A letter to Robert Pollard…

Dear Bob

For a brief moment this evening I thought…”oh well…maybe it will be third time lucky”…but then it struck me.  I think actually, for what superstitions are worth, this was already third time lucky.  A ridiculous stretch of superstitious imagination might even say it’s all my fault.

I fell in love with Guided by Voices far too late.  I happened across a second-hand copy of Human Amusement At Hourly Rates in the Sound Machine in Reading sometime early in 2004.  I’d never heard of you before but bought it purely on the basis I recognised the band name from The Strokes’ ‘Someday’ video a couple of years previously, in which you star in a game of Family Fortunes.  Very soon after I was back in the shop to begin my attempts to buy everything you had released in the previous twenty one years.  With the help of ‘Sound Machine Paul’ and ebay I pretty much succeeded within the next year.

Within that next year, however, you would announce Guided by Voices would split up.

This was disappointing, I had fallen completely and utterly in love with the band – with the great, the bad, the brilliantly shambolic, of your sprawling songbook – but it was all so new and I’d never harboured any realistic ambition of seeing a band rarely seen in the UK by that time, so acceptance that I was too late was not too hard.

The years passed and my obsession continued.  The completism continued, moving into your solo material and various side projects, together with the acquisition of assorted paraphernalia including spending ridiculous amounts on used tour shirts from America.  My U.S. Mustard Co. shirt will always be one of my favourite things.

In 2010 the reformation was announced, to both record and play live.  This was stupidly exciting news, doubly so with the announcement of a headline slot at an ATP Alexandra Palace event in May of that year.  I bought tickets straight away.  The gig was pulled, GBV replaced by The Afghan Whigs.  I still don’t know why.  It wasn’t even ATP’s fault.  First time unlucky.

I remained sure you would come back.  Numerous records have been released since reformation and there were relatively regular shows in the States.  Time has passed quickly though and you’ve not been back.  I should have come over sooner.  Frustration grew a little and was compounded when, looking back on previous Reading Festival line-ups, I noticed GBV had played there on the Saturday in 2002, lowish down the bill in a tent.  2002 was the first year I went to Reading, just a Saturday ticket, oblivious.  Mars Volta were great though.  Shit.  Maybe Reading was, unwittingly, first time unlucky and Ally Pally second.

In early 2014, having pretty much accepted by now I would never see you, I was sated in part by a wonderful evening of covers at the Cool Planet album launch in London, including the brilliant Paddy Considine.  Maybe you’d still come back.  Maybe that would just have to do.

I’ve been planning a trip to the States this Autumn for some time and have been monitoring gig listings across the Mid-East for months – a Slowdive show in Washington DC top of the list.  Then, maybe a fortnight ago, a Songkick alert…Guided by Voices at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville, 24th October.  I sat genuinely in shock for a few moments.  Right.  Third time lucky.  This is meant to be.  I would do this.  Ticket bought.  Flights booked.

I was dreadfully sorry to read the news tonight that you guys have called it a day.  You’ll have your reasons of course and I hope the circumstances are as positive as the situation will allow.  It is third time unlucky for me and I am incredibly sad that I won’t see you.  I’m still off to the States but not to Nashville now.  I wish you all the best and hope you will continue your work in one guise or another, and that I will get the chance to see you play at some point.

I am so fortunate, I know, that I think Guided by Voices remain(ed) my only outstanding bucket list act.  I’ve seen hundreds of great bands.  I’ve seen Dylan twice (and he was great, twice), Neil Young, REM, Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, Belly, Sonic Youth, Lanegan, Comets on Fire, Weezer, Morrissey and Morricone.  All of them will stay with me and are part of me. It looks as though number thirteen in that list is not going to happen.

I’ve only just realised there were twelve in that list.  Fucking stupid superstition.

I so wanted to see Guided by Voices.  So much, I now realise, that it hurts.

Much love always


PS In spite of the sadness, thank you for everything in the time I’ve known you all. Thank you especially for ‘Back to the lake’. And ‘Man called aerodynamic’. And ‘Everywhere with helicopter’.  I wonder if you would have played any of them in Nashville?


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