The journey is over. It has taken an age, not helped by taking a six-month or so break along the way for another trek, but we have made it.
We have completed the lengthy trawl through songs beginning with the single letter I on my iPod.
And we have even gone a little beyond, throwing in a few extra where the I is followed by a bit of punctuation – all before another long run of tracks following the I with an apostrophe.
But pretty much a year to the day since setting out with Cheatahs – the start of the live post of the A-Z during the blog a day through May challenge we have reached the finale, via that rather length detour (almost) around South America and through lockdown.
The final I track, I Won’t Lie To You by Let’s Wrestle, takes me back even further and probably deserves the full telling of a tale touched upon a few times – especially given what is running through my headphones while writing, but we will get to that.
Once upon a time, back when my knees, shoulder, back and liver held up long enough to play rugby on a Saturday afternoon, my winter weekends were pretty much spoken for – Friday night in my soon-to-be local again Dr Foster’s, the next day mixing trying to avoid both injury and drinking too much.
With limited success.
Once the final whistle went on the season, it heralded a summer of freedom.
A fair few weekends were spent largely split between bed, the sofa, the golf course and Dr Foster’s (about 100 yards or so from the flat which becomes home in a few days, bringing with it the first actual bed since before lockdown kicked in).
But a decent number brought a Friday evening journey to London and what, in hindsight, was good practise for sleeping on a sofa in the front room of my mate’s flat. About 10 minutes walk from Seven Sisters tube station.
He became the godfather of Travel Marmot, setting up this site after a late-night discussion while waiting for me to surface from his spare room – bit of an upgrade from the one-bedroom flat.
Travel Marmot still resides on his company’s server, so best not do anything to annoy him.
Back then, he was the first of our group at school to marry, the first to fledge the nest and head to that there London, providing the perfect bolthole for a weekend away for a gig (Carter somewhere in Brixton and Billy Bragg at a benefit on Hackney Town Hall steps spring to mind), a trip up West or, almost inevitably, a Sunday morning wander around Camden Market before heading off to catch my National Express home.
My rent for imposing on the newly-weds’ spare time was a C90 compilation tape each time, building a collection which became known as The Bollock Tapes after some seemingly hilarious pun to do with the Sex Pistols.
Sadly, the trips became increasingly infrequent as work commitments – which would, combined with injury, put an end to the rugby as well, although not the post-match drinking as my expanding waistline would prove – and their growing family made it impossible to continue in the same pattern.
Although still brings a welcome wave of recognition on boarding a National Express coach.
And the reason for this trip down memory lane?
That closing entry on the run of I tracks came from Let’s Wrestle, who featured on bass Mike Lightning – eldest son of my friend and his wife (with the stepson of Loft and Weather Prophets’ front man Peter Astor on vocals and guitar).
Not sure those compilation tapes can take much (or, let’s be honest, any) credit but musical creativity clearly runs in the family – my money’s on it coming from their mother – as this afternoon’s listening would attest.
My weekend place in my London family would be taken full-time by two boys and a daughter, Poppy, who first met when she was just a few days old.
She has grown a bit since then and is now the singer, guitarist and songwriter of rising band Girl Ray, whose second album Girl was featured today on one of the joys of the coronavirus lockdown – Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties.
The idea, from Charlatans front man Tim Burgess, is simple – press play on an album at an agreed time and follow along or chip in with band members and people involved in making the record on Twitter (#timstwitterlisteningparty).
You can even join in if you missed one – check out the website for what is coming up (very excited for Every Vally with Public Service Broadcasting in a few weeks) and also to replay the tweets in real time as they came in while you listen to the album.
It has provided a welcome, illuminating, communal break from lockdown for music fans and hopefully there is a place for them when some form of normality resumes as they have provided some wonderful escapes into albums old and new, reminding us of the power of music to transport us to better places and times.
Somehow, listening to it together adds something extra.
Pick of the bunch for me have been Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs – forgotten just how good that record is – and Burgess’ own pick as the highlight, Steve McQueen by Prefab Sprout.
Long argued it contains one of the most perfect first sides of any album and, aided by the contributions of singer Wendy Smith and bass player Martin McAloon, heard new things even 30-plus years after my first listen.
Pretty sure tracks from it would have featured on those Bollock Tapes.
Not sure too many, if any, other tracks from this latest section of the A-Z would have followed suit.
It was a section of pretty much getting through the final stretch from newcomers Disq to the unfathomably popular Kasabian which mainly taught us how many songs The Beatles had beginning with I (and it’s apostrophe-ridden relatives, believe me).
Certainly not a chunk of songs that will be revisited and replayed on Twitter any time soon.