There are many contributing factors to tinnitus, but all those gigs over the past 42 years can't have helped matters much. Prolonged loud music in an enclosed space can never be a good thing for the old lug'oles. And some gigs were much louder than others.
Surprisingly, one of first to really knock me back on my heels was Rockpile in 1979, not a band immediately associated with excessive volume. Considering by that time I'd already seen a fair few rowdy blighters (Hawkwind - loud, Black Sabbath - even louder, Uriah Heep - teeth-meltingly loud), the unexpected nature of the torrent of sound produced by Nick, Dave, Terry and Billy that night at Colchester University was a bit of a shock to the system.
Husker Du at The Electric Ballroom in 1985. Bloody hell. The room was dark, dank and packed to the rafters. When the band took the stage I was wedged in the middle of the crowd towards the front of the hall, but the sheer ferocity of their concrete slabs of noise pummeled me ever backwards until, after just a couple of songs, I found myself pinned against the back wall, which was already a pouring waterfall of condensation. Bob Mould's next band, Sugar, provided a similarly solid sonic swathe of sound at the Cambridge Junction a few years later. 'What did you think of the cover of 'Armenia City in the Sky'?' asked a friend after the show. It's a song I know well, but one which, on that night, passed totally undiscerned in the midst of the onslaught.
My Bloody Valentine at the Norwich Arts Centre in 1991, was not only mind-bendingly loud, it also ranks as one of the foggiest concerts I've attended. The venue is very small, but thanks to a relentless wall of dry ice, I only caught fleeting glimpses of the band through the murk, usually drenched in a bank of red light. After the gig, we, the audience, staggered like siege survivors, coughing, spluttering, confused and disorientated, out into the night.
Lee Perry and his band were deafening at the Norwich UEA in 2003, but were as nothing compared to the Rebel Lion Sound System beforehand. You know that simultaneous feeling of excitement and terror you experience when standing on a platform as an express train thunders through the station just a couple of feet away? That was how it felt to be in the same room as Rebel Lion - except the experience lasted for a couple of hours instead of a few seconds.
How I loved Swervedriver. And what a force of nature they were onstage. Much like the famous Maxell advert, I felt my hair and clothing flap in the wake of their magnificent racket. The year was 1991, the venue, once again, the downstairs hall at Colchester University. Unfathomably, one of my party crashed out on the side of the stage, directly in front of the band's bank of speakers - a remarkable achievement. I was lip-reading for days after the gig.
There have been many other bands of course, good, bad and indifferent, all contributing in their small way to my tinnitus. How I used to smirk as sensible friends stuffed cotton wool into their ears on the way to gigs (remember when ringing in the ears the morning after a concert was embraced by fools like me as a badge of honour?), but, all these years later, I suppose they've had the last laugh. I wouldn't change a moment though.
I'm sure there are exceptions and maybe it's a measure of how my musical tastes have changed, but these days, gigs just don't seem as loud. Of course, it could be my ears.