Rediscovering the edge and attitude of the early 90s indie chart

Toni Halliday and Dean GarciaWhen I was young, I used to listen to a lot of radio. I was born just in time to experience what it was like to try and record my favourite tracks on tape without getting too much of the DJ’s ramblings. And, according to my parents, I used to have a thing for Tiffany – but that’s by the by.

Back then (I’m talking late 80s and early 90s) I also remember watching the ITV Chart Show, and within it was a six-minute run-through of the Top 10 indie singles. No presenters or voice-overs; narration was an occasional pop-up quip, in the style of the technology at the time (so today it looks primative and pixelated). It probably had us gawping in amazement at the time, though.

Two of the 10 songs would get a bit more air time, and it wasn’t always the top two. Anyway, it’ll come as no surprise to you that these episodes exist on YouTube, and I’ve been enjoying them this week – almost as much as I enjoyed them when I was a child.

You see, there was something more exciting and edgy about the indie chart. It’s easy to forget that the music television concept wasn’t mainstream back then, so it was a real privilege to hear and see the bands and musicians. They looked so cool. I remember thinking Suede’s Brett Anderson, circa 1992, was the pinnacle of coolness. And I wanted long hair like Bernard Butler (I cringe to think what I’d have looked like had I actually committed to copying their style).

I wouldn’t have appreciated the lyrics of bands like Spiritualised, Lush, Inspiral Carpets or Primal Scream as a nine-year old, but some of the melodies stuck – and through the power of the internet (especially YouTube and Spotify) they’ve been leaked back into my brain.

It’s amazing what triggers old songs set off in your head. I can still anticipate what twists and turns come next in tracks and tunes that I haven’t heard in more than 20 years.

The one band I’ve particularly enjoyed rediscovering this week is Curve. They were churning out dance tracks up until a few years ago, but their image and sound had shifted far away from what they originally started out as.

It was from watching this edition of the Indie Singles that I we were reintroduced for the second time. I’m not entirely convinced that their debut album, Doppelganger, is shoegaze, but the reverb and heavy distortion of guitars, blended with the whispering Toni Halliday (who I also probably had a thing for), is definitely a sound cut right from the heart of the early 90s.

Long hair, double denim and black. And attitude.

When I was growing up, music didn’t hang around unless you bought the record. When you can’t afford the record, you accept that you might not hear some of these tracks again as new artists edge in.

Thankfully we live in a world where we can relive some of the more obscure tunes we’d completely forgotten about. And that’s extremely comforting if, like me, you’ve given up on today’s chart music.


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