My Life Story
Singles & EPs
About My Life Story
My Life Story was one of many orchestral British pop groups that appeared in the wake of Pulp and Suede. Led by Jake Shillingford, the ensemble never quite amassed the buzz and critical praise of such peers as the Divine Comedy, yet their junk-shop sophisti-pop -- best heard on 1997's The Golden Mile, the sophomore set that was their first album for a major -- earned a devoted cult following that stuck by the group even after its disbandment in 2000. Shillingford capitalized on that fandom by reuniting the band to celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Golden Mile in 2012, a reunion that revived the band and led to a brand new album, World Citizen, in 2019.
For all intents and purposes, Jake Shillingford (born May 15, 1966) is My Life Story. Born in Southend-on-Sea, Shillingford formed his first band in 1980, but he didn't start a career until the late '80s. In the mid-'80s, he briefly attended the Southend Art College, after which he held a job at Dingwalls in Camden. He worked during the day and ran the Panic Station Club at night, often playing with his band, My Life Story. After a few years, he grew bored and left for America in 1989 on a mission to find himself. He returned the following year, convinced that he would remodel My Life Story as a string-laden, orchestral pop band. Over the course of 1990, he assembled a new version of the band, re-hiring former MLS drummer Aaron Cahill as musical arranger, drummer Steave Searley, bassist Jon King, keyboardist Helen Caddick, violinists Alison Gabriel and Ellie Newton, cellist Judith Fleet, Rob Spriggs on viola, and Rachel Simnett, who played various brass instruments. Playing concerts in underground London clubs, the band slowly built a small following, self-releasing their indie debut EP Big at the end of the year. By 1992, the band had grown to comprise a total of 11 musicians, and they were regularly playing clubs like the 100 Club and the Marquee.
In 1993, My Life Story's profile began to rise considerably when they contributed strings to the Wonder Stuff's "Welcome to the Cheap Seats." That fall, they signed to Mother Tongue records, releasing the single "Girl A, Girl B, Boy C" by the end of the year. Produced by Giles Martin, the son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin, the record was named Single of the Week by Melody Maker and NME, and My Life Story opened for both Blur and Pulp during the winter of 1994. In February, the group's second single, "Funny Ha Ha," was released. A year later, "You Don't Sparkle (In My Eyes)" reached the indie Top Ten, followed by the February 1995 release of their debut album, Mornington Crescent. Although the record received positive reviews, its release was hampered by threatened legal action from London Underground due to breach of copyright, but the issue vanished quickly. Melody Maker named Mornington Crescent one of the year's best albums, but the record didn't sell in large numbers. Distraught, Shillingford decided to have My Life Story perform a month-long residency at Dingwalls in February 1996, and if the band wasn't signed to a major label at the end of the four-Sunday stint, he was going to disband the group. Following the group's Dingwalls residency, My Life Story was signed to Parlophone Records.
As they recorded their major-label debut during the spring and summer, My Life Story played a series of high-profile gigs that increased their profile substantially. Late that summer, the group's first Parlophone single, "12 Reasons Why I Love Her" was released. It was followed by "Sparkle" in October and "The King of Kissingdom" in February, both of which received mixed reviews in the music press. The Golden Mile, My Life Story's long-delayed major-label debut, was finally released in March of 1997. Although the band's audience was larger than ever, a critical backlash had begun, and the reviews for The Golden Mile were frequently harsh; Select labeled the record as "the worst album ever made."
The Golden Mile turned out to be My Life Story's peak. Parlophone parted ways with the group after its release, so they signed with It Records for 2000's Joined Up Talking. The album went no further than 126 on the U.K. charts, so Shillingford arranged a series of farewell concerts for My Life Story at the end of 2000. After a six-year break, My Life Story reunited to play two concerts to celebrate the release for two 2006 compilations: Sex & Violins (The Best of My Life Story) and Megaphone Theology: B-Sides and Rarities. The reunions were successful, so My Life Story again became a going concern, beginning with a 2007 show at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, followed by a 2009 concert where they played Mornington Crescent in its entirety. Shillingford assembled a streamlined edition of My Life Story for a 2013 U.K. tour, and in 2016 the group released their first single in 16 years, "24 Hour Deflowerer." The next two years found the band playing Brit-pop revival package tours. All this activity culminated with the 2019 release of World Citizen, the band's first album in nearly 20 years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine