Never Get Too Cool

Reading Bobby Gillespie’s memoir Tenement Kid has been a joy this week; it’s not that it’s a particularly well-written book (it’s not), or that Gillespie’s childhood was either unique enough to be fascinating or so similar to mine as to create a bond, but instead that he’s clearly being honest and thrilled by his own history, sharing memories and old loves and grudges alike with equal affection. It’s a surprisingly charming, unaffected, read that feels like the perfect balm after a busy day of thinking too hard.

It’s also something that, even though my experience barely mirrors his — I was born more than a decade later and in less violent surroundings, for one thing — triggers my own nostalgia in unexpected ways. He writes about the record shops he haunted as a teenager getting into the punk scene, and I’m launched into a pleasant reverie about places like Rhythmic Records and FOPP that I’d make weekly trips to when I hit the same age, excitedly flipping through the racks looking for something surprising and essential. He shares his passions for bands that unlocked parts of his brain and made things more possible, and I can remember my own version of the same experience with other bands, including his own Primal Scream. (The circle of life, I guess.)

At one point, he mentions offhandedly sitting in Glasgow and having lunch on his own, away from the other students in his college course, because he wanted to check out record stores at the same time. Reading that, I remembered the year I spent in community college after high school. Getting there meant going through Glasgow, and every Friday, I’d make it a point to get to a comic shop and pick up that week’s new releases; it felt like an unlikely, entirely welcome, side effect of college — a new freedom, in some way, at a time when little else felt free.

I hadn’t thought about that in years, before this book. Remembering it again was like unlocking a hidden building block of where I ended up, and who I became.

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