Mystery Music March

Funny How -- Airhead

I first heard Airhead’s Funny How in the early nineties, when I was still young enough to be at school. Periodically I’d be invited to join some friends, what I suppose you could the rich kids, the ones who’d go on to become lawyers and politicians or their advisors, for a pizza and cinema trip. We’d drive down to the commercial park at Edge Lane Liverpool listening to Steve Wright In The Afternoon on Radio One along the way and I remember distinctly turning into the car park in front of Macdonalds (this one in point of fact) just as this track was playing.

Everyone else seemed to know the words and sang along, and I thought those lyrics were hilarious and especially true at that age; I had recently fallen in love with a girl who clearly didn’t fancy me and got the notion that another girl quite liked me but I just, well didn’t fancy her. It’s the kind of pop philosophy which can make an impression at that age, but I was eating Pizza within minutes and my hormonal brain was occupied with other things like pineapple and cheese.

But the lyrics lodged in the recesses of my brain and when I went to university and cycle began again, they resurfaced just at the time when I needed to know that it wasn’t just me who was having or not having these feelings. I knew I wanted a copy, but searching the record shops in Leeds few of the staff had heard of the record or much less say were I could lay my hands on a copy. It didn’t really help that I only knew the chorus and didn’t remember the band name.

Post university, after a good six months of successful unemployment, I found myself enduring three demoralising weeks in a stock room at HMV. Between labeling sale cds, wrapping some of them in plastic and sweeping the floors, there was at least the opportunity to enjoy the manager’s musical taste and being introduced to Julian Cope of whom he was a great fan (enough that he wasn’t too impressed when I said Julian sounded like Ralph MacTell).

This was still in time before the web was ubiquitous, but Mike’s musical knowledge was legendary so I asked him about the Funny How? track. He thought about it for a few days and then said Airhead out of the blue, late one Thursday afternoon. I had a title and an artist finally after too many years. Before you say anything, I do realise of course that it might well have been easier just to ring and ask one of my old friends, but with the exception of bumping into Andrew at a Radio One Roadshow, I hadn’t seen any of them since school and calling someone up for a band name didn’t seem right somehow.

Time marched on. By 2005 I’d enjoyed many successful unrequited love affairs and decided that perhaps the song had cursed me, that the pattern of my life had been defined that fateful afternoon in the back of that car before seeing Jurassic Park for the first time (I’m still not entirely convinced it hasn’t but that’s a discussion for another time). Years before I’d made recordings of DJ Danny Baker’s programmes as he made his progress across many of the national stations, sometimes with music, usually with football, and I happen to be listening to something from his Virgin Music years.

As you’d expect since I’m mentioning it, randomly he’d happened to play Funny How on one of the afternoon I’d happened to be taping. I’m not sure how I’d missed it first time around but here it was. Recorded from MW, the sound quality was dreadful, chock full of static and on top of that electromagnetic interference caused by the old life which used to be in the tower block were I live. But it was Funny How by Airhead and you could still make out the indie guitars and drums and more importantly most of the lyrics. Listening to the song for only the second time ever, I loved it.

Now of course I’ve an mp3 of the song, recorded from the cassette and I’m listening to it now, in all of its crackly glory. It really does sound terrible and fades out before the end because I left off the sports news jingle which ran over the end. Now that the Wikipedia exists I can see that the reason it’s not exactly ubiquitous is that it was released on an EP which despite heavy airplay on Radio One charted at No. 57 which means it’s potentially the only copy I’ll ever have. Via Google I can see the cover.

But I like that. I like that in this era when music that we could have only been dreamed of when I was at school is essentially available at the click of a mouse, this track simply isn’t and that the only way I can enjoy it is through this dreadful noise. Some of the lyrics might be indistinct and in places its not clear whether a section of the baseline is being generated by the band or the radio it was originally recorded but at least it’s there, to taunt and reassure me in equal measure. Of course another question might be whether it would have been even more legendary if it had simply stayed in a memory from a decade and a half ago…

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