I had only recently turned 12 years old when I found out about the Bank of
Scotland's new type of account for teenagers (which included 12 year
olds, funnily enough). It was called an Express Account (and still
exists today, in a very modified form), and included all manner of
goodies, including my all-important first ever ATM cash-card.
I didn't care much about the free "audio magazine" that account holders
received in the mail each quarter (or was it each month? I can't quite
remember), on <em>cassette</em> no less, and so wasn't particularly
interested when the first "issue" arrived. I flipped the tape over to
the B-side almost immediately, since it apparently included some sample
tracks from various bands, and after hearing the first song I rewound
the tape and played it again. I'd do so hundreds of times over the following
The song was by a British band I'd never heard of at that point; <a href="http://www.jamestheband.com/">James</a>;
and it was of course the classic <strong><em>Sit Down</em></strong>. This
version was over 9 minutes long, and started out thin with just the drums,
slowly layering in bass guitar, keyboards and lead guitar before the lyrics
began. The crowd atmosphere in the background was tangible, particularly so
when the entire audience continued to sing the chorus for around 3 minutes
after all the band-members had finished playing.
The tape accompanied me practically everywhere (wedged into a suitably chunky
Walkman, of course), and was the primary soundtrack of my first year of high
school. I vividly remember sitting on a bus on its way to the ferry crossing point
to Skye, and then onwards to Raasey for our 1st year "outdoors week" at the Raasey
Outdoor Centre. The tape was playing in my Walkman, and I was trying very hard
not to be noticed as I stole frequent glances at Sandi Robertson, who I had a huge
and wonderful crush on for pretty much the entire year!
Of course, all this playing took its toll on the tape, and it eventually
self-destructed. A couple of generations of copies met with a similar fate,
and the song was lost from my life for a while. I discovered the studio
version on various albums, but it wasn't the same. I was to continue searching
for a new copy of that live version on and off for more than a decade.
The internet arrived, Napster came and went, Hotline, Carracho, Limewire,
and now BitTorrent, but I could never find the song. The intro had never faded from
my memory, and I must have drummed out the first 24 bars or so on tabletops, my legs,
and generally any available surface countless thousands of times over the years. My
family and friends can certainly attest to how annoying it could be for anyone around!
I collected many James albums, including the stunning <em>Gold Mother</em>, but continued
to search fruitlessly.
Now, cut to last night, when I was on Limewire (out of professional interest
in peer-to-peer file-sharing technology, you understand), and decided to yet again search
for the long-lost song. This time, amongst scores of hits for the studio version, I noticed
a "live at G-Mex" track. An almost-completely-faded memory was triggered; I remembered
reading on the cassette inlay that the live performance was in Manchester (James' home
town), and the <a href="http://www.g-mex.co.uk/">G-Mex</a> is there. In itself, that's
unremarkable, but the track was also around 9 and half minutes long. I decided to download.
As is so often the case when the download is really important, the data flow dried up
after I'd grabbed only 42 seconds worth of the MP3. Not much at all, but enough to hear
Tim Booth telling the audience "This is your show. This is our song. Thanks." I remembered
that from the tape too, and certainly recognised the echoing drums just managing to get
started before the partial track infuriatingly cut off.
Some dedicated late-night Google searching turned up some very promising news: despite my having
mixed feelings about December 2001 with respect to James, since the band as it had been more or less
ceased to be in that month, it also marked the re-release
of <em>Gold Mother</em>, this time with several extra tracks... the final one of which
being <em>Sit Down</em>, live at the Manchester G-Mex in December 1990. I didn't sleep
This morning, after dropping into the lab at university to see Jill, I went along to
Ashton Lane to see if DeCoursey's had the new version of the album; they didn't. I
similarly checked Fopp on Byres Rd, and again didn't find it. I took the tube into
the city centre, went into the Virgin store on Buchanan St, and searched through the
James section; no luck. By chance, I looked through the section immediately below James,
and saw the familiar top of the <em>Gold Mother</em> album cover-art sticking out from
the CDs of another band. It was indeed the 2001 remastered version, and I bought it and
left. Another quick tube trip back to the university, and I sat in my car and put in the CD.
After 12 years, I finally have that particular version of that particular song once again, this
time on CD and now also on my iPod. And I'm happy to say that it's just as amazing now as it was the first time around,
when I was a 12 year old teenager with a brand new cash-card and an unshakeable belief that
I was going to marry the coolest blonde in the year, and have James playing <em>Sit Down</em> at the