1980 and all that: 1996

Ocean Colour Scene

I know 1996 was a leap year, but even still, looking back at it, it seems to have been a lot longer than just your standard 12 months.

It was, I suppose, one of those golden years. I got through my GCSEs amazed by how well I’d done (not spectacular by the standards of some at my grammar school, but still better than I thought I’d do) and entered sixth form with a feeling of confidence – swagger even.

All this was against a backdrop where I was continuing to make my initial excited fumblings with my new found passion of music. And what I time to enjoy musical fumblings it was. The whole Britpop thing was still alive and kicking. Its sheer positivity: Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’, Supergrass’ ‘Alright’, Blur’s ‘Parklife’ seemed to mirror and reinforce my own blooming (and rather naïve) assessment of myself: maybe I could do anything.

Ocean Colour Scene helped fuel this. Their mod-infused music complemented the whole living-for-the-moment attitude as espoused by the bands with whom they shared column inches in the NME and Melody Maker.

That their ‘Riverboat Song’ was used as guests crossed the narrow balcony to arrive in the bar on TFI Friday, a bastion of carefree Britpop euphoria, only helped reinforce the walls of my adolescent echo chamber: everything was brilliant. How could it not be like this forever!

‘The Riverboat Song’ is a spectacular way to start an album – or welcome the likes of Shaun Ryder, Jo Guest or Stephen Fry to your TV show. At the time it was just an energetic blast of electric guitars doing what they do best.

These days that blues intro alone will plunge anyone on their way to 40 (or just past that mile stone) into a sense of intense nostalgia.

Of course, despite all the high octane drive and all the encompassing excitement of the tune, ‘The Riverboat Song’ is actually a bit of a downer. It’s about being utterly frustrated by your plans not working out. It’s about wanting one thing, but another thing happening. It’s about wanting to know that one day the bad stuff will stop and the good stuff will start.

I was too young to realise that, of course. All I knew was that it was a stonkingly fantastic tune and, when played somewhere between 6 and 7 o’clock on a Friday teatime, there was the promise of much silliness and banter (not yet bants) between Chris and his chosen guests.

How young we all were.

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