28 August 2015
... because when you were nineteen
didn't YOU ever want to create something beautiful and pure
just so that one day you could set it on fire
and then watch the city light up as it burned?
Didn't you want to do that every day of your life?
It’s my birthday today. Always a happy day. Well, not always. Twenty years ago it wasn’t. twenty years ago my favourite record label in the entire world chose my birthday to announce that it was ending it all, and it felt like my whole world had fallen apart. The label was called Sarah. Just Sarah. The “records” bit was often added after it, but really they were just called Sarah, and they placed adverts in NME and Melody Maker announcing that the next record they released would be their last. On my birthday. And it broke my heart.
Nothing should be forever.
Bands should do one single and then split-up,
fanzines finish after one flawless issue,
lovers leave in the rain at 5am and never be seen again -
It wasn’t as if pop music hadn’t broken my heart before. Wham!, The Smiths and Talulah Gosh had all split up by then, and it had been really really upsetting at the time, but there was always something left afterwards. There was always a Faith or a Viva Hate or a Heavenly. It was never really over, but this was different. This time it really felt like the end of something. And not just for Sarah, but for me. This was the record label I’d always imagined myself being signed to, the only label I’d ever wanted to be on, the only record label I’d ever actually loved. This was my dream, and it was over. On my birthday twenty years ago I realised that I would never have a record released on Sarah Records. There’d be no train journey to Bristol in the rain to sign a record deal on a napkin in a café by the harbour. No champagne with Matt and Clare and hanging out with Harvey Williams afterwards. Not a seven inch. Not a ten inch. Nothing.I would never be Sarah anything. It was a crushing blow.
Habit and fear of change are the worst reasons for ever doing ANYTHING.
The weird thing is, I don’t think I was even in a band in 1995. It had been three or four years since my childhood band, Graham’s Crayon, had played their last show, and The Boy Least Likely To wouldn’t release a record for another eight years, but still it hit me hard. I obviously hadn’t given up music!! I was just taking a little time out. I’d be coming back and when I came back I’d need a label situation to be in place. The end of Sarah meant I’d have to totally rethink my imaginary plans.
Stopping a record-label after 100 perfect releases
is the most gorgeous pop art-statement ever
and says more about pop-music than any two-part digipak
grimly authentic lo-fi ten-track EP
(or any other marketing gimmick)
Matt and Clare had started the label in 1987 and run it from the garden flat they shared, and now eight years and eighty seven 7” inch singles later it was all over. Along the way they’d released some of the greatest pop singles ever. I’m In Love With A Girl Who Doesn’t Know I Exist by Another Sunny Day, I Fell In Love Last Night by Heavenly, The Autumn Store parts 1 and 2 by The Field Mice, All Of A Tremble by St Christopher, George Hamilton’s Dead by The Golden Dawn. Twenty years later and all these singles still sound as precious and incendiary to me as they did when I first heard them. I didn’t like every record they ever put out, but when you’re in love with someone that doesn’t matter. When you’re in love with someone, you love everything about them. Even the things you don’t like.
Sarah Records is owned by no-one but us,
so it's OURS to create and destroy how we want
and we don't do encores.
We want to burn in bright colours and go pop,
to be giddy, impulsive and silly,
to kiss people in new places -
- and dare to tear things apart.
The first act of revolution is destruction
and the first thing to destroy is THE PAST.
I loved Sarah for a lot of reasons, but sometimes just because they hated the same things as me. Anti-capitalist, anti-macho, anti-serious. They were romantic and idealistic and feminist and socialist and they seemed to enjoy annoying people as much as I did. It was the mid nineties, the height of Britpop and lad culture, and just being sensitive was implicitly political. Every time I do anything I can hear a voice in my head reading out the sleeve notes to the records that Matt and Clare used to write for every release. Sarah is there in everything I do. I think of them whenever it happens to go right and I blame them a little bit every time it goes wrong.
like falling in love
it reminds us we're alive
Twenty years later and I’ve made singles and albums of my own. We’ve put them out ourselves on our own label and I’ve sat in my own garden flat and folded sleeves and hand stamped hundreds of my own 7” singles. I’ve had my own terrible reviews in NME and been derided and misunderstood and overlooked. I like to think I would have fitted in perfectly on Sarah. Because twenty years after they stopped even being a label, it’s still the only record label I ever really want to be on. Even if they did ruin my birthday.