All the gigs of my life

All the gigs of my life: Gig 42 – My Life Story, Thursday, May 27, 1999, LA2

A storming gig from a transformed My Life Story.


“Well! If there was one thing I could not have foretold, back on the 12th of December 1997, It was that the next time I would see My Life Story, Jake Shillingford would have longer hair than me.”

We were hurtling into summer 1999, and it was time to revisit the flamboyant, feather-boa and brass section brandishing world of My Life Story. But it was a very different version of the Story that greeted me at LA2 than I’d previously seen at its sister venue at the end of 1997. Gone was the glittering excess, replaced with a more straightforward, monochrome rock approach. And, as noted, the previously short-haired Jake now sported shoulder length tresses. From my diary:

“The ‘Story! They were RAWK! Jake stormed on in tight black jeans, stripy shirt and black leather jacket looking like an escaped member of Led Zeppelin.”

Gone were the shiny silver trews of yore, and gone too was most of the orchestral section of the band, apart from the string quartet, who “came on after a few songs but for the most part were relegated to the background, hiding in the shadows also entirely black-clad.”

With such a move away from sparkle and colour, it could be expected that the gig would be less fun than the usual Story experience, but it was still a night of bonkers fun. “The best received tunes were the familiar ones – a rollicking “Girl A Girl B Boy C”, a screaming “Motorcade”, the storming new single, a wondrously demented  “Strumpet” and of course, to close, the only song that will get you moshing to a string quartet, “12 Reasons Why”. “

The aforementioned new single was “It’s A Girl Thing”, which in sonic terms was a riotously fun glam-pop triumph. However, its lyrical themes of the devious, manipulative, fickle nature of women were a little concerning, especially in the context of My Life Story’s other main lyrical concerns.

“Some of the new tunes were fantastic pop stormers despite their abandonment of glittering excess. Most continued their usual lyrical theme of debauched trashy bitchy women and their lives (someday I’m going to have to make a detailed study of how MLS attract such an overwhelmingly female audience when so many of Jake’s lyrics are so downright misogynistic).”

I have never made such a study, though I do wonder now if the outright sexism of “It’s A Girl Thing” and other new songs contributed to my waning interest in the band. I never bought the new album in the end, and it would be another 17 years before I saw the band live again.

Still, at the time of the gig, I had no plans to abandon the band for the next decade and a half, and was looking forward to their upcoming record. “I think it’s going to be a great album. It’s a shame they felt they had to drop their multicoloured flamboyance, but understandable. They may just get the audience they deserve, now that they’ve assimilated themselves a bit. That’s the way to go! Subvert from within!”

Alas this never happened, and My Life Story remained largely a cult concern. But despite some qualms over his lyrics, I still believe Jake Shillingford to be one of the greatest songwriters of the 90s, and My Life Story deserved much huger success than they achieved. I was pondering this as I concluded my diary entry for this gig.

“They would be unutterably brilliant at Wembley Arena. They’re made for it! Oh well. I bought a rather boring MLS mug and tubed it home.”

And despite the fact that I largely ignored the band for several years to come, I kept the boring mug.

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