Thursday, 24 December 2009

43. You Know I'm No Good, Amy Winehouse (2006)

When I think of Christmas 2006 and the lead up to it, I think of Amy Winehouse. I think of the album sampler that had been sitting on my desk for two weeks back in August, the moment I finally had time to pop into my CD drive, hearing Rehab burst out, feeling my ears wake up. Convincing the boys in the office to play it on the stereo, their dazed, impressed faces, us all sharing the feeling that this was a big, great pop record waiting to happen. Calling Amy on the phone in early December, in a cab back to her friend's house for a bath – her words, not mine – telling me about her grandmother dying at the beginning of the year, how the death pushed her on, how she wanted a fag and gin, how she'd just done a photo shoot at her old school in Southgate where she'd set off the fire alarm just to piss off the headmistress, and how she lived in Muswell Hill with her new boyfriend, Alex. At the time, I was living here too, for six weeks, in Dan's big, shared house, before we moved in together. Amy and I ranted about the yummy mummies who thought they owned the high street, how crap the buses could be, and how annoying the layout was in Sainsburys. "See you in the crisps aisles, darlin'!" is how she signed off, and I remember putting the phone down, feeling grateful the world had her.

I bought Back To Black for my boyfriend's sister that Christmas, and I remember spending our five days in France in the snow and the ice listening to it pouring out of Hannah's mp3 player. Me feeling like an evangelist, wanting everyone to listen.

And for the first time ever – what a lovely coincidence – they did, although I'm still sad that Amy and I never had our rendezvous by the Monster Munch. Six months later, she was leaving Muswell Hill as well as her boyfriend behind, the biggest new pop star in the world, taking over America, getting back together with Blake, getting back into bad ways. I was still at my desk at Word, trying to find the next Amy in the pile of promo CDs, and getting involved with the Mercury Prize, willing her to win.

Even though she didn't, something that still hurts, I still play this song often – her second single after Rehab – and think about how much it changed pop. How Radio 1 finally gave in and playlisted it after so many people tuned in to Amy's talent; how her ripe, sweaty lyrics made people remember what a female pop star could say, as well as be; what a breath of smoky life she really, really was. Her getting "sniffed out like Tanqueray" as we filled ourselves with Christmas spirits, listening to a dirty angel heating up the winter.