Category Archives: Teenage Funkland

Teenage Funkland 7: Glasto ’94

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Concluding Damian Beeson Bullen’s
Retrospective adventure
Thro’ the Birth of Britpop


On a  Friday in late June, 1994, as the festival was kicking off we were just over the Bristol channel & back in Ynyssdu. Our plan was to cash our giros, buy some weed & get to the party. Unfortunately, the dodgy guys upstairs had fuckin cashed them, scarpered somewhere & left us with about a fiver in our pockets. We also had a letter on the mat saying our tenancy was up that weekend & could we kindly fuck off, seeing as we weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.  We opened up a window & Mar-Mari’s cage so she could escape to liberty, & like birds ourselves flew into an uncertain future. Perhaps it was time to go home, but we had come so far & had never let a lack of funds stop us before. The next morning we packed up our things & set off for the festival.

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The journey to the site took us thro Cardiff & Bristol & on to Castle Cary train station, all curtesy of some top-notch train jumping. At Castle Cary we could hear the dull throb of the music coming from the distance, which was in fact several miles away. Luckily some local farmer in a range rover picked us up & drove us to the site. So we had arrived, but had no money & no way of getting in. We had heard about climbing over the fence for free, & indeed this is what I would do for the next few years until they turned it into Alcatraz, but that still wouldnt have solved our cash flow crisis. Then it struck me – the previous year I had got my gran to deposit some money in Burnley police station & I drew it from some cockney station – like an immediate emergancy bank.

 “Scuze me officer, me & Nick have lost all our cash & tickets on the train!”

“Better come with me then son!”

…he said, & led us to the police compound. We were a little unnerved by it all, but a few phone calls later Nick’s mum had deposited some cash in Barnoldswick & we were on our way to Shepton Mallet, about six miles from the site. There we picked up some cash, a few supplies & rerurned to the site again, where a very kind policeman let us in to the festy. A superb result & soon we had our tent up, scored some weed off a guy from Barlick who was a couple of tents away, & roaming the festy.

The sun was beating down on us as we wandered about, wide-eyed. All the cool kids of the country were there, the mod-ish girls were wearing bloke’s shirts, v neck jumpers, jeans & doc martins, while the lads were sporting addidas trainers, orange cords & tight stripy t-shirts with no logo. The rockers all had long hair & were still wearing their Manics & Nirvana t-shirts with pride. There was alos the huge, obligatory hippy contingent, who had all dobbed in over the fence to give the atmosphere its unique flavour (& smell). Those who go to a more corporate, money-grabbing, Glastonbury these days are only feeling a small percantage of the true felling of the place – after all it was born from a few hippies bouncing naked round a field, surviving on acid & the free milk Michael Eavis used to bring down from his farm.

Are you gonna wake up then, yeah? Yeah? Some real songs
Liam Gallagher, Glastonbury 1994

We had a smashing couple of days at our first Glasto on Worthy Farm  – the year of the legendary Orbital gig – a revelutionary gig that changed the nature of the festival. Brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll played uncompromising, uncut, complex but fantastically thrilling electronics, their heads bobbing up and down inside their control tower with only their trademark torch spectacles visible like two extraterrestrials. Techno bled into drum’n’bass into dream-like abstract reveries, and some 40,000 people roared the Hartnolls on, bringing to life the paradox of dance music: there’s nothing so human as machine music. A year later Glastonbury had a Dance Tent. Now it has a whole Dance Village.

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1994 also saw Oasis on the brink of greatness playing second on the bill at the NME Stage, early afternoon on Sunday, sandwiched between Echobelly and west Midlands’ Nirvana-sampling hip hop crew Credit To The Nation. In the sunshine I mused on a crowd far in excess of that first time we’d seen them only a few weeks back in Newquay. I was even singing along to the tunes.

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It’s so early on for them, in fact, that Noel’s not even doing any backing vocals. Instead, he has to walk over to Liam’s mic whenever he wants to address the crowd. Other interesting points from the vid include the alternative lyrics to ‘Shakermaker’. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony / I’d like to buy you all a coke to get you off your tree”. & Noel walking offstage before the rest of the band after final track ‘I Am The Walrus’, leaving Bonehead, Guigsy et al to finish the song by themselves – just like in Newquay – Totally cool. No goodbye, no smiles, no nothing.

That Sunday really did see the birth of Britpop – after Oasis came Pulp, then if we neatly skip Radiohead (never liked them) at night was Blur. You just had to be there! While security buzzed about on quads between marauding squads of hari-krishnas, clutching their walkie-talkies like lances,  Bjork was beautiful as ever in an identical but different coloured outfit from Brixton, the full on hippified Stone Circle blew my mind – & we even got on the telly. Elsewhere on the site, a 92-year-old Pilton villager, keen to see Johnny Cash, was honoured by festival organisers with a prime spot.

Me & Nick drifted into a small tent for a spliff to find Keith Allen being filmed doing a balloon dance to nudity for Channel 4. In the footage the 18 year old me is sat laughing with Nicky – proper evidence we were there among the local farmers quaffing scrumpy & the dodgy Mancs muttering ‘hash-speed-acid-best on site geezer’ to the winds.

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80,000 had officially bought tickets at £59 a pop, but of course many had snook in. I went to every Glasto myself up til 2000, after which they increased security to keep blaggers like me out. In those 7 years I’d only ever paid a Scouser £5 to hop over the fence with his ladder. One year I’d even used a sewer. You left your bags outside, went in & got your exit stamp as you left the site to get your bags – wonderful!

Glastonbury has got this tradition of caring. I would have liked to have been here when it started. Now, like everything else, it’s turning into a theme park.
Anthony Lee, a 23-year-old volunteer on the Big Issue stall for the homeless


It was 1994 at Glastonbury that I had the greatest confirmation Of my path. That’s when the spiritual reality became and the reality of consciousness and healing dimensions became visible to me. Without Glastonbury Festival i would never have found my healing gift. I was thinking back to the days before everybody had a mobile phone, Glastonbury Festival had phone booths in the Greenfields, No one had a smart phone and internet access didnt exist. People were climbing under the fence, over the fence by their hundreds and the festival population was even more massive as a result. It was always wild before the Super Fence went up. But always deeply Magical. It is the Healing Fields that I have the deepest reverence for, even in the Sodom and Gomorrah years it was a Heaven of safety and tranquillity, thats one of the reasons I was so determined to be one of The Healing Fields Spiritual Healers. Of course I miss being there its the Festival that awakened me to Healing Grace. But my circumstances are and this year I cannae be there. Jennifer Juniper, Elizabeth Dallas, Sarah Birdsall. My Heart is with you in the Healing Fields. Mark Divine Calvert


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Back in 1994 on the Saturday night there was a shooting incident involving five people when a man began firing a .45 semi-automatic pistol in a drugs-related fight near one of the stages at 10pm on Saturday – but no one was badly hurt.  There was also the first death in the Festivals history when a young man – , a Londoner aged 23, died in the early hours from a drug overdose.

There has been more violence this year than we’ve ever had before, but the overriding mood is one of a peaceful event.
Michael Eavis, Glastonbury 1994

Music wise, the line-up reads like a litany of 90s genius – Radiohead, Blur, Björk, Rage Against The Machine, Peter Gabriel, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Elvis Costello, Pretenders, Pulp, Blind Melon, Manic Street Preachers, Jackson Browne, Beastie Boys, James, Paul Weller, Spin Doctors, Chumbawamba, Spiritualized, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, Orbital, Nick Cave, The Lemonheads, Dwight Yoakam, Ride, Meshell Ndegeocello, Tindersticks, M People, L7, Levellers, World Party, The Boo Radleys, Oasis, St. Etienne, Grant Lee Buffalo & Echobelly.

We left Glasto on a high & probably still high & got ourselves to Newquay. We didn’t know where the girls were staying so we just made a big WE ARE HERE x D&N out of seaweed on the beach until they turned up. We then had a jolly good time for the rest of the week – me & Jane & Nick & six girls… sun, sea, surf, snogs & booze & weed & just an all round good time. Then it was time to say bye & we headed back to South Wales. Our rent at Ynysddu was almost up & we’d decided we didn’t want to stay in South wales any longer.

There was time for one last mission. Camping on Barry Island with a tent, spending our last funds on a pint to watch the World Cup. England weren’t even in it, so what was the point, an appropriate metaphor for our own summer of love – our heads weren’t in it anymore & it was time to go home – so we did.


TEENAGE FUNKLAND

To Sir Nick
Lord of all Barlick, Lancs, MBE, MBO, BO,
Bachelor of the Farts, Super Chick-in
Puck-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Nick, ‘diddliddling,’ my bestest friend,
Do you remember our eighteenth summer,
When it felt the good times would never end
And Barry Island the only bummer.

That Ynnysddu flat, “Weed,” birds & wimmin,
“Blowin’ a reefer on Salisbury plain,”
Newquay, seven chicks, soap, sun, surf, swimmin
Our first Glasto – you gotta go again…

Saw Bjorks debut, Newport’s Supersonics,
Peer Gynt play Stratford, Burnley rule Wembley
Massive crowd in Brixton for the Manics
And that mad, May night in Monmouth, where we
Sat with the Roses and the album new,

“Don’t think it’s as good as the first,” said you.


TEENAGE FUNKLAND

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1: THE MURDER OF KURT COBAIN

2: SUPERSONIC

3: NEWPORT

4: YOUNG ROSES

5: THAT LONDON

6: ON THE ROAD

7: GLASTO ’94

 

Teenage Funkland 5: That London

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Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop; with the Brixton Anti-Nazi League Rally & a trip to Wembley to see Burnley FC win the play-offs… on the same bloody weekend!


After meeting the Stone Roses, once me & Nicky were back in little Ynysddu our appetite had been seriously whetted for all this music malarkey, & it wouldn’t be long before we were back on the road again. As it happens, we were just chillin’ with a reefer listening to a bit of Bjork when Lisa bobbed in & told us there was gonna be a big gig in Brixton…

“Who’s playin?”

 “Manics… Levellers… Billy Bragg… a few others. There’s a few coaches leavin from Blackwood… three quid there & back!”

“Buzzin!” we said.

She left & then Nick said,

“Fuckin hell, Burnley are playin at Wembley next day!”

 “Buzzin!”

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It had all seemd to miraculousy fit together – we could get to London for £3, watch a gig, & see Burnley get promoted (hopefully) in the old Third Division play offs. So the next day we got up at some stupidly early time & found ourselves waiting at Blackwood bus station with a load of festival types. One of them was the original manager of the Manic Street Preachers. He was a bit slow, like someone who’s not quite nappy-trained when everyone else was using potties. It turns out the Manics had dropped him in a flash just as success was looming. I was never really a fan of the band, like, a bit too buzz-saw grungey, banshee wailey for me. 1994 was the year of their third album, ‘The Holy Bible,’ whose first single, Faster, was released on June 6th, lyrics by the missing-within-a-year Richey Edwards.

After paying our £3 fare we began to trundle East toward the big smoke… London, England. From Piccadily to  Portobello Road, from Peckham to Primrose hill, from Portland Place to Putney & from Paddington to Penge the place is pretty pukka! The capital is a totally bonkers… far too many people, far too expensive & far too big. But there’s loads of stuff to see & do & the tubes were pretty easy to jump back in 1994; there were hardly any electric gates, & if there were you just shimmied on your knees through the luggage bit.

Stall holder in Camden lock late 1970’s

In 1994 the Mecca for all young people was Camden Town & its mental market; shop after shop of funky clothes blaring out funikier tunes spread out round some wicked little venues. Unfortunately, me & Nick were a couple of years later for the legendary squatting of the Roundhouse by the Spiral tribe & its Mad-Max raves. By 1994, however, the place was becoming the new home of Britpop, thanks to spunky young band of pearly princes called Blur who lived in the area. Their eternal disco-classic, Girls n Boys & its ridiculously brilliant bass line had just reached the top ten back in March.

A few weeks later, on the 25th April, they took the whole country down the Poplar dogs with the anthemically Cockney album, the bastion of Britishness that is Park Life. A ‘nocturnal travelogue for london,’ chirp’d singer Damon Albarn, & the album – part mod, part punk, part pure art, & peppered with sunspots –  would capture the London zeitgeist with all its apples & pears & gorblimeyisms; which remains, to this day, a modern classic.

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Blur’s Parklive Tour, May 1994:

10th – Rock City, Nottingham, UK
11th – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK
12th – University, Bristol, UK
13th – De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
15th – University, Hull, UK
16th – Plaza, Glasgow, UK
17th – Queens’ Hall, Edinburgh, UK
18th – Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
19th – Academy, Manchester, UK
21st – Octagon, Sheffield, UK
23rd – Event Centre, Brighton, UK
24th – University, Reading, UK
26th – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK
27th – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK
28th – Guildhall, Southampton, UK
31st – Town and Country Club, Leeds, UK

Meanwhile 2,000 Blur fans are spilling onto the street as suave bastard Albarn, mad axeman Coxon, cool f***er James & soon-to-be groom Rowntree head for a hard day’s night of outrageous debauchery & wanton hedonsim ‘Im up for it,’ says Damon as I leave him with three diminuitive Blurettes hanging from his neck live living breathing pendants. ‘Whatever is it, I’m up for it.’
NME Journalist after the Wolverhampton gig
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Other albums released by pre-Brit Pop bands in early 1994 – all in March actually – included ‘Give Out But Don’t Give Up’ by Primal Scream, which unfortunately after Screamadelica was a bit retro rocky rubbish really. ‘Devil Hopping‘ by the Inspiral Carpets was weak, while ‘Up To Our Hips’ by the Charlatans was also lacking brilliance. One to Another and that Area 51 jam, tho, they were bangin tracks. Still, it was going to be up to a wave of new bands to define the Britpop sound; Blur’s ressurection & reinvention after being slain by the Seattle conquest, while the growing acclaim surrounding Pulp’s His & Hers album (released April ’94) would lead to the following year’s world shattering ‘Different Class.‘ It had taken Jarvis Cocker & co. eleven years to get there, but their sound & songwriting were finally clicking together. Echobelly & Sleeper were also redefining themselves for the epoch, giving us the leading ladies of the Britpop Olympus. “Any generation that would pick Kurt or me as its spokeman,” said Eddie Vedder in ’94, “that generation must be really fucked up.” They probably were, but the British didn’t care anymore – they were ready for a change & it had already fuckin’ started!

Oh yeah, Blur & Suede. I do believe we’ve got ourselves a Happy Mondays vs Stone Roses/Beatles vs Stones-type face-off in the making. This has to be encouraged. It is, indeed, exactly the kind of healthy competition that inspired Brian Wilson to outdo Paul McArtney in the Sixties, Bowie to outglam Ferry in the Seventiues & Morrissey to outwhinge Edwyn Collins in the Eighties… There’s also tremendous gossip-coloumn potential in all this, what with Damon living with Brett’s ex, Justine, & Suede, Blur & elastica vying for magazine & ‘TOTP’ space. Its the drama of the season, watch this space. Paul Lester

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Back on the bus with a load of South Welsh, after a few hours of hashish & hip-hop we finally arrived in Brixton, parking up with what seemed like thousands of other buses. They had all arrived from different parts of the country, emptying their contents to form a mash-up of well over a hundred thousand folk – the biggest crowd I’d ever been a part of. Once in Brockwell Park. the ‘show’ was started by a couple of speakers, who came on & ranted a while about the BNP, whipping the crowd into a phrenzy.

“I wish they’d shuddupp, thats proper boring

Said Nick, & I agreed. Our prayers were suddenly answered & on came the Levellers, & out came the spliffs, & the crusty hippies began to wave their dreadlocks around furiously to the music whilst dancing like they were having an epileptic fit. Next up were the Manic Street Preachers (with a new manager) & finally Billy Brag did a solo rendition of his brilliant New England, which went down a treat.

The Anti-Nazi League rally of 1994 had its roots in the first Carnival Against The Nazis, which was played by X-Ray Spex, Steel Pulse, the Tom Robinson Band and The Clash in 1978 – a diverse selection of music for a diverse multi-cultural crowd. A huge rally of 100,000 people marched the six miles from Trafalgar Square through London’s East End – the heart of National Front territory – to a Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park, Hackney. With the relaunch of the Anti-Nazi League in 1992, a nationwide live musical movement rose up which culminated in over 150,000 arriving at Brockwell Park to celebrating the defeat of the Nazis in the recent local elections & reaffirm their belief in a multicultural society. Of the growing rise of Neonazism, ‘they have an illness in the minds,’ said Stero MCS frontman Rob Birch, ‘they’re ill people.’

Other bands that played were Back To The Planet, Credit To The Nation, Urban Species & African Head Charge, but the definitive highlight of the show were Rage Against the Machine, who got 120,000 people jumping in unison singing,

“Fuck you I wont do what you tell me!”

All around the crowd, the neon-clad metropolitan police began to get edgy, & it looked for a moment they were gonna pile in & kick off a new set of Brixton riots. But it all passed off peacefully & suddenly it was time to go home. People began to wander back to their coaches, but we were off to Peckham to see some family of mine. For a moment we completely lost each other in the merry mass of people, but after ten minutes of frantic searching I saw Nick’s yellow t-shirt come bobbin down the hill & all was well.

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The next day, despite only having ten pounds and a bit of shrapnel left between us, we jumped tubes into Central London. I’d had a brief stint in London in 1992, as a 16 year-old staying on the largely intimidating North Peckham Estate overlooking Burgess Park. In the three months or so I was in the capital I’d learnt the laws of the jungle; skiving college, jumping trains about the city & going shopliftin’ & stuff – it was an alternate education. At one point I remember going into a record store & discovering the very earliest release by The Stone Roses, the punky So Young. I listened to it on one of those old listening booths from the 60s, & it was a special moment discovering ‘new’ Roses music. The track would be eventually released on The Complete Stone Roses compendium of 1995. But that rainy afternoon in the capital a precedent had been set for grailhunting the Roses.

Two years later I wanted to show Nicky the Trocadero centre & the proper arcades, where we had a wee two-player go on the mental Windjammer. It was a an old hang-out of mine, the Trocadero, & for useful information lovers, in 1994 Nickelodeon UK began broadcasting live from there in a two year stint before moving to Rathbone Place. 

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London Trocadero

So, it was time to get to Wembley, where we arrived at the stadium – the old one with the towers – at a few minutes minutes after three. The match had already kicked off & unbeknownst to us Stockport County had scored. Now Burnley versus Stockport might not sound exactly like a glamour-match – but to a Burnley fan who’d spent all his conscious life watching them in the lower echelons of the football league, this play-off final was the biggest match of his life. Luckily for me & Nick we stumbled across a sound steward, who took our sneaky tenner & led us right up to the executive boxes for a panoramic view of the action – with a programme thrown in for good measure.

I had been to Wembley once before, as a wide-eyed kid back in ’88 to see Burnley play Wolves in the Sherpa Van Trophy. I distinctly remember Wolves fans mooning us on the motorway after the game. I also remember there being more fans for the meeting of two 4th division teams at Wembley that year than the Liverpool-Wimbledon FA Cup Final, with 80,000 filling the stadium. On this occasion, there was still 35,000 Clarets, but only 8,000 or so County fans, with huge swathes of the ground left empty.

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Football in the analogue era was so different by the way. Away from radio updates, watching the Ceefax/Teletext screens change every 30 seconds or so in an exciting carousel was the only way to keep up to date with events across the board. In those days as well, people played fantasy football & football manager games by post – I played one where I did a whole season per post, which was cool. Players were off the radar completely – no hourly twitterfeeds or instagrams, just names in old programmes & photos in your panini album.

The simple joy of following football on Teletext will never be replicated

As the gplay-off final continued, Stockport got two players sent off – Wallace for a disgusting spit in the face of Burnley wing man McMinn, and Stockport goalscorer Beaumont for an off-the-ball stamp on Burnley pie man Les Thompson. We soon enough scored a couple of goals & I didn’t give a shit any more about the quiet atmosphere & the rows of plastic seats across the way. Despite finishing 12 points behind Stockport in the league, Burnley were promoted & Wembley was the greatest place on Earth. The chant, ”Jimmy Mullen’s Claret Blue Army’ was the loudest ever surge of pride sang by the Turf Moor faithful to this day. Marlon Beresford, Gary Parkinson, Les Thompson, Steve Davis, John Pender, Warren Joyce, Ted McMinn, Adrian Heath, John Francis, & David Eyres – we will always love you!

Teenage Funkland 4: Young Roses


Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop with the true story behind the secret track – THE FOZ – on The Stone Roses’ Second Coming


It is early May, 1994. In the UK local elections, the Tories have just lost 429 seats and control of 18 councils. They were definitely losing the youth vote, especially after the introduction into law of the most insidious piece of legislation in 300 years, the Criminal Justice Bill. ‘New age travellers?’ had croaked John Major at the Tory conference, of 1992, ‘Not in this age. Not in any age.’ In effect, this prevented people from getting together outside & having a rave, granting the police huge discretionary powers to thwart our fun. The Levelers were in the front line of protests, a proper funky band of proper hippies; on May 7th they attended a press conference at the Rainbow Centre in Kentish Town, where the Advance Party’s Debby Daunton declared;

I suppose that because no one in government has ever had the desire to let what’s left of his hair down at a rave, they don”t see why anyone else should be allowed to…. Society is perfectly happy for the army to run around pretending to kill people on Salisbury plain

Meanwhile, the 32-mile long Channel Tunnel had officially opened on the 6th, finally physically connecting the Entente Cordiale for the first time since the Ice Age Land Bridge was swamp’d by the seas. Following two centuries of cross-channel schemes, those 22 miles of water between Dover & Calais were finally breached by science, engineering & Human endeavour. After cutting the ribbons on the Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo, the Queen found herself rushing under the seabed towards England, emerging at Calais on an overcast afternoon & a meeting with President Mitterrand. “The mixture of French elan and British pragmatism,” said the Queen in her speech of the day in the most untroubled French, “when united in a common cause, has proved to be a highly successful combination. The tunnel embodies that simple truth… the French and British peoples, for all their individual diversity and ages-long rivalry, complement each other well – better perhaps than we realise.” Agreed! Every cheese-eating surrender monkey needs someone to drag them out of the pickle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three days later saw the release of Trogg’s song Love Is All Around (1967) by Scottish popsters Wet Wet Wet, fronted by heart-throb-at-the-time Marti Pellow. Another 4 days after the release – May 13th – Four Weddings & a Funeral was released, on which the song was featured, propelling it towards fifteen weeks of being at No 1. Like everybody else at the time, even the band themselves were fed up with hearing the song, so deleted the single from sale, thus preventing them from equaling Bryan Adams’ record for weeks at the top with his 1991 single (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. The film did even better, becoming the biggest grossing British film ever, making nearly £200 million and costing just $2 million to make.

Back in the world of cooler music, Wigan’s finest psychedelic popsters, Verve, were told they had to change their name to The Verve by lawyers representing Polygram, the owners of Verve jazz records. The Verve were yet to hit the heights of Northern Soul & espcecially Urban Hymns, but were slowly growing in status, musicianship, songwriting & style. In little Ynyssdu, after the Oasis gig we felt ourselves full of rock ‘n’ roll. The crunch of the guitars still swirled around our heads, the bass & drums gave us a groove to our step… & we wanted more. Out came the keyboard. Suddenly me & Nick were the new Lennon & MaCartney as we proceeded to pen such classics as ‘(Whats yer) Problem Babe’ and ”Teenage Funkland’ in a stony haze. Then one day, during a lull in jamming to the casio beat, something struck me. After reading an article in the NME (see below), I was looking at a map of the region & saw the town of Monmouth…

Fuckin Hell Nick… that’s where the Roses are recording!

“Where!”

“Monmouth… it’s just over the border. Come on pal, let’s check ’em out & see where that bloody album is.”

“Let’s go!”

So we borrowed a tent & off we went…

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Aha! The Stone Roses. My beloved Stone Roses. I was 13 when the first album came out in 1989. A year later I was on a school trip to London – we saw Blood Brothers I recall – & I’d just started listening to the Inspiral Carpets. A friend had given me a tape with Life on it. On the reverse side was the Stone Roses, & somewhere after Birmingham I thought I’d give it a listen. By the time we hit London I was hooked. I must have listened to that album twice a day for the next few years. While that was happening, the Roses had ditched their dodgy record company – Zomba – & signed up with American label, Geffen. Then they went underground for a long time – young dads n’all that – with the difficult second album proving a lot more difficult than anyone expected. Things had changed you see, the zeitgeist,,, the Age of the Second Summer of Love was over, the Time of the Britpoppers had come.

The Roses were the flagship band for the Madchester movement which we all bought into & loved. Their longevity is proven. In the past couple of years I’ve seen James at Party in the Palace (Linlithgow), The Charlatans at Electric Fields (Drumlanrig Castle), The Happy Mondays at Lindisfarne Festival, & of course the Roses themselves at Heaton Park then, for my fortieth birthday, at the Etihad. I was there with my sister & brother-in-law, & to our right were a couple of my age with their 14 year old daughter, all donned out in Roses regalia & singing along to every word. The Roses, you see, are family, & we were a part of it.

Me & the brother-in-law, Simon, at the Etihad 2016

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It was an awesome gig – much better than Heaton Park, & one in which the first album was played in its entireity – a great moment really seeing as I’m trying to emulate it at the moment. Yeah, what a gig, the best I’ve ever been to in my life, I think, the Etihad was like a modern Collosseum & my favorite gladiators were on cracking form – their new single, All For One, if a little plastic in the recording was majestic in such an environment. Aye,  I love the Roses me!

From my blog, June 2016

That first album was a killer, an eternal classic, & everyone knows it. The travesty is, instead of seizing world domination when it was in the palm of their hands, the looping funk of Fools Gold teaching everyone how to dance properly, the Roses chose to be enigmatic.. The world had waited… & waited… & waited… & fuckin waited & still not even a whimper. Yet they still retained the aura of Britain’s coolest band. In reality, with John Squire obsessing over the sound & chalking up a healthy coke addiction the recording process had dragged on for months & years. “I made the mistake of using cocaine for a while,’ recollected Squire, thinking it would make me productive, but it just made me more unsure, more paranoid.” By May 1994, however, they were approaching the final touches at a famous converted farmhouse near Monmouth called Rockfield Studios. Bohemian Rhapsody had been recorded here, so it must have had some good, creative vibes. “Put the heating on more often,” wrote Ian Brown in the visitors book, “and I might one day come back.” The album would be released a few months later on the 5th December.

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The Roses signing the Rockfield visitors book

May ’94 also saw the passing away of John Smith, the leader of the Labour party. Before his well-mourned passing it was universally understood that he would be the next prime minister… & a good one at that. After over fifteen years of Toryism, it was time for a change. Although Maggie Thatcher had got the country back on it’s feet after the chaotic seventies, by ’94 the party she once ruled with an iron fist was a corrupt organisation led by an excrutiatingly dull PM, John Major. A seismic shift was coming, & with the elections due in 1997 & everybody felt Labour would win. On Smith’s death, the name of a young, dazzling Labour MP began to be spoken… Tony Blair.

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Now then, I cannot believe that the brilliant John Smith, the leader of the Labour Party in 1994, would ever have let George Bush & the American Neocons ever get away with faking 9-11 & attacking Iraq & Afghanistan. Tony Blair did. by the way, & was the chief beneficiary to John Smith’s sudden & unexpected death by heart attack in London on the 12th May. He would have made a great PM, the country was desperate for change & Labour was heading for a landslide. Was it a conspiracy, perhaps, perhaps not Smith had suffered a heart attack in ’88, & was a heavy drinker. Still, Tony Blair did make an unusual statement while staying in a French hotel with his family in April 1994. On waking his wife, Cherie, one morning, he blurted out quite obtusely, “If John dies, I will be leader, not Gordon. And somehow, I think this will happen. I just think it will.”

Monmouth from the air, 1920

Back in the world of the 18-year-old Nicky & Damo, a bus-ride out of Ynyssdu & a wee train jump outta Newport & we found ourselves pulling into Abergavenny, a strange sounding town right on the border. Monmouth wasn’t served by train, so we blagged some local budweiser boy to drive us there for a fiver. So there we were, razzin down the road with a local wise guy, the sun setting over Wales behind us, the English border ahead. Crossing into the mothership, we were soon were among the scenic streets of Monmouth. On the outskirts of town we found a camp-sight, & in the failing light snook in thro’ a back field & set up camp. By the time the tent was up & we’d had a reefer or two, we were swamped by a serious a case of ‘What next?’

“Reyt, I think Rockfield’s a couple of miles out of town… so I’ll go & check it out.”

“Nice one… I’ll chill here & get stoned.”

“Nice one… inabit!”

“Inabit.”

Rockfield Studios

With one rolled I set off along a country road. Above the stars were singing & I was enveloped in the bosom of a warm May night. Up ahead, somewhere (I hoped) lay Rockfield Studios. After a couple of miles the shadow of a building loomed out of the gloom. It turned out to be a farmhouse & just as I was walking to the door to check it out, a car razzed up beside me on the drive. This guy leaps out sporting a baseball cap & all at once I clicked… it was only fuckin’ Ian Brown.

“Can I help yer kid?”

 “Yeah mate, I’ve come to see what the Stone Roses are up to!”

 “Cool, come in!”

So there I was, sat in the control room of Rockfield Studios, chattin to Reni about a Roses gig in Colne (near Burnley) & Ian Brown buzzin about, his mane completely shaved off & renouncing all drugs. The Roses’ producer then turns up with two Yanks – radio pluggers – who had been sent over by Geffen to see where all their money had gone & to listen to the album. Mani was away & Squires was off taking coke somewhere but there was one guy missin.’

Lads… I can’t stay on mi own, mi mates waitin down at the campsite.”

 “No worries… we’ll go pick him up.”

Sound as fuck… none of yer pop star bullshit… simply sound as fuck. We roared the couple of miles down the road in their motor, Reni at the wheel. Then with a screech & a spin we razzed up the camp site, pulling up right outside the tent. I got out, unzipped & poked me head inside… Nicky looked stoned.

 “Yo Nick, I’m wi Stone Roses!”

 “Eh!?”

 “No, swear down… come on, wi gonna listen to the new album!”

 “Reyt, I’ll get mi weed!”

 Unfortunately it was too dark to find the weed, & we were proper rushin.’ So after brief introductions me & Nick were just about to get in the car when who would show up but a pretty pissed-off campsite owner.

 “Oy there boyos, what yer doin!”

 “It’s allright mate, they’re with us,” said Brown.

 “Wait a minute… they haven’t even paid!”

 “We’ll sort you out in the morning mate,”

So we jumped in the car with Nick. I can’t quite remember, but I’m sure they made more noise when they left than when they arrived.

Back in the studio we were flanked by Yanks on us left & Mancs on us right. One by one tracks off the new album were brought from a pile of massive tape reels. For a wide-eyed kid who had been using a Tascam four-track, to see the epic grandeur of a proper recording studio it was very cool indeed. At one point we went to the farm itself for a cup of tea & a spliff, watchin’ MTV. Talk ended up on football… the Roses being Man U fans. It was just at the beginning of their strangle-hold on the domestic game, & the double loomed, even if they were wearing an awful, schizophrenic away kit. They had just pipped Bastard Rovers to the title by 8 points & were about to meet Chelsea in the FA Cup final. It was the season when Cantona ran rampant in the middle field, his Napoleonic dash & Gallic élan controlling every match & inspiring his team. He also kicked a Norwich player in the head – ‘descpicable’ said Jimmy Hill – and stamped on John Moncur at Swindon. But he was genius!

I feel really at home here. I love the game, above all in England. I really thought I would not play football again, but my career was changed completely by coming here, I did not really know what to expect. On the continent they say that the English are cold & reserved, but they are not. The English like to laugh. They like to tell jokes. I’ve been surprised. I like the English Eric Cantona

In Rockfield Studios, at one point John Squire came in to make himself a brew. He didn’t say anything, an almost Shelleyan figure in the background, who made his tea & disappeared. The Second Coming was mainly about Squires. He wrote all the tunes but one & lavished them with a series of powder-driven guitar solos. Inspired by Led Zeppelin & thus the artistic alchemy of Aleister Crowley he had produced a darkly poetic album. I remember seeing a Robert Johnson CD in the studio (which I’ve now got in my car) & another influence must be Jimmy Hendrix… on Good Times the title & the guitaring are one & the same. At one point they gave us a tour of the studio, & I saw the handwritten lyrics to Straight To The Man, testifying to the fact the album was still malleable. During the listening, other tracks definitively stood out; the acoustic sing-a-long Tightrope, the melodic Ten Storey Love Song & the fuzzy Begging You made us realise why we loved them in the first place. Then they slapped on Love Spreads & we knew the Roses were back.

They also played a mental track, full of screeching violins & mad acoustics, which they called The Foz“You should put it on the album,” we told ’em. Indeed they did, at our behest it seems, as a secret track. If you left the album running by accident, the stereo would suddenly spring to life again, 90 tracks in. Producer, Simon Dawson, who was also present at our visit, bragging about how the album was ‘gonna be massive,’ had this to say about The Foz.

This was nothing to do with me at all – it was something they did before they came to Rockfield. I know I’m credited with the keyboards, but I didn’t play them on that! I think Reni played the piano, Ian played the violin, and John was playing the mandolin. It was something they did late one night when they were with John Leckie and he’d wandered in with his DAT player – it was just a bit of a joke, I think. I don’t think it was supposed to be found that easily — it was supposed to shock people who’d left their CD playing while they were studying or whatever. The working title was ‘The Foz’ – well, I say working title…that was what was written on the box, anyway…” – Simon Dawson.

 

There was one funny moment. Ian, Reni & Simon asked us what we’d been up to, & we mentioned we’d seen Oasis recently. BOOM – you could almost cut the tension with a knife. Simon was praising them as good lads, but you could definitely feel a sense of ‘who are these johnny-cum-latelys everyone’s rabbiting on about.’ During 1994, Oasis were actually recording at nearby Monow Valley studios, which led to Ian Brown & the Gallagher brother’s first bumping into each other as Brown was walking out of the WH Smiths in Monmouth. As Brown shadow boxed his way towards them & started praising Cigarettes & Alcohol, perhaps this was the existential moment of the baton being changed. Darius had established the empire, & Xerxes was gonna spread its power over widening regions. Whatever did transpire that day, safe to say back at the studio two sets of baggy Mancunians were creating & recording beautiful, beautiful, perhaps even immortal music.

The Stone Roses in December 1994 : in their exclusive interview to The Big Issue

So our brilliant time finally over, with the radio pluggers leaving at the same time as ourselves, Reni & Ian drove us back to the campsite, the first ‘outsiders’ to hear the album in the world. All the music mags had been shunned, & there we were a Barlicker & an Accy Roader, piercing the aura of invincibility right to the summit of Olympus. “I don’t think its as good as the first one!” said Nick as we finally managed to skin-up. But I didn’t care, I mean, the fuckin’ Stone Roses, the new fuckin’ album – we were very lucky boys.

Needless to say we were up at the crack of dawn & did a runner without paying.


TEENAGE FUNKLAND

———

1: THE MURDER OF KURT COBAIN

2: SUPERSONIC

3: NEWPORT

4: YOUNG ROSES

5: THAT LONDON

6: ON THE ROAD

7: GLASTO ’94

 

 

 

 

 

Teenage Funkland 3: Newport

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Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s Retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop: The Oasis gig at Tjs, May 3rd, 1994


The train jump to Wales was a dead easy affair… a simple buffet-trip pass-by move on the conductor found us sitting in the Dead Zone (the area where he had already swept), smiling widely, the next stop Wales. I’d nicked the first ever copy of glossy new lads mag ‘Loaded’ from Manchester WH Smiths (59,400 actually bought the magazine), & was eagerly gorging on the laddisms – I was a lad, too, a young impressionable one, but still a lad. So was Nicky actually, maybe more of a geezer than a lad, but still fuckin’ cool. Marketed with the tagline “For men who should know better”, Loaded was originally published by IPC Media, took its title from the Primal Scream song & was the natural, cooler evolution of the worldscape defined by Viz & its readership. “What fresh lunacy is this?” went its opening editorial, “Loaded is a new magazine dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of sex, drink, football and less serious matters. Loaded is music, film, relationships, humour, travel, sport, hard news and popular culture. Loaded is clubbing, drinking, eating, playing and eating. Loaded is for the man who believes he can do anything, if only he wasn’t hungover.”

One of the highlights of the magazine was an ambitious young actress, the 27 year-old English Rose that was Elizabeth Hurley, looking tough, sultry & damned sexy. “I‘m forever being offered roles,” she complained, “where I wear a low cut dress, mini skirt, have dirt on my face and an AK47 in my hand driving a porsche but whats the point?” Not that famous at this point,  she’d been in Beyond Bedlam – its terrible, shes great – & one of the Sharpe episodes (Sharpe’s Enemy). Her boyfriend was an equally unfamous Hugh Grant – Four Weddings & a Funeral is a few weeks away yet – & in the magazine Hurley complained that while in Russia she found Madonna hitting on Hugh.

Back in my wee world we passed through Cheshire, Shropshire & Gloucestershire before pulling in to Bristol one early afternoon in late April. From there we jumped on a big intercity that was heading to Cardiff, which was so advanced in it’s journey the conductor was sat on his arse… then we came to Newport. Following a cursory inspection of the town to our surprise we found it looked just like England. In a record shop window we saw a poster advertising an Oasis gig in Newport in a week or two…

Buzzin, we’ve gotta go!”

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The NME version of the tour poster

From Newport we caught a train a little train that wound through North through the valleys. Here we were in the heartlands of Wales, where the hills echo the sweetly sung songs of the miners & the chief occupation of the women was getting pregnant as soon as possible & living off benefits. This job reminded me of Liverpool’s main source of income… accident claims. Deeper into those trench-like vales we found ourselves in a small town not far from Blackwood. We went to Michelle’s & were welcomed with a slap-up feast. Suitably fed we caught a couple of buses & arrived in an obscure village. There, she introduced us to her friend Lisa, who gave us the keys to her pad & scarpered. So that was us in Ynyssdu!

The Author revisiting Ynysddu in 2018
Your author outside his old house (number 8)

Ynyssdu! I still can’t really believe I lived there…. What a mad litter place. Firmly entrenched in the valleys, home for a few hundred mad Welsh, it sported a rugby pitch, Mobile chippy & shop. I didn’t see many leeks & I didn’t hear much singin’, but the people were friendly & accomadating, even the very kind woman in the shop giving us credit when we went hungry. Across an Iron bridge over a little river you could walk along a grassy, disused railway that once used to take the coal from the valleys to civilisation. Our home stood on Commercial Street, me & Nick living downstairs & two crazy Welsh guys upstairs. We shared a kitchen, although all they ever seemed to eat were brown sauce butties. Our own fare was hardly better, oven chips, sausages, plumbed tomatoes & fish fingers… a hell of a lot of fish fingers. Everytime we our jumbo-sized box of fish-fingers back in the freezer we dossed a bit on the new-fangled Magnetic Poetry set that Lisa had left on the fridge. Hundreds of tiny fridge magnets with random words typed onto them suddenly became amazing poems. Or that was the theory, me & Nick just competed to make up the rudest sentence we could. There was also Mari-mari. He was a little budgie left behind in the flat & we soon grew hardened to his constant tweetin. It was nice to have a pet & before too long we were firmly attached to the little fella… we were like a family!

A couple of fifteen-year old schoolgirls soon collared us & we were invited to babysittin sessions with them… booze, spliffs & snoggin ensued but me & nick positively refused to assist their quest for child benefit money & housing benefit… but they were dead sound all the same. On a couple of occasions we went to the one-screen cinema in Blackwood, all sat snogging & fumbling in the dark. We saw Ace Ventura rescue the Miami Dolphin’s pet Dolhin (reyt funny) & creased up at a showing of Cool Runnings & the Jamaican Bob Sled team’s Eddie the Eagle Edwards style efforts to win gold at the ’88 Calgary Winter Olympics… again, reyt funny.

For cash we signed on up in Blackwood, about fifty quid a week pocket money seeing as we had no rent to pay. Enough for spliffs on the hillside, pool down the pub & our munchies. Michelle’s mate had left us a stereo, so we listened to Supersonic & this tape that Michelle had given us. It was Bjork’s solo masterwork Debut – released 5th July 1993 – one of the first albums to introduce electronic music into mainstream pop. We instantly fell for her quirky, haunting voice as she grooved away through tunes such as the opening throbbing wonder of Human Behaviour & the epic glory of Big Time Sensuality, which made my ultimate DJ set. An “anthem to emotional bravery,” featuring a bouncing riff sampled from Antônio Carlos Jobim, it contains lyrics described as “simple but passionate”, concerning Björk’s relationship with her co-producer Nellee Hooper.

The hard core, & the gentle,

Big Time Sensuality…

I also got to know one of Michelles’ arty mates, Lisa. She lived in a nice cottage & lent us a casio keyboard to make some tunes on. One day, whilst waiting for our smoke to arrive, we were struck by the muse & expressed ourselves in song, Mari-Mari tweeting along to the tune. Weed is a clear classic… drawin on the classical three chord turnaround, CFG, we told the story of a simple country boy caught by the fuzz, locked up & needin a smoke. We got the chorus from a vocal Nick buzzed off down the Orbit… here’s the lyrics;

Way back when I was a farmer
Growin some marijuana
In the middle of a bush-like-field,
Smokin all the crops I yield,
And you don’t know what I need,
Yes you don’t know what I need,
I need some weed…
Herb a weed an a
Weed a gange an a
Ganja a weed an a
Weed a marijuana

I sold some ganja to my lover,
She was a copper undercover,
Now I drink water with my bread,
Don’t have a reefer to ease my head,
And you don’t know what I need,
Yes you don’t know what I need,
I need some weed…

See what I mean, a clear classic, which ended up as part of one of the songs in my ‘Alibi’ musical.

Splashed all cross the headlines at the time were the forthcoming Presidential Elections in South Africa. (26-29 April) For decades that vasty country swathed across Africa’s southern tip had been the problem-child of global harmony. Apartheid had not eased a fundamentally racist system, where an Imperial white minority once again kept an indigenous people shackled in semi-slavery. But the age of Empire had passed & eventually the voices of the native blacks & a contemptuous world boomed too loudly & Nelson Mandela was freed. He became the leader of the African National Congress & was put up for election… & a democratic one at that. A landslide was expected & despite a series of bombings by anarchist neo-nazis attempting to disrupt them, he became the first black president of South Africa. As he was being sworn in dignitaries from all across the world sweltered in the African heat, but everyone of them was happy as the world seemed to step into a new era of harmony. The three centuries old flag was furled, a new flag raised & the decolonisation of Africa became complete.

In the world of comedy, on Sunday 24th april, the British elite all turned up at Saddler’s Wells Theatre on behalf of the Terrence Higgins Trust to promote safer sex in the early days of the fightback against AIDS & HIV. Steve Coogan was just at the dawn of his immeasurably brilliant career, while the Spitting Image puppets were at the end of theirs.

 

On the arrival of a giro we caught the bus to Newport on a combined scouting & shopping mission. As we passed thro Ynyssdu’s neighbouring village, Cymfeilanfach (pronounced cum-vel-lin) we noticed how much the word looked like Come for a feel and a fuck… called the latter from that moment onwards. After an hour or so of Southerly winding we arrived at Newport. It’s not that bad a place, & I liked the bridge that spans the river. The shops were cool enough & from a record stall at the market I got two tickets for the Oasis gig… After a Maccy Dees we wound back home & slapped on Oasis…

“I’m feelin Supersonic

Give me gin & tonic”

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So, the day of the Oasis gig had come, the 3rd of May 1994. Ayrton Senna had died at San Marino on Mayday, only a day after his friend Roland Ratzenberger had died on the same course. About the same time the dodgy guy from upstairs rolls down Commercial Road in a funky little green Datsun. We didn’t ask where it came from, but bought it fer thirty quid. Nick loves his drivin, how many a cruise had I shared with him buzzin about our homelands. After putting in two pounds worth of petrol we rode the road to Newport… the bus journeys now a distant memory. After parking up we admired our green steed then went to scout out TJ’s, where the gig was gonna happen. It was yer typical small town venue… a stage, a dance floor & a bar, with rock-stars & album covers plastered across every inch of wall space. We found out the time it all kicked off & headed back out into sunshine. Just as we did so a big white van with Salford van hire emblazened across it pulled up outside the venue. The doors slid open & who would cockily burst out onto the pavement but Mr Liam Gallagher. He was inside the venue in a flash, followed a little more casually by Bonehead & Noel. Further up the street we met the rythym section, Tony MaCarrol & Guigsy, munching on a Maccy Dees.

“Good luck with the gig fellas!”

 “O… cheers!”

They said with the novelty of being stopped & recognized in the streets of a foreign country… something they would have to get used to very quickly. These rapscallions from the back stage of Burnage simply had the knack of getting through to normal people They were unpretentious in a pretentious kind of way. When they needed a verse for the soon-to-be-released Shaker Maker, for example, Noel Gallagher found himself pulled up at some traffic lights outside Mr Sifter’s second-hand record shop in Manchester, leading to the spontaneous lyric;

Mister Sifter sold me songs
When I was just sixteen
Now he stops at traffic lights
But only when they’re green

Wildly unoriginal, their music is a museum of British pop culture – Beatles, Kinks, Clash, Sex Pistols – its all there somewhere, woven together by Noel’s great ear for melody & his brother’s unbelievable swagger & voice, it was a winning combination.

People coming down here on a Tuesday, its raining, and it’s like this is gonna be a mega night, it happened to me when I went to see the Roses, know what I mean, to be part of summat
Liam Gallagher

 

 

Image result for oasis tjs 1994Before they’d reached Wales, the boys had been on an extensive tour of smallish venues across Britain; Lucifer’s Mill, Dundee (5th April), La Belle Angel, Edinburgh (6th April), The Tramway, Glasgow (7th April), Middlesborough Arena (8th April) The Wheatsheaf, Stoke (11th April), The Duchess, Leeds (12th April), The Lomax, Liverpool (13th April), The Adelphi Club, Hull (29th April), Coventry University (30th April) The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth (2nd May). It was TJ’s, Newport, next – & me & Nick were gonna be there!

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TJs was a legendary nightclub which became a symbol of the city’s burgeoning music scene – dubbed at one time as ‘the new Seattle’ by New York Times critic Neil Strauss. Founded in 1971 by the late John Sicolo, the venue’s stage has been graced by some of the biggest names in music history, developing a reputation that also led DJ John Peel to dub it ‘The Legendary TJs’. For many gig-goers, TJs was a cultural melting pot – a venue that gave unknown bands a chance while providing an electric atmosphere, a community and a place to meet musical heroes.

TJ’s was voted one of the top 50 ‘Big Nights Out’ in the world by FHM in December 1997. TJs closed down a few years ago, but its ‘spit and sawdust’ vibe – there was no stage, it was eight-inches off the floor – was fondly remembered by the thousands who ventured into its den. There is even a myth that Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love on the night her band Hole played TJs in 1991. Catatonia filmed their single “Mulder and Scully” at the venue while other bands which played at T.J’s early in their careers include Manic Street Preachers, Green Day, The Offspring, Lostprophets, Iron Maiden, The Stone Roses, Muse, Primal Scream, The Vandals, The Ataris, and Skunk Anansie.

Oasis had formed in 1992 when Liam Gallagher & Bonehead formed a band called Rain. Apparently they weren’t very good, but when Noel Gallagher turned up in Manchester, flush with cash after roadieing on the Inspiral Carpets US tour, things were about to get better. After playing the other Burnage boys Live Forever they were bowled over enough to let him take over the band. Kitting them out with good gear with his wages he proceeded to write the stuff of Definitely Maybe & gig like hell until that fateful day in Glasgow when they met the Creation Records Uberfuhrer, Alan McGee. He basically fell in love with the fellow drug monkeys that were the musical version of Ade Edmonson & Rik Mayall in bottom, & the rest is history

We’ve got quite a lot of female interest at the moment through the band. Backstage in the dressing room at this one London gig there was this really good looking girl, man, & she says, ‘ Do you want me to like, do anything for you?’ So I said, yeah pass us a beer out of the fridge will you.
Noel Gallagher

After smoking a few spliffs in the balmy evening’ air we handed over our tickets & found ourselves in the gloomy depths of TJ’s. The roadies were setting up the gear & checking sound, while the club begin to slowly fill up… very slowly. On the floor of the stage a roadie taped down the set list & I checked it out. Supersonic was down, as was Ciggarettes & Alcohol, both tunes I knew. Then at the bottom I saw I Am the Walrus scribbled down.

“Yo Nick, they’re playin the Beatles!”

 And on they came, the fifty or so punters not really sure what was gonna happen. They barely spoke a word as they thundered through their set, tune after tune of crunching guitars, loud drums & Liam’s crackling chaunt. Proper buzzin. Miles better than some dodgy rave or a cider-drowned hootenanny. So this was Rock ‘n’ Roll… cool!

I am The Walrus came on to finish, & we had a bit of a dance, as were most of the other fifty or so folk, buzzin’ off the rythmic handcuff swagger of the Mondays dash’d with & slobbering splash of crunchy guitars… then all of a sudden… “Cheers… good night!” And then they were gone. The club emptying in a sort of semi-daze, but all acknowledging that Oasis weren’t bad at all. Outside, Nick skinned up a spliff while I bought a couple of cans of lager & we chilled out under the stars. All of a sudden the temperature dropped & we decided to drive home. Unfortunately, back at the Datsun she wouldn’t start.

“Must be petrol…”

Said Nick & we pushed a mile through the lamplit streets of Newport til we found a garage. In to the tank went our last two quid & I stood nervously waiting while Nick turned the ignition… nothing happened. Luckily enough, a guy who recognized us from the gig passed by. We explained our predicament & he took us to a student party. There, we smoked the last of our weed & talked about the gig with other guys & it was all kinda cool. However, some guy spewed in some other guys bed & we all got kicked out.

“What shall we do now!”

“We gonna have ter sleep in car!”

“Yer jokin!”

What else can we do?

 It wasn’t the best nights sleep we’ve ever had, scrunched up in the back of a datsun, no coat on & cold as fuck. It wasn’t quite sleeping rough but it was pretty damn close. After a few uncomfortable hours Dawn broke & we were at the bus station waiting for the bus. I retold our story to the driver, of how we had bought a Datsun, how we had been to a gig, how we’d had to sleep in the car & how we had no cash.

“On yer go boyos!”

And we were away. On getting back to our little room it was the first time we’d valued it as a home… & it was good to be back. I turned round to Nick, & with a cheeky smile said,

“Yo Nick, we live in fuckin Wales!”

Ynyssdu – 2018

TEENAGE FUNKLAND

———

1: THE MURDER OF KURT COBAIN

2: SUPERSONIC

3: NEWPORT

4: YOUNG ROSES

5: THAT LONDON

6: ON THE ROAD

7: GLASTO ’94

 

 

 

 

Teenage Funkland 2: Supersonic

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Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s Retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop


So, the Seattle-face’d period of anxiety &  self loathing was over, the time of the Orcs had begun. Well not quite Orcs, but definitely dodgy council estate Mancs from Burnage. The one thing these pioneering Britpopeers did keep carrying on from Grunge, however, was proper crunchy guitars, & Oasis had them in abundance. Just listen to the opening of their debut single, Supersonic, when the guitar claws its way down the psychic spine before shattering everything we thought we knew & enjoyed about music

 I need to be myself

I cant be no-one else

Im feeling supesonic

Give me gin & tonic

*

I loved it. From the shaky ploddy drum rattle to the Beatlesque ahhhs, & all those daft lyrics, including lines about cane-sniffing & gin & tonic. On adding the latter beverage to that song called Cigarettes & Alcohol which I’d listened to earlier in the year as the last song on a giveaway NME tape (issued February 12th), I’m like, these guys are just gadgies with guitars. Cool! Thatcher’s Britain had finished, Spike Island was like 4 years earlier, when live music & raving came together as the Woodstock of the Acid House generation. Since then, everyone seemed to have had a major collective come down, but things in that summer of ’94 were just about to change. A new generation, too young to go to partying in the late 80s, were ready & raring to go, & they need a soundtrack of their own.

For once the market adjusted to the music, & a series of definitive albums were released to popular acclaim throughout the year… the retro-rock of Definitely Maybe (Live forever, Cigarettes & Alcohol), Blur’s new-Mod album Parklife (End of a century) & Pulp’s glitzy, disco-intellectual His’n’Hers (babies, do you remember the first time). Oxford trio Supergrass released their honky-tonk I should coco, whose piano-driven tune Allright became the anthem of the summer. Dodgy released their deliciously optimistic album Homegrown (stayin out for the summer, so let me go far) & Beck gave the world his Mellow Gold, whose Loser must be the most famous chorus in the world where nobody knows what they are actually singing. Radiohead released their My Iron Lung E.P., hinting at what was to come in throughout mid-nineties epoch. Ride’s carnival of Light looked after the Shoe-gazers, while Prodigy catered for the ravers. Their Jilted Generation (Poison) was played everywhere & I’ll never forget seeing them play at Newcastle’s Mayfair club, late ’94, a flame-haired Liam rolling onto stage in a see-thro sphere, ripping his way through the clear plastic to begin the first tune.

A few months before that gig in Newcastle I had just found myself in Skegness, your A-typical Yorkshire seaside town. Often battered by the breeze flung ruthlessly across the North Sea from Scandinavian fjords, they often have a certain charm. Places like Scarborough & Whitley Bay are well worth a visit, & the region contains Robin Hoods Bay, a wayfarers paradise of little streets, good ale, old seadogs & their even older shantys. Yet that was the Bay & this was Skeggy. As it was mid-April the place was hardly lively… in truth it was dead. The season was set to begin in a few weeks, so this was the best time to get a job. As I arrived late in the day I bought myself a room in a B&B & settled down for the night. With morning I arose, breakfasted, groomed myself & set off out in the search of work.

Ah Butlins! The paradise of childhood. On several occasions as a boy my family had gone lock, stock & barrel to Butlins for a weeks holiday. It was generally to the camp at Pwhellhi, North Wales, sat idly on the coast & the focal point for the whole of the North West. The affordable nature of the holidays enabled many a working class kid to experience a real holiday, & boy were they good. Games, arcades, football, swimming, snooker, funfairs & archery were just a few distractions for a kid who usually had his head in a comic. Believe me I had a whale of a time & perhaps this was what had drawn me to the camps in the first place. I associated the place with pleasure & escape, & here I was again. Unfortunately, my sacking had been recorded (I had thrown milkshake over this bird who’d try to make me mop the floor – as if!) & I was forcibly ejected from the camp by a burly Security Guard. It seemed all my plans had come to naught & as I trudged along the beach I wondered what the hell was I gonna do. Then I looked at Skeggy & thought, ‘Thank fuck fer that,’ & did the usual thing I did when I was homeless & in a bit of a scrape… I rang Nick.

Now Nick’s mi best mate & the coolest guy I’ve ever had the pleasure to buzz off. We met when we were ten, played footy together for various teams… were rival quarterbacks in the schoolyard when American football hit England in the late eighties… played the Ghost Valley Two track on Super Mario Kart at least a million times… messed about with Live Role Playin & then, as the teenage years took hold, started getting wrecked. The guy gave me my first ever spliff & turned me onto the Stone Roses, took me raving & got me laid… what more can I say, he’s my buddy-buddy longtime. I put my ten pee in the phone box (that’s what it cost in ’94) & dialed that familiar number.

“Alright Nick.”
“Alright Damo.”
“Listen, I’ve just tried to get a job at Butlins, but it’s gone arse over tits… can I come an crash”
“Wait a minute… Mam, can Damo stay… Yeah no worries man.”
“Sound… I’ll give you a bell from Skipton!”
“Reyt!”
“Sorted!”

So I put down the receiver, smiled a smile & left Skeggy… an I ain’t never bin back since.

In the world beyond England’s chilly East Coast the West Indian batsman, Brian Lara, scored 375 runs against a typically weak England seam attack.  It was ten runs more then Sir Garfield sobers, who was the first to congratulate him as he lefty the crease. Elsewhere Stockport had been fire-bombed & a middle-aged Irishman called Paul Hill was released from prison. He was the last of the seventeen Irish who had been wrongly imprisoned by Britain after the IRA hit England in the mid-seventies… you had the Birmingham 6, the Maguire 7 & the most famous group, the Guildford Four. A film had just been released entitled ‘In the Name of the Father’ which showed what had happened to Gerry Conlan at the hands of the British Justice system. After threats with revolvers followed by a hard diet of food & sleep deprivation… a broken Conlan signed the first thing in front of him. Combined with the supression of vital witness statements this served to have an innocent man locked up for the better years of his life.

download (2).jpgAs the train left Skegness I found myself hiding in the toilets to avoid paying my fare… successfully of course. Once I had retaken my seat I sat & pondered upon what the fate had in store for me… little did I know of the fun & frolics that lay in wait. My train meandered back awesterly to Leeds, where I swapped trains & trundled to the old market town of Skipton. Now I’ve never really warmed to Skipton, there’s something a little Stepford Wives about the place, & as the town’s gloomy castle came into view I began to think I’d made the wrong move, rather like going off on holiday & finding yourself in Grimsby. Now as this was 1994, only 6 people in a hundred had a mobile phone, & the concept of text messaging was a twinkle in some clever geezers eye. Hardly anyone was hooked up to the internet so communication relied on the postal service (sketchy at the best of times) & the phone, including queuing at phone boxes when out & about. I rang up Nick, told him where I was & waited the twenty or so minutes for him to arrive. He was driving his mate Easy Ste’s shiny black car & soon I was inside, smoking a spliff, watching Yorkshire turn into the far superior county of Lancashire.

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Barnoldswick, or Barlick as its more locally known, is a remarkable little town of about ten thousand souls, perched right on the border tween the roseate counties, & still divided over which of the two counties they should belong to. It is about an hour’s bus ride from Burnley, which I had undertaken many times since Nick’s family moved there in about 1990. The place is mental… everyone below the age of thirty is a raver… the chief currency of the town is weed & it is here that my eyes were opened to music, drugs & fun. On Saturday nights, after crazy hijinks in the town’s pubs, a vast posse of Barlickers would drive en masse to the After Dark club in Morley… where on a night called The Orbit techno would blare out of the giant speakers, the roman ampitheatre like club heaving with many a raver. Wicked nights were had by all as Joey Beltram, West Bam & Sven Vath brought the club to such a pumpin height that the club easily became the techno capital of Britain.

We next drove down the, long sloping road from Thornton-in-Craven & into the hilly terraced streets of Barlick. On the corner of one stood the Rainhall Food House, an excellent Chinese chippy. O, did I forget to mention it, Nick is half Chinese & his mam ran the chippy for years. On many an occasion I said to myself how lucky I was to have a best mate whose mam runs a chippy & I said it again as I sat down in their kitchen to my favourite dish… it was the same every time, a massive pile of chips, fried rice & chicken curry… bliss!

“So what are you gonna do Damo?” 
“Fuck knows Nick, I’m reyt up fer some adventurin tho.” 

“Well, I’ve just been on the phone to mi sister Michelle, an she says there’s a room goin near where she lives… rents paid up fer two months!”
“Cool… where is it?”
“Wales!”
“Wales?”
“Wales!”
“Cool!”

And that was that. In a relative instance we were on our way, the two of us, best mates ready to take on the world. So this is how the world works… one person’s life effects subtly, yet profoundly, another’s. As I finished off my meal I remembered Michelle. She is Nick’s eldest sister (he has three more younger ones) & has always had a rebellious streak. She’s the kind of girl that ends up living in Wales fer fucks sake. Even as a fifth year at Gawthorpe High School, when I was a first year, I remember her prancing about sporting wild, bright purple hair.  I quietly wondered what colour her hair was now…

Nicky & Michelle in the mid eighties

After some final preparations for our trip we called on Easy Ste. Now Easy is a cool guy, a laugh-a-minute & always carrying weed. He lived with his mum, listening to jungle & drawing funky graffiti on his bedroom walls. He’d offered to drive us as far as Manchester, where we’d catch a train to Wales. Before we set off we all had a bucket & a few hot knives & by the time we hit that Victorian megalopoli we were pretty fuckin’ stoned. It was hilarious watching Easy tryin to find somewhere to park. He did tho, & we went for a farewell beer. Next door to the pub was a music shop, & I remembered that Supersonic had been released the previous week by that new Manchester band, Oasis. I wandered in, found a 12″ copy on vinyl & paid my four quid or so… proud as punch I rejoined the lads.

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“Who’s them?” asked Easy.
“It’s Oasis… they’re pretty good” 

“They look like the Roses,” said Nick.
“I reckon they’re gonna be massive,”

…said I. Now, it would be easy to say I had such an insight, but there was some kind of mystical buzz that surrounded those particular Scallys in the early days. It was the same energy that overtook gingery Alan McGhee of Creation records as he watched them play in King Tuts Glasgow in May ’93. Oasis had randomly turned up & were determined to play 4 songs at this weird city of culture thing with 18 Wheeler headlining. McGhee was up from London,  wondering what all the commotion was about went to see the band & immediately signed them once they stepped off-stage. ‘We thought he was takin’ the piss,‘ said Liam, ‘cos he was all armarni’d up, a bit of a smoothie, like.’

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From here the juggernaut just kept on rolling, picking up young spirits along the way & depositing them all in a field at Knebworth a couple of years later. I’d jumped off way before then, but I was there at the beginning, listening to Cigarettes & Alcohol on my sisters yellow cassette player one dark evening in February. But there was sunshine in that tune, & hope for a buzzin’ summer. Oasis were simply grabbing Britain all by the scruff of the neck & hauling us into the sun. They were to be the flagbearers, & its no coincidence that their earliest symbol was of a warped Union Jack. Backstage at the Word where they were playing Supersonic on TV for the first time, hypnotic-eyed Liam Gallagher give some interesting shpiel about the formation of the band;

I weren’t into music. I’d be like, shut up with that bunch of crap you’re playing on the guitar, you can’t play it, shut up. I was into football, & being a little scally & that.

Things changed for Liam when he saw the Stone Roses as a 16-year old. ‘It was the first gig I ever went to,’ said Liam, ‘And Ian Brown came on, & he was giving it the vibe & all that.’ Liam was inspired to form his a band of his own, called Rain, which Noel caught on his return from roadieing with the Inspiral Carpets. He immediately took over the band, bought them a load of gear, made them practice 4 times a week, & most importantly gave them the cheeky chappy tunes we would all soon love to hear. By March 1994 they were on the road, touring Britain extensively. ‘Certainly,‘ reviewed Ted Kessler, ‘Liam Gallagher could do with shaking off some of his more latent Ryder-isms – the hunchback microphone molesting, the between-song banter (“Cheers, big ears”?). But he’s twice the singer Ryder was, much better-looking – and if he just stands up straight every now and then, he’ll be on Top Of The Pops by Christmas.’

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Backstage at the Word in March, during their TV debut, the Melody Maker were interviewing Noel;

‘If there’s one gripe I ‘ave, it’s this,’ says Oasis leery, cocksure guitarist, Noel Gallagher, swigging from his umpteenth jack & coke of the day. ‘Listen right,’ the fiery Manc carries on, ‘if anybody doesn’t buy my music I’ll be the most upset man in the world.’ We write music for the man who walks dwnn the street to get his copy of the fucking Daily Mirror & his 20 Bensons every day, & he’s got fuck all going for him, he’s got no money. Even if somebody cant afford to buy our record, if they put on the radio & while they’re cleaning the house , & whistle along & go, ‘fuckin’ ‘ell, did you ‘ear that tune?’ That’s what its all about.

As for the Roses comparisons, Liam was basically a Roses fan, & Noel was an Oasis fan. ‘Of course we’re gonna be compared to the Roses. But not even they could write a song like Digsy’s Diner or Supersonic,‘ splurted Noel. ‘And we couldn’t write a fucking tune like Fools Gold or I Wanna be Adored,’ retorted Liam. Another sample of their fireworky fraternal feistiness came in an interview with the NME, in which we hear

Liam: You want to be Andrew Lloyd Webber, yo do. You f—er.
Noel: Who’s Andrew Lloyd Webber
Liam: I havent got a clue, some golfer or something.
Noel: Right, shut the f–k up then

In the same interview, Noel showed how Alan McGhee was a big fan of their music;

I get a buzz giving new songs to Alan McGee, ‘cos he actually thinks we’re the greatest band in the f-ing world. He phones me up at four or five o’clock in the morning: I’ll get out of bed & its McGee on teh other end, going, ‘I’M FEELING SUPERSONIC! GET ME GIN & TONIC! WE’RE GONNA ANNHIALATE THE WORLD, MAN!” That, in a nutshell , is why we’re on Creation records: ‘cos the ‘prez is up at five in teh morning, reciting the lyrics down the f- phone!”

Whatever & whoever they were, they were ready to inveigle themselves into the British psyche. They knew it was coming. The vast majority didn’t but I did, a poppy Stone Roses would do while the real thing were working on their masterpiece. ‘You wanna know something?’ said Noel, ‘this band, in the next two years, will win the Eurovision Song Contets with a track called All Around the World, It’ll sail it by, at least, 30 points., This is the track to end all tracks. We will win the Eurovision Song Contest. Its like an 11-minute epic. Put it this way, if John lennon would have written this track he’d have been shot 5 years earlier.’

As can be seen from the above footage from’ 92, their cockiness was definitely out running their talent. “All Around the World” was eventually released on 12 January 1998, & it did get to number one; not quite the Eurovision Song Contest triumph, but from an early stage Noel could sense something big was just around the corner.

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With a few beers down our necks & my new record tucked under mi arm, Easy Ste said his farewells & left us to the road. All about us lay Manchester… or to two kids from Lancashire, Madchester. It was a place where Bez would dance about shakin his maracas, where Ian Brown would swagger about cool as fuck. It was a place where you got shot if you even caught a bus thro Moss Side, a place to go shoppin’ at Christmas & ravin’ if you were feelin adventurous. It was the place of the G-Mex, Old Trafford & the Arndale. It was the city of the Hacienda & Sankeys Soap. To a true Lancastrian (none of this Greater Manchester nonsense) we had a simple name for the place… Skankymancwankland. But it was always the music that belted out of Manchester’s bands that mattered the most. From the Carpets ‘Find out why’ on Saturday Morning TV; to parking me arse on the dance-floor whenever Sit Down came on down a nightclub; to having mi bath after footy to Some Friendly, it was always there. We made our way across to Piccadilly station, checked for a train to Cardiff, & made our way onto the train.

“So how we gonna jump it then?”
Asked Nick, who’d never Faded before.
“Easily!”
And off set the train.


TRAINING IN THE ART OF FARE EVASION : THE FADER CODE

1 Remain alert
2 Always keep your cool
3 Trust your instincts
4 Never show your money
5 Know your stations
6 Another five minutes won’t hurt in the loo
7 Know your enemy
8 Know your postcodes
9 The train’s going there anyway
10 When in doubt, clout
11 The train always comes when you’re skinnin’ up
12 It is every Faders duty to baffle & confuse
13 Always remember your free cup of tea
14 There’s no need to rush – unless you’re being chased

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Manchester Piccadilly & the trains south…

TEENAGE FUNKLAND

———

1: THE MURDER OF KURT COBAIN

2: SUPERSONIC

3: NEWPORT

4: YOUNG ROSES

5: THAT LONDON

6: ON THE ROAD

7: GLASTO ’94

 

 

 

Teenage Funkland 1 : The Murder of Kurt Cobain

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Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective

adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop


Ah, 1994, good times! Writing this a quarter of a century later, those sweet, ebullient days of youth hang like foggy blossom in the memories of my mind… my first beers at 14, my first lay at 15, my first spliff at 16, my first rave at 17…. it was a time when everything was exciting & life was filled with promise. Ah 1994, I remember it well… resin was £15 an eighth, pills a tenner in the clubs, acid £2.50 a tab, speed £7.50 a gram & skunk weed £25 on yer eighth. Beyond my little Burnley bubble, it was the year when Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY State experimented with obtaining ear mites from cats & inserting them in his own ear, carefully observing and analyzing the results. It was also the year when Barbara Windsor joined the cast of Eastenders, taking over the Queen Vic as Peggy Mitchell, mother of the bald-pated Mitchell brothers. Meanwhile, the Japanese Meteorological Society were concluding their seven-year research on whether Catfish caused earthquakes by wigglin’ their tales. And the National Lottery was born.

 

 

On the telly you had your usual fare. In the morning GMTV vied with the Big Breakfast to set up the viewers’ day (never saw them myself, far too early). In the land of the soap opera it was Neighbours & Home & Away at tea-time (or twice a day for doleys & students), followed by Corrie & ‘Stenders. The Crystal maze was still on, as was Play yer Cards Right with Bruce Forsyth & his bevvy of sexy birds. Have I got News For You catered for the bankers, while Frank Skinner & David Baddiel entertained the footy fans with their Fantasy Football League! In comedy Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced bouquet) made all the pensioners laugh & a certain fat, mouthy lesbian bird called Jo Brand amused everybody else. At the dawn of his career Alan Partridge gave us Knowing me, Knowing You, & the Fast Show had us in stitches. From across the pond The Yanks were giving us pre-Trump Roseanne Barr at her peak, BBC 2 had imported the mad-dash Ren & Stumpy (Mondays, 6-25) while Channel 4 offered the stony huh-huh-huh’s of Beavis & Butthead. As for the all-conquering Simpsons, the family had invaded every home in the isles. As BBC2 were showed us repeats of the first series, Sky One kept us up to date with the latest hysterical adventures of Homer, Bart, Marge & Lisa.

 

In the celluloid realm of the movie, dem dere Yanks seemed to be havin’ a good day. With Raiders of the Lost Ark Steven Spielberg had apparently made the greatest film ever, but he called my opinion into question when he gave the world his Schindlers List. A haunting, emotional & yet very entertaining portrayal of the Jewish Holocaust, he brought that heinous crime to life in a masterpiece of cinematic experience & history. His decision to make it in Black & White only added to the atmosphere, excepting one sublime moment. After seeing a little girl wearing a scarlet coat during an urban clearance by the Nazis, we would come across that same coat later in the film… only in a cart full of bodies being hauled through the death camps. Other films that year included the Shawshank Redemption, released to a tidal wave of apathy, soon to become recognized as one of the great movies of all time… & Quentin Tarantino’s follow up to the startling & curiously unsettling Reservoir Dogs… Pulp Fiction! In it John Travolta became cool again, Uma Thurman was proper fit like, dancin away til she overdosed on coke, leadin’ to a wicked scene. Near comatose she was given a direct shot of adrenalin through the breast-plate & into her heart… she sat up with the needle stickin out of her chest… cool! I leave you with a memory of one particular scene. Bruce Willis walked in on his boss being botteyed by a copper called Zed & his rubber-clad gimp… evidence enough to prove that the Yanks are definitely WRONG! Nearer to home Britain produced the interminably silly Four Weddings & a Funeral, where once again Hugh Grant played a slightly embarrassed, yet vaguely cool Englishman trying to get laid.

In 1994 the Nineties at last began to express themselves. Being able to draw on the Sixties for it’s music, the Seventies for it’s fashion & the Eighties for not what to do (man learns from his mistakes) suddenly the age had projected a persona… nothing particularly new, but a subtle blend of all the cool bits that had gone on before. There was definitely something in the air, a sense of escape from the shackles of the Eighties… to be poor was cool, and all of Thatcher’s yuppies were now holed up in Surbiton des-res. From the many tribes came the many vibes, it wasn’t just Mods & Rockers anymore, the fashion industry fragmenting & it seemed that now, as long as you had a style you were cool. Look at Jarvis Cocker… a tall, gangly, thirtysomething, bespectacled geek was now an urban hero. The people were taking to the streets once again, more peaceably than the Poll Tax riots, their agendas more for Gay Pride & against the cutting down of student grants. There was a problem tho. The music scene, which is in the very fibre & blood of the British, was being taken over quite insidiously by America.

After the miracle of Madchester, with the Roses in hiding, the Mondays on crack; with James, The Charlatans & the Carpets past their peak, there came no new band to get us grooving. Suede shone ephemeral for a while, & their first album still possesses that classical guitar swirl which got us all excited. But then came Kurt Cobain. Based in Seattle the ‘grunge’ sound had rocketed round the world, leaving a trail of long hair & dodgy t-shirts in its wake. Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam & Mudhoney are all famous names from the era, but it is Nirvana & their release of Nevermind which suddenly thrust alternative music into the mainstream. Nirvana were pretty damn good, actually; very clever, with simple song structures, quiet & roaring juxtapositions & hypbotic lyrics.  To the world the band’s frontman was the iconic figurehead of grunge, clad in a Freddy Krueger jumper & wielding his gee-tah like a Celtic axeman. Heroin addiction, a dark temperament & being married to Courtney Love was his downfall.

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IMG_20180413_100821915_HDR.jpgThe story begins at the end of March. Kurt was in Rome & Courtney was in London, reviewing singles for the Melody Maker. That night she flew to Rome, & by the morning Kurt was in Umberto Prima Hospital hospital, overdosing. She did make the SOS call, btw, after finding him on the floor of their room in the Excelsior Hotel, but this sharp & conniving sociopath knew what she was doing. Her band, Hole’s, album was being released the next week, & it was time to ditch the stepping-stone-to-fame that had been her attachment to Kurt Cobain. In an interview made a few years later in the film ‘Kurt & Courtney’, Eldon Hoke, or El Duce, describes the background to the Courtney’s murder of Cobain at the hands of as certain ‘Allen’ – ie Allen Wrench. “Let the FBI catch him,” he had said, & it is no coincidence that two days after half-naming Cobain’s murderer, Hoke was found decapitated on the railroad tracks in Riverside, California. In a recent blogpost of mine, the wife described Courtney Love as, ‘an awkward hero. I was there. She’s no hero. She’s a narcissistic junkie who reaped the benefits of her dearly departed to mutilate her body with Hollywood surgery.’

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The discovery of Kurt’s body at his home at 171 Lake Washington Blvd East Seattle, on April 8th 1994, sent shockwaves across the planet. In Seattle, a spontaneous coming together of the Grunge scene kinda summoned folk at the Fountain under the Space Needle by the Seattle Centre, where kids played Nirvana songs on guitar & lit candles & drank beer. Some would have found a corner to take, I presume, so rife was the drug in the city at that time. My wife is actually from Seattle – her partner at the time played bass for The Geffen-signed band The Posies – & she remembers going along to the vigil, & was taken aback by a young fellow wearing the famous smiley-face Nirvana t-shirt, to which had been added a red-daubed bullet hole in the head. ‘That’s crass,‘ she had told her best friend in disgust. Also quite crass was Courtney Love’s pre-recorded reaction, reading extracts from her own faked ‘suicide note’ & her emotional outburst that Kurt was an asshole for doing this to her family. The ultimate two-faced betrayal of the ultimate two-faced bitch!

 

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So, where were you in Spring ‘94? Some of you were at school, some of you weren’t even born. Some had crap jobs, some had good jobs, some were on the dole. Some were in prison & some were pregnant. Some were in hospital while others were abroad. All in all, everyone was doing something & was somewhere. Me? I was dossing about in Burnley, Lancashire, & that’s where my adventure begins. I had moved into the front room of a two up, two down terraced house in Burnley. The electricity had recently been cut off, forcing me in front of a gas fire for light, heat & cooking (half an hour for toast). All around me lay the unkempt mess of a seventeen year old (messy as fuck)… to top it all off my band had recently split up & mi bird, Jane, had just got spots. For entertainment I was learning bass guitar on three strings of a beaten up acoustic, each one promising to snap at any moment. At this point I could play the entire bass line of Wild Thing & three others… I Wanna Be Adored, She Bangs the Drums & I Am the Ressurection… all by my favourite band, The Stone Roses.

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The author in Burnley, 1994, aged 17

Now then, the Roses. Evidently ace, Manchester’s finest & easily the greatest band since The Beatles, whose influence may not have been as wide as that of the Scousers, but is of a more subtle type that has affected an entire generation. Every decent band since those heady days of ’89 has drawn inspiration from their mix of majesty & groove… Richard Ashcroft of the Verve had their poster shadowing his teenage years, Liam Gallagher was inspired to act after seeing The Roses play, & so on. For me & many others they were the soundtrack of youth, if not life, & whenever I hear one of their tracks, be it on an advertisement or in a club, a special familial moment always occurs. Tracks like Fools Gold are as famous as the National anthem & are as much a part of the country’s psyche as are the drums at the end of an Eastenders episode.

So, it was time to do one. It was Easter 1994, the trees were sprouting leaves left, right & centre, the ducklings were clogging the canals & twinkles began to return to the eyes of the birds. Within me I began to feel a stir, which I can now recognise as the Spirit of Adventure, an instinctual impulse that has driven men from the safety of their homesteads on various crazy missions, where death, or at least a serious accident, await. I was first filled with the spirit as a young boy following the adventures of Asterix & Obelix as they took on the might of Ceaser’s legions. Later, in the weekly Sunday morning race with my sister to see who woke up first & got control over the morning’s choice of video, I became addicted to mister Indiana Jones. Over the years I think I edged it, but through my sisters choice of video I now know all the lyrics to every song in Grease, and all the dialogue of Dirty Dancing… Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

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Adventuring is great fun, exciting & educational, a life being led. In early ’93 I left Lancashire for my first proper adventure & had a wild teenage time touring England as far as Minehead, where I got a job as a burger boy at Butlins. Unfortunately my boss was a Bastard Rovers fan, & I was soon sacked. The money I saved up took me as far as Tarragona, near Barcelona, which was then stolen while I slept on the beach. My mum had to fly me home & I found myself back in Burnley… my adventure over but the thrilling taste of the tour still tantalising my essence & I was still only sixteen. So where to go this time. A stint at Butlins had served me well before, so I thought I’d try again…. this time closer to home in Yorkshire, & sunny Skegness.

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It was time to do one from Burnley. Because of the recent success of the town’s football team, the whole world has now heard of my hometown. For those who have never actually been, Burnley is a misty, old industrial centre of about seventy thousand inhabitants nestled under the gaze of Pendle Hill, that lofty mound where the Lancashire witches would gather & cast spells on pregnant cows. Burnley is predominately working class, which means it’s full of good people, pies & pubs. As a teenager it had everything I needed… clubs, drugs & birds. My family lived there also, including the wonder of my life, mi Grandma Joan. Before I left for Skeggy she gave me a good dose of her home baking & a fiver, which coupled with the thirty quid income support money gave me £35 quid for the road. I spent my last evening in Burnley with my girlfriend Jane; smoking weed, making love & chatting about the future, the innocent enthusiasm of youth bubbling beneath our talk. We slept in a warm embrace til morning, when it was time to set forth. Jane’s mum dropped me off at the train station & they stood on the platform waving as my train pulled away. I waved back, not knowing when, or if, I would see them again.

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Of course I didn’t pay on the train. Almost exactly a year previously I became a Fader (Fare Evader), inducting myself into a wonderful art, skill, sport & blag that has been a constant feature of my nomadic life. I remember my first jump well. After spending three hours in the rain at the top of the M1, waiting for a lift down South, I thought fuck it, lets try the trains… & have never looked back (or paid) since. The train wound through the gorgeous green valleys of Todmorden & Hebden Bridge, past the steep slopes of Halifax, the curry houses of Bradford, the grey megalopolis that is Leeds & into view of the stately Minster at York. Now already I’d seen far too many Yorkshiremen for my Lancastrian liking, but the situation was eased a little as we reached the desolate Moors. A little while later, beyond a windswept wilderness, the train pulled into Skegness & I breathed in the salty air of the coast.

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TEENAGE FUNKLAND

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1: THE MURDER OF KURT COBAIN

2: SUPERSONIC

3: NEWPORT

4: YOUNG ROSES

5: THAT LONDON

6: ON THE ROAD

7: GLASTO ’94