86 Palatine Road

A flat in this house on Palatine Road was once the home of one Alan Erasmus. In 1978 he co-founded Factory records along with Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton. Martin Hannett and Peter Saville soon joined. The label operated out of this flat throughout the 1980s, a short distance from where I grew up. The tales of Factory Records and its bands are the stuff of legend- no contracts, fifty-fifty split between label and bands, the artists own the music, the Hacienda must be built, Ian Curtis, So It Goes, Granada TV, Joy Division, New Order, the numbering system, A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column, Section 25, Stockholm Monsters, The Distractions, Crispy Ambulance, 52nd Street, Quando Quango, The Wake, James, The Railway Children, The Royal Family And The Poor, Miaow, Happy Mondays, the Factory egg timer, die-cut sleeves, tracing paper sleeves, no band photos on the sleeves,… In 1990 Factory moved out of 86 Palatine Road and into Factory 251 in town.
Yesterday a blue plaque was awarded to 86 Palatine Road in recognition of Factory’s cultural, civic and artistic importance. Shaun Ryder unveiled the plaque. Of course given that he demanded the destruction of the Hacienda to  prevent it becoming a museum piece Tony Wilson may not have approved of this recognition of a piece of Manchester’s musical history. But if buildings are going to be awarded blue plaques for the part they played, then this is as deserving as any.
There are so many songs that illustrate Factory’s brilliance in the 80s. On this song Otis, from Durutti Column’s 1989 album (named after its creator Vini Reilly), Otis Redding’s voice is sampled along with vocals credited to Vini’s friend Pol. Reilly’s guitar playing is fluid and lighter than air, echo on the arpeggios underpinning and enveloping the spectral Otis vocal- ‘another sleepless night for me’. And then ‘come back, come back’.

I Can’t Stand By, See You Destroyed

What happened here on Monday night and what we woke up to yesterday morning defies belief in so many ways and it’s difficult to know what to say, especially in a music blog. Equally, it’s hard not to take something like this personally when it happens so close to home. My family and my workplace knew several people at the Ariana Grande show at the MEN on Monday night.

Manchester is one of the most culturally diverse, multi-cultural and inclusive cities in the country. As Dave Haslam said on Twitter yesterday ‘You’ve got the wrong city if you think that hate will tear us apart’. We don’t do small mindedness, racism and intolerance. One deluded, indoctrinated, murderous little fucker does not prove anything about the people we know as our neighbours. Anger and hatred and rage are understandable reactions to the deaths of twenty two people, including children, on a night out to see a gig, but the minute we give in to hate we have lost. We stand together, we feel anger but we love life, we love love and we hate hate.

This song by Doves came to mind and the opening line which gives this post its title. And also this part…

‘We don’t mind
If this don’t last forever
See the light
But it won’t last forever
Seize the time
Cause it’s now or never baby’

Pounding

At times like this football seems like a very small thing in terms of importance but it’s also a massive part of this city’s history and traditions. With any luck tonight United will bring home a European trophy, with a multiracial, multicultural team of young black British Mancunians, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Equadorians, Dutchmen, Italians, Belgians, Armenians and more besides. United we stand.

Cities In The Park

Just over twenty five years ago Factory Records put on a two day festival in Heaton Park, Manchester, in memory of Martin Hannett who had died earlier that year. Day One, Saturday August 3rd, included Buzzcocks, Paris Angels, Ruthless Rap Assassins, The Railway Children, OMD and The Wonderstuff. Day Two, Sunday, was almost entirely Factory acts- Happy Mondays, Electronic, ACR, Revenge, Durutti Column, The Wendys and Cath Carroll plus De La Soul, 808 State and New fast Automatic Daffodils. There were two day camping tickets- but who would want to camp in Heaton Park?

We went on the Sunday. It was hot. I met my brother there, who came in when some of the crowd outside pushed the fence down. He had a ticket but just fancied coming in through the fence. From memory Durutti were good but a bit lost in a giant field, Revenge were a bit iffy (Hooky playing bass, singing and whacking the syndrums repeatedly, probably trying to overcompensate for the bad blood between him and Bernard Sumner, New Order’s split and their relative positions on the bill). ACR were good, 808 State really moved the crowd, De La Soul were shouty. Electronic were imperious, especially when the Pet Shop Boys turned up on stage and you scanned left to right and saw key members of New Order, The Smiths and PSBs all together for one song. It’s shame they played live so rarely.

The whole event was filmed and a video released which I bought but no longer have. Here’s a scene setter…

And here an enthusiastic Tony Wilson interviews Johnny Marr, Rowetta, Shaun Ryder and Bez…

This Youtube uploader has labelled this as Electronic live in London  but it’s definitely Heaton Park.

Happy Mondays were by 1991 a stunningly effective if very unlikely stadium band. Kinky Afro rocks. No, it doesn’t, it grooves.

Midnight

I found this twenty four minute time capsule while looking for this morning’s Yargo clip- a special edition of Tony Wilson’s The Other Side Of Midnight TV show from the summer of 1989. Mike Pickering’s T-Coy, A Guy Called Gerald and Happy Mondays playing live down at Granada Studios. A party, as Wilson says, with the emphasis on part-E. As ever, the crowd (their clothes, hairstyles and dancing) are the real stars.

Bodybeat

Italian reader Luca has a guest spot over at Acid Ted where he regularly writes about the joys of Italian disco. Recently he bemoaned the lack of the 12″ version of Bodybeat Blues by Yargo anywhere on the internet. I left a comment saying I might have it. I don’t unfortunately, neither in physical format nor digitally. I do have the album Bodybeat though and the album version of the song. Sorry Luca.

Bodybeat Blues

To summarise, and I’m sure I’ve typed a paragraph very similar to this before, Yargo were the classic example of an 80s Manchester band who could pull a thousand people to a gig with an M postcode but were virtually unheard of elsewhere. Singer Basil Clarke (the owner of a golden voice that drew comparisons with Marvin Gaye), Phil Kirby and Paddy Steer (drums and bass) had all been in Biting Tongues (the former home of Graham Massey of 808 State and also a man called Eddie, who I know). Yargo played a Mancunian take on jazz, soul, reggae, ska and dub with a bit of rock too. Andy Diagram (trumpet, later in James) also passed through the ranks. Bodybeat, from 1987, is a lost gem, well worth checking out. They also did the theme tune to Anthony H Wilson’s late night music show The Other Side Of Midnight, Granada region only, and the source of legendary live appearances by Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses. Yargo split in 1991. Basil Clarke has made solo records and sung with Future Sound Of London. Listen to this below (or that above) and you’ll see that they should have been much bigger than they were.

Granada

I went to the launch event for the St Anthony single on Friday night- it was a ticketed event before you go imagining I’m some kind of mover or shaker. It was held in the old Granada TV studios, Wilson’s place of work. After a screening of the video and some brief interview clips Mike Garry performs several of his distinctively Mancunian poems with Joe Duddell and a string quartet, finishing with St Anthony- An Ode To Anthony H Wilson. His poetry is hard edged, honest, human and real and often comes loaded with a punchline, making you both laugh and cry and his delivery is a performance- rapid fire rhymes and sudden stops. The Wilson tribute especially is moving, heartfelt without ever becoming sentimental- much like the man himself. At ten the doors to one of the filming studios opens and the thump of house music begins. Mike Pickering plays what turns out to be a blinding set followed at midnight by Bobby Langley who starts out with the Andrew Weatherall remix of St Anthony, this new version of Your Silent Face booming out with Mike Garry’s voice. Manchester vibes are very much in the area.

You can buy the single in a variety of formats here with proceeds to The Christie and their continuing fight against cancer. Do you want to hear the Andrew Weatherall remix? Thought you might…

Rotten

One of the books I got through on holiday in France was John Lydon’s autobiography Anger Is An Energy. It was in parts entertaining and infuriating (like the man himself), but eventually became a bit boring. I’ll come back to it in a bit.

John Lydon willed himself into becoming Johnny Rotten in his late teens, a complete one-off, unique, an utterly new frontman for a rock ‘n’ roll band. The three men he joined were essentially a sped up pub rock band using stolen gear until John found his voice and wrote lyrics that did more than describe boredom, they actually took on the British establishment. Their recorded legacy is out of all proportion to their influence and importance- four astonishing singles, one breathtaking album (containing all four astonishing singles) and a B-side (The Stooges cover No Fun). Lydon freely admits in his book that he had no idea how to sing when he joined the band, had never thought of joining a group or singing. His vocal style is perfect for those songs and had to be found quickly, in rehearsal rooms and then on stage. His lyrics on Anarchy In The UK and God Save The Queen are supreme, his delivery on Pretty Vacant is hair raising, not to mention Bodies or Submission. Rotten wasn’t just about the words, he knew image and presentation were important, stamps of identity and markers. The visual sense of Rotten and the Pistols and their entourage is as important as their sound.

In 1976 Tony Wilson put them on Granada TV at tea time (Lydon slags Wilson off in his book, calling him smug and sarcastic, which is a bit silly).

The Sex Pistols were, given the personalities involved, always living on borrowed time and their split can’t have surprised anyone. The Winterland gig in 1978 contains the greatest onstage comment ever (at 6.39).

Lydon’s book is good on the Pistols years, his upbringing and his dirt poor childhood of North London in the 1960s, the Irish and Jamaican diaspora, his illness and recovery (meningitis, not nice) and the rise from nothing to pioneering punk band and public enemy number one. This is all good stuff and well told. But, and you knew there was a but, eventually it all gets very wearing. The book is written in Lydon’s voice which gives it authenticity I suppose, but after a while all the phwooaars and wowzers and BITS-IN-CAPITAL-LETTERS get irritating. Not to mention constantly referring to himself in the third person. He also slags off almost everyone except his wife and family- Malcolm McClaren (no surprise there), Vivienne Westwood, all his fellow Sex Pistols, most of the other punk bands, Joe Strummer, everyone in PiL especially Jah Wobble and Keith Levene, his live audience (who can’t keep up with him apparently), the record buying audience, Britain, journalists (he’s never had any good press apparently), Jon Savage… and so on. He claims to have invented almost everything that’s happened since the mid 70s from punk (fair enough) and social comment in songs, to house music and hip hop, even David Beckham’s haircuts… Everything he’s done was always the right decision (including inviting Sid in to join the Pistols, which partly led to the demise of both the band and Sid). He sees himself as a walking version of the Millwall FC song- no one likes him, he doesn’t care. On top of this he is wildly contradictory. He claims Sid was both clever and stupid within a few pages. He claims to abhor violence, lives the life of a Gandhi loving pacifist yet gets a massive kick repeatedly out of hanging around with Arsenal’s top boys, drinking in pubs used by London’s gangsters, and using his minder/manager Rambo to cause trouble and crack heads. On and on he goes, circling around, falling out with everyone he’s ever worked with, most of whom are portrayed as money grabbing parasites while his motives are always pure and artistic. He does admit he must be hard to work with. The chapter on the 1996 Sex Pistols re-union is a joke- Jones, Matlock and Cook were all this, while he was that, it wasn’t about the money, he doesn’t have any money, he did it for the art unlike the others, they insulted him with a demo for a new song etc etc. It wore me out to be honest and by the last few chapters detailing his television work I’d pretty much lost interest. Which is a shame because he was one of the true, stand alone giants in music.

It may be of course that the whole book is just a wind up. In which case, pffft.

I’ll get to PiL later.