Morphine and Mark Sandman remembered

Whenever the discussion of Your Favourite Ever Gig comes up, I always list two. The first is Radiohead at Oxford's South Park in 2001 - eight years ago this week, in fact. The second is slightly more obscure: Morphine at the Highbury Garage in May 1997.

I only went along to see the support act, the largely forgotten US indie band Papas Fritas. I knew a couple of Morphine's songs and figured I stay and see what they were like. They turned out to be phenomenal.

If you've never heard of Morphine, now is a good time to explain just what an odd proposition they were. A trio comprising saxophone, bass and drums is unusual enough but the bass player and lead singer, Mark Sandman, played an instrument of his own devising, a "Tritar". Stranger still, the saxophone player frequently played two saxophones at a time - one in each hand.

I was enthralled by Sandman's deep, languorous delivery, by the way the bass and sax played off one another and by the songs themselves, which sounded like the soundtrack to an unwritten 1930s pulp thriller.

I don't remember how long the main set was - perhaps an hour or so. After that Mark Sandman said goodnight and thanked everyone. Then they just stood there. After enjoying the applause for a few minutes, Sandman said: "I know it's hot in here but you'll have to do better than that if you want more." The audience upped the volume and after another minute Sandman said: "Thank you. We'd be happy to play you some more songs."

They played for another hour-and-a-half or so with Sandman now taking requests. Occasionally he'd reject one - "We'll play that tomorrow night" - but mostly they just played whatever the audience wanted to hear. It was intimate and fun.

There's very little Morphine on Spotify so I can't make a playlist. However, if you fancy a spree at the MP3 store of your choice, I would recommend that you try the following:

Good/ You Look Like Rain/ Buena/ Candy/ Thursday/ Cure For Pain/ Honey White/ Sharks/ French Fries With Pepper/ Swing It Low

I would have loved to have seen them again but I didn't get the chance. A couple of years later I was reading the newspaper and I came across Mark Sandman's obituary. He collapsed and died on stage on July 3, 1999 - ten years ago last Friday. He was 46.