Let’s Push Things Forward – The Streets
you’re listening to The Streets…Original Pirate Material…lock down your aerials
…you say that everything sounds the same…then you go buy them
there’s no excuses my friend…let’s push things forward…
2002. Wembley. In my car. In a park near the North Circ. A406. Me and Tom. Blazing. Listening to this tune. Laughing. Loving it. then you go buy them… It was Christmas Day. Soon we would dive back into the warm cosy cradle of love inside Granma’s house, full of cousins, brothers, mums and uncles, daughters, nephews, aunts and sons. Full of love. Christmas. Food. Drink. Laughs. A far cry from the stressed disaster of my family Christmases, which just got worse and worse until we abandoned the whole idea at some point during the 1980s and made plans to see each other before, or after, but never ON Christmas Day. For very good reason. Christmas lit the fuse, the blue touchpaper of unsaid things that would then explode in your fucking face on That Day without fail. The Jules clan aren’t that kind of family. Christmas Day is happy, celebratory, funny, sometimes sad, but full of people who love you. It’s amazing. I’m not religious but I like Christmas Day.
I first met Tom when he was 8 years old. Son of Jenny’s sister Dee, he is my nephew. I am Uncle Ralph indeed, or Unx. We have been close for a long time now, stayed with us for the summer holidays when we lived in Archway Road, came to stay when we were in Brighton, this was one of the bonding moments but they are many. Tom is very good at many things – blessed with skills and creativity. He drew a picture of me from a photo of Danny from Withnail when he was a youth. It’s scary and excellent. So he is good a drawing, yes. He is also good at football, frisbee, dancing, singing, magic tricks, balancing things on other things, wearing clothes, writing songs, training and breeding dogs, rapping, DJing, attracting girls, walking on his hands, attracting boys, MCing, warming up the crowd, heating up the crowd, sweeting up the crowd, laying it down, smashing it, actually smashing it, picking it up afterwards, holding his hands up, apologising, actually being sorry, sleeping, eating eggs, cooking eggs, buying eggs, eating more eggs and washing up egg plates.
He was obsessed with Michael Jackson as a younger, the dancing as much as the singing. Tom sang his first song aged one year old, or at least key words – I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside.…(The Greatest Love – Whitney Houston). Which is a reflection and an acknowledgement of his mum Dee and her sisters Molly, Jenny, Mandy and Lucy, brother Jon and Granma and Grandad of course; a testament that they were there fostering and facilitating this child to be the young man he is today – songwriter, singer with Rudimental, father to a beautiful girl Skye and partner to her mother, dear Scarlett whom he loves very dearly. I am proud to be his Uncle. Even prouder to be Unx.
Once he’d been an usher at our wedding aged 11 (?) I’ve rather looked upon him as my son. I don’t have a son, and Tom doesn’t know his father, and has never met him – although that is currently by choice. In the early days though, it was just a hole. I know about holes. So I’ve always been very aware of how I stepped into his life. How I represented myself, and manhood. Fatherhood hopefully, and although Tom and Scarlett only actually lived with Jen and I at number 57 for about two years, from 2006-7, I feel unxerly and paternal to them both. Which I suppose makes me a grandparent to Skye along with Scarlett’s dad Bob Pugh and Mum Maggie Flynn-Pugh. Lucky me. When I was 50 I held a dinner on my own honour at The Groucho Club and invited about 50 people. Later in the night Tom, in a moment of drunken sincerity announced that he considered me emotionally to be his dad and everyone had a little weep, me included. We are close. I will stand by him, I will protect him, I will advise him, I will listen to him, I will love him forever.
So this is number 57 of My Pop Life. I was born in 1957. Jenny and I own a house at number 57. I am 57 years old as I write this. And surely it is through a mystical, alchemical and ultimately unearthly process that 57 is Tom’s favourite number. Three seconds to go. Three minutes to seven. It doesn’t mean anything, but it means everything. Five and Seven. Heinz. Studio 57. Channels; nothing on.
So anyway it’s Christmas Day and we’re blazing and chatting. He plays me this LP – Original Pirate Material by The Streets. It’s immediately brilliant. 45th-Generation Roman brilliant. Cult classic not bestseller. This ain’t your typical garage joint. Brace yourself, this goes deep. I show you the secrets, the sky and the birds. Actions speak louder than words. Stand by me my apprentice. He sounds like he’s from Coventry. Or nearby like. Mike Skinner. He’s only gone and made a flippin’ classic. Stone cold. Street-wise, street-weary, street witty. Actually from West Heath, Brum. Made the album in Brixton. His lyrics are exceptional, his delivery deadpan, ordinary, yet compelling. The music is casio-sampling electro hip-hop beats with dancehall flavours and a garage pedigree, vacant like the vocals, a B’n’Q homegrown Barratt-Home UK stoned flow that pushes the whole thing forward into social commentary and becomes a survival kit for the 21st century. This is a day in the life of a geezer. I make points which hold significance. It’s a tall order, but we’re taller. Calling all maulers, backstreet brawlers, cornershop crawlers. Victory’s flawless. Don’t conform to formulas. Once bitten, forever smitten. You’re listening to The Streets.
The singing voice is Kevin Mark Trail.
Around here we say birds not bitches