(james benedict brown) on the road

It’s not cold, but I am…

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 24 February, 2006

On our stereo tonight was a string of albums by Belle and Sebastian. Why? Because after work today I managed to buy two of the last four tickets for their show in Montréal on Sunday night, neatly side stepping the eee-jit on craigslist who said they’d sold out and that he would sell his to the highest bidder (I believed him and bid over $50 … thankfully the venue still had ’em at $36 hehehe…)

I first heard Belle and Sebastian’s music towards the end of 1996, when I arrived at Winchester College. The Art School, where I am inclined to believe I spent most of my happiest moments at the school, was fitted with a rather basic sound system – namely a hi-fi with a very long cable between the two speakers. If I recall correctly (although it could be the other way round) the left speaker was in the wing of the building with the printing workshop and the right speaker was across the bridge in the other wing, in the painting studio. Tracks recorded in stereo were a problem, since depending on which half of the building you were in, you would only get half the lyrics or music.

Through this selective filter, I managed to listen to a badly copied cassette tape of Belle and Sebastian’s second album If You’re Feeling Sinister. The size of the cassette collection in the art school was limited, so I heard it a lot, and like virtually every other GCSE and A-level art student at Winchester College, I formed a very strong emotional tie with B+S. The band’s history includes this opening paragraph:

“Belle and Sebastian were formed in an all-night café in Glasgow, January 1996. Stuart Murdoch (singer/songwriter) and Stuart David (bass guitar) met on a government-training scheme and recorded some demos, which were picked up by a Jeepster scout who was taking part in the Stow College Music Business Course. The course, run by ex-Associate Alan Rankine, produces and releases one record every year on the college label Electric Honey Records, usually a single. However in the case of Belle and Sebastian they had enough songs to record a whole album, and so the elusive Tigermilk was born. Recorded in three days and one thousand copies released on vinyl only, it now changes hands for up to £400 per copy.”

So I’ve listened to B+S for almost ten years. Through thick and thin, their music has stuck with me, and many tracks carry many memories that were not included in the original packaging. Thinking about it, I don’t think I have such a connection with any other artist or group, not even the delicious Beth Orton (who, incidentally, we’re seeing here in April). So Sunday will be a fun night, and a toast will be made with an overpriced plastic cup of warm beer to Arthur Morgan. If you know who he is, you’ll understand why.

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