Twenty years is quite a while to have an album in your life, so when a record comes along that has such an important meaning to you it needs to be celebrated. The debut album by The Bluetones, Expecting to Fly, turns 20 today and in an attempt to mark this special occasion I’m going to share with you why I love this album. I also asked fans of the band if they wanted to share their stories too, and many of them have. You can read all their wonderful stories here too. But first, here’s mine.
Back in early 1996 I was 19. I was in my first proper job and heavily influenced on music by my mate at work who I also happened to be extremely fond of. I cannot remember when I first heard Slight Return, possibly on Top of the Pops, possibly on the radio, I’m not completely sure. What I am sure of is that it hit me for six. I was always into guitar music, but this was amazing. So fresh and new, I had to know who this band was.
I went into work and told my mate about this new band and his reply was “I knew you’d like them”. I guess I must’ve been very predictable back then. Anyway, I bought the single, loved it and couldn’t wait for their album to be released. It appeared on 12 February 1996 and was called Expecting To Fly. The band were The Bluetones and they became my new favourite thing. Little did I know they would still be one of most favourite things twenty years later.
Expecting To Fly went to number one in the album chart famously knocking (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis off the top spot for just one week, but what a week that was. The singles released from the album were Bluetonic, Slight Return and Cut Some Rug all of which hit top twenty in the UK charts. Not bad going for a debut album.
My story of this album is one of companionship, loyalty and love. It’s an album I have not stopped playing over those twenty years and it still remains one of my all-time favourites. It’s always on my iPod and various playlists and it’s the album I go to when I want to remember a time when I discovered something important in my music life or when I want to have my heart broken.
I’ll admit, my attention to the band has drifted in and out over the years. I dipped out for a while after Luxembourg, then returned around A Rough Outline, but my love for that first album has never ever waned. I’ve seen Mark forge a solo career and love going to watch him when he tours. I’m very lucky that he recognises me now and takes the time to have a chat which is not something I expected to be able to do with the lead singer of a band I’ve loved for twenty years. I also have signed lyrics from Mark and the song of course had to come from that album. It’s Putting Out Fires which has long been my favourite Tones song and is usually the one that makes me cry. That’s emotive lyrics for you.
Twenty years is a long time to have something in your life, especially something that still feels like yesterday when you first heard it. And that’s one of the many beautiful things about this album. It hasn’t been touched by time. The songs still sound as good now as they did in 1996. There’s no filler on the album either and I can listen to it end to end without feeling the need to skip over any of the tracks.
I can’t claim to have had the same experience with this album as so many of the folks that have written stories for this piece have as it doesn’t represent my first love or a relationship from that time. My workmate didn’t like the band particularly so it doesn’t remind me of him much apart from the fact that he was clearly very wrong on many levels. The love affair for me is with the music itself as it’s kept me company all these years and I’m inexplicably bonded to it by time. I have other albums that I have loved very much and still listen to, but there’s something about this one that makes it different. From the jangle of Adam’s guitar to the wonderful lyrics of Mr Morriss senior, it’s a fully rounded album. And bearing in mind these lads from Hounslow were in their twenties at the time, it’s an amazing achievement to create something so wonderful as a debut.
Understandably it must be slightly annoying for the band to still get the requests to play the songs from this album after all this time, but this is their legacy. An album so perfect that the fans still want to hear it now at every opportunity. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s history and a very fine history at that. I don’t intend to stop playing it and judging by the reaction from other fans, I don’t think there’s much chance of it quietly leaving the party now.
So, happy anniversary Expecting to Fly and The Bluetones. It’s been a pleasure to be on this journey with you and I hope to be able to share the next twenty years with you too. These stories are for you.
Find the lovely stories from the fans here.