When one becomes famous, journalists rarely like to ask them the well trodden questions. You should know your artiste’s biography down to the nursery school they went to, the city in which their parents met, the ward they were born in, and the name of the Doctor who brought them screaming and covered in blood into this harshly lit world.
Niche, inquisitive, ‘avant-garde’ questions are preferred. This desire to be innovative has spawned a new set of well trodden ‘quirky’ openers, such as the frequently asked: what was the first album you bought? My issue with a question such as exhibit A, is that it assumes when you were growing up you had money to buy an album. It assumes you personally, owned a CD player, or had the right to place a shiny disk into the Home System. I did not have these rights. I acquired a shared CD player on my 13th birthday, and all the acquired CD’s were birthday gifts and therefore predominantly consisted of P!nk (my sisters choice), or me borrowing (for extended periods of time, with no definite end) my mum’s albums.
These questions undermined my notion of what it meant to be a young teenage adult. I would hear young celebrities talking about the first concert they went to when they were 16, or the first music festivals they attended before they’d completed their GCSE’s. I saw friends flocking to watch Fall Out boy before their year9 SATS were over, whilst I sat home and watched Children in Need – the closest we came to a live concert.
So, when I imagined myself a Rising Star of tomorrow, being interviewed because I now had enough fame to not have to be the interviewer, I was nervous. I didn’t have a niche answer to give. I didn’t buy records or mix tapes, I didn’t even own my own MP3/CD player till I won a Public Speaking Competition at 15 (and even then didn’t use the free iPod for a whole year). What could I do? The Spice Girls tape that hinted my mum and had children had not been bought with my pocket-money – why pocket-money was almost a foreign word in our house!
However, tonight, tonight, i truly became a young, ‘hip’, adult. I took myself, on my jack jones, to watch the legendary Joan Armatrading in concert – and I felt grown! Yes, sitting with 2 empty seats next to me, in an audience predominantly swaying with white middle-aged people (the ethnic demographic more about location than artist), I suddenly knew what is was like to be ‘a la mode.’
Joan captured my heart at the ripe old age of 9. Having listened to Down to Zero one too many times, I decided if I couldn’t beat my mum’s musical tastes, I’d join them, and I’ve never looked back.
Approaching her mid-50’s and still a better guitarist than most, her licks were on fire, she had the mummy shake down pat, and her voice had barely changed, I screamed like a girl. No, I am a girl. I screamed like a boy when he screams like a girl and get’s embarrassed. I did a weird hyper-oh-my-days-she’s-singng-LIVE!- shake for the good part of Down to Zero, which turned into a dreamy smile of complicit love when All the Way from America oozed over the speakers. I could and couldn’t believe my eyes. Joan Armatrading. The first woman, before I’d even heard of Lauryn Hill, Angela Davis, Tracy Chapman or Ms E. Badu who wore a ‘fro and played a nasty guitar, with much funk and Paul Simonesque lyrics, was standing under 100m’s away from me – singing songs that have been looped so often my sister even, unfortunately, knows the lyrics.
I can only say in conclusion to this ecstatic experience that I’m so glad that now, I can tell the world, my first concert was a Joan Armatrading concert at the ripe ol’ age of 19. I went with just Me Myself and I, and it was darn good!