Tag Archives: manchester

Five x Mark E Smith

SOMETIMES I think the world is simply too weird without Mark E Smith. Other times, I think it’s not weird enough.

Either way, I miss him. I wish he was still around to enlighten us with his opinion on the hole we find ourselves in today. I wish we had a new Fall album to look forward to rather than an unstoppable stream of reissues of varying quality and morality.

And I wish I could go and see the Fall one last time and wonder what version of MES we’ll be getting tonight, knowing full well it’ll either be very good or very bad but it’ll never be indifferent.

Luckily, the body of work he left behind bears repeated listening. Obviously.

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Damo Suzuki meets Imperial Wax at the White Hotel

LOCATED in one of those patches of bleak post-industrial wasteland that Manchester used to do so well before all the foreign money arrived, the White Hotel is sort of white but it’s certainly not a hotel. The bar, with staff serving drinks from a sunken inspection pit, seems to indicate a former life as a garage. A dodgy garage, knocking out fake MOTs, no doubt.

It’s just over the other side of Bury New Road from HMP Manchester, in the area of Manchester that once gave the prison its name. They like their evocative place names in Manchester, and this is about as Manchester as it gets. Even if we are in Salford.

Strangeways indeed.

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Bummed by Happy Mondays (Factory Records)

IT’S 9am on an autumnal Saturday morning and my world-leading not-so-full English breakfast is missing one vital ingredient.

I get a packet of Cauldron’s world-class Lincolnshire sausages from the Tesco Metro in Stretford Arndale and then head upstairs to check out the new record shop Suzie has been talking about.

Reel Around the Fountain’s doors are open but there’s nobody about as I quickly scan the sleeves poking out of the tops of a couple of dozen racks dividing up a pretty generous amount of retail space. There’s even a settee.

“Morning,” I say to the guy who emerges from the back.

“Is it?” he says, rubbing his head.

After a long day at work yesterday, Nigel got home to find DIY awaiting him, one glass of wine turned into another and, long story short, he’s now in work at 9am on a Saturday morning, hungover as fuck.

He was in the market downstairs for a couple of years but he’s only been in here for three weeks, and you need to put the hours in. The shop opens every day of the week, apart from Sunday.

Am I looking for anything in particular? Mate, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

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Two hundred years of Paper Recordings

MANCHESTER-based Paper Recordings released some magical and beautiful house music from the mid-Nineties onwards. The label continues to release great music to this day.

This is the story of Paper Recordings, in the words of people who made it happen.

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Greg Wilson

AS MUCH as Greg Wilson is excited about DJing a big, open-air gig on the Pier Head in his home town of Liverpool – and he’s clearly thrilled – you also get the impression that he’s every bit as excited about the chance to talk about the ideas behind his involvement with the Very Big After Party.

Transatlantic 175 is a commemoration of 175 years of passenger travel across the Atlantic, taking place on Liverpool’s waterfront and docks. It involves the Very Big Catwalk, an attempt to break the world record for most models on a catwalk, followed by the veteran DJ Wilson doing his stuff for the assorted fashion divas at the Very Big After Party.

Wilson was brought in by Wayne Hemingway (whose Vintage Festival is also at the dock over the weekend), with a brief to highlight the musical connections between Liverpool and the US.

The perceived wisdom is that the story of musical Liverpool all started with the Cunard Yanks, the merchant seamen who went to New York and took the music, the clothes, even the mannerisms they found back to their home city, planting the seeds that would eventually grow into the Beatles and Merseybeat. A young George Harrison, for example, bought a black Gretsch guitar from a Cunard Yank fresh off the boat from New York.

“That’s not half the story, even though it’s massively important,” says Wilson over a tea cake in a restaurant on the seafront in New Brighton.

“Bob Wooler, the DJ at the Cavern, told me that he got his records from everywhere, it wasn’t just about the Cunard Yanks. He told me he used to buy a lot of new American imports from a shop in Newton-le-Willows. That seemed a bit bizarre to me. But it’s next to Burtonwood Airbase. It makes complete sense. They were selling them to the US servicemen.

“There’ve been American servicemen in this country since the second world war. I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s such an affinity with black music. And that scenario plays out in Liverpool as much as anywhere else. Black American servicemen used to come to clubs like the Timepiece in Liverpool in the 70s. And at the same time, it was always a cosmopolitan city. It was a melting pot for ideas.”

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Swing Out Sister

THE first time I ever got an inkling of the glamour surrounding Swing Out Sister was during a stint working behind the counter at a record shop in a dour northern steel town.  One morning about 25 girls came in and asked for a record called Breakout by Swing Out Sister. None of us had ever heard of them but I liked the band already ..

I liked them even more when I saw the beautifully designed sleeve for Breakout, featuring the group’s singer Corinne Drewery, with a look inspired by equal parts Kibuki theatre, Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box and Tiger from The Double Deckers.

By the time I heard the exuberant brass-heavy electro-funk of the record itself, I was sold. The whole package – the look, the music, even the name – exuded a certain elan, an effortless glamour, easy sophistication, sheer class. All qualities in short supply in Scunthorpe at that time.

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Inca Babies

POSTAL interview alert! Another one from the photocopied, poorly laid-out pages of Airstrip fanzine, this time with the archetypal mid Eighties Hulme combo, Inca Babies.

Think quiffs and stubble, swampy blues and murky rock’n’roll, nasty drugs and bad housing (117 William Kent Crescent to be precise) and you’ll be in the right kind of area, more or less.

I never got to see this lot live for some reason but for a time I liked their records a lot. However, that didn’t stop me from putting together a list of hopelessly naive and ridiculous questions for guitarist Harry S to answer.

What can I say? I was just emerging from a scene where everything was very black and white and transparent lyrics and cheap admission to gigs seemed to be very important indeed.


* * *

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Richard Moonboots

ACCORDING to Richard Moonboots’ MySpace profile, he is currently into:

“Balearic beats, Cricket, Scandinavian design, Barbour jackets, Liverpool FC, Fine wine, Sea food, the rather fine English countryside, Metro maps of the world, Beard growth, German orthopaedic footwear, Roberts radios, Moleskine notepads, Meat, Nordic crime literature, Cheesecake, Photography, Expensive socks, My daily Sudoku ..”

I interviewed Moonboots in July 2001 for the Big Issue in the North, just before the release of his mix for Phil Mison’s Soundcolors series, although I’d met him out and about a few years before that, and had been going to Aficionado, on and off, since the early days at Aqua.

Unfortunately, space constraints meant that the interview wasn’t a long one – though since our sub editor managed to insert another D into ‘Addidas’, perhaps that’s just as well. That wasn’t embarrassing at all. Oh no.

Tediously, I can’t find my original interview notes so I’ve added a review I did of Aficionado in January 2000.

I have bittersweet memories of this particular night because I was ‘on a break’ with a girl I was seeing at the time, went down to Zumbar and got bowled over by this beautiful Dutch siren. Unfortunately, I didn’t get her number. I never saw her there again. Hmmm.

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Mark E Smith *2

MARK E SMITH of the Fall is talking to me, eyeball to eyeball, giving me a few pointers about how I might like to approach our interview:

“Is he an idiot like Oasis? Or is he friendly like New Order? Or is he reclusive like Morrissey?” he whines in a fey, airhead manner, before snapping back into reality and fixing me with a surprisingly steely and clear-eyed gaze. “Say what you want. But watch your back.”

MES doesn’t have much time for the people others might regard as his contemporaries. If you see Manchester as one big happy musical family, Smith is the surly step-child in the corner, loudly singing off-key and out of time, spoiling it for everyone. Loving the fact that he is spoiling it for everyone.

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The Band on the Wall, reborn

THERE are plenty of venues in Manchester that are bigger than the Band on the Wall, and there may even be a few with a higher profile – but none of them can boast the same kind of musical pedigree.

A tavern, pub and venue which, in one form or another has been entertaining successive generations of Mancunians for the best part of 200 years, singing, dancing, drinking and carousing are part of the very fabric of the Band on the Wall.

Indeed, the interior of the newly-refurbished and expanded venue, situated on Swan Street in the city centre, was for much of its life darkly lacquered with nicotine stains, spilled drinks, more than a little shoe-leather and the sweat from the brows of a thousand dancers, lovingly reapplied over the course of decades.

For some, this only enhanced the gritty authenticity of the venue. For others, attracted by a uniquely visionary and diverse live music programme, it was a case of holding your nose and tiptoeing around the Band on the Wall’s flooded nether regions. Either way, the building’s deficiencies were beginning to get in the way of the entertainment it offered and it finally closed its doors in 2005, with a promise to return bigger and better at some undefined point in the future.

Four years later, the gleaming venue is preparing to open its doors once again.

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