I first heard the music of Scott Miller in the less than salubrious environment of the stock processing department of Virgin Records in Birmingham, UK. It was 1987. I can’t remember if it was the Mitch Easter production credit or the mentions in Bucketful Of Brains that alerted me to the existence of ‘Lolita Nation’, but when I found myself checking in a box of import LPs and it appeared (probably alongside a Japanese Jazz release and something by Modern Talking), I put it straight on the overworked record player. Fighting to be heard over the roar of three shrink-wrap machines came the sound of one of the greatest, most diverse, most ambitious, most cinematic, most confusing albums I have ever, or will ever hear. Razor sharp Pop songs rubbed up against edgy, synth-lead tunes via almost hard rock rifferama. Was that a vacuum cleaner? What did he just sing?
I was in love.
I consumed the back catalogue. Even when the records sounded like they were made in somebody’s bedroom (and they sometimes were) the songs were outstanding. From the “Alternate Learning” LP to “What If It Works?” Miller produced one of the finest bodies of American Popular Music ever.
And now he’s gone. At just 53 years of age.
The internet is now bristling with plaudits and quite right too. Sadly it’s all too late for Scott to reap the rewards of his prodigious talent, but I’m heartened by the fact that maybe a new generation will hear his music and have their horizons expanded like mine were. I’ve always thought that at some time in the future, Scott would be the subject of a career re-appraisal and critics from all over the world would fall over themselves to shower Scott with superlatives. I always figured he’d be alive to see it. It breaks my heart to know I was wrong.
(Side note… whilst on Honeymoon in the US in 2000, I found myself in Amoeba records in SF. Almost delirious with joy, I ran over to my new, superhumanly tolerant wife and exclaimed “They’ve got a Loud Family AND a Game Theory section!” She smiled and rolled her eyes. Not for the last time).
I don’t know what else to write without gushing. Scott (along with REM, The Church and a bunch of other fellow travellers) changed the way I listened to music forever and gave me a road map to some of the greatest songs I will ever hear. For about 10 years, every mix tape I ever made had “We Love You, Carol and Alison” somewhere on it. And trust me, I made a lot of mix tapes.
I was extremely touched by the message on the Loud Family website, beautifully curated by Sue Trowbridge:
“If listening to Scott's own music is too painful for you right now, as it is for me, I can tell you that he absolutely loved David Bowie's new album, The Next Day. He found Bowie's late-career resurgence to be hugely inspirational”.
That strikes me as being very “Scott”…”My music’s OK, but this guy’s stuff is REALLY good!” He apologised for his music a lot. There was no need. No need at all.
He was going to start work this summer on the first Game Theory LP since 1988. What an amazing record that would have been.
My sincere condolences go to his young family. They can take some comfort in the fact that Scott Miller was respected and admired by many, many people.
But I wish to God he was still here.