By Alan Timms
Do you remember 1996? Don't worry, it's a rhetorical question (unless you are 12 or under). You know what they say - If you can, you were there. No, that's not right - If you can't remember it, you weren't there. Anyway, what a year it was. One of the very best. Infact, I'd go as far as to say that 1996 was the best year of all time, a year that was so great that sadly it has cast a long shadow on everything that's come since. Brilliance casts a long shadow, as someone might have said.
Which makes me think of Some Might Say, and those crazy Gallagher brothers. In 1996 those two mad Mancunians were literally on top of the world, with that same world I just mentioned at their feet. Everyone had gone "mad for it", proven by their record-breaking sell out run at Knebworth. What a weekend that was! 12 years later, they're still picking up the empty Stella cans!
Aah, Stella - a real man's drink. We were all supping it back then, like it was going out of style, necking one long cold one after another and chucking the empties behind us in a consequence free environment. It wasn't just our heroes Gary and Tony in Men Behaving Badly that were doing that!
Do you remember the long, mild summer of 96? How could anyone forget! A whole nation swelled with pride as we got to host Euro 96, and see Gazza scoring THAT goal, and Davey boy Seaman making THOSE saves!
Who could forget as Terry Venables' boys came so close to not losing? As the words of Three Lions roared around Wembley, that day we all had a bit of Skinner, Baddiel and Broudie in us - and loved it.
What about the Spice Girls? Sporty, Sexy, Dizzy, Mel and Vicky B...the girls next door that made us all want to live next door to them. "If you wannabe my lover..." the fab five sang in harmony, and the answer coming from every red blooded male in the land was clear - we do! (If we could fit in some time when we weren't ogling Jo Guest!)
What about at the cinema? Who could forget the knockout triple threat of Twister, Independence Day and Mission Impossible in that crazy summer? But there were films for grown ups too - as Broken Arrow testified.
Fashionwise, it was the golden age. White Reebok trainers, some designer jeans and a YSL shirt please - bob's your uncle. Ralph Lauren Polo for the more sophisticated gent, and Lacoste for the posers.
On the telly, a young man called Johnny Vaughan thrilled and delighted us with his cheeky cockney charm - as did his lovely co-host Denise Van Outen (right fellas?!) These two felt like the madcap brother and sister you never had! (Maybe not your sister - that would be weird)
God, as I'm writing this I'm getting quite emotional. 1996 - "the third summer of love". Major in Parliament and Britpop on the radio; Kevin Keegan going mad on the telly, the unforgettable Atlanta Olympics, Trainspotting and Dunblane.
There'll never be another 1996. All you can do is close your eyes and just try to remember what it was like to actually be there.