Infected By Noah And The Whale

I liked NATW when I first started hearing them. I DJed their pop breakthrough, ‘Five Year’s Time.’ But I didn’t really like what I’d heard of the new album. I thought ‘Life Goes On’ (can’t be arsed to type in all the full stops) was a weird mix of Paul Young’s ‘Common People’ singingly and ‘Copacabana’ thematically.

Then, on Monday, I got infected by ‘Give It All Back.’

I was driving home after dropping my mate Nat at an exam. Driving along Acorn Way to Oakwood, the sun was out and the sky was a cool blue. A song started on Radio One. Then I heard these lyrics:

Oh well the world never seemed bigger
Than the summer of ’98
Living out in the suburbs
Planning my escape
I grew my hair to my shoulders
Formed a band with a couple of friends
And we called ourselves The Devil’s Playhouse
Influences like Bruce and The Band

And we’d sing and play
Simple three chord rock and roll
And miles away
The other kids would just grow old
But we’re making our own way out
Yeah, we’re making our own way out

Well we’d practice every week in my bedroom
While my parents were working in town
And one morning in our school assembly
Played a cover of “Don’t Let Me Down”
The performance was nervous and awkward
But the passion was real and profound
And the kids in the audience laughing
While the band just stared at the ground

But the victory
For the kids who believe in rock and roll
I know for me
That performance lives, it never grows old
But we’re making our own way out
Yeah we’re making our own way out

Well I’d give it all back just to do it again
Yeah I’d turn back time, be with my friends
Yeah I’d give it all back just to do it again
Turn back time, be with my friends
Yeah I’d give it all back just to do it again
Turn back time and be with my friends
Yeah I’d give it all back just to do it again
Turn back time, be with my friends

By the end of the song, I was crying. Not enough to crash the car but enough to drip onto my coat. I had to buy the album yesterday and since then I think I’ve listened to this song around fifty times. I’m infected by it, it’s hijacked my cells.

In the 2.56 the song lasts, NATW have managed to encapsulate perfectly my life as a musician.

I left school at 16 specifically to join a band. And I did. I played my first gig at 16, in 1982. I wrote my first song then. Yes, it was about a girl at school I was in love with, why are you even asking? And, yes, she was beautiful. I remember looking through the gaps between the buttons on her blouse when she sat next to me, seeing her breasts nestled in her bra. How could I *not* write my first song about her? She wore braces and I loved her lisp even more than her huge, soft eyes.

In the thirty years since I have grown and changed and matured and I have stayed exactly the same. I’m still writing songs about girls I’m hopelessly, stupidly in love with. I still spend a long time looking at their boobs, though I have permission nowadays. And I still have the dreams that NATW put into this song.

When you’re 16 and in your first band with your mates, there is a union, a bond you will never have again. Those first gigs, the drives out to fucking nowhere in crappy cars, not getting paid, arguing about petrol money. The post-gig grub and post-mortem. The stupid pranks boys in bands play on each other. All of those moments which seem so unimportant at the time are the most fleeting, magical things when you remember them.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my life as a musician now and I’m eternally thankful I’m able to do it as my full-time job.

But sometimes, I would give it all back just to do it again.