Do you remember the first gig you went to? Mine was Madonna, in Roundhay Park in Leeds – the Who’s That Girl tour. It was 15th August 1987 (I looked it up!), and as I remember it, hot and sunny – a perfect day. It might actually have rained, who cares. I was 12. It didn’t matter.

I was at a Madonna concert with my Mum.

Nothing else actually mattered; not the fact I was skinny and awkward and gawky and felt strange lots of the time. Nothing. I was going to see Madonna, and my blood was up.

My Mum and Dad were both awesome that day. How we even got the tickets I have no idea. Probably Dad bought them – he was generous to a fault, always. My French penfriend came too, but I barely noticed her. Dad dropped us off with strict instructions to come out before the encore so he could meet us with the car and get away before the traffic got snarled up.

It was heaving in the park, I remember that, and we got something to eat I think, and then my Mum made for the stage. No joke – she decided we were much too far back and so she used her bag like a shield in front of her and elbowed us through the crowd, way, way down to the front. Come on, Trude! she grinned, and off she went, her back disappearing into the throng. I had to dive in after her to keep up. She was fantastic that day; I’d not seen her like that before. I remember worrying as I stumbled after her – feeling like a little child clutching at her cardigan – that we should be more polite, more British, wait our turn. For some reason I couldn’t grasp, that wasn’t the code here. The crowd was friendly, jovial, in celebratory mood. And Mum had on massive sunglasses and a million bangles, and a Summer dress and she was beautiful, and yes, sexy, an indomitable force with two teenage girls in tow, and in the end I realised there were different, surprising rules going on that afternoon. There was fun in everyone’s bones, and Mum was playing it like a xylophone.

And getting us to the front…

…where she made friends with everyone round us like Mums do, and gave people mints from her handbag, and lent them her mini binoculars. They both had it that day – my Mum and Madonna – the mystery of being grown up, the confidence, a certain attitude, the sisterhood.

I wanted it, there and then. I smelt it in the air. It was electrifying.

I got it, eventually. It comes, all by itself. It’s part of growing up. It’s to be celebrated.

But concerts made it start, for me.

I went to lots more, after that, in smoky pubs and small concert halls and large arenas, but Madonna in Roundhay park, on that Summer’s night with my Mum, was formative, and I’ve never forgotten it*. That’s how it should be. That’s how it is – concerts in themselves are a rite of passage.

I’m so sorrowful about what happened yesterday in Manchester – there aren’t words to say it, nor to express the pointlessness of it, or the waste, or the innocence spoiled. I just feel so strongly that we mustn’t stop taking our teenagers to concerts, though that determination may be mingled with slight trepidation now, in my Mother’s heart.

Be safe, friends.


*Nor how we missed the encore! Though Dad was always there, waiting, engine running, getting us home safe.



9 Comments on “Formative

  1. I enjoyed reading your story. Those were the days…✌️

  2. Nice story. My first concert was Smashing Pumpkins. I was hooked. And you’re right: we don’t stop living.

    • Smashing Pumpkins! Wow, that must have been amazing. Great band. I never saw them, but wish I had. I saw REM though, and that was pretty cool. 🙂

  3. Thanks 🙏 I guess it’s kind of my style of writing. Yours is a bit longer but I like how you build your stories 😊

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