1991: the year shoegaze broke

January 5

Ride were Melody Maker’s first cover stars of the year. Inside, as part of his preview of the year ahead, Bob Stanley looked into his crystal ball and wrote the following, incredibly prescient words:

“1991 will hopefully see the full flower of the A.R. Kane/My Bloody Valentine dreampop blueprint, aided and abetted by the dancefloor’s most spooked and hallinogenic sounds. This is pure guesswork, of course, but sooner or later a new Space Rock will be borne out of these inspirations. It will be mesmeric and quite the most beautiful sound around. And maybe, hopefully, it will surface this year…”

January 19

Ride hit the big time as they played at Wembley Arena as part of the Great British Music Weekend on a bill topped by The Cure.

Read more about the show.

Watch some of the performance below.

January 21

Spacemen 3 released their classic single ‘Big City’, a 10-minute Kraftwerk meets The Electric Prunes mash-up which remains a timeless classic.

Even Homer Simpson is a fan…

Also, we scanned the design from the centre label to use on our very first release by The Tamborines back in 2006.

January 25

February 4

My Bloody Valentine released the Tremolo EP. Four (well, more, really) incredible tracks that, to 18-year-old me, seemed like they were beamed in from another planet. 

Melody Maker called it “an embarrassment of riches”; NME called it “art-wank, no talent, ‘shimmer rock’ bullshit”.

“What we’re attempting to do is keep other people’s opinions completely meaningless,” said Kevin Shields.

And they did.

Here’s a great, unedited version of their interview for Snub TV at the time:

February 6

Slowdive kicked off their run of February live dates around the UK with a show at Surrey University in Guildford. Paul Lester reviewed the show for Melody Maker and concluded: “Low points? None. Peaks? Lots and loads and millions. Isn’t anything? Slowdive are everything.”

February 7

Courtesy of Chris Tomsett

February 10

My Bloody Valentine had a hit when the Tremolo EP entered the UK singles chart at Number 29. (In case you were wondering, The Simpsons were Number One with ‘Do The Bartman’.)

After playing ‘To Here Knows When’ on the Sunday night rundown, Radio 1 DJ Tommy Vance said how the record had “amazing atmosphere”, before claiming their new album would be out “in the spring“  😂

February 18

Slowdive released their second single ‘Morningrise’. In an interview with Melody Maker, the band said they chose it as the A-side over ‘She Calls’ and the sublime ‘Losing Today’ because “it was a better song to do a video for”.

Before getting EMF to wade in with their unbelievable and unwanted opinions, NME asked: “What’s the point? This sort of stuff was done to death by far abler characters some time ago and its corpse should be left to rot in the 4AD archives in peace”. 

Meanwhile, writing in Melody Maker, Bob Stanley said: “Slowdive have more potential than any other post-Valentines combo. As long as they don’t keep writing A-sides to fit their videos, they will create some of the most wayward and bejewelled records of tomorrow.”

And they did.

Kitchens Of Distinction released their Drive That Fast EP. Here’s the video for the title track, as broadcast on Snub TV on release day…

Also on Snub TV that day were Catherine Wheel, performing ‘She’s My Friend’ from their debut EP, which had been quietly released by Norwich’s Wilde Club Records at the end of January.

February 25

The Telescopes released ‘Celeste’, their third single for Creation Records, and one which bizarrely saw them accused of jumping on the baggy bandwagon. It actually added a swirl of psychedelia to proceedings, helped by Douglas Hart’s incredible epilepsy unfriendly video, which is still burned on my retinas all these years later.

It’s also worth pointing out the brilliance of the B-side ‘All A Dreams’, one of the band’s finest songs. As an aside: Stephen and Jo from the band were DJs at the first ever Sonic Cathedral night in 2004 and The Telescopes released their new album, Songs Of Love And Revolution, in February 2021.

March 2

Ride and Slowdive headed out on their sold-out UK tour, which had actually kicked off the previous night with a warm-up gig at Birmingham University Guild of Students Debating Hall. All for a mere £4.50 advance!

March 4

A big day for record releases, with Spacemen 3’s final album Recurring belatedly hitting the racks alongside the likes of The KLF and 808 State. But, for our purposes it was the release date for two pivotal shoegaze EPs.

Ride released their Today Forever EP. Still on the crest of wave following the release of their debut album Nowhere just five months earlier, these four new tracks were all absolutely perfect, the shark’s mouth on the cover showing the bigger bite of ‘Unfamiliar’ and ‘Beneath’. There was beauty, too, in the wistful drone of ‘Sennen’ and the stunning almost-title track.

This was a band at the absolute peak of their powers. The EP would enter the Official UK Charts at number 14, becoming Creation’s biggest hit to date.

“There’s nothing here that’s a patch on the latest Ned’s Atomic Dustbin single,” sniffed the NME, while Melody Maker (and Sounds) put the band on the cover once again and said that it was their best EP to date, and one that “draws you into a dreamy half-world, buzzing with noise”.

The second big EP was Blindfold, the debut release by Curve. Even though it was released on Eurythmic Dave Stewart’s Anxious Records label, the four tracks on it were darker and scarier and a whole lot more gothic sounding than anything on Creation and ‘Ten Little Girls’ even featured a rap from JC-001. It was totally ahead of its time, presaging the Alan Moulder-mixed Mary Chain sound of Honey’s Dead and also Garbage’s entire career.

March 7

March 10

Ride’s Today Forever EP entered the UK singles chart at a very respectable Number 14, with Curve’s debut EP Blindfold at 68. Over in the albums chart, Spacemen 3’s swansong Recurring went in at Number 46, despite some heavy promotion from The Chain With No Name.

Curve recorded their first Peel Session, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 a few weeks later on March 30. It included stunning versions of ‘Ten Little Girls’ and ‘No Escape From Heaven’ from Blindfold, plus ‘The Colour Hurts’ and ‘Coast Is Clear’ from the then unreleased Frozen EP.

March 12

The Boo Radleys record their second session for John Peel. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 on April 7 and included versions of ‘Something Soon She Said’, ‘Foster’s Van’, ‘Eleanor Everything’ and this cover of Love’s ‘Alone Again Or’, which ended up on their 1992 compilation album, Learning To Walk.

March 14

After having the highest new entry on the UK singles chart, Ride were on Top Of The Pops performing ‘Unfamiliar’ from their Today Forever EP.

According to the NME’s Thrills section they forgot one of their Rickenbacker guitars and, after calling around lots of fellow bands and musicians, Paul Weller kindly lent them his and helped to get them out of a jam. (NME’s joke, not ours.)

March 16

Ride made it onto the cover of both Melody Maker (alongside Curve, no less) and one of the final few issues of fellow much missed music weekly, Sounds. They were denied the hat-trick by NME, who had the Inspiral Carpets on their front page.

March 18

Chapterhouse unleashed their classic single ‘Pearl’, which added John Bonham, Schoolly D and Rachel Goswell to one of the finest collections of effects pedals in the Thames Valley. Meanwhile, Moose, the original shoegazers (as christened by Food supremo Andy Ross, more of which later) also put out their debut EP, before the two bands set off on tour together.

Both bagged Single of the Week in Melody Maker, who described the former as “a terrific pop record” and said of the latter: “Not since The Jesus And Mary Chain has there been a debut of such glowing, commanding beauty.” 

NME, meanwhile, ruthlessly dismissed them both. ‘Pearl’ was, apparently, “a sleepwalking sort of song that never gleams”, while Moose were “pedestrian and about as subversive as toothpaste”.

Below is them playing ‘Jack’ from the EP live at the T&C2 (now the Garage) in London on February 14 and broadcast on Snub TV on March 4.

Also out on the same day was Strange Free World, the second album by Kitchens Of Distinction. Although they weren’t really a part of the scene, one listen to Julian Swales’ guitar on the opening track ‘Railwayed’ proves they were singing from the same hymnbook.

This one got amazing reviews – Melody Maker said it was “just about perfect” and that “pop music simply doesn’t get much more poetic, intelligent and compelling”, while in the NME Stuart Maconie gave it a not to be sniffed at 9/10. It still sounds incredible today.

March 23

Chapterhouse and Moose both graced the cover of Melody Maker. OK, Ocean Colour Scene were also on there, but two out of three isn’t bad!

March 25

Ride released their Today Forever EP as a VHS video, featuring videos for all four songs, which you can see below…

April 2

The Boo Radleys released the Every Heaven EP, four tracks of dreamy psychedelia which came out on the Tuesday after Easter after being delayed – like lots of records at the time – by the financial problems at Rough Trade distribution.

NME described it as “post-rave meltdown noise trance”, but for some reason awarded the Single of the Week accolade to ‘Size Of A Cow’, while Melody Maker once again saw sense and named it theirs, saying it “never outstays its welcome, a fabulous addition to the ever-expanding trove of dazzling EPs by the likes of Slowdive, Moose, Swervedriver and Ride”.

Well said.

April 10

April 13

April 16

Moose record their first Peel Session, and it’s possibly their finest hour. Raucous and powerful versions of ‘Suzanne’ and Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’, with additional guitar from Tim Gane and, on ‘Je Rêve’, vocals from his partner and then new Stereolab bandmate Laetitia Sadier. The session was broadcast on June 9.

April 21

Slowdive’s one and only Peel Session was broadcast on BBC Radio 1. Recorded on March 26 at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, the three tracks included then new songs ‘Catch The Breeze’ and ‘Shine’ – the first time most people heard these future classics – and a cover of Syd Barrett’s (via James Joyce) ‘Golden Hair’, which the band still close their set with to this day.

April 26

April 29

Chapterhouse released their debut album, Whirlpool, to universal acclaim from the music press.

NME gave it 8/10 saying that the Reading five-piece captured “that tricky balance between raw energy and ethereality” and that the album was “a fluent first stab at stardom and beyond”.

“They’d probably like to be My Bloody Valentine but, thankfully, they’re too enthusiastically engaged in the mechanics of oblivion, too fucking attactrive actually, to disappear,” wrote Steve Sutherland in Melody Maker’s rapturous review. “So MBV martyr themselves on the pyre of wilful anonymity while Chapterhouse take the candy. Cool. Chapterhouse are about to be major pop stars because they’re so furiously fey and they don’t for one moment notice the contradiction in that… We know where they are and we know where they’re going. To the very top.”

May 3

May 4