1. In Finland, two songs followed us up and down the country — Simply Red’s ‘Fairground’ and TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’. I didn’t listen to much soul music then but the contrast was obvious — the humping sweating effort Mick Hucknall needed to sing Simply Red’s most ‘far-out’ song, and the glancing, frictionless melancholy TLC magicked up. The video was perfect too — shimmering, untouchable water-women. That autumn I put CrazySexyCool on my Christmas list.

2. So it became the first R & B record I ever owned, sticking out in my collection like an elegant thumb. I liked it, loved it in places, and could never quite stop the alarm bells ringing in my head whenever the girls got melismatic or went into a ballad. I played it less often than I pretended I did, but one day I heard the Afghan Whigs lumber through ‘Creep’ and a switch was flipped — this was crude and obvious compared to the original, it telegraphed its moves and held too little back. So then I started liking them for what they were, not what they weren’t.

3. Later in Summer ’96 I went to a pub and saw some strippers. I wanted to see what it was like, and I didn’t enjoy it much. It was exploitative I suppose, but not in an active misogynistic sense, more like the kind of all-against-all boredom and contempt you can feel fester in the air of a suburban McDonalds or — as I learned later on — a small office. One of the girls stripped to ‘Red Light Special’, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it since. It wasn’t a conscious choice, well I thought it wasn’t. But the song fitted the dance too well.

4. ‘No Scrubs’ was the first pre-release MP3 I ever downloaded. It was terrifically exciting. I’ve never quite shaken off that classic indie snob feeling of being into something other people aren’t into — I just rerouted it, wanting to hear the new singles and tell people before anyone ‘out there’ could. I loved the song — the arrogance, the defiance, the hook, the slight roll on the ‘-r’ of ‘passenger side’.

5. I got Fanmail for Christmas too and it disappointed me — now it was TLC’s turn to sound strained, trying to fit into this amoral platinum cyberworld they’d helped create and too often getting the balance wrong, sounding too harsh or too human. ‘Silly Ho’ crunched my skull wonderfully, and ‘Unpretty’ was sweet, but I wasn’t in the mood anymore.

6. So I never heard Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopez’ solo stuff — people told me it was mixed and I thought, maybe I’ll download some sometime. It didn’t happen. She’s dead, in a car crash. The obituaries will mention the songs I’ve mentioned, and the funny personal shit — burning down houses, bankruptcy, all the stuff that made TLC saleable to people who couldn’t notice how lovely the music could be. When I find a good one I’ll link it — meanwhile you can read the one-liners on the ILM thread, and this’ll have to stand as a note of what she and her band meant to me.