Sometimes you have to look over your shoulder in order to see where it is you’re going. Our memories and experiences shape our future, and every so often we get a chance to revisit them in a more immersive way than just via our thoughts. I’m writing this while sitting on a tour bus in Boston, ahead of a Charlatans gig later this evening. Parked behind us is a matching bus containing the various members of Ride and their crew. Our bands came together 30 years ago for two memorable U.K. shows—one in Blackpool, the other in Brighton. (We headlined in the north, Ride closed the show in the south.) Tour buses haven’t changed much, but our antics aboard them have. The levels of excess have decreased since the days of the 55-mile-anhour all-day party, but the adventure is no less enjoyable. Back then we’d pull into a gas station and queue up at the pay phone to call our parents and other halves; these days we Facetime with our kids from the luxury of the bus. Once we were all about the aftershow and who would be bringing what with them; now it’s a civilized meal and a chance to catch up with some old friends we’ve met along the way.

Today we re-created a photograph that was taken at the Brighton show with Ride, in the heady days when it was all mapped out in front of us. This time, each of the band members stood in the same order that we had back then, even though, as many of you know, Rob Collins and Jon Brookes didn’t make it this far. We thought of them as Tony Rogers and Pete Salisbury stood in for them, as they have on stage and in the studio since we lost Rob and Jon.

The Charlatans and Ride in 1993
The Charlatans and Ride model every conceivable men’s hairstyle from 1993. Photo by Tom Sheehan
The Charlatans and Ride 30 years later
30 years and 30 Metamucil tins later. Photo courtesy Tim Burgess (bottom right)

The opening line of The Go-Between, the 1953 novel written by L.P. Hartley, captures it far better than I ever could: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” On these tour dates, we’re opening each show playing our second album track by track before launching into a greatest-hits set. The album, Between 10th and 11th, was named after the site of the first venue we played in New York, a stone’s throw from Webster Hall, where we just performed this past Monday night. The venue that was between 10th and 11th was called the Marquee. A couple of decades later, Mark Ronson told me that he’d been at that show, at age 15, against the wishes of his parents, after sneaking out on a school night. He said it was a pivotal moment in his decision to start making music. So the past was shaping the future for both us and him, and creating other stories for our audience. Fans have met, married, shared their lives, created other lives, split up, and reconciled, and some we’ve lost along the way. Our original U.S. press officer from 1991 was at the show the other day, as were various friends and colleagues we’ve known over the years—Cait O’Riordan from the Pogues, Peter Gordon from Love of Life Orchestra—the intervening 31 years passing in both an instant and a lifetime. Schrodinger’s timeline.

Back then I was reading Kerouac; today it’s Kurt Vonnegut. Everything changes while somehow staying the same. It’s been like living a parallel vivid dream of right now and back then, but I’m guessing that all lives are like that when familiar places are revisited and we remember those who aren’t with us to share the memories anymore. Like holding up a rearview mirror. It’s been a brilliant experience spending time with Ride. We’ve all mellowed without losing what made us want to travel the musical seven seas looking for adventures. Those capers have been reshaped by the passage of time, but to see the faces of the audience as we play our set and when Ride play theirs, there’s a feeling of nostalgia but also a sense of, “We made it this far.”

The past might be another country, but it’s one worth traveling back to from time to time. Back then, to imagine that we would be playing shows in 2023 would be a surprise. But to know that they would follow a worldwide pandemic that took live music away from us for the longest time since bands started playing gigs would be almost unthinkable. We used to be about the now: It wasn’t going to last, so we had to see and do everything. But in the same way that a young-buck sportsperson takes on more guile and cunning as their game changes with time, so we’ve become the people we were destined to be. And you know what? It’s a beautiful thing. Life comes at you fast, as they say, but we’re enjoying our newfound pace. Music has that power, and it’s been a pleasure to take some time with both feet well and truly in the now while casting a glance back to then. Anyway, it’s time to get back on the metaphorical and very much literal bus, Canada is beckoning us. More memories to look back on, and so many new ones to make.

Thanks for reading CREEM. This article originally appeared in our Summer 2023 issue. If you prefer to read in print, grab a copy here and subscribe to never miss another one.



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