A Return To Mancunian Vibes

After recently visiting the sounds and sights of Mars, it’s back to a more local setting today.

Though he’s slipped from his northern roots, Noel Gallagher has cast his mind back to his Mancunian beginnings with his latest High Flying Birds album, due out in June.

Titled Council Skies, here is the cover reveal:

That spot, where the band’s equipment sits, is the preserved centre circle of Manchester City’s former home in Moss Side. For eighty years, this was where fans watched their heroes in blue take the kick-off that would begin their games.

There is a generation of City fans today who never got to experience Maine Road, the club having in 2003 relocated to the Etihad Stadium in East Manchester. With the former stadium now demolished, houses have been built around that circle which has been left for sentimental supporters, like both Noel and myself, who have long historic and emotional ties to the place.

Having said that, I’ve yet to go and pay homage, but it’s on my list.

My first game was in 1982 and my last was that final one, held there twenty-one years later.

In addition to the hundreds of matches that has drawn me through the network of surrounding side streets of that inner city town, there has also been the odd concert, too. I was there for one of the two-night gigs put on by Noel’s former group, Oasis, when they were at the height of their powers in the 1990’s, with Britpop in all its pomp.

I can remember the moon coming out, the blue moon, adding to the saved inner image as it hung above us all, a sign of the musical Gods’ approval, as the band belted out Champagne Supernova.

It was a great night. A great band with great support (Ocean Colour Scene and Manic Street Preachers ). Maybe my favourite ever gig.

On the other night, a couple of my friends were mugged in one of those shadowed back alleyways as they made their way back home. What the Gods giveth the Gods taketh away.

All sorts of memories. Most of them good.

My Music

An occasional post of my music choices. No analysis, or explanation, maybe just a few words to say why! § Back in February I reposted this …

My Music

Peter shared a post that I did back in February of this new and timely song by ABBA, and now I return the favour of this great version that he posted. Two different takes of a beautiful song.

The Seventies Slip Further Away

I was intending to do a post tonight about the death that I heard about yesterday, of a musical figure from my childhood, when suddenly news broke of yet another such figure.

The first one was Judith Durham. One of my first musical memories is of my Mum singing the song Morningtown Ride by her group (The Seekers) to us when we were children. I’d be coming up to four then, so it would be around 1975.

Decades later I could recall some lines of the song but not its title or its singer, so with the help of Google one day when on a nostalgia trip (I take these trips often, I’m that kinda guy) I typed up the words and was immediately transported back to the house that we lived in until 1977. And that song led to others, each anchoring me further for a while in a place and time now gone.

Isn’t it wonderful how music can do that to you?

R.I.P Judith Durham, 79.

And now there’s more breaking news, but my memories are much clearer this time and so the sadness more acute.

R.I.P Olivia Newton-John, 73.

Olivia Newton-John had passed away this morning. I guess she finally succumbed to her decades-long fight against cancer. I love her Jeff Lynne-penned hit Xanadu but my favourite of hers is Magic. And of course there was Grease when we were kids.

I don’t watch a lot of musicals but I’ve always had time to watch that one during the holidays.

You’re The One That I Want. What a finale.

‘Finale: the close or termination of something.’

That’s what the dictionary tells me. The close or termination of something. Some things survive, though. Somethings can be relived. Music and memories.

Rest easy, Sandy.

Newton-John and Travolta reuniting as Sandy and Danny in 2019, and the original Sandy in 1978.

Numbers

Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number –

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you –

Ye are many – they are few

The Mask of Anarchy, Percy Bysshe Shelley

The old get old

And the young get stronger

May take a week

And it may take longer

They got the guns

But we got the numbers

Five To One, James Douglas Morrison

Disclaimer: I’m not advocating anything. It was just that reading the words of one young poet reminded me of the lines of another.

Shaking The Heavens

My daughter Courtney surprised me on Father’s Day with tickets to see Kula Shaker in Manchester, at a venue I’ve seen them before. And, as lead singer Crispian Mills pointed out on the night, this time round it was quite an appropriate venue.

Their latest album release (a double album) is a bit of a concept album. Titled 1st Congregational Church Of Love And Free Hugs, Mills explains:

“It is set against a theatrical backdrop, a small church in a semi—fictitious English village called Little Sodbury. I just liked the mental imagery of the small church with a rickety, leaky roof and a great storm raging in heaven, with all these tiny people huddled together to tell stories and sing songs and make it through the dark night.”

The concert took place in the Albert Hall, which was built as a Methodist Hall in 1908.

Huddled together to sing songs through the dark night. Thankfully, though, with no leaking roof.

There are also connections with Manchester for the group: Mills told the audience that Manchester was a special place for them, we Northerners accepting the group when the ‘villains’ of London said “no.” It was after a gig in this city that they were signed by a record company.

The band made a nod to Manchester’s musical heritage during their performance of their popular song Tattva, breaking into the native Happy Monday’s Hallelujah.

My daughter, familiarising herself with their better known hits during the preceding days, asked me how old they were. On telling her that I didn’t know the age of every member of the group but I did know that the lead singer was born in ‘73 (with me checking in in ‘71) I think she was expecting four frail old men to take the stage.

But they blew her away. With Mills as energetic as ever and the other three in sync, they were only halfway through the opening number when she remarked to me “They’re great live!” Which came as a relief to a veteran like me.

And when Mills threw his guitar into the air, catching it on the spin before throwing himself down, horizontal, onto the wooden boards without missing a note, she exclaimed “My God!”

Not for the first time that that phrase would have been uttered in these surroundings. But what was definitely a first for Courtney, who already has a number of concerts under her belt, came during the encore: singing along to a song entirely in Sanskrit! (Govinda)

Of Mice and Men, Monarchs And Music

You may have seen something of the celebrations taking place around the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend. (Some people have referred to this as ‘Platty Joobs ’ but personally I think anyone heard to utter this travesty of a term should be imprisoned by Her Majesty in the Tower. Or taken straight to Tower Hill to have their head served up on a silver platty. Platter! Damn it! I meant platter!)

Naturally a lot of the focus was down south on our Nation’s Capital, but what about locally?

Well, in my town, it was advertised that a beacon, one of more than 1,500 throughout the Commonwealth, would be lit at 9.30pm in the aptly named Jubilee Park.

In theory, such an historic occasion sounded like something worth attending, but it didn’t quite pan out that way.

Although it was advertised to take place in Jubilee Park the beacon was actually on the park’s edge, just below the wall of St.Leonard’s church. This meant that the majority of people, gathered high inside the church grounds, were unable to view what had actually attracted them there like, yes, moths to a flame, in the first place. And also they were unable to hear the rehearsed speeches as the microphone, working in the two test runs, didn’t work for the real thing.

The best laid plans of mice and men and all that.

But still, the beacon was lit, let the records show, as Middleton took its place in the symbolic line of celebratory fire.

Earlier in the week (and less of an anti-climax), there was another celebration as Manchester’s own Liam Gallagher made a triumphant homecoming return to the Etihad Stadium, home of his (and my) football team Manchester City, as the warm-up gig to his upcoming Knebworth show.

A friend of mine was attending. We’d both previously seen the singer perform at the Etihad before as part of his group Oasis, as well as at the Reebok in Bolton. The first time we’d seen them live was at Maine Road (City’s previous ground) a jaw-dropping twenty-six years ago. 1996. Though we didn’t know it at the time, the group had peaked musically but there was still some good music to come and there was some great music then. My abiding memory of that might is sitting on the shoulders of another friend as the sky darkened, the moon rising over the stadium, as the band launched into Champagne Supernova.

(For any music aficionados reading this, there were two great support acts that day: Ocean Colour Scene and Manic Street Preachers.)

1996, though. Twenty-six years-how time flies!

This time around my friend had gone to the gig with his daughter-how time’s change!

Good music survives through generations, with the older influencing the younger, and there they both were connected to it, and each other, in that incredible middle ground.

By all accounts it was a fantastic gig and he took this equally fantastic photograph.

I got the moon. He got the fireworks.

We both got the memories.

On The Death Of A Friend

The news came right out of the blue. It says a lot about the world we live in when, on hearing about the death of a middle-aged male, your immediate thoughts turn to mental health and did he take his own life? Even when there was no reason to suspect so.

It seems that those initial fears were well-founded, though. Well-founded regardless of our last spontaneous meeting the week before, unable as I was to see beyond the handshake greeting and the same old laughs. If only our vision could see beyond those superficial things.

It’s a cliché, but the next day, when opening the curtains, the world outside was going on as normal. It was just that he’d fallen away. Fallen from those familiar streets that we’d shared since our childhood of the Seventies. I walked them today, carrying him around with me. Along with his daughter’s words that struck like a dagger on social media:

Dad, I’ll miss you forever. I know we will meet up again someday, just not here

Here. The place of our roots, this housing estate where he was a well-know, popular figure, where we got taller and the world got larger. It’s a poorer place for his absence.

As well as our beginnings I think of our shared interests. He was a huge Lennon/Beatles/Oasis/City fan. Music loomed large in our conversations. He was in a band and I used to listen to his music while he used to read my writing. He once asked me to provide lyrics for something he’d done around a riff he’d come up with. To the best of my knowledge he never got to record it, and the lyrics found a home in my second poetry collection.

On the evening I found out I had a beer in the back garden while listening to his stuff on Soundcloud, along with a couple of demos he’d sent me. They provided the soundtrack while I read through our convos on text and WhatsApp. There was me, informing him of a new John Lennon exhibition in Liverpool. There was he, exhorting me to go to those early Beatle stomping grounds he’d visited in Hamburg.

I live next door to my Mum – my childhood home. I looked to the wall at the rear of the ginnel that we shared. When my son was younger I used to use my friend’s name as a warning for him when he was trying to climb onto it. “There’s a guy called *** *** and in 1982, when he was a kid, he fell off that wall and split his head open!” He’d had a crew cut back then and you could see the blood on his scalp. He still bore the scar in adulthood.

Right up until that middle-age cut off point.

The air began to turn chilly. There’s only seven tracks on his Soundcloud page, the vast majority of his creativity remains uncaptured. I put them on repeat. It’s easier to picture him playing that bass than to think of that room and speculate about his final thoughts.

Wherever he now was, I raised a glass to him.

just not here

I drained my beer as the sun went down on this old town of ours. It will outlive us all.