(Released in November of 1991, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless turns 20 this month. Below Scott McDonald reflects on his enduring relationship with the classic record. – AD)
Remember your first concert? I do, and I have some slight hearing loss in my left ear because of it. An old and very close friend of mine and I had the opportunity to see My Bloody Valentine during the early winter of 1992 as the band toured for Loveless. Oh, you’ve heard of that album? This month marks twenty years since its release, and we still wait patiently for Kevin Shields’ every move. The album’s legend is filled with stories of bankruptcy, homelessness, selfish behavior, and genius. For me, It’s about being in the right place at the right time, or the knowledge that music culture as we knew it was dissolving into something radical and new — an alternative to “Alternative Rock” if you will.
My neighbor, and good buddy from about the age of six to seventeen, was Rob Ford. He came from a family of hip music-listening older siblings, but also had a very strict Mother who was a devout practitioner of Mormonism, which erected wall after wall around Robbie. He had very little in terms of free time, but was an avid KXLU listener and supporter of KROQ’s “Rodney on the Roq” program. I learned a great deal from him and his listening habits. “On The Roq’s” Rodney Bingenheimer was the wise, older version of what KXLU was in terms of cutting edge music at the time. He introduced Los Angeles to what is now known as “Indie Rock” — known then as “College Rock.” Interestingly enough, both stations were very much in the same place in their feverish support of UK bands like The Stone Roses, Ride, and My Bloody Valentine — all of which were in regular rotation at the time. Something that will very likely never happen again. Via KXLU, Robbie turned me onto even more obscure shoegaze/college rock bands like Moose, Jessamine, and The Apples (in Stereo) — under the radar noise-pop acts you might come across in a fanzine or Magnet Magazine during the early nineties. This absorption of new music eventually escalated into a four day-a-week habit of seeing more and more bands at places like Jabberjaw and Al’s Bar, and completely removing myself from your typical high school experience.
Fast forward a few months from the release of Loveless and My Bloody Valentine adds an unprecedented second show (on the same night) at the Roxy in Hollywood — an eleven o’ clock pm start time on February 4, 1992 to be exact – following an earlier performance at the exact same place. People were leaving the first show only to get right back in line for the late-night gig, and those people are what we call “masochists.” We had no idea what to expect from MBV other than consistent reporting about the group’s sloppy and extremely loud performances. You can’t really imagine what “loud” means when you’re listening to Loveless on CD. It’s a gigantic record from start-to-finish, but still, no one can ever prepare for a My Bloody Valentine live experience.
You can probably guess that Robbie’s mom isn’t the most flexible human being on the block, just the name of the band would make most parents gasp, so that took some convincing. But there was absolutely no way we were going to miss MBV after becoming so enthralled and blown-away with Loveless. It changed how we thought and discussed music, how we thought about instruments, and how the entire music culture thought about rock music in general. Even looking back at that period through today’s lens, Loveless is not an album for regular people. It’s not even an album that you can ignore if you plan on making music that is somewhat original and/or progressive to your peers.
I put on Loveless the other day and was thinking about how sad it was that after twenty years there was no news of an extravagant reissue complete with B-sides, live versions, and remixes on quality gate-fold vinyl. How can a single record that wields such a mighty sword not be celebrated? We all recently watched the quartet’s amazing stroll through memory lane in 2008-2009. The band resurrected itself on stages across the globe, reminding everyone that songs like “When You Sleep,” “Sometimes,”, and “Soon” were passed down from the gods. But that tour really was the last waltz, so to speak. I don’t think anyone honestly believes there will be another album of new material — or even a deluxe reissue at this point. That reunion tour was basically a twenty-year cash cushion exercise designed to sustain Kevin Shields’ lifestyle, which is doing absolutely nothing.
As much as I value their influence and presence during my youth I’m perfectly okay with My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless being the last chapter in the band’s recorded existence. There isn’t another album that holds so much value and promise without actually delivering a response, yet people are going to worship its eleven-song barrage of washed-out magic for decades to come anyway. I mean, does anyone really expect Kevin Shields to drop a new full-length after twenty years and assume it will be better than Loveless? An average listen? No way. They’re done, and we should cherish the fact that they ended on a high note. Actually, they ended on thousands of high notes buried in warped distortion and layers of alien vocal tracks. I hope you were there.
My Bloody Valentine would return to the Palace in Los Angeles a few months after the Roxy gig. Joined by up-and-coming indie darlings Buffalo Tom and Yo La Tengo, it would be their very last live performance until the 2008 reunion tour. It was also when my buddy Robbie, much like his older brother, ended up leaving college to embark on his Mormon mission in South America. I attempted to send him mix-tapes showcasing newer indie bands — to keep him up to speed on what was happening around the country. All of them were rejected and sent back with letters that read like disclaimers from a panel of pastors supporting an anti-music policy. No surprise there, but still disappointing. Who denies a young man the gift of music after he agrees to give two years of his life in exchange for convincing poorer cultures about the oldest business model in American history? So incredibly sad, and I haven’t heard from him since.
Robbie and I will always share that experience; standing in line with hushed excitement, watching ninety-nine percent of the audience evacuate the building during the “holocaust section” of “You Made Me Realize,” and learning that paper tissue from the men’s room is no substitute for ear plugs. The show was like standing naked in a blizzard; uncomfortable and dreary. But we stayed the entire set knowing that we were watching history unfold. My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless created a new set of rules for us to abide by; there are no rules. words/ s mcdonald
Recommended Reading: My Bloody Valentine :: Isn’t Anything