The First Big Weekend – Arab Strap

Seeing as we’re on a 90’s tip at the moment I may as well lay down the track that most reflects my 90’s experience.

Arab Strap first came into my field of vision (or field of hearing?) when my then housemate came into the pub I was working in raving about a band he’d heard on John Peel. I was from Essex. He was from Cumbria. We were studying at UEA and the band were Scottish but the minute I heard The First Big Weekend it spoke directly to me about the experience I was living at that exact moment.

At the time it was happening it was clear what Arab Strap and their album The Week Never Starts Around Here was going to be. It was a personal account from our contemporaries about the time we were living in.

Arab Strap weren’t stylised. They didn’t have a uniform like Blur or Oasis, they didn’t dress up like the past or the future. They wore the same clothes as the rest of us.

The experiences they sang about were not pushing sexual politics or ambition forward. They did not belong to a scene. Arab Strap talked about the working week and the days that fill in the glorious gap between the drudgery.

“So that was the first big weekend of the summer… Starts Thursday as usual with a canteen quiz and again no-one wins the big cash prize. Later I do my sound bloke routine by approaching Gina’s new boyfriend to say that he shouldn’t feel that there’s any animosity between us and then I even go and make peace with her. I shouldn’t have bothered”

Over an acoustic guitar in a laid back drawl the song plays out it’s kitchen sink drama until Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads segues into Human Traffic.

“Then on Friday night we went through to the Arches…”

In kick the cheap 808 beats. There’s a mild rush and the weekend has (as John Simm once put it) landed. But this song is not about the hedonistic rush of clubs, pubs, drugs and parties. It’s about the bits in between.

“When the club finished we wandered the streets for a while until we got to this 24-hour cafe but I didn’t like the look of it so we left and got a taxi back to Morag’s flat. I couldn’t sleep, so I sat about drinking someone else’s strawberry tonic wine and tried to keep everyone else up”

That 3am, last one left awake in a friends flat feeling is what the era was really like.

“Then at ten o’clock in the morning we went downstairs to buy some drink. We had intended to watch the football in the afternoon but we’d passed out by then and slept right through it, awaking to find that England had won two-nil. Then we went to get the train home and had a few in the Station bar. We had some stuff left from the previous night’s supplies so when we got home we decided to go down to John’s indie disco. Same story as Friday – lots of hugging, lots of dancing etc. etc. I couldn’t sleep again so went up the park to look at the tomb, taking a detour through the play park”

Aiden walks us through Friday night into Saturday morning and from clubs to pubs to parks to comedowns in front of the TV. These lads have a decent social circle in a town they’ve got history in and are a part of.

“Sunday afternoon we go up to John’s with a lot of beer in time to watch the Simpsons. It was a really good episode about love always ending in tragedy except, of course, for Marge and Homer. It was quite moving at the end and to tell you the truth my eyes were a bit damp. Then we watched these young girls in swimsuits have a water fight in the street”

This song came with the nostalgia pre installed. Back in the days when the length of a weekend was variable depending on the weather, Arab Strap were making the musical equivalent of a photo album of old polaroids of us all in various states of recreational activity.

“Went out for the weekend, it lasted for ever, high with our friends it’s officially summer.”

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