‘It was the summer of ’63, when everybody called me ‘Baby’…’

This piece appeared in the ‘Ballad Of Brian and Betsy, Summer of 63′ magazine, June 2013

It didn't occur to her to mind.

It didn’t occur to her to mind.

My childhood summers were spent dragging Grandma and Granddad down Blackpool’s promenade, tugging on their hands with my wind whipped cheeks beaten pink.

Those long, quiet evenings are remembered through a child’s eyes:  sucking humbugs until they splintered and scored the inside of my mouth; playing with the naughty girls next door whose parents grew lewd with cider as the night wore on; pretending to ‘bake’ cakes by stirring coloured beads in bowls – yellow for butter, pearls for flour, red for cherry.

But there was another summer that peppered those hazy evenings spent on South Shore in the early nineties – the summer of ’63, when everyone called her Baby, and it didn’t occur her to mind.

Next to the television was a stack of VHS tapes. I was only allowed to watch one: the Gene Wilder version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which I watched each holiday, despite finding it deeply disturbing.

The summer I was seven, I remember my parents dropping me off for the duration. As they were leaving I overheard Mum ban Grandma from letting me watch me Dirty Dancing. “It’s not suitable,” she said firmly.

Undeterred, I would try my luck. I’d go up to the shelf, run my finger along the spines of the videos and ask Grandma whether we could watch The Other One. The answer was ‘no’.

The warm weeks passed until one day Grandma finally relented, tucked me into the crook of her arm and pressed play.  “Don’t tell your mum,” she said.

From then on our secret screenings of Dirty Dancing were a holiday ritual, my small world swelling with the sights and sounds of the ‘60s while Granddad dozed in his chair and Grandma declared her undying love for Patrick Swayze.

 Those repeat viewings introduced me not to the adult issues of the plot – class, sex, abortion – but to beehives, flicks of eyeliner and denim hot-pants.  For the first time, I heard the popular girl and boy groups of the decade, pleading harmoniously to stay, love or hold back tears.

More than a decade letter, I would even compare the film’s setting to that of a resort I worked at in upstate New York – Dirty Dancing being my only point of reference to describe my holiday camp surroundings.

Of course, in later years the film’s coming-of-age angst would have more resonance with my teenage growing pains than the humid August days I spent watching contraband cinema with Grandma. But at my grandparents’ house circa 1991, the seeds of adoration for an era I never knew were sewn, and my summer memories of ‘63 were born.


Interview: Cults


CULTS are a notoriously difficult pair to pin down – a fact I am now personally experienced in after hounding their PR man for a response.

But I’ll be nice and go with the spin doctor approach: it all adds to the mystery surrounding the infamously tight-lipped Californians.

The pair crept onto the lo-fi scene two years ago to little fanfare with a smattering of nostalgia-laden nuggets channeling the sound of 60s girl groups like The Shangri-Las.

Those paying attention however noted that the pigeon-hole method wouldn’t work to describe the former film students’ style.

The dead give away should have been that “Cults” – aka Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion – associated themselves from the off with a concept whose extra-curricular activities include mass suicide.

With a name like that, you can’t be blamed for thinking they’re a death metal band whose stage antics include setting their urine on fire. So you sort of feel a bit cheated when their candy coated sing-a-long methods kick in.

But once the sugar high wears off it becomes apparent that the whole album is the chocolate box equivalent of leftover coffee liqueurs: bitter tales of heartbreak etc, disguised in a sugary shell.

I sit down on behalf of arts blog Ballad Of and ask Cults to clear up a few things…

Ballad Of: Why did you choose a 50s/60s nostalgia vibe?

Cults: When it comes to the way in which our music sounds it just comes from the way we feel at the time.

We never set out to make our music sound any particular way or fit into any specific genre.

It’s just what we think sounds good to us at the time and works well with what we’re saying in our songs.

Ballad Of: What’s been the most exciting thing to happen to Cults in the last year?

Cults: Releasing our debut album, Cults, for sure.

It’s such an achievement to finally have it out and available.

I mean we’ve met a lot of amazing people and our latest tour this year has been incredible, but we’ve got to go with the release of the album for the single most exciting thing. 

Ballad Of: Which song best sums up Cults and why?

Cults: ProbablyScrews Get Loose by Those Darlings. We play it before every show we do.

Ballad Of: There’s a lot of hype around Cults at the moment – what’s the bizarrest thing you’ve read/heard about yourselves?

Cults: The most bizarre thing has to be that we’re brother and sister.

Ballad Of: What was the first gig both of you went to – what sort of impact did it make, if any?

Cults: It was Bowling For Soup, many, many moons ago – it was, as you can imagine, a questionable experience for one and all. 

Ballad Of: As you’re both former film students, do films inspire your music? Which films inspire you?

Cults: Film does inspire our music yeah, and now since the success of our music, we’re basing our films around the music we’re making.

We love doing our music videos it’s a great chance to combine our two passions together you know..?

…And that is all I managed to glean out of Cults. You’ll have to figure the rest out for yourselves.

Visit http://vimeo.com/26352476 to see the video for Go Outside.