Mike’s Pop Pilgrimages
No.4 – Rachel and James, Manchester

A different sort of pilgrimage this time. Rachel was a college hanger-on. One of those lost souls who drifts about campus, knows everyone, but doesn’t technically belong there. A rumour surrounded her and excited a lad of my disposition and record collection; Tim Booth of James wrote Come Home about her.

Anyway, she fell into my orbit. This was Manchester. Hang on, it was 1992, this was Madchester and my taste in fashion was curated by Afflecks Palace on Oldham Street. Cool as Fuck t-shirt? Tick. Flares? Sorry, but yes. Tendency to use the word ‘sound’ to convey appreciation? Aye.

So I’m at the Boardwalk one night at (forgive me sweet lord) a Northside gig, when Rachel flashes her lashes in my direction. The band are chugging along in their bowl cuts, playing Conference level indie-dance and saying “fookin’ yeah!” between songs. I tuck curtain hair strands behind my ears. Rachel has a beautiful lilting Irish accent, a voice that sings through sentences. I’m enraptured and better still, I’m in.

So we head back to my digs in the hard-to-find-beauty of Bolton, where the mills that Blake found satanic are just crumbling away, a town living on past glories of looms and spinning mules and where it never stops raining. The house is asleep although upstairs I can hear one housemate, Good Looking Grant, playing Sonic on the Megadrive. She puts a shushy finger to my lips and we retire to the lounge. We drink homemade beer from stained coffee mugs. I try, with subtlety, to confirm the rumour about the James song. This approach is skipped around, so I just blurt it out, “are you the Come Home girl?” She smiles a maybe, says she knows the band well and tells a complicated story about Tim Booth, Attila the Stockbroker and her teenage runaway self. It sounds feasible and before I get the chance to interrogate she kisses me and storytelling for the night is at a close.

She left town a week later and I never did discover the truth. If this sounds too romantic, let me tell you she also got it on with Good Looking Grant before she went.