New Labour, Britpop and me

In a recent interview with the Guardian, Kevin Shields commented: “Britpop was massively pushed by the government. Someday it would be interesting to read all the MI5 files on Britpop. The wool was pulled right over everyone’s eyes there.”  I’m not sure how much this was a joke but it reminded me of a very strange night in my life.

It was a year after the invasion in Iraq.  David Kelly had taken his own life.  There had been marches, protests and red paint on the streets.  I was playing music, hanging out, being cool.

One night in April, I went to see the indy-pop band The Shins at a “toilet” venue in Leicester called the Princess Charlotte.  I wasn’t a massive fan but some of us got free tickets from our mate who worked at the venue.  As it turned out the band was pretty good.  But the night was more memorable because, among the audience, there was an old couple who stood around the sound-booth dressed like Saxondale:

Weirdly, they also had some pretty big younger looking dudes with them.  Now, I’ve seen enough movies to know a secret-service agent on a night out when I see one.  So we wondered, understandably who the oldies were.  Then it hit us.  The man was Geoff Hoon.  Geoff bloody Hoon.  Geoff, invading Iraq is a good idea, Hoon.  In Leicester?  At a Shins gig?  It couldn’t be.

At the time, I was a bit more gobby than I am now so I went over and asked him if he was Geoff Hoon.  “Yes”, replied Geoff Hoon.  And I, sharp tongued and erudite as ever, called him the c-word and walked off.  I’m not that proud of it primarily because he took it in such good grace.  In fact, he didn’t reply.  He just looked at me in a way that said: “I know I’m not going to win this argument”.  Despite myself, I immediately felt sorry for him.  Geoff Hoon!

I went over to my friends to report back.  Soon enough, the word spread and other people started jeering him.  My rapier-sharp one line retort seemed crude and unimaginative after about 200 hundred people started on him.  Then the Shins came on stage and everyone forgot he was there.

Being one of those “too-cool-for-school” types. I spent most of the gig talking at the back of the venue.  So I had a good look at Hoon and his goons.  He didn’t really do anything that revealing.  It looked as if he might have been there with his son.  He seemed more at home at a gig than I expected and, to be honest, seemed more accepting of the abuse than I think I would have been.  Shortly before the Shins ended, along with his body guards, he left.  We all laughed about it at the time.  But even now I wonder what was he doing there?

I’d like to think he’d heard about the Charlotte’s complete inability to promote gigs and thought he could sneak in unnoticed.  Perhaps he even thought he could even enjoy his own private concert if no one else turned up (which was pretty common at the Charlotte).  Ultimately, though, I think he was just being a c word.

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