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.
I MET John White aka UV Pop when I bunked off sixth form and went over to Doncaster with some girl I was seeing at the time to interview Marcus Featherby about his label, Pax. I’d come into contact with Marcus through the punk gigs he promoted at the Marples in Sheffield. I’d never met anyone quite like either of them before.
At the time, Marcus was staying at John’s two-up-two-down in Bentley. My most vivid memory is the heating not being on, despite it being a very cold Yorkshire winter, but then again, I was still living with my parents, and didn’t have to worry about paying for leccy. And I think my girlfriend was much more impressed with both John and Marcus than she was with me.
Marcus gave me a copy of the debut, Cabs-produced UV Pop single, and I was impressed enough to interview John for my fanzine. I have no clue whether we did the interview in person or through the post.
People being vegetarian seemed to be really important to me at the time (I’d gone veggie about six months earlier, so I had the conviction of the convert), and I had yet to work out the world was coloured in various shades of grey rather than the black and white certainty I so clearly craved.
I’d like to say my interview technique is more subtle and nuanced these days but it really isn’t.
I can’t find any activity for UV Pop (who eventually became a proper band despite John’s reservations), beyond 2012, but I hope John is still making music.
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.
ANY group that has a song with the chorus “Aaaaargh! Aaargh! Aaaaaargh!” must be pretty good. Bristol cider punks Disorder were precisely one such band. Plus, they are named after the fantastic Joy Division track. Me, Doug and John went to see them, Antisect and Amebix at one of Nick Toczek’s excellent and cheap (£2/£1.50) gigs at the Bierkeller in Leeds in December 1983.
As the intro to the original interview in my zine put it:
Lots of people were drunk so it might not make all that much sense in places. For realism, add lots of stupid laughing in between each question.
I’M VERY comfortable in record shops. Too comfortable, some might say.
Either way, I’ve spent too much time and money on both sides of the counter in new and secondhand record shops to worry about what some spod in a Radiohead tee thinks of my taste in music.
Not, I hasten to add, that the knowledgeable, dedicated and more often than not friendly and approachable musical-curation professionals in the shops I frequent are spods. And they’d also be unlikely to wear Radiohead T-shirts, probably. I hope.
Yes, they might be a bit eccentric at times but remember that they have to work with the public, week in, week out. They are a very agreeable bunch of people by and large, considering.
Take a bow, all you ruthless rinsers of my wallet at King Bee, Vinyl Exchange, Piccadilly Records, Vinyl Revival, Eastern Bloc, Jumbo, Relics, Phonica, Sister Ray and Reckless – and any number of breadhead charity shop wankers the length and breadth of Britain.
You are more persuasive, convincing and clinically efficient than any dirty drug dealer I’ve ever met. No doubt I’ll be seeing you again soon.
THE FALL got together exactly 40 years ago, to the day. Mark E Smith’s modus operandi of basic rock n roll accompanied by a very singular kind of northern beat poetry remains true to his original vision, albeit delivered by an ever-changing supporting cast of musical misfits. And assorted wives, girlfriends and lovers, older and otherwise.
Think what you want about him but nobody gets that lucky this often. The guy is a fucking genius and we are privileged to be breathing the same air as him.
Would I want to hang out with him on a regular basis?
Has he recorded songs that have made me happy, consistently, over a number of decades?
Do his lyrics still dazzle with a deranged, unique and often completely unexpected poetic worldview?
Has he presided over some of the most insane gigs I’ve ever seen in my entire life?
So, this is a few songs from the canon of MES. There is no definitive list of great Fall songs and people who tell you otherwise are liars. These are five MES songs I like today. It’ll change tomorrow.
And that is entirely appropriate.
PUNK ROCK DISCO. When punks tried to make dance music and when dancing music people get a bit punk rock. Or something. All bets are off.