`Did you all have fun growing up`. By coincidence these words were playing on my Ipod as I began to write this.
When this song was played live I often found myself muttering, `No,` under my breath. My teens, to be frank, weren’t much fun. However my twenties were rather better and an important part of this was down to a band called IV Play.
The back story as I remember it was that Nader Mabadi (guitar) and Jonathan Dawson (drums) had already played in one band together when Nader saw his friend Liam Gray – primarily a football fan – sing karaoke one night. If Liam didn’t realise what a powerful soulful voice he had then Nader soon made him aware. Matt Ramsden, only seventeen at the time, was recruited as bassist and the IV Play story began.
At the same time I had just completed my first year working at the same local supermarket as Liam and Nader and was starting to feel I might be salvaging something from the wreckage of my teenage nervous breakdown. However I was still somewhat naive and raw for my age. I have no qualms about putting something so personal on here – this is what made me.
In January 2003 I turned 22. That same month IV Play entered the Carringtons Battle Of The Bands. They progressed through several heats to reach the final. It was always my intention to see the band but it wasn’t until the final, held – as closely as I can determine – ten years ago yesterday that I finally made it to a show.
There were three bands in the final that night. IV Play, Audiorgasm and Mulholland (if anybody knows what became of these bands please let me know). Audiorgasm won the judges vote with IV Play last, however the audience vote reversed it. To be entirely fair IV Play weren’t quite yet the band they later became and I can understand Audiorgasm feeling slightly short changed. However this shows that, even in their earliest days, IV Play could motivate their fanbase.
A few memories from that night; I remember that the album Californication by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers was playing as the band celebrated the triumph – I got a hug from a mad old lady who used to go to the gigs.
So what made this band so special? Why did they change my life so much that, almost nine years after they split, there are only four bands (REM, the Rolling Stones, U2 and Queen) that rank higher in my estimation? Why should anybody care?
IV Play were a pop, rock band. They had to live down being described as a boy band on Yorkshire Television (a story for another time – suffice to say that a Geordie friend of mine and theirs had a field day taking the piss) but the pop was important. Their music was as much about the songs as the sound. Nader was the songwriter; he was passionate and literate and wasn’t about to pretend otherwise. IV Play’s best songs were often the love songs (Pick A Letter, Seventeen, Mr William) which capture that crack between adolescence and adulthood but there were darker songs (Promised Lies, Cloned) that asked deeper questions. You could dance and sing along to a lot of them (I remember – second gig in – dancing to the recording of Pick A Letter with another work colleague who would himself later change my life) but also listen to them carefully in the privacy of your own space. These were songs that struck a chord with an audience of varying ages who were willing to travel long distances just to hear them.
Unfortunately IV Play were fated to record little and only six songs were ultimately committed to tape. Many more exist only in a memory that grows more distant every year. It’s just an old story now – but that’s the thing with old stories. They have to be retold so they don’t get forgotten.
Of course everybody involved has moved on. The past is the past for a reason. And the story didn’t end with IV Play. Liam would knock on fame’s mighty door a second time with D’Nile, Nader would announce his retirement only to return with Ticbox and later Faces Of Dorian. The Recovery story – co starring Matt Ramsden – is just beginning.
And yet, and yet. Wouldn’t it be good to have an IV Play record with all those great songs, just so you could dust it off from time to time and relive a time, a place, a moment? Fate denied us that, so we’ll have to make do with the great jukebox of the memory instead.
I’ll try to share some more IV Play memories as I check off the anniversaries. In the meantime – and hopefully Nader won’t mind – I’ll leave you with my favourite IV Play lyric.
`With my mind’s army ten thousand in size, go colour the rainbow and light up the skies`.