Heroes seem to come in colossal form. Giant-size tornadoes of drama like Bowie, Dylan, Morrissey that whisked into your tiny life in the nick of time to save you from dingy normality and focus you on to the path to secret brilliance that no-one had yet recognised. They were made of stitched up parts of your wildest dreams, the darkest fears you daren’t confront, and the breathtaking ego that reduces milk-sop mortals to tumbleweed.
I had a myriad of heroes plastered on my wall all through those torturous years of feeling like a loose tooth in the smiley mouth of teendom. Yer crazy Courtney Love and her never- brushed hair full of, not just secrets but pure, unrivalled insanity; Justine Frischmann with her brazen make up less face gurning into the camera, full of peerless confidence; the glamour twins of my childhood Madonna and Kylie keeping a glitzy eye on me to make sure I didn’t veer too far down the path of ‘seriousness’.
This array of blu-tacked stars were all important in shaping my brain into the patchwork quilt of craziness it was to become but it was difficult to align all this with the reality of my humdrum days. I couldn’t find comfort in the exquisite lives of the pampered and privileged, I couldn’t keep screaming along with Courtney’s rage, it was exhausting and ruining my Mam’s enjoyment of the The Bill of a Thursday evening. I needed someone who understood this, someone who had a ‘Mam’ and knew what The Bill was.
In a world where any faceless member of the Bluetones or Shed Seven would adorn the covers of the music press like some kind of depressing work experience accident, fresh, exciting, heroes were thin on the ground. Subsequently, I would desperately delve into the recent past and routinely sit in front of my mirror with ripped out pages of the NME and Melody Maker trying to mould my wonky, grey face into something more Richey Edwards like which was like trying to make a Barbie doll from a load of old Play-Doh.
Thankfully things changed when Kenickie crash landed into my life in 1996. Silly, sassy and hilarious, Kenickie had me at the handclaps. Within the first few seconds of Come Out 2nite (heard in all its fuzzy glory on John Peel’s show) I was agog at their jokey patter, idle threats and general pop thrills. The lyrics might as well have been tattooed on my intensely beating teen heart, getting drunk in the park, slagging off boys, but all with a palpable undercurrent of vulnerable sadness.
The pop songs of Kenickie were imbued with a sense of melancholy about the passing of youth whilst being a youth, fully aware that hi-jinks wouldn’t last forever and nor would they want them to. When Lauren Laverne sang ‘I’m too young to feel so old’ in a half-sob on In Your Car it meant more to me than a thousand hirsute northerners mewling on about a wanky Wonderwall.
They felt like a band that belonged to me, in fact I felt like they were me but just two minutes away. Interviews with Lauren, Marie and Emmy were like reading the larky bus shelter conversations with your best mates, although sadly ours were not peppered with anecdotes about being at Top of the Pops or The Good Mixer.
This admiration was cemented in my head when I saw the ‘At the Club’ album cover where Lauren was wearing the same jumper that I owned. This jumper kismet was the first in a long line of Laverne style obsessions, PVC wedges, Rimmel Black Cherries lipstick and a million asymmetrical tops were bought in an attempt to Laurenise myself. Being pale and blonde I thought it was my natural birthright to become Laverne, she gave me confidence in being paler than the average corpse even if boys did ask me if I’d been on holiday In Iceland… Sadly slavishly adhering to the Lauren style guide had tragic consequences when I tried to copy her shortened locks and ended up looking like an albino Emlyn Hughes with peach roots, not a great look for a hormonal teenage girl.
When Kenickie disbanded it was at a perfectly poignant time for me as I was winding down my school days and was ready for a new world of discovery. I put away my albums but didn’t shelve my love for Lauren. As she ventured through the pop presenting world of CD:UK interviewing Madonna and confusing boy bands it crystallised her ‘no brow’ cultural approach that bemuses so many precious indie darlings. From there to the Culture Show she fizzed up the screen with her intellect and free-wheeling wit, just seeing her on telly amongst the suits and the bores made me feel all was a little bit right with the world.
Most importantly, there’s her 6 Music show. Her thoughtful curation, genial approach and clued in audience has almost made it possible to feel that radio can be a genderless zone, a space for folks just to enjoy music altogether no matter what bits they possess, that there is not just a ‘token girl’ that enjoys music but that there are MANY girls who love music and can recite Neu! album tracks just as much as the next bloke (although they have better things to do obviously…).
As I watched her pop-defending speech in defence of Beyoncé at Glastonbury 2011 beside a grimacing Zane Lowe I breathed a happy sigh in the knowledge that not all our heroes end up being shameful, dusty relics of our teen years. If we’re lucky some end up being our heroes forever and ever.
Originally published on fanny.ie