Talking about ‘Going Blank Again’ as an album that is twenty years old seems unbelievable. In 1992 it was the twentieth anniversary of Ziggy Stardust, Exile on Main Street and Harvest, all brilliant life changing albums but it was music made by dinosaurs. Music during much of the 1980’s had been so, so terrible and the dinosaurs hadn’t changed anything…
In 2012 looking back over the past twenty years it seems that so much has happened since those days and yet everything is still the same. These days to make the mainstream charts you need to be a female in a clowns outfit, the music is just a side dish to the popstar just like in 1992 when your song needed to be a theme to a film (Bryan Adams and Whitney Houston were ruling the airwaves,) nothing seems to have changed.
Access to decent music in 1992 was only to be found via the music papers which often meant buying an album just from reading a review or waiting many hours listening to John Peel or Mark Goodier on late night radio. Also in the pre-internet days of 1992 there were only so many column inches in the music papers, so the moment a band failed to deliver the goods (musically or success wise) they were cast aside only to be mentioned occasionally in a bad review or to be mocked. There were no second chances!
When Ride went into the studio in 1991 to record their second album ‘Going Blank Again’, things were very different to when they emerged the following year. The autumn of 1991 gave us Loveless, Screamadelica and Nevermind. These three albums changed the shape of modern guitar music in a way that has never been seen since. The mainstream charts also started to look very different because of Nirvana, suddenly reaching the lower end of the the charts didn’t give you automatic front pages of magazines. Nirvana had done the ultimate and knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the US Billboard album charts and it doesn’t get any bigger than that.
During this period whilst locked away in the studio in Chipping Norton, Ride were at a crossroads musically. If the band had continued to release 4 tracks EP’s that sounded exactly the same as their early EP’s they would have been cast aside for not looking forward so it was time for a change.
June 1991 saw them preview the first new track from the album supporting The Pixies at Crystal Palace Bowl. They took the ambitious step of opening their set with ‘Leave Them All Behind’ which was known at the time as merely ‘New Song’. The sonic guitars were still there but there was a sound effect vaguely similar to that of ‘Join Together’ by The Who. Things were changing…
Despite a handful of other gigs including a headlining slot at the Slough Festival the band stayed in the studio for much of the year. Starting life as a double album, the tracklisting was initially to be far longer than the 8 track debut ‘Nowhere’ which showed how creative the band had been during the year. Eventually some tracks were culled for the release including Everybody Knows, Blue, Prince Bullshit (later the intro to Time Machine), Tongue Tied and Motorway Madness (later used as the intro to OX4). On top of the album tracks there were the b-sides to the singles including the title track ‘Going Blank Again’.
Finally, Christmas 1991 saw Ride announce a new single, album and tour for the spring. ‘Leave Them All Behind’ was released the first week of February and a lengthy worldwide tour kicked off at Oxford Apollo the same week.
‘Leave Them All Behind’ was released the first week of February and did something no other Creation band had done before and entered the UK singles chart within the top ten and once again they were back on Top of The Pops. Two years previously in 1990 the band also gave the label their first top 75 single and top 20 album, in a month they’d give the label their first top 5 album. Placed at No.9 the single was one place higher then the Jesus and Mary Chain and two places higher than Primal Scream. Ride had now become pretty much the biggest UK guitar band and seemed unstoppable.
The following month Ride toured the UK and ‘Going Blank Again’ finally hit the shops on the 9th March 1992. The final 10 track album started with latest hit single and showed a whole wide range of influences that many Ride fans would have been surprised by. The band at this time had clearly been listening far more to the likes of The Who than My Bloody Valentine. The album was awash with keyboards, acoustic guitars and even a sample from the film ‘Withnail and I’.
NME stated it had restored their faith in the band and Select Magazine gave the album 5 stars and described the album as “first division” and a “giant leap into space”.
Within weeks the band even made mainstream prime time family TV when the popular BBC science TV show Tomorrows World came down to trial some new crash barriers at one of the bands two Brixton Academy gigs at the end of March.
On the 27th March the Brixton Academy gig was also filmed and later released as a video.
The following five months saw the band travel the world to promote the album. Maybe this tour was too long? Maybe their young ages meant the band took it all for granted as success had come so easy? There were also new people to consider as members of the band got married or had babies. Whatever the reasons, tensions in the band rose to the surface and this affected hugely their later work.
The first public sign that things may be stalling came in April when ‘Twisterella’, the second single from the album, stalled at number 36 in the UK chart, their lowest chart position since their debut EP.
Whilst away on tour other acts were trying to steal their thunder, Blur emerged at Glastonbury that year dressed as mods and again had clearly been listening to The Who and The Kinks. At the time Blur were seen as having gone too far as there was much head scratching and smirking at their new direction, what on earth were they thinking?
When Ride took to the stage as one of the headliners of the Reading Festival in August of 1992 it was to be the largest audience they played to (and one of the largest of the weekend). The band played for over an hour as the sun went down and were at their peak. The performance won over the Reading crowd with ease, however playing on the second stage at the same time was a new band called Suede. Most of the reviews of the weekend focused on Suede’s performance and despite it being Ride’s crowning moment the press frankly had some new friends who for the rest of the decade were to grace the front covers of the music papers. Brett Anderson was prepared to play the games of the music press, something Ride and My Bloody Valentine had always refused to do. Suede’s public feud with Blur over an ex-girlfriend gave the press much to talk about for the next few years and suddenly serious musicians were overlooked.
Despite their attempts to distance themselves, Ride were in the frustrating situation of being categorised as ‘Shoegazers’ by the music press. In 1991 this made them media darlings, however with the arrival of Nirvana, Suede and emerging dance acts such as Orbital and Aphex Twin, shoegazing had become a dirty word.
Six months after their Reading performance Ride played two dates with The Charlatans in Brighton and Blackpool under the ‘Daytripper’ name and you could argue that Britpop was born. Mark Gardener appeared on the cover of NME with Tim Burgess, whereas in 1992 The Charlatans had faced a real challenge with their second album failing to make the UK top 20 and the press turning on them, Ride had sailed through the year.
‘Going Blank Again’ was also in many ways the end of a chapter of great releases on Creation, from the House of Love’s debut in 1988 until 1992 there were a large group of albums that are timeless to a generation, albums that didn’t compromise and pushed for change after the terrible mainstream music of the 80’s. It was also one of the last albums on Creation before Sony bought shares in the label. The game had changed, after 1994 even the smaller bands on Creation were now having top ten hits.
Looking back twenty years, it’s easy to see despite the fact the album failed to achieve the success of many of their peers a few years later, ‘Going Blank Again’ helped to knock down the wall and shape the guitar sound of the 1990’s.