There is a scene in T2: Trainspotting, the extremely enjoyable sequel to Danny Boyle’s 1996 film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s original classic novel, where Renton, Sick Boy and Spud revisit the spot in the highlands where Renton famously declared that it is “shite being Scottish”.
The journey has been retraced to pay respect and homage to Tommy, their departed friend from the first movie who made the original journey with them 20 years previously.
Bored and unmoved by the experience, Sick Boy takes the opportunity to have a pop at Renton and accuses him of being “a tourist in your own youth”.
The comment is a salient one and it highlights the films main theme: obsession with the past.
The theme reoccurs constantly throughout the film and this is heightened by a sense that all the main protagonists from the original have a deep sense of unfulfillment with middle-age and all that it has brought them; loss, insecurity, health issues and a realisation of their own mortality. This is what makes the film connect with its audience, particularly with the forty-somethings of today who were the twenty-somethings of two decades ago when the original swept on to our cinema screens.
It is certainly what resonated most with me when I watched it for the first time, and it is a theme I had thought about long before T2 hit the cinemas in January. At the age of 44, I am discovering the hard way that there are more and more things that I used to do, or at least take for granted, that have now started to feel uncomfortable because of my age.
Clubbing, for example, is completely off the agenda these days – and has been for some time. On the very rare occasions over the last five/ten years that I have found myself in a club I have felt old, out of sorts and very uncomfortable. If there is any hope of me being a “tourist in my own youth”, it’s not going to be at some trendy city nightspot.
Playing football has also started to feel very different in recent years – especially since I hit 40. At my weekly five-a-side game, for example, I now feel a bit-part player where once I had an impact. Also, I move very differently these days – and not in a way that I can claim to enjoy. I am obviously slower, that’s a given, but there is also the fact that when I run now I literally look like my dad – all his mannerisms are there. Mannerisms, I should add, I used to mock.
I also now have to deal with young players who can’t kick their own arses getting the better of me because they’re quicker and fitter. This is arguably the most frustrating of all the things that middle-age has brought me – that and the three days of aching limbs after a game.
Also, whenever I put a football top on for the fives these days, I look like a fat old man in a football top – again, the type of fat old man in a football top I used mock.
Even the humble trainer is not guaranteed to survive middle-age. Noel Gallagher commented a year-or-two back that any man over the age of fifty shouldn’t be wearing trainers. I have to say that I agree with him on this, and even although I’m six years off that number I am already starting feel uncomfortable in a training shoe – unless, of course, it’s my Adidas Samba’s at the aforementioned fives, which is the mandatory trainer for any man over 40 still kicking a ball.
All-in-all it is fair to say that middle-age has felt pretty bleak so far, and that the mood in T2 is certainly one I can relate to. To paraphrase Renton – “It’s shite being middle aged!”
Thankfully, however, I have recently discovered – or rediscovered – a salvation which will allow me to be a tourist in my own youth without the indignity having to run like ma da at the fives, wear clothes that are twenty years too young for me or hang around a city nightspot like some sad, seedy devotee of Peter Stringfellow – and that salvation is vinyl.
As many of you will be aware, vinyl has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years. A format that was once considered dead and only for the use of luddites and hipsters, is apparently now cooler than a June afternoon in Glasgow.
My journey back to the past started when the missus bought me a record player earlier this year for my birthday. Middle-age has brought me an ability to be unimaginably unmoved by presents I receive at birthdays and Xmas, but I must say that opening this genuinely put a smile on my face – both in terms of the surprise and, most importantly, the opportunity it presented.
My first foray into vinyl occurred 37 years ago in 1980 when Adam Ant released the single ‘Dog Eat Dog’. I was very young at the time – seven – but it opened a new world to me. Initially I was probably more struck by the look of Adam Ant than I was by the sound; the Hussar jacket, the stripe across the nose, the cane…it all called out to me in a way nothing else had at that point in my life.
But gradually the music also got to me, particularly the multiple waves of drumbeats and the Native American screams and yelps. The seeds for my love of music were sown.
The King of the Wild Frontier album – from which the ‘Dog Eat Dog’ single was taken – was duly procured, although initially on cassette, and I was off and running in terms of a music collection.
The next stage was acquiring a record player, which my dad got for me, as well as a rake of old 45” singles from a work colleague who no longer wanted them, which included some gems like Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ELO’s ‘Livin’ Thing’ on blue vinyl.
For the next two or three years I collected vinyl – mostly singles – ferociously. Adam Ant was the fuel that powered my interest but I also bought several other notable releases including ‘A Town Called Malice’ by The Jam, ‘Senses Working Overtime’ by XTC, ‘I Could be Happy’ by Altered Images and ‘The Model’ by Kraftwerk. I may not yet have been in double figures in terms of age, but I was already displaying an admirable taste in music.
But by 1983 I had lost a bit of interest. Adam and the Ants had crashed and burned, his solo career turned out to be very disappointing and I satisfied myself with getting my music fix every Thursday night on Top of the Pops rather than physically adding to my collection.
The bug to buy again never really returned until the late 80s. In August ’89, at the tender age of 16, I started my first full-time job and took out a hire purchase agreement on a Sony stereo system. By then, however, vinyl was on the way out – replaced by the CD. As if to prove this the vinyl section in Sleeves, my local record shop, was vastly reduced to allow room for the new, superior format.
See that is good thing to about joining the current vinyl revolution, not only does it allow me to be a ‘tourist in my own youth’ without suffering any indignity, but it also allows me the opportunity to recapture what was arguably denied, or at the very least cut short, back in the day due to the assent of the compact disc.
Since I received the record player I have made a weekly jaunt to Record Fayre in Glasgow’s Trongate and slowly but surely started to rebuild a vinyl collection. I have also frequented Fopp and HMV to pick up re-issues, but they tend to be more costly than the second-hand market – and they don’t provide the same sense of nostalgia.
I also recently popped along to a record fair in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Sports Centre. If you’re considering getting back into vinyl I would advise caution at such events. These are the equivalent of an opium field to a junky to those newly reacquainted with vinyl. Within five minutes of entering the place I could have re-mortgaged the house – twice!
I have only been to one so far but my overall advice would be have a budget, stick to it and try and shop about. The urge to buy the first decent thing you find is overwhelming, but given the overall environment is one of being quite over-priced, you might just save a few bob if you apply some patience and look about before making a purchase. I came away with second-hand copies of Bowie’s Low and The Beatles’ Rubber Soul for not too outrageous a price. So they can provide a good hunting ground, but common sense needs to be applied or you could spend a fortune on overpriced goods.
Even on a recent family holiday to north Wales I succumbed to the call of vinyl. With the family enjoying the sun on the beach in Rhyl, I sneaked off to visit to record shop I had Googled prior to the visit. Again I done not too badly, coming away with Springsteen’s Born in the USA, The Stranglers’ Rattus Norvegicus and Let it Be by The Beatles – not to mention a few original 45” singles by the Fab Four.
The delve back into the format of the past has also provided me with the opportunity to have more shared experiences with my daughter. Despite only being nine she has taken an interest in music, with Little Mix being to her what Adam Ant was to me – not to mention her taking a wee shine to The Beatles. So we have had a couple of days out in the record shops of Glasgow having a shared experience that might not have been were it not for vinyl.
A recent article in the NME suggested that the current increase in vinyl sales was a bit of a con. The article claimed the format remains inferior in terms of sound quality, still has the age old issues of jumping etc, is over-priced and all-in-all is a bit of a scam.
Are these accusations true? Maybe. There is certainly merit in more than one of the accusations. However it feels that my current interest in vinyl – which could legitimately be called a mid-life-crisis – will go on for some time yet.
Is that foolish of me? Maybe.
Do I care? Not one bit.
Am I writing this on returning from HMV with a vinyl copy of The Ramones’ self-titled debut album? You can bet your life on it!