HAVE A BLEEDIN GUESS

Capture

To celebrate the release of  HAVE A BLEEDIN GUESS I’ve put together a Youtube playlist to compliment it. For those of you playing along at home the songs are presented in more-or-less the order they appear in the book. Most of these are available on Spotify (and Hex Enduction Hour itself certainly is)  but not all.

Repetition’ From the ‘Bingo Master’s Breakout’ e.p. –  the only record released by the original line up of The Fall (not counting Steve Ormrod who drummed very briefly before Karl). A mission statement that lasted for forty-odd years.

It’s the New Thing’ The Fall’s first single, performed by the line-up that made ‘Live at the Witch Trials’. That drumming still amazes me.

Put Away’ (John Peel version) ‘Put Away’ (Dragnet Version).  Compare and contrast (Part 1) . Either way, brilliant tune. Not so brilliant tuning on the Dragnet version.

This one’s good for a laugh – ‘Pop Stickers’ – An ultra-rare recording of the short-lived Bramah/Leigh/Pawlette/Riley/Smith line-up. They never entered a recording studio, not even for the John Peel show. Incidentally some of the words to this song (which is sometimes referred to as ‘Lets’) later turned up in ‘Chock-Stock’.

Cock in mPocket‘ Iggy and The Stooges (from Metallic K.O.). Check out that count-in!  – Iggy included this song in his set at The Factory the night Martin resigned from The Fall. The Fall’s version, renamed ‘Stout Man‘, appeared a mere 35 years later.    

A Figure Walks’ from Dragnet – one of the songs that the group were performing while Martin was still on board that made the transition to the new line-up. Note the resonance on the tom and the over-loud cymbals, the latter caused by Mark ‘drifting over to the drum kit at inappropriate times’ as Grant put it. Live, Mike used to play this standing up.

Human Fly‘ by The Cramps, produced by Big Star’s Alex Chilton. As seen and heard at The Electric Ballroom, March 21st 1980, I’m pretty sure that would have been one of the best gigs I ever went to even if it wasn’t also my first gig with The Fall.

Jawbone and The Air-Rifle’ (Peel version). Recorded for the John Peel show in September 1980, some 15 months before it was recorded for Hex Enduction Hour. Coming out of the breaks didn’t get easier over time. 

The N.W.R.A.’ from Grotesque. ‘as alien to organic wholeness as is Totale’s abominable tentacular body’ according to Mark Fisher.

‘A New Face in Hell’  Wireless enthusiast hears an illicit broadcast, nips next door, spots his friend’s body and gets arrested. Roll titles. But what happened next?

‘The Container Drivers’ Country and Northern. Could also have been described as following a 12-bar blues structure had  anyone in the band been able to consistently count to twelve.

The Legendary Chaos Tape The Fall live at the Acklam Hall, 11 December 1980. Recorded on cassette, released on cassette. Laugh? I’ll tell ya…

Fit and Working Again‘ from Slates. Gimme Gimme U.G. Medecin.

C’n’C/Hassle Schmuk‘ A version of Coast to Coast’s ‘Do The Hucklebuck‘ recorded as a tribute to Arthur Askey/pisstake of Roxy Music. There can’t be many entries in that particular bit of the venn diagram. Recorded for The John Peel Show 24th March 1981. 

‘ Totally Wired’ Live at The Mudd Club, New York, 15th June 1981. Karl perfectly comfortable back behind the kit (except for when he drops the stick.) Unfortunately much of the recording is obscured by the sound of punters openly weeping as they realise I’m not there.  

‘Deer Park’ (from A Part of America Therein) Deer Park (John Peel) Compare and contrast (Part 2). First version is just Karl, second is just me. Don’t bother picking a favourite – the Hex version makes them both redundant anyway.

Who Makes The Nazis (John Peel)’ featuring Mr Steve ‘Bobby’ Hanley on the Selco ‘New Beat’. ‘Who brings a fucking toy guitar to a Peel session?’

‘Winter’ (John Peel)   Me on drums, though I ended up playing guitar on the album version. Mark was a bit frustrated with my version of ‘Winter’, I played it how I remembered it, which was quite loose and behind the beat. With Karl it’d become harder and more nailed on. It wasn’t the last time my failure to play like Karl caused a bit of tension.

Hip Priest‘  The first song committed to tape for Hex,  at Hljóðriti studio , Reykjavík, on 10th  September 1981. Unlike some Fall songs, it wasn’t recorded until it was ready. As later heard in The Silence of the Lambs.

‘Iceland’. Written, composed, arranged and recorded in a couple of hours. And, as it happens,  only ever played in Iceland. A song whose music almost exactly captured the tangible atmosphere of a lyric we’d never heard before we started playing.

‘Lie-Dream of a Casino Soul’ This is the pre-amble youthful ramble of Big Priest.

‘Fantastic Life’  –  the first time the full two-drummer line up was heard on record, and the track that convinced everyone that an album with two drummers would work.

‘The Classical’ Parental advisory – contains offensive language. ‘The only anthem in there.’

‘And This Day’. No respite! ‘The thing that finishes off the LP and often finishes off a lot of audiences’ according to M.E.S. The live version released on Hip Priests & Kamerads  isn’t for the fainthearted, believe me.

Dead Joe‘ The Birthday Party. As heard at the Hammersmith Palais on the night the above version of ‘And This Day’ was recorded. Welcome to the car smash.

‘ Fortress/Deer Park‘ – in which The Fall set about pouring ‘buckets of ordure over every single green shoot of joyfulness or hope’ according to BBC editor Liz Forgan. You can’t say that about many groups, can you? ‘Who is the King Shag Corpse?’

‘Mere Pseud. Mag. Ed.‘  – Vaguely indebted to ‘Babsitters‘ by The Stupid Babies, who later became Adamski. It was re-recorded in 2004 for the Interim album, unusually. 

Jaw-Bone & The Air-Rifle‘  – Iambic pentameter, alliteration, internal rhyme, an unreliable narrator and a nod to ‘Run Rabbit Run‘. What more could you want from a song?

Who Makes the Nazis?‘ – Bad bias telly-v that’s overly concerned with Benny’s cobweb eyes, obviously. Also contains a less-than generous reference to Big Star’s 13. NB – By this time Steve has abandoned the Selco Newbeat for the more familiar territory of the Fender P.

Just Step S’Ways‘ Everyone loved that riff. You can tell, because everyone except me and Karl sings/plays it.  BTW this is an important aspect of Big Priest. His hypnotic induction process. His commercial last chance. 

I’m Into CB’ ‘Impossibly annoying…one of the worst things I had ever heard.’  – Stewart Lee. 

Look Know‘. Do you know what you look like before you go out? These boys obviously do not. Not one of its authors’ favourites. ‘I never imagined it to be like this.’ – Stephen Hanley.  NB I have no idea when the intro to ‘Fortress’ got stitched to ‘Look Know’, but it doesn’t fit.

Winter (Hostel Maxi)‘ ‘Entrances uncovered, street signs you never saw’. What a brilliant lyric.

Winter 2‘  – midway through the rhythm section slips its moorings and lurches drunkenly away from the rest of the band till it’s impossible to work out who’s playing along with who.

Joker Hysterical Face‘ 2 drummers, Marc on guitar, and an excoriating lyric. Very Hex then.

Solicitor in Studio‘ That last track to feature all 6 of the musicians who played on Hex Enduction Hour. Featuring Mr. Karl Burns on second bass. As seen, fleetingly, on Granada Reports.

Marquis Cha Cha‘ no Craig, no Marc, no rehearsal, no second take. Brilliant pressing of the reset button or completely half-baked. You decide. The live version that later appeared on  Fall in a Hole was much more robust.  

Our Singer‘ by Pavement. ‘Related’ to ‘Hip Priest’ according to Steven Malkmus. Yeah, no kidding mate.

Best Sunday Dress‘ by Hole. As much Hex Enduction Hour as Stevie Nicks, according to Courtney Love. Much like the rest of Celebrity Skin, it sounds nowt like either of ’em. 

Backdrop‘ The Fall, live in Auckland New Zealand, 21st August 1982. The song was never officially released. I had no desire to end this playlist with Hole, so I went with In a Hole instead.

 

 

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Leave The Capital

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I’ve put together a Spotify playlist to accompany my book ‘Leave The Capital’, published by Route Books and out on the 13th November. The Spotify playlist is available here and covers much of the material alluded to in the book, including the 13 songs which form the basis of the discussion therein (for a playlist of just those, see here) .

However, as is the way with these things, not every song discussed in the book is available on Spotify, so I’ve compiled a more comprehensive list of  songs below, with comments and YouTube links. They’re in book order, so you can listen along, should you so desire.

Nymphs and Shepherds:  The Manchester Children’s choir, with The Hallé, conducted by Sir Hamilton Harty. The first great Manchester recording, and for forty years the only one.  (Bob Dylan, who was recorded live in the same room,  notwithstanding).

Rock Island Line: Lonnie Donegan. The entrée to a whole new world for many a UK rocker. Surprisingly authentic. But on London Records.

Hello Josephine. One of the songs Wayne Fontana performed for Jack Baverstock at The Oasis on 4th May 1963 (under its original title ‘My Girl Josephine’). Of Wayne’s band, only bassist Bob Lang turned up, so Wayne recruited Eric Stewart and Ric Rothwell on the spot.  It became the newly christened Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders’ first single.

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Produced by Phil Spector and sung by Bob B Soxx & The Blue Jeans. Another of Wayne’s audition pieces, it’s main gift to posterity was the largely accidental fuzz effect on the guitar solo, which every guitarist in England subsequently attempted to lift. It directly led to the invention of the fuzz pedal.

Till There Was You. The Beatles, as witnessed live at Abbotsfield Park, Urmston, on 5th August 1963, by Peter Noone and Alan Wrigley. Pete would go on to use it as a blueprint for The Hermits. Alan would go on to be surplus to requirements.

I’m into Something Good. Herman’s Hermits’ first single. UK no 1, US million seller. Can still be heard ringing round Old Trafford on match days.

Look at Me. The Whirlwinds’ first (and only) single. A Buddy Holly makeweight with a particularly bonkers guitar solo from Graham Gouldman. The band split up shortly after.

For Your Love.  The teenage Graham Gouldman’s first hit, courtesy of the Yardbirds. The song’s obvious pop allure hastened Eric Clapton’s departure from the band. So Graham did them a double favour really.

Um Um Um Um Um. Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders first hit, written by Curtis Mayfield. As the lyric is clearly Mm Mm Mm Mm Mm, its odd he went with ‘Um’ for the title (it’s not like it makes any more sense). A great record nonetheless, with brilliant production from Jack Baverstock to boot.

A Certain Girl. From The Mindbenders’ first album. Blows The Yardbirds‘ version’s away. and in an Eric v Eric guitar-solo standoff, Stewart beats Clapton (slow) hands-down.

The Game of Love. WF&TM’s finest hour. Clint Ballard Jnr’s song is great, but The Mindbenders’ performance elevates this to a whole new level. The Beatles, The Doors, Eminem and Oasis were all listening.

Show Me Girl. Herman’s Hermits’ slightly more downbeat, and UK-only, follow-up to ‘Something Good’. It’s noticeably worse chart showing convinced Mickey Most that jollity was the way to go with the Hermits. You’d be hard pressed to find a song with a sunnier disposition than ‘I’m Into Something Good’, but Most managed somehow:  Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat was subsequently a US no 2.

Listen People. Graham Gouldman’s first successful pitch to The Hermits. From the Soundtrack to When The Girls Meet The Boys, The Hermits’ film debut.

Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. The song that sealed the Hermits’ image as cute little brothers and killed any chance of credibility. Sold millions though.

I’m Telling You Now. A U.S. no 1 for Crumpsall’s Freddie and The Dreamers. It was succeeded as US No 1 by ‘The Game of Love’, swiftly followed by ‘Mrs Brown You’ve Got Lovely Daughter’. That made 3 consecutive US number ones by 3 different Manchester bands, something Liverpool never achieved. (But who’s counting?)

We’re Through. The Hollies first self-penned single. Not their finest hour, it has to be said. More of a shop window for their respective skills than a song, if truth be told. Terrible hand claps as well.

Look Through Any Window. The first of Graham Gouldman’s Manchester quadrilogy. The Hollies, like all artists who record other people’s material, do their most enduring work with songs that contain some personal resonance, and thus it proved with this bitter-sweet classic. It’s third-person storytelling predates Paul McCartney’s similar shift in subject matter by months.

If I Needed Someone. The Hollies’ version of George’s classic, released on the same day as Rubber Soul. Like ‘running onto Manchester City’s pitch wearing a United outfit’ according to Hollies’ bassist Eric Haydock.

You Stole My Love. The Mockingbirds’ great lost single. What a riff! The first half found its way into the intro to Joy Division’s Novelty. Someone needs to ‘borrow’ the whole thing though.

Bus Stop. Another brilliant Manchester-inspired tune. You can tell that because it’s a story that revolves around an umbrella and it’s set in July.

No Milk Today. When Graham Gouldman’s father challenged him to imagine the sadness behind something as simple as a note in a milk bottle, Graham responded by creating a euphonious piece of Manc melancholia that inspired Peter Noone’s finest vocal performance.

East West. Some prefer Herman’s Hermits’ version, others the cover by another product of Park Hospital Davyhulme, Stephen Patrick Morrissey. Either way, it’s impossible to deny the power of this homesick lament of a globetrotting popstar.

It’s Nice to be out in the Morning.  From the soundtrack to the Hermits’ film Mrs Brown You’ve got a Lovely Daughter, and written by Graham GouldmanSurely the only time either Besses O’ the Barn or Boggart Hall Clough will ever appear on a lyric sheet.

It’s Just a Little Bit Too Late.  Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders follow up to ‘The Game of Love’. It had everything its predecessor had – a brilliant vocal, a nod to Bo Diddley, a great guitar solo and Eric Stewart’s memorable backing vocal sighs that would later become a Buzzcocks trademark – while being nothing like it.

Pamela Pamela. Wayne Fontana’s biggest hit, post-Mindbenders. Written By Graham Gouldman (Or Godley and Creme, according to Eric Stewart). The Wombling Song lifts its phrasing wholesale, but don’t let that put you off.

A Lovers Concerto.  The Toys’ pilfering of the melody from Christian Petzold’s Minuet in G major is surely what gave Tony Wine the idea to similarly purloin the Rondo movement of Muzio Clementi’s Sonatina in G major for ‘A Groovy Kind of Love’.

A Groovy Kind of Love. Dianne and Annita’s original version. The vocals (probably by Carol Bayer) are decidedly creepy, if not a little disturbing.

One By One Dianne and Annita’s other attempt at a hit, also recorded by The Mockingbirds.  Clearly not the same singer as ‘A Groovy Kind of Love’.

A Groovy Kind of Love. The Mindbenders Wayne-less smash hit. Despite some terrible rhymes, the classical melody is so strong it imbues the lyric with enough emotional weight to make this a brilliant example of love-lorn power pop.

It’s Getting Harder all the Time. The Mindbenders at their very best, from To Sir With Love.

Schoolgirl. (album version) Graham Gouldman’s first composition for The Mindbenders. Remarkably punky for 1967, at least until the middle eight’s falsetto voices kick in.

Uncle Joe the Ice-cream man The Mindbenders’ nadir. While the band were recording it at Olympic in Barnes they had a visit from Mick Jagger, who was working next door. ‘Why are you singing this shit?’ he enquired, not unreasonably. Neither Stewart nor Gouldman had an answer.

Sausalito. Credited to The Ohio Express, but really one of the Bubblegum tracks written (and performed)  by Graham Gouldman and friends for Kasenatz-Katz. The lyric might have come from sticking a pin in a map, but the guitars sound massive.

Animal Song By Frabjoy and Runcible Spoon (AKA Godley & Creme). With Gouldman and  Stewart on bass and guitar respectively. One of  Strawberry’s first fruits.

Susan’s Tuba. Ostensibly by Freddie and The Dreamers, in reality the proto-10cc at Strawberry. Chorus lyric:  ‘Ooby dooby dooba, Susan’s on the tuba’. Sold 2 million. Go figure.

Neanderthal Man. Yet another band (in this case Hotlegs) that turns out to be 10cc in everything but name.  The production’s the star. Welcome to Strawberry.

My Sentimental Friend. Late period Herman’s Hermits. The song’s notable for having far more emotional heft than Peter Noone is normally given credit for.

Daisy Chain (Part1). A distinctly strange instrumental Keith Hopwood and Lek Leckenby provided for the soundtrack of the film Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. A bizarre psychedelic oddball, it wouldn’t have sounded out-of-place in The Haçienda in 1990.

The Man. The first Herman-less Hermits single, recorded at Strawberry with Peter Cowap on vocal and Eric Stewart on production duties. More West Coast than West Didsbury.

Stretford Enders. Burke and Jerk’s novelty Manchester United football song. A cheery ditty with a lyric that paints football hooligans as lovable scamps, and train wrecking and mass-brawling as youthful high-jinks, it was inevitably banned from radio. Personally I’d have banned it for the dreadful keyboards alone.

Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs. Of course the single takes an over-sentimentalised view of hardship and allows nostalgia to knock the rough edges off memory, something Lowry’s paintings never do. But both record and paintings share a justifiable pride in basing their art in real working-class Manchester life, and sentimental or not, their subject matter remains all-but unique in both fields.

The Man From Nazareth. Recorded at Strawberry by John Paul Jones (not the Led Zep one) who was forced to change his name after an injunction from John Paul Jones (the Led Zep one) . Owes a lot to Big Bad John.

This Will Be Our last Song Together, by Neil Sedaka, recorded at Strawberry with Creme, Godley, Gouldman & Stewart. The song simultaneously represented and memorialised the ending of Sedaka’s partnership with lyricist Howard Greenfield. Neil had written some of his best-known hits with Greenfield and the resultant performance is remarkably raw, and achingly authentic. He’s on the verge of tears throughout.

Waterfall. The first proper 10cc recording, though Jonathan King hadn’t yet come up with the name. The recording’s combination of old-fashioned songwriting with try-anything production techniques set the blueprint for everything they would go on to create together.

The Wall Street Shuffle. One of 10cc’s best singles. A distant cousin to Money by Pink Floyd, both musically and lyrically, it’s catchy piano run later turned up on the similarly fiscally obsessed Money Money Money by Abba.

I’m Not In Love. Self-evidently an incredible recording. The instrumentation is so appropriate to the track’s air of wistful commitment-phobia that it can’t be unheard – all subsequent cover versions and attempts to strip the song back to traditional instruments sound just plain wrong, including the ill-advised one by Stewart and Gouldman in 1995.

When Things Go Wrong. A worryingly apt title for this track from Godley & Creme’s triple album ‘Consequences’. Features the ‘Gizmotron’. And Peter Cook, briefly.

Boredom. Buzzcocks. ‘…and triple albums were first to the bonfire’.

Everybody’s Happy Nowadays. ‘Love is a dream’, Shelley decides, which must have been a painful discovery. After all, he’d seemed pretty convinced of its existence over the course of the last two albums and five singles.

Why Can’t I Touch It?  John Maher’s drumming is amongst the best of his career, and Steve Garvey’s steadfast bass riff provides a beautifully solid dance floor for Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle’s intertwined guitars to gambol upon.

I Believe. Pete Shelley hits peak existential angst, and for punk’s greatest romantic, there is no love in this world anymore. A brilliant end to a brilliant album.

Warsaw.  The first track from An Ideal for Living by Joy Division. The count-in is Rudolph Hess’ prison number, and the song is sung from Hess’s point of view.  Clearly they weren’t Nazis, but the accusation could hardly have come as a surprise.

She’s Lost Control. The Manchester bass-line-with-added-drone in excelsis. First heard on Buzzcocks’ Walking Distance,  it also appears on The Fall’s Underground Medecin (and Love Will Tear Us Apart of course).

Shadowplay. the quintessential Joy Division song. A single repeated bass line and Bernard’s beautifully expressive guitar work, one of the main features of which is his willingness to stop playing, are all that’s required.

New Dawn Fades. has there ever been a song where the music and lyric are so satisfyingly matched?  It really is possible to ‘admire the distance’.

Keep On Keepin’ On By Nolan Porter. Any resemblance to Interzone purely non-coincidental.

Love Will Tear Us Together Two tales of the underlying paranoia lurking beneath a long-term relationship, mixed together by Malcolm Mclaren.

Bankrobber A distinctly sprightlier version of The Clash classic than we’re used to, recorded live in December 1979 at the Hammersmith Odeon. Once it touched the damp and melancholic Manchester air a month later, the song took on a far more doom-laden vibe. The drums on the recorded version in particular are infinitely more ‘New Dawn Fades’ than Revolution Rock. The tangible downturn in mood came a little too late for the lyric, though the ponderous disposition imbues the words with an air of regret that’s singularly absent from the early live version.

Rockers Galore Mikey Dread’s vocal on the B-side is sung over the same backing track, and it’s even more unbecomingly jovial than Bankrobber. At one point he even relates how he shrugged off the harsh Scottish winter with a nice hot bath. (‘You jump into the tub and then you sud and then you sud.’) Lovely.

Leave The Capitol.  Mark E. Smith’s ‘definitive rant’ against all aspects of London living, recorded in London. Perhaps he couldn’t summon sufficient bile to power his performance anywhere else.

Marquis Cha Cha. The Fall. Boasting one of Smith’s funniest, most sinister lyrics, in which he casts himself as a Lord Haw-Haw for the Falklands War, the recorded version features a slip-shod, under-rehearsed backing with glaring errors and wonky timekeeping.  With hindsight, that’s almost part of its charm, though at the time it was an embarrassment.

Garden A treatise on the nature of man’s relationship with God since expulsion from Eden? A sideways look at the dank underbelly of suburbia? Or both?  Mark wasn’t telling. He certainly wasn’t telling me.

Hexen Definitive/Strife Knot Smith slaps his band down about as effectively as he had done on an Australian dance floor the previous year.  ‘You can clutch at my toes*, you won’t drive me insane. You know nothing about it, It’s not your domain. Don’t confuse yourself with someone who has something to say.’ Cheers.

*I originally had ‘toes’ as ‘coat tails’, which makes as least as much sense, but according to the unofficial Fall website  (and as pointed out on the discussion board) I am incorrect. I must have got it from somewhere, though. 

Hand in Glove  Recorded in the ‘mists of the north’ – a fog-shrouded Strawberry Studios –  on Sunday 27th February 1983.

Pretty Girls Make Graves. It still beggars belief that Morrissey thought Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke only deserved 10% of The Smiths’ profits. Has he heard this track?  That said, In Autobiography Morrissey claims he wanted ‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’ as the third single instead of  What Difference Does it Make?,  though it’s nowhere near as commercial and has a title that would never have been allowed anywhere near the charts. So he’s not the best judge, is he?

I Don’t Owe You Anything. A song so achingly romantic that on one occasion it brought Mike Joyce close to tears. The ritual of ‘going out tonight’ retains the iconic allure it has in This Charming Man and this time the narrator is up for it, presumably having found something to wear.

Suffer Little Children No song has ever been more appositely described as ‘haunting’. If a Manchester band had to tackle this subject sooner or later, The Smiths were the perfect candidates.

Jimone & James II James recorded their first two EPs in August ’83 and October ’84 at Strawberry – though the five songs were treated to so little EQ they could really have been recorded anywhere. The band chose what they considered to be their least commercial songs for inclusion on the two EPs, and would brook no aural enhancement or studio jiggery-pokery. Factory must have been delighted.

Tell Me The B-side of The Stone Roses first single, So Young. Neither track could properly be described as a song, but then neither could Fools Gold. It would probably claim a place amongst the Roses better-loved songs if it wasn’t ruined by Ian’s wobbly Kirk Brandon impression on the vocals.

I Wanna Be Adored (early version) Written on the spot in the studio at the behest of Martin Hannett. It’s little exaggeration to say that when you listen to the Strawberry recording of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ you’re actually hearing the birth of the real Stone Roses. What Hannett gave the band more than anything else was showing them, as he had done previously for Joy Division, the power of emptiness.

Fat Lady Wrestlers The production on Bummed, the Happy Mondays’ second album, is probably Hannett’s last great work. The basic recording was done at Slaughterhouse studio in Yorkshire but by the time it came to be mixed, relations between Factory and Hannett had thawed sufficiently for them to engage him. Of course he insisted on Strawberry, and Hannett ‘played’ the studio’s desk and effects like another member of the band. If there’s any record where you can hear where the songs were mixed, Bummed is it.

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Full Circle

At the centre of Northern Moor, the area of Wythenshawe where I grew up, is ‘Sale Circle’, a large cluster of shops. Wythenshawe, as you may know, was created as a ‘garden estate’ in the minds of its planners. It was intended to be a place where working class inner city workers could escape the industrial wasteland and live in relative luxury, with parks and gardens on their doorstep. And that’s exactly what my family did, moving from a fairly decrepit two up-two- down in Plymouth Grove to a newly renovated council house in Northern Moor one bitterly cold winter’s day in December 1966. [It was so cold that when he realised that the previous tenants had left neither coal nor instructions as to where to buy some, my dad ripped up the fence that separated us from next door and used it as fuel for the living room fireplace. Family legend has it that our predecessors took the light bulbs, the plants from the garden and the ashes from the grate too.

Like many  groups of shops in Manchester, Sale Circle is referred to locally as a ‘parade’, which, although I never questioned the name as a kid, is actually quite a strange designation. It certainly makes Wythenshawe’s myriad huddles of shops sound far jollier than they unvaryingly are.  Revisiting the area now it’s hard to work out why the shops look so much bleaker than I recall.  Of course, like all council estates, Wythenshawe is chronically under-funded, so it could be that everything’s more tired and shabbier than it was when I was young, but I’m not so sure. Attempts to recapture youth often come with a built-in sense of disappointment. Try a Fab Lolly, or treat yourself to a Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie if you don’t believe me. The past is a different country – and unlike real foreign places, the food isn’t just different, they really do eat some dodgy shit there.

Sale Circle is bigger than most parades in the area, and as the name suggests it forms a complete loop which is split down the middle by Northern Moor’s backbone, Sale Road. This is significant, because Sale Road cuts through my life as emphatically as it does through the shops. Like many a wary traveller, Sale Road gallops as fast as it can through Northern Moor to Northenden, the area adjacent to Wythenshawe, (and historically part of it, despite what the upwardly mobile types like me who lived there would have you believe) which is mainly made up of private houses and so slightly more up-market. Northenden is often where Wythenshavians go to get on the property ladder, and it’s where I bought my first house. The other end of Sale Road, though it’s called ‘Northenden Road’ by then, is technically in Cheshire, and this is where I live now. Conscious of this unmistakeable betrayal of my working-class origins, I’m always far too embarrassed to tell people I live in Cheshire. In all honesty I’m half convinced that the term ‘Greater Manchester’ was invented by and for class traitors like me.

As I remember it, whenever I visited I made my way round Sale circle counter-clockwise. Clearly this is a construction of memory; when you go to the shops you call in where you need to buy stuff, you don’t methodically make your way round looking in every establishment in case you miss something. It’s not Disneyland. But an anti-clockwise tour is, appropriately enough, what I do when I turn the clock back.  And approaching from our house, the first shop you would get to, at twenty-five past on Sale Circle’s time-worn clock face, was the pet shop. As is the way of things, these days it’s a convenience store, where cheap dog food has been replaced by Peparami and Trill has given way to Pot Noodles. Though it wasn’t exactly high end, to my young self the pet shop seemed as exotic and other-worldly as the large blue parrot that sat on a perch in the window. For reasons I’ve never really fathomed, as fascinated as I was by the shop’s chirping and snuffling inhabitants, I had no desire for an animal of my own.  My three brothers, on the other hand, kept pets. Lots of pets, all of which I was forced to share my childhood with, like an inverted Gerald Durrell.

Over the years our house was home to all kinds of swimming, flying and hopping creatures, and Sale Circle Pet Shop was where my brothers usually bought the various accessories they needed for their respective menageries. My eldest brother Harry started the ball rolling, with that staple of many a seventies lounge (though it was always ‘the living room’ to us), tropical fish. I can definitely remember angelfish, and I seem to recall a larger, thoroughly unattractive variety that I think were called guppies. Whatever they were, the dark-grey goliaths showed as little interest in the little deep-sea diver marooned in the corner of the tank as their more vibrant cousins did. I thought the diver was the most exciting part of the whole enterprise, and he did fuck all.  I’ve rarely come across a more futile pursuit than keeping tropical fish in my life – the bored looking at the boring, both ways. Maintaining an aquarium was so spectacularly dull that Harry eventually abandoned it in favour of the white-knuckle thrill-ride and sensory overload that constituted the breeding of budgies. Again there was a variety of species, but we always referred to them as budgies, mainly because it would never fail to wind Harry up to hear his bespoke collection of caged birds spoken of in such reductive terms.   In order to house them all he’d converted the shed into an aviary. Northern Moor’s sheds were brick out-houses connected to the main house, rather than the flimsy wooden structures the name would imply. I suspect one of the main reasons my dad allowed Harry to do this was that it meant the lawn mower was banished outside. Exposed to the less than balmy Manchester weather it soon became all but unusable. Our house in Wythenshawe was the first house my father had ever had with a garden, and his unbridled jubilation at discovering lush lawns to the front and rear soon gave way to the less joyful realisation that he’d be stuck with mowing them.  Add to this the simmering resentment borne of having four strapping sons who were content to watch him struggle with the hand-propelled mower from the safety of the living room, and he was never going to be Capability Brown. Though the constant trampling of football-playing feet meant the grass never got too high, the only time our garden looked even half as good as the neighbours’ was when it snowed.

My other older brother Steve’s forays into the world of pets were always done in conjunction with his best friend Mark Riley (later to trade his ‘K’ in for a ‘C’). Their combined pocket monies allowed them a fairly free reign at Sale Circle Pets, and their taste in animals ran from mundane hutch-dwellers like rabbits and guinea pigs to a slightly more esoteric grass snake which they duly christened ‘Grasso’. I’ve no recollection what they called the rabbits or the guinea pigs, but I suspect they had even less imaginative names.

The youngest Hanley brother, Andrew, wasn’t as obsessive in his forays into animal husbandry as my older siblings, but he did dip a toe into the painfully dull waters of miniature terrapins. Our house, like all the council houses in Northern Moor, boasted ill-fitting and resolutely single-glazed windows, combined with a single source of heat in the form of a gas fire in the living room. Temperature-wise, it wasn’t exactly the Lizard room at Whipsnade Zoo, and tragically the terrapins froze to death on Andrew’s bedroom window. After that he decided on an albino lab rat as his pet of choice. The rat, a perfectly friendly and docile companion as I recall, was unfortunately a dab hand at escaping from his cage. On one notable occasion he decided to use my mum’s underwear drawer as his holiday home. Coincidentally Ben the lab-rat ‘went to live on a farm’ a week later and Andrew’s pet-keeping days were over.  Apart from the dog, of course: we always had a dog. It took two to fill my childhood, Champ and Sam. They were both Border collies, ostensibly, though neither would have passed muster at the Kennel Club of Great Britain.  Like a lot of residents of Northern Moor, their contended affability came with a predisposition to bear their teeth when confronted. But you couldn’t have one without the other.

Though I never shared my brothers’ fixation when it came to pets, I was fully involved in all the other pursuits that kept the Hanley boys out of trouble during our formative years. Chief amongst these shared obsessions growing up was comic books. And the newsagents next to the pet shop was as essential to our mutual preoccupation as its immediate neighbour.

Like everyone else in the UK we started with The Beano and The Dandy, but while our contemporaries soon grew tired of ‘Winker Watson’s two-colour-eight-panels-a-page and presumably moved on to girlfriends and smoking, we collectively upgraded to Tiger and Jag. Here we could thrill to the likes of hippy swimming star Splash Gorton (A dead ringer for Department S’s Jason King ), Billy’s Boots and Skid Solo, a decidedly middle-class racing driver. (Aren’t they all?) My favourite strip was always Johnny Cougar, a native-American wrestler who was as big on fighting prowess as he was short on the use of prepositions. As much as I loved these two-dimensional archetypes, they were forgotten in a heartbeat when, in 1972, they were joined on the magazine racks by the first British publication from Marvel Comics.

The Mighty World of Marvel was the American comic giant’s attempt to hook a new UK audience by imitating the British comics of the time. It came on hand-blackeningly poor quality paper and only featured reprints of the classic sixties comics. It was clearly dirt cheap to produce, which was reflected in the cover price. But much like the snakes, the birds and the angel fish, it was a way to glimpse a different world. Once Marvel realised their reprint entry drug had created sufficient numbers of comic addicts, they started re-importing their US comics. They were swiftly followed to market by their only real rival, DC, who had such literal heavy-lifters as Superman and Batman on their books. One glimpse of these four-colour masterpieces rendered the black and white reprints we were used to as redundant as the Tiger and Jag. With four of us chipping in we could afford a fair few, and soon the house was overrun with Avengers and X-Men, much to my dad’s displeasure, and he took to flushing the middle pages of any comics he found in the bathroom down the toilet. It didn’t stop us, and thereafter every trip home from school included a detour to Sale Circle. Though it meant passing nearest rival school, Rackhouse, and encountering the sort of low-level bullying that formed part of every school day between the ages of five and sixteen, nothing would put me off. I was once so engrossed in the comic I’d just purchased, that I didn’t notice that Andrew, who was about six at the time, had run dangerously far ahead. I was in charge of seeing him home safely, so this was a gross dereliction of duty. I would have got away with it but for the fact he ran out into the road and got knocked down by a passing car. I’ll never forget it. It was Superboy and The Legion of Superheroes, number 195.

Whether you start with comics, glossy magazines or even the back of the Weetabix box, once you’ve turned on that tap, and reading becomes your default method of passing the time, there’s only one logical next step, which is books.  For the Hanley brothers, taking that vital next step from comic-books to actual books only involved a bit more walking anti-clockwise round Sale Circle.

Turning right out of the paper shop, the next shop you passed was the greengrocers. In those days root vegetables still came covered in soil, and any time I encounter that familiar dank earth smell I’m instantly transported back to an age before pre-packaging. (Of course the only place to encounter such evocative odours these days is at your local garden centre, or maybe an organic farm shop. Yeesh.)

The next shop we passed on our journey was the chippy, which obviously boasted its own set of evocative smells. Unlike its Southern counterpart, the Northern chip shop’s menu isn’t confined to fish and chips, and offers a cornucopia of delights, from mushy peas to meat and potato pies, and from curry sauce to Cornish pasties.  They’re also surprisingly expensive, so a chippy tea[1] was usually out of the price-bracket for a family of six. That only made the idea all the more appealing, of course.

Once you’d hurried, salivating, past the chippy, you had to sidestep ‘Mace’, the rundown grocery store that we only ever went in on Wednesday afternoons, when it was the lone shop open. This was the first store I can ever recall that was run by Asians, and the shelves were groaning with stock, much of which was way more exotic than the average customer would have required. I don’t suppose they had an easy time of it, as Wythenshawe took to multi-culturalism even less willingly than other areas of Manchester.  With my mum being a cook we’d embraced Indian food a bit earlier than many of our contemporaries, but even we weren’t about to start grinding our own spices: everybody knew curry came out of a packet.

Once you’d swung past Mace you’d reached the end of Sale Circle’s northern hemisphere, and short dash across the road would bring you face to face with the parade’s crowning glory, and what surely should be the pride and joy of any civilised society: The lending library.

My parents were big advocates of the library. Like many of their generation, their main ambition in life was that their kids would end up cleverer, more fulfilled, better remunerated and subsequently happier than they were. And they fully believed that education was the only way that could be achieved. After all, they’d already passed on two left feet, so none of us was likely to end up playing for Manchester United. For my dad, Labour’s post- war Britain, and Wythenshawe in particular, was pretty much the Promised Land.  He had a job, a house with two indoor toilets, and a choice of pub within walking distance. Moreover his hard-earned tax was enough to pay for a local library and an education that between them were good enough to get his children to university, and free at the point of entry. Provided they worked hard enough, of course, which Harry duly did, and he eventually became the first Hanley to get a degree.  The rest of us didn’t quite make it that far, but we all entered higher education, and none of us ended up in a factory.

But of course the great thing about libraries is that, although they’re undoubtedly a major part of your education growing up, they don’t feel like it. From moment I joined, Sale Circle Library was where I got all my books; I never bought any. It introduced me to Asterix the Gaul’s Latin puns and Babar the Elephant’s joined up writing.  One of the first books I remember lending was The Look and Learn Book of the Trigan Empire, an epic space-opera which retold the story of the Roman Empire with less gore and more rockets. I later found out it had started life as comic itself. These days it would be classified as a ‘graphic novel’ – the line between comics and books becomes ever more blurred as comics are afforded more respect – but back then it was definitely a jump. I went from made-up histories to real histories without even realising the difference. They were all just books. And the staff went out of their way to nurture my love of reading because they recognised it as a love they shared, and wanted to pass on. A few years later, when novels had taken over from histories as my go-to choice, the librarian, noticing that I’d borrowed both 1984 and A Clockwork Orange, recommended Anthony Burgess’s 1985 as the logical next step. Imagine that.

As a child, any trip to Sale Circle would have ideally ended at the library, as I’d be anxious to get home with my plunder. I certainly would have done anything to avoid a trip to the establishment next door, but as previously explained, this anti-clockwise journey back in time needs to go all the way. Unfortunately for the imaginary child version of me that’s making his way round, the next shop is the barbers.

Like many of my generation, I was never particularly keen on getting my hair cut. On top of this the barbershop on Sale Circle, ‘Blind Sid’s’, as it was known to everyone at school, held a particular dread for me. From my earliest age my parents and older brothers had led me to believe that the small indentation on the top of my right ear (which was actually just an accident of birth) was put there by Sid and his wayward scissors. Consequently the thought of him placing the plank that he used as a booster across the chair and beckoning me forward was absolutely terrifying, though obviously I couldn’t remember the incident in question. He was ridiculously cheap, which is why I imagined we still frequented his premises after I’d been scarred for life, but only had one style, short back and sides. My dad wasn’t really aware there were any other styles, so pointing out Blind Sid’s lack of variety didn’t really cut much ice. Besides, it made nits easier to spot.

Once you were safely across Sale road, base camp for your descent of the left hemisphere of Sale circle was the betting shop. We only breathed in its toxic nicotine-filled atmosphere once a year, on Grand National day. We didn’t hang about, as the staff made their contempt for us annual customers witheringly plain, though clearly our twenty pence each way was as good as anybody else’s money. For the most part we only needed one visit a year, I can’t remember many trips back to reclaim our winnings.  Moving on I tended to bypass the chemist, though my mum would occasionally insist I call in for a ‘Nice n Easy Dark Brown’ to disguise the proliferating grey hairs that having four sons had prematurely given her. This shop was also where I once bought her some perfume for her birthday which brought her out in a rash and turned her bracelet green. She said it was lovely.

Because of its size, Sale Circle could accommodate two newsagents, though the competition for business meant they each had to branch out into different specialist areas. While the one next to the pet shop specialised in American comics, the one on the left hand side had an even more exotic, and debatably more exciting side-line – bootleg albums.

Music was the Hanley brother’s third joint preoccupation. As we got older it surpassed both pets and comics and became our overriding obsession. Though our tastes differed somewhat – or at least Harry’s did – we were all enthusiastic record buyers, so having a shop that specialised in ‘under-the-counter’ merchandise so close was a wonderful happenstance. In these days where every concert is filmed and uploaded to Youtube within an hour of curtain-down, it’s hard to convey the thrill of discovering an illicit live album by your favourite band – Buzzcocks, in my case – and the fact that it came with plain packaging and the half expectation you’d get your collar felt only made the purchase all the more exciting.

From here on in our trip to the shops becomes less about adolescent thrills and teenage preoccupations and more about how such preoccupations were paid for.  The next shop down was the launderette–cum-dry cleaners, where me and Andrew spent several Tiswas-free Saturdays in the late nineteen-seventies. For many years Mum was the cook at the Sale Hotel, a busy pub which was located five miles up Sale Road from Sale Circle. Once, in an effort to boost her meagre wages, she volunteered us for a job service-washing the beer towels, which ran to four or five large bin bags full a week.  Mum had somehow managed to persuade the manager of Sale Circle launderette to turn a blind eye to two children regularly stuffing his machines with what was clearly not domestic laundry. So, despite there being a perfectly suitable washeteria ten yards from the pub, Andrew and I were forced to lug the large plastic sacks on and off the 41 bus. They absolutely stunk, and we were viewed with some understandable suspicion.  Getting all the bags washed took two trips, and with only one bus an hour the whole mind-numbing process took all day. Despite our Herculean efforts, the Sale Hotel eventually let mum go, and she used her contact to secure a job at the dry cleaners while she sought another pub gig. It didn’t take her long, as it turned out she liked hanging round a launderette all day even less than me and Andrew did.

The final building on Sale Circle, located at twenty-five-to on its imaginary clock-face, was the Co-op. This consisted of a supermarket, or at least what passed for a supermarket in the seventies, and an adjoining butchers, still owned by the Co-op but run as a distinct business. This establishment gave me my first gainful employment as a ‘butcher’s boy’. It’s still far and away the worst job I ever had.

We did our weekly big shop at the Co-op, which, as our family included four lads with huge appetites, was a fairly large haul. We didn’t have a car – The nearest thing we had to transport was a shopper on wheels- so us four were roped in to act as Sherpas. Stephen and Harry lugged the heavy stuff like beans and flour and me and Andrew copped for the lighter, bulkier goods like breakfast cereal. Though we got through several boxes a week we only ever had one brand of cereal on the go per week in our house, usually Weetabix or cornflakes. Choice of cereal was one of the first steps towards gentrification I took when I became a homeowner, along with central heating and coloured toilet paper.

Somewhere along the way, and certainly not through any effort on my part, Harry and I both ended up with jobs at the Co-op. Harry got a Saturday job as a shelf stacker and I got roped into the butcher’s next door. The shop was absolutely filthy, particularly in the back. All the surfaces were sticky to the touch, and the sweet stench of Victorian slaughterhouse hung in the air so thickly you could taste it. As one of my jobs was supposedly to keep the place clean, I can’t really blame anyone else for that, but I will say it was no more disgusting when I left than it was when I started. The worst part of the worst job I ever had was scrubbing the butcher’s block, which meant using a wire brush to remove the top layer of entrail-stained wood and restoring it from blood-red to yellow-brown. It took hours and also involved removing the top layer of skin from your hands. In my memory I worked in that butcher’s for years, but I think I only lasted three months. To my eternal delight, the manager I worked under was sacked and the new boss brought his own assistant in. I hope he was a better cleaner than I was.  My dad was as furious as I was delighted. His first action after I’d got the job (besides starting to buy our meat from elsewhere) was to stop my spends. Now that I was no longer supporting myself he was forced to reintroduce them. Despite the ear bashing I got every time he handed over money he could ill-afford to the workshy adolescent standing before him, I never got another job till I left school.

So that was Sale Circle, which is, of course, an unremarkable cluster of shops on an unremarkable road in an unremarkable area. But in its own quiet way it shaped my life. Both my love of reading and steadfast aversion to hard graft are with me to this day.

But of course it wasn’t the shops, or even the library, that taught the four of us to look beyond the scruffy estate in front of us. To imagine a world of music and snakes and exotic birds and New York skylines filled with superheroes. It was the quietly devoted Irish couple who moved to a new country away from the families they loved, just to give their four sons the best possible chance of achieving something. They were lucky enough to arrive in England at a time when such immigrant working-class aspiration was not only allowed for, but encouraged, and they made the most of it. Sadly, If they arrived tomorrow there’d be no-one to encourage their son to read more Anthony Burgess. And no library in which to do it.

[1] Tea, by the way, is the meal you eat in the evening. Not ‘dinner’, except on Sundays, and definitely, definitely not ‘supper’.

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An interview with Rufus Dayglo – ‘It’s all about technique – style is adaptable!’

Borag Thungg! As a comics fan of some years standing, I was delighted when none other than Rufus Dayglo agreed to take care of the art for the new Brix & The Extricated album –  not least because it afforded me the opportunity to pick his brains about some of the amazing stuff he’s worked on in the past. As you’ll see our conversation ran the gamut from the Bash Street Kids to Buzzcocks by way of Bugs Bunny and Battle Action. To find out more about Rufus’s amazing body of work visit http://www.rufusdayglo.com/

PH: Me and my brothers started off on The Beano,  then went via Tiger to The Mighty World of Marvel. That  started in 1972, and printed the silver-age Marvel stuff. That was the game changer, really. What was your first exposure to comics?

RD:  The first comics I remember seeing were 2000 AD and Battle Action, which my dad would get for me. I instantly fell in love with the Dinosaur strip called FLESH, about time travelers hunted and devoured by T-Rexes! I recently got to draw these very T-Rexes for a Judge Dredd board game that will be out at Christmas…so childhood dream achieved!   I was definitely given a stack of Mighty World of Marvel and POW! which came from family friends. So my first exposure to super heroes was in black and white. ha ha I was quite horrified to discover their costumes were so garish. I assumed they’d be all camouflaged and stealthy…. not dressed like cereal cartons.

Ha! Wouldn’t be the same though, imagine a grey hulk…

There actually WAS a grey Incredible Hulk at one point! Ha ha But yeah… they knew their audience better than me. Ha ha! No wonder I don’t draw superheroes! I did love the Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx…anything drawn by Leo Baxendale. He is so amazing.

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Class 2B

Brilliant – especially considering the speed they worked at.  I also loved the incongruous little details – like Chiefy in ‘Little Plum’ watching telly in his wigwam! Ken Reid was fantastic as well –  his ‘Faceache’ was the stuff of nightmares, wasn’t it?  

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Faceache by Ken Reid

Ken Reid is one of the greatest British humour artists! Happily his work’s now finally being collected by Rebellion Publishing, who also own 2000 AD. So there are collections you can now buy online of his stuff! I have been really lucky to professionally draw many of the characters I loved when I was a kid!

 

 

I even made my own Bend Sinister shirt as a kid, by cutting Mark’s face out of cardboard and potato printing it on to a shirt. I was very proud of it… but It looked suitably awful. Ha ha!bs

‘Suitably awful’ is right – I bet the T-shirt  was done with more care than the actual cover was! Speaking of professional drawing – what was your first paid work – is it true you started in animation rather than comics?    

I did start professionally in animation and worked in it for over a decade. I drew Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in Space Jam for Warner Brothers.

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“Look Daffy – it’s Mark E Smith!’

The animation in Space Jam is great – though Chuck Jones wasn’t a fan of what the film had his characters saying, apparently!   Did you work on that in the UK or US?

I worked in London ( a big chunk of the film was done there!) Warner’s set up a studio in Covent Garden for a few years…  We even had Chuck Jones come and visit. He seemed like a very nice chap! Art hero!

I also worked on Tony the Tiger, Snap, Crackle and Pop and Lucky charms. Later I got to work on lots of pop promos for bands like Gorillaz. I always wanted to do comics, but animation was my training ground. It forced me to draw anything and everything. A bit like being a session musician. It was about technique, style was adaptable!

I like that! It’s true – I improved more as a drummer in a covers band than any other band I’ve been in.

Absolutely!  Working on commercial jobs forces you out of your comfort zone!  It’s important as an artist or musician to be versatile and be able to do MORE than what you WANT to do. I worked all over London in dozens of animation studios. I got to learn from some insanely talented people. Later on I got sick of drawing Nesquik bunnies and finally jumped ship into doing comics full-time.

How do you  do that? Is the comics world easy to get into?

I sent samples to dozens of companies…and was roundly rejected by ALL of them….for years! Ha ha!  I just didn’t give up…. I kept working on my art, trying to improve, and doing my own mini comics and fanzines. It was a great learning curve. It’s the same for a musician…when you hear yourself recorded or filmed… you learn from your mistakes. I don’t know any decent artist who likes their own work….it’s always a search for improvement! Eventually I submitted work to 2000 AD, and they very kindly gave me a chance…and from there I have kept working,  thankfully!

It can be hard as there is no security, but you have to be inventive, and keep connected to editors and writers. It’s like a little spiderweb of creators.

I much prefer doing comics because primarily it’s about storytelling! My job is to tell a whole story, not just draw a small sequence like in animation. It’s like difference between being in a band, and being in an orchestra. Ha ha!

Ha! – for one thing the catering’s not as good! Any aspirations to be a one-man band? Do a Frank Miller and start writing as well?

Yes! I am working on couple of series ideas myself…that I plan to launch in the new year on Patren ( an online art platform ). I love collaborating with others, especially other writers as I can take their idea, and add to it…. but I definitely want to do my own stuff too!

Which comics have you worked on?

I have got work on Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Bad Company ( and also created new series for 2000 AD, my favourite comic magazine!) , Metal Gear Solid and help relaunch Tank Girl with the original writer, Alan Martin.

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I’m sure everyone asks you this, but what did you think of the Tank Girl movie?

 I now have a huge respect for the Tank Girl Film. It wasn’t the film I wanted to watch at the time….BUT in the years since, it has become a huge hit in the States, as it is on TV a lot, and has helped so many teenagers create a role model for themselves. I have had so many letters and emails from kids who identify with the character, and hold her up as the hero, their ideal. Especially from kids who have discovered their LGBT identity.    This to me is a huge thing. It has become the natural successor to the Rocky horror Picture Show. Also Lori Petty has been hugely supportive of our books, and the character, and she is a very kind lovely person. We have become good friends, and she truly is a role model worthy of the title.

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Lori Petty as Tank Girl

And we did get to see Ice-T as a kangaroo! It would be nice to see a reboot, though, wouldn’t it?

Going back to 2000 AD itself, It must have been incredible, to end up working for your favourite magazine with the writers you loved as a kid. Does it live up to expectations?  Is Tharg the Mighty a good boss?

Tharg the Mighty has been huuuugely supportive! 2000 AD is a dream gig, there is so much freedom and chance to try new things.  2000 AD‘s anthology format means you can try stuff and experiment, and Tharg is supportive of this. I have also got to make original series like Counterfeit Girl for 2000 AD  – with Peter Milligan no less!

(Peter Milligan is a legendary comics writer. He created ‘Bad Company’ and ‘Bix Barton’ for 2000 AD before moving on to DC  and Marvel, working on Batman and X-Men among many others)

Wow- Is it daunting, working with people like him  and Alan Martin knowing what they’d done?  

It has been a real treat, working with the people whose work you admire. Comics is a small world, and to work with the people who actually inspired you to pick up a pencil in the first place is  just crazy!cg

Working with Peter has been particularly rewarding, getting to work on Bad Company, my childhood favourite…and also getting to work on new series like Counterfeit Girl. Last Gang in Town for DC Comics ( a series about a punk band who decide to rob the Queen during the Silver Jubilee ) and I am currently drawing a new sci-fi series for 2000 AD called ‘The Devil’s Railroad’ which will be announced soon! In all my work I try and draw in a lot of music references… either adding favourite musicians into stories ( like Dee Dee Ramone and Adam Ant in Tank Girl ) and The Clash, Sex Pistols and Alternative TV in Last Gang in Town. In Judge Dredd I turn song titles into graffiti in his world.

You’d have to have The Clash in ‘Last Gang in Town’ wouldn’t you? 

Ha ha! Absolutely! They are one of my go-to bands for graffiti in comics! I always listen to my favourite bands while working, so inevitably they end up in my work. Over the years I collaborated with a few favourite bands and their ‘camps’, doing art for Alternative TV, Menace, a London punk band , Buzzcocks, Mark P’s Sniffin’ Glue special, Joey Ramone ( with John Holmstrom for Joey’s annual Birthday bash ), Dee Dee Ramone and his ICLC band and now Brix and the Extricated!

Ha! Nice plug! You mentioned ‘Bend Sinister’ before –  were you a fan of The Fall? It can’t have been the sleeve that attracted you!  

I think like many kids it was John Peel –  I listened to the radio, and I loved the name ‘The Fall’, it was easy to write on a school bag or shirt! Ha ha!  I didn’t have a fuckin’ clue what Mark was talking/singing about…. But it was such a cacophony of noise I was thrilled! As the years went by, my admiration of the band continued to grow… like all good artists The Fall took risks. It felt like real rock ‘n’ roll in danger of either spinning out of control…or falling apart at any minute! I saw the band dozens of times, and every gig was amazing for different reasons, from temper tantrums, unplugged instruments, weird cover songs, to only playing new songs…  you NEVER knew what you were gonna get. The Fall to me was true punk, it was about substance, about ideas, about evolution/devolution.  Brix and the Extricated are from the same DNA, and are just as exciting… but what I actually prefer is there is an inherent positivity to the new band…. like all the best elements of The Fall, but without the toxicity.

That’s really gratifying to hear –  a suitable mission statement. In fact that’s a good place to finish:  ‘Brix and The Extricated – all the best elements of The Fall, but without the toxicity, since 2014’ . BRIX TOUR POSTER uk poster 125

 

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The most thrilling moments in recorded history?

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The most thrilling moments in recorded history – keep ’em coming! 

Now, this is an entirely subjective work-in-progress. I’ve no doubt that there are infinite equally-valid variations. And the fact that my original suggestions end in 1977 says more about me than it does about any decline in the quality of pop music since. It’s also unapologetically mainstream. But these tiny moments each have something that transcends even the records they appear on. ‘R n R as primal scream’, as someone far cleverer than me once said. Suggestions that tickle my fancy will be added, with appropriate accreditation, as and when required.

1) The false start on Elvis, Scotty and Bill’s ‘Milk Cow Blues Boogie’  (00:13) is clearly pre-planned, but in terms of capturing the zeitgeist, when Elvis says “Hold it fellas. That don’t move me. Let’s get real, real gone for a change” and they start again at a million miles an hour, it’s a pivotal moment in the history of rock and roll, if not the world.

2) On September 14th 1955, Little Richard was stuck for an intro to his new song – a ribald, if necessarily coded, confession that he was partial to all kinds of fruitiness. ‘You should start it with a roll’ he told drummer Earl Palmer. ‘Something like Wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bop-bom’. No drums required. (00:00)

3) At the end of ‘Twist and Shout’, as the Beatles play the last chord (02:28), Paul McCartney’s off-mic ‘Hey!!’ is luckily captured for posterity. It’s a simple thing, but that one shout perfectly articulates an epoch-making moment, and it’s almost like he knows it. At that very second, the band have not only topped off what was a particularly demanding day with an absolutely spine-tingling recording, but they’ve also completed their first album, kick-started the sixties and , with a little help from the end of the Chatterley ban, invented sex. (© Philip Larkin) .

4) There are a number of massively exhilarating elements to ‘Reach Out (I’ll Be There)’ by the Four Tops: The plaintive flutes at the start, the galloping percussion that accompanies them (btw if you can figure out what was used to create that sound you’re a better man than I), and the buried James-Brownesque growl just as the main vocal kicks in, to name but three. But when Levi Stubbs leads us out of the tambourine solo into the chorus with an imperious ‘Ha!’ (00:46) the world, briefly, becomes a better place.

5) ‘Good Vibrations’  succeeded ‘Reach Out’ as UK Number one, and it’s a record even more densely packed with invention. But while ‘Reach Out’s envelope-pushing arrangement and production were there to serve the song, ‘Good Vibrations’ was created as an exercise in expanding what a pop record could do: the song came later. In the hands of lesser mortals, such self-conscious cleverness often loses sight of what makes pop great in the first place, but ‘Good Vibrations’ manages to both fulfill and confound our expectations of a Beach Boys single at the same time. And it all starts with that exquisite sigh. (00:00)

6) When Roger Daltrey sounded his barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world, seven minutes and forty-five seconds into ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, it was swiftly, and quite correctly, acknowledged as one of rock’s greatest moments. In fact it’s so iconic that when they perform it live these days he won’t risk screwing it up – a sample from the record’s played at the key moment. Which is a shame, but somewhat inevitable, given that he’s pushing 75. Most people couldn’t have pulled it off at any age.

7) The bit in ‘Jean Genie’ where Trevor Bolder goes to the chorus before everyone else and Bowie tells him to ‘get back on it’ (00:38) absolutely makes the record. They could have done it again, they could even have fixed it with a bit of skill, a razor blade and some chalk, but thank God they didn’t. Sometimes mistakes are the cleverest thing in the world. Most of the time, sadly, they’re just mistakes.

8) The pinging firework noise that comes just before the ‘No Future’ coda of ‘God Save the Queen’ is uniquely electrifying (02:29). Who thought of it? Where did they source it? Was it from a sound effects album or taped out of the window? Whatever, it’s a sure sign they knew they were lighting the blue touch paper, despite JR’s ridiculous assertion that it was a ‘coincidence’ that God Save The Queen’ was released during the silver jubilee. It also serves as a reminder of just how well-produced the whole of ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ is. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you that the ‘Spunk’ bootleg is better. Utter horseshit.

9) As nominated by my old bandmate Kelly Wood-Hingley: Jeff Buckley’s sigh at the beginning of the original studio version of ‘Hallelujah’. (00:00) While it’s not always a good idea to imbue recordings with posthumous meaning, in this case it’s nigh-on impossible not to.  Keep breathing Jeff.

10) Nominated by Paul Saxton on Twitter and Geoff Oval on Facebook – Louie Louie, by The Kingsmen. At around the two minute mark, following a brilliantly erratic guitar solo from Mike Mitchell, singer Jack Ely attempts to come back in, utters one syllable, then swiftly realises he’s 2 riffs too early. Legend has it much confusion ensued, with half the band going to the chorus while the rest ploughed on with the verse. Nonetheless, this (take 1) is what got released, and it remains the definitive version of the song. I wouldn’t worry too much about half of ’em playing the wrong bit though – the verse and chorus are the same riff anyway.

11) Alistair Price on Facebook suggests the audible click the first time Keith Richards switches his fuzz pedal on during ‘ Satisfaction’ (00:35).  The switching on/off of the fuzz effect is haphazard enough to suggest that Keith was doing it himself as he played, which is a lovely insight into how recording was done in the mid-sixties. As Alistair says, ‘suddenly you’re in the room with them’.  If Keith and co. sometimes forget that innovative pop is vastly more interesting than inferior slogs through Robert Johnson’s back-catalogue, then it’s moments like this that enable us to forgive them.

12) My good friend Mr Richard Thomas has selected a particularly satisfying moment from Culture’s astonishing piece of self-fulfilling prophecy,  ‘Two Sevens Clash’. Released in May 1977, the lyric was based on a speech by Marcus Garvey, (though no-one is quite sure what he actually said).  Joseph Hill predicted major unrest on the day the two sevens clashed, i.e. 7th July 1977 (which is actually 4 sevens, if you think about it.) Such was the power and influence of the record many Jamaicans stayed indoors and businesses shut up shop on the day in question. Mr Hill’s wonderful ‘What?’ (01:42) perfectly sums up the dissatisfaction therein.

13) The glorious racket that is ‘I Heard Her Call My Name’ by The Velvet Underground has clearly been a key influence on many bands, all of whom fail to balance aggression and melody  as well as Lou, John. Mo and Sterling. Of course noise for the sake of noise can sometimes be exciting, but it gets boring very quickly. Conversely, because it serves a purpose, the feedback that illustrates Lou Reeds’ mind splitting open (as Tony Gleed on facebook describes it ‘when Lou disembowels his guitar all over his fellow Velvets’) at 02:16 remains massively thrilling to this day. (Suggested by Gary Jordan on twitter)

14) My friend and fellow Buzzcock-obsessive Mr Rob Smallwood has suggested John Maher’s thoroughly unexpected snare-and-cymbal slam at 03:18 in ‘Nothing Left’. The song has dropped to a whisper at this point, and is about to start a (very) gradual build-up, so it’s completely out of the blue. It’s one of the many, many examples of John’s perfect enhancements to Pete’s wonderful songs.

15) If the sixties really started with the Beatles first LP, when, culturally,  did they end? In ‘Revolution In the Head’ Ian MacDonald has a couple of suggestions, the day in September 1970 Jimi Hendrix that died being one, and rather more prosaically, October 1973 when OPEC doubled the price of oil overnight. But  it can be argued that the sixties gave way to the seventies at a rather more specific moment: namely when Iggy screamed ‘Looooooord!’ at the beginning of The Stooges’ ‘TV Eye’ . As Kevin F Chanel on facebook points out,  The Stooges  spoke directly to ‘the generation that WASN’T ‘feeling groovy’.  Up till then the MC5 had come closest to articulating this particular sense of disenfranchisement, but it took them their whole catalogue to do so. Iggy boiled it all down to a couple of seconds at the beginning of a song.’

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Simon Foster

I played drums in a covers band for a few years, West Timperley’s second best new wave covers band, in fact, the mighty XL5. Because we all lived close together we used to rehearse in a local rehearsal space, Altrincham Rehearsal Studio Enterprise. (House rules: No kids; No gum, No fucking around). The more observant amongst you will have spotted the handy acronym that most people knew the place by. When Brix & the Extricated need somewhere to rehearse, ARSE seemed like the logical choice. It was easy to get to (though it wasn’t in Altrincham), it was well lit, it had decent equipment and it wasn’t too expensive. None of which really set it apart from most other rehearsal studios. But the USP of ARSE (if that’s not too many acronyms for one sentence) was never its infrastructure, it was the warm welcome that awaited you on arrival.

That welcome was invariably provided by one man, Simon Foster. Simon was a band veteran, a guitarist of many years standing, and ARSE was a labour of love rather than any attempt to make a living. Simon opened up the place, set up gear, tweaked P.A.s, and took the money. He’d even brew up if he was in a particularly good mood, all the time providing a running moan on the day’s events, the football or the other useless bands who used the place.  I assume he was equally as dismissive of our racket, I certainly hope so. Simon recorded and mixed the demos that became the songs on the Extricated album. He did it quickly without fuss, pretension, or any suggestion of difficulty. They sounded great.

Simon died on 25th November 2017, after a cruelly short illness. No-one who used the rehearsal room knew he was ill, so of course no-one said goodbye. Why would we? We all expected to see him again, maybe standing on the front step, brew in hand, listening to The Archers.

sf

In normal terms, I didn’t know him particularly well. I didn’t give him Christmas cards, he didn’t tell me much about his wife and daughters, and I never really discussed my family with him either. But often that’s not how things work around bands and musicians. Friendships exist for the time you work together, then hibernate until you find yourself working together again. From the outside, these marriages of convenience can appear shallow, and there’s probably some truth in that. But to dismiss such friendships is to diminish the impact Simon had on the people who worked with him. He was funny, loyal, helpful and completely un-mercenary.   In short, it was a pleasure and a privilege to know Simon Foster. His regular customers are hoping to keep the place going in memory of him. I hope they succeed, but it won’t be the same.

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In Conversation

I was recently asked to take part in  ‘Library Lounge’, a new series of relaxed ‘in conversation’ events hosted at the wonderful Manchester Central Library. The evening was conducted by Mr Brendan O’Shea, one of the directors of The Manchester Central Library Development trust, and a good mate of mine. It was a most enjoyable evening, and we covered everything from Sooty to Spotify. I was also delighted to be asked to take part in Manchester Central Library Lovers’ Back a Book initiative. You can read about the scheme here.  I picked 1985 by legendary Mancunian curmudgeon Anthony Burgess, as it was a book that was recommended to me as a 14 year old by a librarian at my local library who’d noticed I’d already borrowed 1984 and A Clockwork Orange and thought I would appreciate it.  Professional librarians who take an interest in the library’s users, What a brilliant thing.

1985

The conversation was recorded for posterity by the good folks at Route and you can see it below. I’d urge everyone to get themselves along to Central Library, Manchester is remarkably lucky to have it.

 

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Talking books

Here’s a link to the panel at the ‘Louder than Words’ literary festival that took place in 2015 featuring Si Wollstencroft, Dave Simpson, our kid (Steve Hanley if you didn’t know), and me. A jolly time had by all,  and it certainly whets the appetite for Steve’and Simon’s books. One moment worth noting is Tony Fletcher’s longest question of all time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8Y86O1ARFI

A couple of weeks’ previous I’d taken part in  a similar event at Gorilla as part of Bob Stanley’s launch for ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ – another interesting evening, though no documentary evidence as far as I know. That one was with Dave Haslam, Stella Grundy, Ruth Daniel and the very brilliant Jeremy Deller. Ruth was also a member of The Fall though i imagine it’s further down on her CV than it is on mine.

Incidentally ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah is an astonishing piece of work,  as good a combination of reference work and love-letter to pop as you could wish for.

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A review of the mighty Public Image Ltd in (nearly) their original incarnation. With thanks to the Fodderstompf website

Manchester, Kings Hall, Belle Vue, UK
February 23rd, 1979

Creation for Liberation Benefit Gig
John Lydon
Keith Levene: Guitar
Jah Wobble: Bass
Eddie Edwards: Drums

Set List:
Theme / Annalisa / Low Life / Religion / Attack / Belsen Was A Gas / Public Image / Annalisa

© 2011 Fodderstompf.com / Paul Hanley

PiL - Creation For Liberation, Manchester, Kings Hall 23.2.79 Flyer .

The palpable excitement I felt at the prospect of seeing Mr Lydon live on stage was tempered somewhat by the knowledge that to get to King’s Hall involved a walk through Gorton and Belle Vue, the Burke and Hare of East Manchester districts. I had turned 15 the week before the gig and the area along Hyde Rd was as rough a place as I would ever wish to encounter on foot. The fear was not enough to put us off, of course, and we arrived safe enough, but the tangible mood of foreboding and disquiet continued once inside the venue. The cider-fuelled belligerence of the Mohican-and-tartan brigade was a constant presence at gigs of the time, as were the hails of gob that greeted anyone who took to the stage, no matter how tenuous their links to ‘Punk Rock’ might be.

As abhorrent as I found the practice of expectorating over people who’d come to entertain you, I could feel some sympathy in the case of The Pop Group, the first band we saw. Their brand of feeble agit-pop certainly left me cold. ‘This can’t be The Pop Group’ I remember shouting to no-one in particular – ‘they’re supposed to be good!’ they were as smart-arse oh-so-ironic as their name would suggest, and if there’s anything more annoying than watery funk played by skinny white guys I’ve yet to experience it.

The two poets on the bill did their best with a sound system vastly unsuitable for spoken word – Linton Kwesi Johnson’s immensely powerful ‘Sonny’s Lettah’ had recently been seen on ‘So It Goes’ and his basso profundo intonation went someway to addressing the PA’s inadequacies. Local hero John Cooper Clark is always guaranteed a good reception around these parts. At that time though he had an annoying habit of whipping through his hits at breakneck speed – his delivery of ‘Chicken Town’ in particular resembling nothing more than an amphetamine-heavy farmers auctioneer who needed a pee. His set seemed to last about 5 minutes.

Finally it was time for PIL. It was immediately obvious that the gig was vastly more important for the audience than it was for the band. In these days of Arena spectaculars and across the board professionalism it’s easy to forget just how half arsed some gigs were back in the day, and if there was a pinnacle of half-arsedness, this was it. Public Image Ltd shuffled on – ‘Just us, no theatrics, take it or leave it’ as John put it, as if the audience had spotted them while walking past instead of buying their tickets weeks in advance. With an obviously under rehearsed drummer, they ran through the highlights of their first album. With songs of such quality even the general air of nonchalance couldn’t dampen the thrill of seeing Messrs Lydon, Levene and Wardle in the flesh, though Jah Wobble was harder to spot as standing and playing at the same time was beyond him at this point. ‘Theme’ and ‘Religion’ were as bellicose and unsettling live as they were on vinyl, and with the quality of Virgin’s pressings in those days it was nice to hear them with no jumps. The drummer coped better with the faster tracks ‘Annalisa’ and ‘Low life’ though all he had by way of guidance was the occasional curt nod or shake of the head from the ever-cheery Keith Levene. He must have been a wreck by the end of it.

‘First Issue’ was never the longest of long players and with Religion 1 and Fodderstompf missing the set was in danger of coming in below 30 minutes, but for the addition of ‘Belsen Was a Gas’. For a 15 year old punk rock fan two emotions fought for dominance at this point – sheer delight at being able to say you ‘d seen Johnny Rotten perform a Sex Pistols song live, and severe disappointment that they’d chosen the worst song (by a country mile) in their cannon . ‘This is irony’ John announced before the launched into it, presumably that the lyric ( supposedly written by Sid) ended with the line ‘Kill yourself’. I’m only guessing, mind, John was in no mood to elucidate. ‘Public Image’ the song turned the gig briefly into everything I had hoped it would be – the crowd was energised; Lydon’s vocal’s finally took flight;, Levene’s million-guitars-at-once showed the Edge what to do for the next 30 years and Wobble’s thrumming bottom end was enough to get everyone except him to their feet.
And that was it. They did return for an encore – very showbiz, except for the fact that it was ‘Annalisa’ again, and then they were gone. We ambled away, free to wander the savage lands of Belle Vue once more. On the plus side, it was earlier than we’d thought it would be.

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Stuff the Superstars

By way of an opener, my review (as previously presented in ‘Reformation’, The Fall webzine (terrible phrase)  of a gig I attended ‘back in the day’ (another horrible expression): 1979 if you prefer. I saw a fairly large amount of gigs at this time but this one retains a certain amount of significance for me. Firstly because all Joy Division gigs were soon to become important for fairly obvious reasons, and  secondly because I’d end up playing drums for the aforementioned Fall within the year…

I turned 15 in 1979. I had a drum kit, I know that. I was becoming seriously obsessed with music, I know that too. Apart from that the details are a bit vague, if I’m honest. School was as soul-destroying as ever, the endless dismal days of double chemistry only lightened by the opportunity to play ‘Another Music in a Different Kitchen’ on Fr. Green’s dansette at lunch time. (Father Green, like Joy Division, later attained a certain amount of notoriety but for very different reasons)  I also had a job in a butcher’s shop on Saturdays, as I recall, but that’s about it.
Regarding Saturday 28th July 1979, however, I can be quite precise as to my whereabouts. I was at Belle Vue’s celebrated (!) Mayflower, or rather The Fun House, a new wave club which occasionally squatted on the premises in much the same way as The Factory holed up in the Russell Club.

 
 

It was a memorable day, for a number of reasons.

 

For one, my brother’s band was one of the many scheduled to play that night, which meant I got in for free. Secondly, me and my mate Pete, who lived up the road in Openshaw, made our own way there, on foot. The quaintly named Belle Vue was at least as rough then as it is now, probably more. Hyde Road was as schizophrenic as it’s literary namesake, the last few visitors to the  amusement park giving way to all manner of cut-purses and ne’er-do-wells as the watery daylight surrendered to the grimy darkness (which never seemed to be far way in late seventies Manchester). We walked, because that’s what you did then. The days of parents dropping you and picking you up after the gig (which I’m afraid I’m guilty of with my 15 year old) were a lifetime and a seismic cultural shift away. Luckily we made it unscathed, physically if not mentally.

    

The gig was billed as ‘Stuff the Superstars’- a kind of indoor festival, which featured most of the Manchester bands of note (Buzzcocks weren’t there, of course – they’d signed to UA by then and were probably in London eating Lobster and chips and quaffing champagne).

 
 

 

 Nominally top of the bill were The Distractions, who I’d previously seen supporting The Fall at Kelly’s, a tiny venue in Manchester, and who were earmarked (if only by City Fun) as the next big thing, though of course they never were. We (naturally) were ostensibly there to see The Fall, although Joy Division were also a major attraction. They’d also made significant headway since I’d seen them earlier (at Bowdon Vale youth club) and they were on the verge of next big thingdom themselves.

 

City Fun Fanzine was definitely Manchester’s magazine-du-jour (if magazine is the right word).  Sold at virtually every gig (as well as Virgin and Piccadilly records) it occupied a hallowed status among the concert goers of Manchester. It wasn’t a bad read either. Admittedly it was as humourless as The Passage playing at a Funeral, but in its defence, they were humourless times. Bands these days are so desperate to convey their wit and sense of fun you tend to forget that in 1979 most bands (or certainly most Manchester bands) were primarily anxious to convey their solemnity. The Joy Division of the NME and the Joy Division in the café next to Davidson’s rehearsal room were two very different beasts, believe me.    
 

City Fun were also the organisers of ‘Stuff the Superstars’, which would explain how the appalling Glass Animals (featuring writers Andy Zero, Cath Carroll and Liz Naylor) were so far up the bill (and the fact that they weren’t booted off stage after one song.) 

 

One of the first bands we saw were the ever-brilliant Hamsters. Who said Manchester bands were humourless? (Well I did, I know, but there has to be exceptions) ‘Friday Night at the Chinese Chip shop’; ‘Ole Spain’; ‘I’m a C**t’ – I could sing them now. If I ever get to curate Meltdown (and surely it can’t be long) they’ll be first on my list.      

 

Next band were Armed Force, featuring the ubiquitous Muppet on vocals. He was at every gig you ever went to, in those days. (I often wonder what he did with his leather jacket with ‘Adam & the Ants’ lovingly rendered across the back. When ‘Prince Charming’ came out it must have broken his heart.)  I remember he had Leopard Skin hair, but I couldn’t tell you what they sounded like if you put a gun to my head. Punky, I’d guess.

 

Also on the bill that day (surprisingly low down) were The Frantic Elevators, forever known (in my house at least) as Mick Hucknall’s proper band. He had a decent set of pipes even then, though in those days he sounded more like Jon Anderson of Yes than Curtis Mayfield.  ‘Feel Like the Hunchback of Notre Dame’ – that was their big one, simultaneously more witty, poignant and catchy than anything Simply Red ever did (except possibly ‘Holding Back the Years’, but then that was an Elevators song as well).
 
 

 Joy Division were next on the bill. There were two things which really stuck in my mind about their set. One, inevitably, was Ian Curtis’ dancing, which, cliché though it is, really was a sight to behold. It didn’t seem linked to normal dancing, i.e. based on enjoyment of music or getting into the rhythm, at all. He just looked like some unseen force was making him do it. A man possessed, and simultaneously as exciting and disturbing as that sounds.

 

 

Being a drummer, the other thing that stuck in my mind was Steve Morris’ ‘Syn-Drum’™, which he could make go KCHKCK! and BO! (but not at the same time). This was obviously the future of drumming. All it needed was the ability to make 20 or 30 other interesting sounds and it would have really caught on. Funnily enough, the BO! sound can be heard on lots of records of the time, like ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ or ‘It Feels Like I’m In Love’ but I don’t remember the KCHKCK noise (which sounded like someone hitting corrugated iron with a screwdriver) appearing anywhere but ‘She’s Lost Control’. SLC was always 10 times better live than either of the recorded versions. In fact, their whole set that night was a lot rockier and aggressive than their albums would suggest, almost Heavy Metal at times. Barney’s guitar in particular was noticeably diminished by Martin Hannett’s production. In any case they were astonishing, much better than the next time I saw them, supporting Buzzcocks at the Apollo. On that occasion their set was cut to about 20 minutes, presumably for fear they would upstage the headliners. Heart-breakingly, then, ‘Stuff The Superstars’ must have been about as good as Joy Division ever got, as they didn’t have long left.   

 

They were followed by Ludus, most notable (at least to me) for featuring Linder, who designed the sleeve for ‘Orgasm Addict’. I’d seen them before (and hated them), so presumably I declined to stand through another performance, as I have no recollection of their set at all.

 

Next up were The Liggers. (Think a punk 3 Degrees, none of whom could sing particularly well. In fact, they were Bananarama, before Bananarama were). They were rather good, before their time, if anything, though their choice of associates left a little to be desired. It all kicked off back stage when Craig Scanlon, the newly installed Fall guitarist, in an outrageous display of arrogance, rested his arm on one of the Liggers guitar cases. He was rewarded for this disgraceful behaviour with a flying head butt from a Neolithic skinhead (One of The Liggers liggers?) After apologies had been proffered (Craig apologised for hitting the guy’s forehead with the bridge of his nose, and for getting blood on him, and the skinhead guy apologised for being a bit forward) Mark Smith sought to pour oil on troubled waters by tripping up the aggressive cave dweller as he walked past, then denying all knowledge, despite the baldy guy threatening to rip his face off. I was seriously impressed with Mr. Smith’s bravery, if not his common sense. I was also struck how the whole band had stuck together to deal with this unprovoked attack on one of their own. That’s how bands behave, I thought. This is the life for me, then.

 

Shortly after this The Fall took the stage.  The preceding events must have fired them up, as this was as good a performance as this line-up ever presented, complete with Mike Leigh’s legendary rendering of  ‘A Figure Walks’ standing up, new single ‘Rowche Rumble’ in all its ragged glory and ‘In My Area’ featuring those bloody awful rototoms. It was also Yvonne Pawlett’s last gig, according to my sources. The transformation from Witch Trial’s drilled and musicianly supergroup to the strange and quirky odd balls we all know and love was complete. Mark E. Smith, at least in those days, was as fascinating a figure to watch on stage as Ian C. had been earlier, stalking the stage, glaring angrily into the middle distance and doing that funny dance he used to do. His between-numbers patter in those days was also as entertaining as the songs.  What an absolute joy it was to watch The Fall in 1979. Someday all bands will be like this. 

 

The Distractions could only ever be a footnote, after that, though it’s a shame their lovingly-crafted pop vignettes never reached a bigger audience. The big problem was they never looked like the part, the singer and drummer especially (respectively the wrong side of 34” waist and 34 years old. It’s a tough gig this pop malarkey.) They had a male guitarist and a female bass player who wore matching outfits, I remember. They should have formed a duo, they looked great. Interesting side-note –  Legend has it that there was once a cash crisis at Island Records and a last minute meeting was called to decide whether to drop The Distractions or U2.  (They went with Distractions, by the way)

 

The ticket /flyer will tell you there were other bands on that night, Elti Fits, for instance, but I must confess I have no recollection. (At least I remember their existence, which is more than can be said of The 5 Skinners.) I must have also missed John the Postman, though I suspect he may have done Louie Louie. 

 

The evening (from the walk to the venue onwards) was imbued with the kind of tension and unease that you don’t get at gigs these days (or at least I don’t). The venue was filthy in the way that only Manchester clubs in 1979 could be. The sound was muddy, and to describe the organisation as amateurish is to be over generous.  One of the best gigs I ever attended, in summation. The Mayflower no longer exists, of course. The last gig I ever saw there was ‘Nik Turners Inner City Unit’. On that occasion me, Steve, Marc and Craig, and Bob and Moey from The Hamsters were the entire audience. Shame there’s nowhere to put the blue plaque.  

 

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