The Album That Changed my Life: Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space- Spiritualized
My Dad had an extensive vinyl and CD collection spanning multiple rooms in my childhood home. He still claims to have the biggest collection of XTC vinyl in the country. Whether that’s true or not, I’m unsure. But it’s my inheritance, so I’ll choose to believe him. The artwork and feel of the sleeves alone stole my imagination, way before the fine needle cut into the groove. We would listen to Bjork, Caribou, The Beatles and Frankie Goes to Hollywood in my living room through some speaker system I did not understand the ins and outs of, but it was something that my Dad was extremely chuffed with. So I liked it, too. I would buy him records by artists that I had vaguely heard of for birthdays and Christmases and relish at his pure unaltered joy after unwrapping the film. I personally enjoyed music immensely, but not really good music.
When we were about sixteen, my mate spent a week’s work experience at Rooster Records on Fore Street in Exeter (from what I know, it’s still open; worth a visit if you’re on holiday in sunny Devon!). He would file through all the tea-stained records that had been dumped on the doorstep by couples that hoped one of their fifty-five heirlooms would unearth a pretty penny. Inevitably, most were put straight in the 50p Bargain Bin and Carol and Paul would trudge back to the car with a measly £4.75 and a clearer attic. I came to visit him on one occasion. He came bundling out of the shop post-shift with six of the best from these drop-offs. “Mate, some of these are decent,” he exclaimed. I was sceptical, to say the least. He had cycled over to my village the night before with a damp copy of 70s Irish folk band The Fureys’ Love Songs, on which only two tracks were vaguely audible. We filed through his unearthed treasures and I took two with me for night-time listening: The Rise and Fall by Madness and Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized. The latter was the start of a mind-opening evening not paralleled since – and I’ve seen Sheffield United beat Arsenal!
I chucked it on my portable turntable: Steepletone, £26.99. No, it wasn’t the best quality. But it did the job. I had listened to a lot of records before Ladies and Gentlemen…, but none of them had the impact that this one did. It was a gateway drug. All I worried about was the girl I had been flirting with in Geography, the party taking place a week on Friday, and this record. The album is one long anthem for an anti-Britpop movement. At the time I had just broken up with my ‘first love’, thought gaining a good GCSE in Maths was like outwitting The Krypton Factor and washed plates in my local pub for £3.80 an hour. The album starts with Jason Pierce crooning, “All I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away” – strong lyrics for a recently dumped and impressionable teenage lad! ‘Broken Heart’ is equally and explicitly evocative of these post break-up feelings. But it wasn’t just the themes that run through the fuzzing, seismic masterpiece that excited me. ‘Come Together’, which I have been lucky enough to see live since, is a Primal Scream-esque abrasive rock track that hits you from nowhere sandwiched between two neo-psychedelic and introspective tracks. The album culminates in the seventeen-minute long track, ‘Cop Shoot Cop’, which takes the listener on a journey through Pierce’s mind and numerous genres. It was different to everything else I had heard on the radio, in my living room, and at my mates’ houses. Ultimately, it was mine.
It has been quite a few years since I first heard the album, and I am still unable to escape it. To contextualise if you have never heard the record, it pipped OK Computer to the 1997 Album of the Year award. Since its release Jason Pierce has created many more works of art, contracted a long term liver disease and haemorrhaged money. A tortured artist of our age, and one that inspired thought-provoking and mind-expanding music utilising orchestras, choirs and archaic synthesizers. He may not be as famous as one of the Gallaghers, our very own Jarvis, or Richard Ashcroft; but what he created in Ladies and Gentlemen… was better.
And I’ve still got that very record in my flat in Sheffield.