“WE WALKED around for a while before we could find someone to tell us where the gig was. We went up these endless dark steps up to a massive hall with lots of people with funny hairstyles, selling ace fanzines called Kill Your Pet Puppy, while other people with green and red dreadlocks smoked sweet-smelling ciggies. We sat in front of the stage and read some fanzines.
The Passion Killers came on and did a lot of songs and I liked them all. There were three of them and the drummer was very good. They went off and I went to the toilet.
When I came back, D&V were on and by now the hall was filling up with girls with fluffy pink hair and studded leather jackets with ‘The Destructors’ painted on the back. There were lots of other people as well but I didn’t really notice them. Anyway, D&V were ace. They did the stuff off their Crass record and most people seemed to like them.
Zillions of people came onstage and started to put a washing line up on stage. A bloke started sweeping up in the middle of the audience. Chumbawamba’s set was very theatrical, with people swapping instruments, chalking stuff on the floor, and splashing red paint over Action Men and themselves. Some of the songs were slow, gentle ballads, I suppose, and others were like wall of noise aaaaargh-type things. I liked it…”
WHEN the final volume of David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet was published in 2002, the one thing that shell-shocked readers knew for sure was that his compelling saga of lost children, corrupt coppers and accidental heroes would never make it to the screen.
Peace’s thrilling, visceral, often unhinged prose seemed resolutely unfilmable, his grimly compulsive tales too complicated, too perverse, too downright ugly for the increasingly risk-averse and anodyne worlds of TV and film.
Telling a story of dirty deals and bloody murder in deepest, darkest Yorkshire which spans the best part of a decade, the blood-soaked quartet almost seems to imply that evil often triumphs whether good men do anything or not. Midsommer Murders, it isn’t.
IN MANY ways, being able to get into the football club discos and pigeon fanciers dinner-dances which were held at the village community hall was merely a fringe-benefit of getting served in the White Lion.
I must’ve been about 14 when me and Sally from down the road – blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful, blessed at an early age with a mesmerising, gravity-defying bosom, and utterly oblivious to my hopeless, clod-hopping adoration – summoned up all the courage we could muster, took off our school ties and went into the White Lion to buy advance tickets for some do at the community hall one dinnertime.
It was obvious that Sandra behind the bar would’ve been as happy to sell us booze as she was tickets. We had to get back to school but I promised myself I’d return to try my luck the following weekend.
Unfortunately, getting the tickets for the do didn’t really get me any further with the hypnotically unattainable Sally, although it did teach me a couple of lessons which would prove to be invaluable in later life – when it comes to illicit fun after dark, you have to brazen it out and look the part, even if you’re not. And while girls are often quite impressed if you can get them into night clubs, they’re not that impressed.
AS WE approach the first anniversary of Tony Wilson’s death, I thought this might be an appropriate time to publish a longer version of a piece I wrote about the Tony Wilson Experience, a ’24-hour conversation’ organised in Wilson’s memory by his friends.
It took place in Manchester from Saturday to Sunday, from noon on June 21 (the longest day) to noon on June 22, in front of a specially invited audience of young Manchester creatives.
Stupidly, I volunteered to cover the whole thing on my own.
* * *
11.45am: We’re in a white tent that looks like a small big top. The circus is in town.
What will be variously described as ‘a yurt’, ‘Tony’s tepee’, and more properly, ‘Manchester International Festival’s Stephenson Bell pavilion’, has landed next door to Urbis for the Tony Wilson Experience, a non-stop 24-hour marathon of intelligent conversation in honour of the great Salfordian entrepreneur who died just over a year ago.
“The Tony Wilson Experience is for the next generation of creative talent,” say Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese and Peter Saville, the city’s creative director and Wilson’s colleague and friend for many years in the event programme. “We hope it will inspire, stimulate and encourage them and help them to unlock their own creativity an future potential.
“It is our way of paying tribute to Anthony H Wilson.
“A remarkable man”.
A voice bubble saying ‘Reification’ hovers above a couple of Habitat sofas on a small stage. Hacienda-style yellow and black vinyl stripes cover the floor and string quartet Litmus’s gentle reworking of Love Will Tear Us Apart plays over the PA system. I wonder how my backside is going to cope with sitting on these unforgiving wooden seats.
The longest day is about right.
IT WASN’T so unusual that someone threw a party in Gildersome, just south of Leeds, 10 years ago. What was unusual was the fact that 836 people were arrested for attending it.
The party wasn’t for anyone’s birthday. According to flyers which had been circulating throughout the north over the previous month, it was called Love Decade. It took place in an empty warehouse on the Treefield Industrial Estate, just off Gelderd Road.
The party’s organisers didn’t actually own the warehouse – they’d had to snip through a padlock with a pair of bolt cutters before getting in. Some started to rig up a basic soundsystem while others headed for Harsthead services, just up the M62, to collect their guests.
Just after 2am they headed back at the head of a convoy of hundreds of cars and vans. The police, including the West Yorkshire force’s helicopter, followed at a discrete distance.
Hundreds of people got into the warehouse before the organisers closed the doors. Hundreds more gathered outside. Sue Hollingsworth had travelled over from Blackburn earlier in the evening.
“There were police all over the place,” she remembers. “We abandoned the car and legged it towards the party but you couldn’t get anywhere near it. All the roads around had roadblocks on them, they had dogs, searchlights, the lot.”
I CAN honestly say that (with the possible exception of my beautiful and clever friend Clare’s novel The Dying Of Delight), I’ve never looked forward to the publication of a book like I’m looking forward to the publication of Mark E Smith’s autobiography Renegade: The Lives And Tales Of Mark E Smith.
It probably says a lot about my cultural priorities, but there you go. I’m gagging for it.
I’ve got a couple of Fall-related Hip Replacements in the pipeline but for now, here’s the first interview I did with him.
It was a couple of months after I’d started work on Swan Street and I was just about to leave Leeds to live in Manchester. My opposite number at the London Big Issue, the very wonderful Tina, passed on the interview to me as a kind of ‘welcome to the organisation’ gift. It was my first big, nationally syndicated piece. It was all very exciting.
I might be wrong, but I think that the IRA’s explosive redesign of Manchester city centre occured at some point between interview and publication, because it doesn’t come up in the conversation and I’m sure it’s the kind of thing I would’ve mentioned.
One sunny weekday afternoon, I left the office, walked down to a boozer at the bottom of Oldham Road and met up with Mark and Julia Nagle. He pressured me into getting a load of cans in.
I didn’t mind.
* * *
I WATCH the postman wheel his cart down the other side of our road and wonder if eil.com can have got my order to me by today. I get a bit excited all of a sudden.
A few minutes later, he’s coming back down our side of the street. He’s a couple of houses away. I hold my breath. Come on lad, I think, you can do it.
The buzzer goes. “Package for you,” it says in a metallic Mancunian monotone.
Two seconds and three storeys later, I open the front door and take the 12-inch cardboard mailer from the unsuspecting postie. If only you knew what you‘re delivering, I think to myself, idiotically, as I thank him.
I make myself walk back up the stairs at a more sedate pace. It’s a big effort. When I get back in the flat I sit on the settee, open the package and slide the album out of its protective sleeve to reveal the savagely androgynous figures on the cover, still every bit as striking, ugly, perverse and compelling as the first day I saw them.
IN A CLIMATE where brands like Carling and O2 bankroll festivals as a way of boosting their credibility with impressionable young consumers, Deeply Vale seems like some strange and exotic anachronism.
There was no corporate branding of the Deeply Vale festival, which took place in a secluded valley somewhere between Bury and Rochdale over the course of four years at the dog-end of the Seventies. There weren’t even any toilets for the first couple of years.
Instead, the first festival was part funded by local progressive rock band Tractor, using royalties from their releases on John Peel’s Dandelion label. The remainder of the budget came from a 50 pence surcharge levied on local pot-heads by community-minded dealers at a squat in Rochdale.
This motley crew of hippies, idealists and out-and-out freaks rented the valley during the long, hot summer of 1976, telling the landowner they were organising a camping holiday for about 10 people.
In the event, about 300 people turned up to see Tractor and various friends perform in Deeply Vale’s natural amphitheatre through a PA system donated by an ever-benevolent John Peel. There was free food (bean stew, goat curry and egg butties) but no admission fee. Bands were paid in pot.