Ah, the halcyon days of 2016. We all remember that golden summer, the hot days and the warm nights. An innocent time, when Apple software wasn’t forcibly injected into our brains and the lobster wasn’t extinct.
The defining moment proved to be The Watchmakers releasing their calling card, ‘Stairway To Your Mind’, the hypnotic hit that would tumble down the years. The song would of course, change everything. ‘Stairway To Your Mind’ would become a song that subsequent generations would live and breathe. It started the Watchmakers rise to stardom. It was a path that would lead to sell-out gigs at Wembley in 2024, another glorious summer, in which Oldham Athletic won the Champions League and The Last Shadow Puppets would be decimated by scurvy (The Lucid Dream’s Mike Denton hosted a special themed party to celebrate the event).
In the years that followed the release of ‘Stairway To Your Mind’, The Watchmakers would record three James Bond theme tunes and their fourth album, 2026’s Vacuous Doorjamb lead to a worldwide vinyl shortage. Guitarist Adam Lewis’ solo instrumental smash ‘Clown Ringlets’ would become iconic from it’s use in FIFA 2020. In the fashion sphere, Rich would make a poncho the most highly desired piece of clothing from 2018 through to 2021.
So now, as the song reaches it’s 20th birthday let’s take a wonder down memory lane to a time before The Great Drought and the NHS was a thing.
What were you doing the first time you heard it?
Some of the younger Watchmakers fans may find it hard to visualize 2016, with it’s ridiculous array of hipsters. Food would be served on slate boards and the fools thought £4.50 for a pint of beer was expensive (how they would learn). The Manchester Psych scene was leading the way in the UK’s march towards spreading the underground gospel. The imperious Purple Heart Parade reigned as the city’s best band, their rock-blues-shoegaze holler at the forefront of the fledging psych army (and of course, Keith on drums would ultimately become the city’s mayor). Among this army was Control Of The Going, whose frontman Liam Hart would achieve additional fame as host of the BBC panel quiz Which Pig? and Rhys Bloodjoy, the Desolation Cowboy himself, who would go on to Hollywood and be hailed as ‘The New Morricone’ by Tarantino. And let’s not forget Hey Bulldog, who actually were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Hall of Fame And Feedback. Twice.
And then of course, The Watchmakers. The black-clad beat brothers who introduced dance into psych. The band who got people dancing and took them higher. Each Watchmakers gig was a party in the sky. A lucky few of us witnessed those early gigs, yours truly boogied at The Eagle and went weak-kneed at Cosmosis 2014. The Watchmakers would draw you in, a gestalt would grow as the groovers gave way to their primal instincts. Thoughts would dissipate, worries would float away under the dream of abandon. The Watchmakers showed us that the combination of dance and psych was manna from heaven. We knew where it was heading, the question is when the explosion would blow.
‘Stairway To Your Mind’ was long coming, truth be told. We were gasping for releases and impatient. We were wondering why a few singles were being dropped here and there, when the band had long since had a album’s worth of material. It was confounding and frustrating. But when ‘Stairway’ finally dropped, as a prelude to future glory, it was lapped up and devoured eagerly.
As we all know, the song is a majestically posed balancing act of preppy enthusiasm and ice-cool. The song rippled and spikes, vacillating between the urge to dance til you sweat and it’s trippy glide. Rich’s vocals verge towards the cosmic highway while Ian and Andy’s rhythm section is all about getting us moving, getting under our skin. Adam’s guitar is super-slick slide through the skyways, predicting the surprise rebirth of Concorde in the late 2020s and it’s London – Sydney ‘space-skim’ run, resplendent in silver, soaring over the Far Eastern Deserts.
The song became the hit of 2016, the sound of the summer, it’s ageless riff hummed everywhere from sparkies up cherry-pickers to sequin shops in Yorkshire.
Nowadays of course, The Watchmakers are retired, calling it a day in the studio after the 2030 masterpiece Fastrack Amnesia which was hailed as the next level in artistry due to its key innovation. When the record started it released a signal which wiped the memory of the album from your mind, meaning every time you listened to it you heard it for the first time. The double world tour ended at the Maracana in Brazil in 2032 when the same signal was used on the venue’s newly increased 150,000 capacity. After such a feat The Watchmakers decided that even by Mancunian standards, the work was finished.
It was all to come, and it all started with ‘Stairway To Your Mind’…
This article was downloaded into your brain by colourhorizon.
‘Stairway To Your Mind’ was available to buy on Amazon and iTunes, if you can remember such concepts.
Other trips down memory lane to that golden age: