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The Man from Delmonte

The Man from Delmonte were an underappreciated Manchester indie band with a silly name, but in a weird kind of way they saved my life.

It is the summer of '89. I am a shy, awkward, geeky teenager in an unhappy relationship with a girl who looks like Deirdre Barlow, and The Man from Delmonte are playing Middleton Civic Hall as part of an event called the Rochdale Festival.

Up until this point, I'd always regarded "alternative" music with suspicion. It seemed to be the realm of dreary, monochrome cardigan-wearing losers but The Man From Delmonte - an indie band by any definition - are different.

They're colourful and slightly exotic: Lead singer Mike West, an Australian who sometimes writes for the NME, is wearing a bright yellow T-shirt promoting a dance music compilation.

Uplifting singalongs like Drive Drive Drive and sweet, sad songs like Waiting For Ann seem to describe the life I wish that I was living: Student houses, love affairs, the big city - and unlike a lot of indie stuff, the songs aren't afraid of a good melody.

A few miles away, in that big city, the Manchester scene was coming to the boil. The Man From Delmonte's music wasn't part of that scene, but as Mike West's T-shirt showed that night in Middleton, their attitude was.

Their label, Bop Cassettes, also put out a magazine called Bop City. One issue had a free chunk of the Berlin Wall taped to the cover and another came with a tape that included a baggy dance version of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit.

Interesting times were just ahead, the music seemed to say, and it was time to break out and embrace a more exciting life. I don't think I ever quite managed it, but I dumped my girlfriend not long after that and things certainly got more interesting from that point on.

I was so impressed and uplifted and energized that I bought a smart-looking Man from Delmonte T-shirt decorated with song lyrics.

"It wasn't until I learned, via the NME, that Mike West was bisexual that I realized the significance of the lyrics: "He rides a motorbike like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape but you would never ride with him, too prim to be a biker's tart, but I would be perfect for the part."

It wasn't until I learned, via the NME, that Mike West was bisexual that I realized the significance of the lyrics: "He rides a motorbike like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape but you would never ride with him, too prim to be a biker's tart, but I would be a T-shirt."

I was stunned and embarrassed - I didn't think gay people played guitar - and I gave the T-shirt to my mum, who might still wear it today. (I was shocked and horrified again a few years later when I learned that Chris Evans was a big Man from Delmonte fan.)

Mike West now plays hillbilly music in New Orleans, and his marriage of seven years, to a woman called Myshkin, recently came to an end.

Life is full of surprises and thank God for that. - Sam Beckwith

(Sam Normally writes for the excellent Stumpymoose.com)