periods on that stage, Primal Scream did SCREAMADELICA, the return of the original Damned and Buzzcocks happened there, The Charlatans made their US premier, Ministry playing behind a chain linked fence, daring audience members dove into the mosh pit below from the second floor balcony during The Ramones’ two nights in February ’90 and a jungle red latex clad Lux Interior drank wine from a stray hightop sneaker shot onto the stage during The Cramps LOOK MOM NO HEAD show.
So the opportunity was set for My Bloody Valentine to prove their worth, become royalty, leave a most historical stamp on the moment, the way ‘Soon’ had and has. With intense crowd angst, the band came on to a visual storm of dry ice, saturated red and purple pulsing strobes and seriously tore into ‘Soon’. For a minute or so, the shrill and volume felt painfully positive, but the intensity of high end squeals and attempted white noise was unbearable. Ears were covered, the crowd physically gasping, it was relentless, horrible, unlistenable. Confused and tortured, many, and I do mean many, hit the exits. We tried, we wanted it to be as powerful as ‘Soon’ but we were defeated too, avoiding the surge for refunds at the box office window on the way out. This wasn’t art, it was insult.
Great single though.