Thursday 15 February 2024

This Crush is Crushing: My Maudlin Career by Camera Obscura

My memory, as I advance in years, is slowly becoming more and more unreliable and scattily sieve like but I can tell you exactly what I was doing on April the 20th 2009. I was on the train to Manchester to purchase My Maudlin Career, the forth LP from Camera Obscura, from Piccadilly Records. I was almost certainly wearing corduroy trousers.

I had in fact effected a similar ritual for the bands predecessing record, Lets Get Out of This Country. I was idly pissing about on the internet one day in 2006, scrolling through the Teenage Fanclub message board, when I saw a thread someone had put up basically saying he was bored of music and could anyone recommend something? The very first reply was the sleeve for LGOOTC. No further recommendation or explanation, just a jpeg of a young lady looking slightly forlorn in front of some very impressive wall paper. In an incredibly and unusually impulsive action, I went to the train station that very afternoon to set off to buy it. It was pretty obvious that nowhere in Shrewsbury would stock it, so off I went. I'm not really one for kismet or fate or any of that but I knew this was one of the records that would change, or at the very least save, my life.

And so we find ourselves some three years later in 2009 and on the train once again, though now things a are little different. About a year and a half previous my Dad had quite unexpectedly and very tragically died a week before the Christmas of 2007. To say I found this devastating would be something of an understatement. I had started, rather understandably in my opinion, to drink quite heavily and quite often. It wasn't until I found myself drinking my thirteenth pint of Guinness on night whilst (and this but will always sum up this period for me) trying to read a paperback book under the garish lights of an awful nightclub that I realised how far I was slipping. This was the wake up call I had so desperately required, and after a sharp reduction of alcohol and a course of grief counselling I started to slowly and Bambi like get myself back on my feet.

I was living on a house share at the time of My Maudlin Careers' release, with my mate Titch, in a Victorian terraced house in leafy-ish area of Shrewsbury called Belle Vue. It was, and is, a lovely area with an odd mix of house shares, young families and retired couples. It was small (our street was so narrow the fire brigade used to drive their engines down it as a training exercise) and quiet, the perfect place to get a head back together. There was a little pub, the Prince of Wales, just around the corner which did the best pint of Tribute I have ever tasted and, if you got there early enough, a lock in with old men who seemed genuinely glad of your company and always had a packet of crisps to take back to the wife.

It was all very idyllic except for our next door neighbour who was, in old parlance, built like a brick shithouse but paradoxically spoke a but like Joe Pasquale. He was a gym addict who we secretly suspected of partaking in steroids, which would explain his temper. He was mostly always fairly nice to our face (“Not bad? You?”) but would react to anything he deemed too loud, walking up the stairs say, but smacking the daylights out of the wall. If you really pissed him off, he would play his dance music (always always the episode of the 'Dangerous' Dave Pearce Radio One show which he must have taped directly off the radio) at a volume so loud you would swear it was coming form your room. I was spared the real horror though. Every Sunday at exactly one in the afternoon, poor Titch had endure the sound of steroid man having sex with his girlfriend. The noise he made, according to Titch, was similar to man attempting to destroy a car with his bare hands. It would sometimes last up to twenty minutes where post grunt it would become suddenly and eerily silent. Then in celebration the Dave Pearce tape would start.

In the January of that year I had gingerly started to write a blog about music. It was Marilyn, my grief counsellor's, idea to write. (So you want to be a writer?/fantastic idea). Not as an outpouring of emotion or anything but as a way of decluttering and easing a full and frantic mind. This was a little after the time I had started to watch Camera Obscura play live up and down the country as a sort of coping mechanism against the grief. It was nice being around people bit not having to interact with them unless I wanted too. Ever since I was a teenager I found gigs a great place to defragment a mind and I found myself gently being absorbed back into real life.

In search of CO live dates I had stumbled across yet another message board called Anorak, where I discovered something called 'indiepop'. It was a place where I was not only discovering new and amazing music by the armful, I also found people who needed and appreciated music just as much as I did and clutched records to their bosoms as of their lives depended on it, which in some cases it did. Indiepop and Anorak seemed like a cosy scene, but with a razor sharp political edge. We could make cupcakes but we could also print our own t-shirts and fanzines, put on our own shows and tours and release our own records entirely by our own endeavour and industry and entirely on our own terms. I found myself writing about the bands that kept popping up and stealing my heart not only because I knew the music press wouldn't cover them, but because I totally and absolutely needed people to see how incredible and precious these bands were. I genuinely adored them. People baulked at the word 'twee', but we were precious and we were cute and we were nice. The best comment I've read about indiepop and indiepop people (and I wish I could remember who said it) was someone baffled to how they got cast as dull bookish virgins because in this persons experience indiepoppers gave the filthiest and most depraved phone sex. There is definitely something in that.

I was quite enjoying my little life, surviving on a diet of pasta, Josie Long DVD's, 'Allo Darlin' records,Pall Mall reds, long, long walks, strong Yorkshire Tea and writing about whatever band or label had popped into my life to make it infinitely better. I was playing the living shit out of the first Pains of Being Pure at Heart LP (released a month before My Maudlin Career and signifying that indiepop was an internationalist movement) when the news of a brand new Camera Obscura record broke out. I erroneously reported in my blog that the record was called My Modelling Career, which got me a polite but firm bollocking from Carey and advice how I should wait for the band official announcements in the future. It was a fair cop. What I didn't tell Carey was, by some incredibly good fortune, I had a friend whose flatmate worked for the NME, and subsequently received in the post a CDR of the new album with a note wishing me well and begging me to not to share the content and his mate could get sacked. This was the bands first album for 4AD, a major leap from uber indie Elefant. With a deep breath I put in the disc and pressed play.

Where Let's Get Out of This Country was about escape and new things (though paradoxically with the best homesick song ever released in the form of Country Mile) My Maudlin Career was about self reflection and soothing calm and putting ones self back together. It's perfect pop. Listen to the tinkles opening the title track. It could be Abba. 'My maudlin career has come to an end/I don't want to be sad again' for gods sake. It could have been written for me. How easy it was to get lost in it's shimmering cinematic sweep of strings, it's confiding and heart melting lyrics, it's brass and sass. How easy to drift away into it's world of dusty libraries and heartbreakers. You can almost hear the whir of the cinema projector. My Maudlin Career is a balm for those who loved and got their heart burnt, a road map for the sad and lost and people simultaneously lonely and in love. A swooning cuddle of a record with a knowing nod.

And now years and tears later, I find myself a father myself, still an admirer and lover of pop music but less dependent on it's ability to rescue. I spend my days rooted firmly in real life with the occasional excursion to the world of pop, instead of vica-versa like I used to. But sometimes when all is dark and quiet I put on headphones and put the needle on the record and I remember. I remember.

Sunday 28 August 2022


 Most people knew him as Eddis, a single name like Madonna or Pele. But to me he was always Mr.Eddis. A name brought on from respect because he was older than me, because knew more about music than me and because he ran the gauntlet of getting a kicking from Teds, Skins and Mods so that we could freely listen to weird music and dress strangely.

 He had a unique dress sense. Clothes would be purchased not for the colour or fit, but because of the vibe they gave off, a vibe that only he could see or sense. “Feel the quality of that” he would say beaming, offering a sleeve of an old jacket that had a huge hole in the armpit and smelled vaguely of sheds. “Fucking beautiful”.

He’s the only man I’ve ever seen wearing a cravat and a cagoule at the same time. And of course he pulled it off.

 He was a gentle soul. After an admirably forthright doctor had told him if he didn’t sort his shit out he would be dead in six months, he was happy to nurse half a lime and soda and tell old punk war stories, tales I was happy to lap up. He never ever talked to me about work or where I was living or anything the straights talk about, It was never ever how I made or spent my money. It was always about what I was putting my heart into, and I loved him for that. “Who have Town got this weekend?” “Bournemouth Mr.Eddis” “I saw Penetration there once” and away would go.

 Not that he wasn’t principled mind. He was a punk, a vegetarian, a socialist, firmly anti fascist and a feminist. He adored women in the same way the Egyptians worshipped cats, with a mixture of awe and love. He had a massive respect for female punk and ska singers, though Polly Styrene out of X Ray Specs was his favourite. He would talk of her in the hushed reverent tones normally reserved to discussing God. He loved hearing about my daughter and delighted in hearing how much she loved school. He wallowed in hearing the minutiae of bringing up a baby. “Tell me about changing her nappy, that must feel fucking brilliant”

 He was a funny man with a arid dry sense of humour. His black/white right/wrong almost childlike sense of the world would have me in stitches. On Eric Clapton (“It shouldn’t have been his lad who fell out of the window, it should have been him. And I don’t want it to be instant, I want him to lie there thinking about what a racist cunt he is”). On a member of notorious fascist Oi! Punks Skrewdriver. (“He got brain cancer didn’t he? Let’s hope he didn’t die to quickly”) all delivered in that slow monotone. One of the last times I saw him was a baking hot day and I was racing home for an ice cream and a lie down. I passed him eating lunch in his pink shades. “Alright Mr.Eddis? Hot one innit?”

“Well” he said slowly sipping on a can of Lilt “depends on how quickly you’re moving don’t it?”

 He was evangelical about music to the point of Stalinism. I remember him stopping mid sentence, putting his drink down and walking out of the pub because someone had the audacity to put Fleetwood Mac on the jukebox. He got punk in a way I can only dream of understanding. It made and defined him. Not in the mohican and gob sense of pub, but the DIY and community sense, the principles and the politics, the submergence in art.

When I heard of Mr.Eddis’s passing my initial reaction was selfish, I thought of how sad I was and how much I would miss him and how Shrewsbury, the Nags and life wouldn’t be the same without him, but the real actual tragedy is we are lost in this world full of shit and horror,  and we need more men like Eddis, not less. How cruel it is to take him away from us, this gentle, caring, wise and funny man. That’s what I find unfathomably cruel and unforgivable. 

Sunday 23 January 2022

But Enough About Tw*e

The Deptford Soul Club

There is currently a 'twee' revival in America. You can tell because twenty something girls are dressing like Zooey Deschanel in their Tik-Toks and forty something men are writing about Sarah records.

The latest piece, by Ian Wang, (despite a header photo so inappropriate it almost runs as a paradox against the actual text. You won't sell political pop with a photo of Stuart Murdoch's masturbation fantasy) is very, very good. If the brief was 'describe Sarah records to someone who has never heard of the Field Mice' then it more than succeeded. It's a great read. It's fresh twist, brilliantly, was to give props to Decolonise fest and to Sandy Gill, someone who for the past decade or so has been a wonderful talisman into the calling out of the good, the bad and the ugly in the indiepop scene. 

I remember vividly the blog post by the owner of a particularly cuddly indiepop label in America, about how much hip hop disgusted him. Now, we have surely learned enough about Morrissey to hear alarm bells about someone publicly airing their views about their hatred towards black music and black culture. Not only does such an article exclude people who are non-white from their Utopian little scene, it also shows a frankly bananas narrow mindedness towards music. You think Blueboy were political mate? Go and play a Public Enemy record.

I also a remember a piece from Sheffield, England. The gist was that their lovely little indiepop night* was ruined because a 'townie' man dressed in casual wear asked for an Arctic Monkeys record. I'll admit I took this rather personally. Despite of having a musical taste similar to the indiepop DJ, I have much more in common with guy asking for Arctic Monkeys. We came from the same estates, stood on the same football terraces, He could very easily been my brother. I had never seen class as an issue in the indiepop scene before, but this was pretty clear, if you are from a council estate then you'll be viewed with suspicion, and I suddenly felt pretty unwelcome. So if I attended your night in a Postcard t-shirt I would be OK, but if asked for the Stone Roses I was clearly an oik and beneath contempt?

Fuck that, listen, despite Ian Brown coming unhinged recently I will always hold the Roses dearly to my heart for two reasons, One, they made being mad keen about music in a rough state secondary school acceptable, not being ashamed of really, really loving a record was a big deal to me at 14 and I'll never forget that. Two, from Roses interviews I learned about Situationism, the Clash, Jackson Pollock, James Brown, Sylvia Plath, Derrick May and the Parisian May '68 riots. I learned about politics from Sarah records of course, but that was when I was in the 6th form faintly well read, but the Roses got to me when I was 14, when it mattered. I can hold my head above water in a discussion about culture or ethics or values. That's not thanks to school or university, but records and books. The education of the working class.

The end of Wang's piece discusses the future of the indiepop scene. To save the soil covering indiepop's coffin completely is not down to the elders sitting in rocking chairs telling the same old grandad stories about the past. Yes, fucking yes, of COURSE Sarah were and are important and vital, but not as important as the future.

 At the moment in England there is a club night called The Deptford Soul Club, and basically it's 19 year old kids getting into Northern Soul music. Instead of following, the talc and baggy trousers rules and cliches of people reliving their past in the current Soul scene, it's a fresh, inclusive, anything-goes exciting night out, were the youth go and get drunk and dance to incredible music. And this, essentially, is what chin stroking articles like this and Ian's are forgetting. How much fun the music was. Obviously, it's only fun if it's fun for absolutely everyone, but I hope against hope this is the future. Young politically and well read kids ignoring our old duffering and putting on nights where they can dance to Atta Girl and Sensitive with big huge grins on their faces, whatever their colour, gender, sexuality or upbringing may be, in happiness, togetherness and safety. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Public Enemy t-shirts, Sarah t-shirts, and Stone Roses t-shirts on the same dance floor. Imagine that. 

* The indiepop night in question was not, for the record, Offbeat, which is a very cool Sheffield institution and run by a man I have a lot of love and respect for. 

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Indietracks: This is the final stop. All change please, all change.

A fair few years ago, despite repeated attempts at ducking out of it, I went with a girlfriend to her friends wedding. At the 'do, the only three people I knew were busy dancing to Whitney Houston and I got stuck with a nice but dull man called Greg who worked in insurance and tried quite desperately and heroically to get a conversation going. All avenues fell flat. "The football? Ah, more of a rugger man myself". In desperation to find some common ground he chatted excitedly about his holiday, two weeks in southern Italy, about how much it cost, what he would do and what he would see. He finished his little speech and looked at me in hope of a reply. How could I tell a man like Greg that I like to spend my hard earned holiday time at railway heritage site, sleeping in a tent, drinking cloudy ale and listening to bands he'd never heard of? I smiled weakly and got a round in.

All things end of course, and the loss is sad, but I feel particularly devastated about the demise of Indietracks. There were other festivals of course, and enjoyed them all immensely, but Butterly provided something else entirely. I'm not sure I've been anywhere that made so unequivocally and unashamedly happy. It had it's own magic. By it's nature magic is explainable and undefinable, and for years I've been trying to pinpoint exactly what made it different, and the closest I can get is it provided a teasing glimpse of a world where Pink Floyd and the Conservative party had never existed. What made going home and back to work again so brain mashingly difficult was that after 51 weeks of being the minority weirdo who liked books and bizarre music, we got one weekend to be in the majority. And bloody hell it felt good. Every years on the bus home I would have the same day dream that all the Indietracks people moved on to a remote islnd together and live out the rest of our lives in perfect harmony. Why wasn't my town full of funny, clever, intelligent and beautiful people with an amazing taste in music? Why can't everyone else in the country be so lovely and so sound? Why was this perfect society flashed in front of us and taken so cruely away?

I'll miss the owls and the beer and the people and can crush and the little sets in the train, the church and the merch tent. I'll miss being deliriously happy to buy pizza and curry and records. I'll miss the drunken smiley haze and the feeling of beatific calm as the sun set slowly behind the big speakers. I'll miss the dust and the little train set and the daft and pointless drug dog. I'll miss the drinking going on way after the campsite disco had finished, in the hut, outside the cafe by the vending machines and in the whisky fort. I'll miss the greatest bar staff in the universe, the lovely women in the campsite cafe and wolfing down a pale breakfast with a huge grin. I'll miss the walk back to the campsite in the dark, the excited chatter, the torch lights dancing over everyone's trainers. I'll miss seeing my favourite bands in the world and falling in love with a dozen others. I'll miss the BEST INDIETRACKS EVER posts on Anorak, and I'll even miss the joy and hurrumphs as the latest line up is announced. I'll miss the people and the camadre and making new friends and catching up with old ones. I'll miss having the very very best time and never wanting to go back to work ever again.

What I should have said to Greg, while grabbing on to his lapels, is look here mush, Look how long and hard Nat and Andy et all work so we can have our weekend of utopia. Look how bloody happy it makes us. Shove your fortnight in Italy up your arse Greg lad. Give me a weekend listening to pop with my pals any day. But of course I didn't. He's never been. How could he possibly understand?

Wednesday 3 February 2021

Death at One's Elbow-On Mayflies by Andrew O'Hagan

 A few years ago, I went to see The Jesus and Mary Chain in Manchester. In between the support and the brother Reed coming on I got talking to a group of five Glaswegian lads. ‘Alright big man? Youse like Mary Chain aye?’. They were all about 20, drunk, excited and wide eyed at the wonder of pop. We got talking about our favourite bands, favourite beers, football (Shrewsbury Town had a couple loanees from the Scottish leagues at the time. Their knowledge of these very minor players was intimidating), books and politics. The very stuff of life.  

 On the way out after, one of them grabbed me by the arm. ‘You coming to 42’s big man? Come on! COME ON!’. I was coming up forty at that point, way too old for the 42nd Street nightclub, but got very rapidly swept up in their lust for the craic, their absolute determination to rinse the evening of every possibility and moment and their youthful joy and gang like bonhomie. It was agreed we would have a drink at their hotel while a couple of them changed shirts. I was expecting a pint at a bar, but we ended in their room, a small twin between the five of them full of rucksacks, socks and empty crisp packets. The ‘drink’ turned put to be two big bottles of vodka and one of those small bottles of Coke you get with a meal deal. We were all, to put it mildly, slaughtered afterwards and failed to get in the the club (‘Come on man! We’ve come from Scotland special’). We did end of one of those Manc clubs that pumps out the usual Madchester/Factory fodder, however. The lads knew every word to every song, and despite their failure to impress the local girls, a good time was had by all.

 The level of debauchery was so intense I think it would be unlikely I’d recognise these lads again if I saw them, and vice versa. But what always comes to mind when I think of them was their youthful passion for music and companionship. I asked them why they came all the to Manchester when they played Glasgow the night before, but it turned out whilst four of them got a Glasgow ticket, one didn’t. So instead they cancelled them and got five for Manchester instead.

 These five lads came almost instantly to mind whilst reading Andrew O’Hagan’s breathtaking novel Mayflies. Act one is set in Scotland in the summer of 1986. Two friends, Jimmy (or Noodles) and Tully decide to leave their boring lives full of angry fathers, the dole and and small town ennui by escaping to Manchester for the weekend, the weekend of the The Festival of the Tenth Summer, a gig at the G Mex curated by Tony Wilson. They are dreamers, Jimmy and Tully. Their world full of records, booze, film quotes and football. Their whole existence a determined and direct reaction of absolute disgust to what Thatcher had turned working class Scotland into.

 O’Hagan captures not only youthful friendship but the period where it was OK to like Morrissey note perfectly. I was not only impressed the detail of the records and venues of the period but deft little touches of juvenilia. Mentions of Merrydown cider and  Victoria Wines sent me reeling back to my own boyhood, a time where illicit booze and swapped records were the very epicentre of my existence, a time when serious thought was put into wearing the right t-shirt. It was a badge of honour, a key to identity and a vain hope of attracting like minded souls. It evokes not the time period as such, but the period of young manhood exquisitely, and nails it down with craftsman like precision. The dialogue between the group of lads is pitch perfect, and very cleverly and subtly brilliant. In between the piss taking, the top three’s the arguments and the genuine love are lines so wonderful you want to tattoo them on your arm.

 Act two is a much more sombre affair. Set in Autumn of 2017, Jimmy is now James and unsurprisingly a revered  writer living in London, and Tully an English teacher at a local comp in Glasgow. At a dinner party celebrating his novelist friend, James gets a phone call from Tully. It’s bad news.

 I don’t want to give too much away, so if you’re thinking of reading the book leave us now and come back when it’s read. OK?


 The second act is a perfectly written acknowledgement of the banality and quiet brutality of death. The perverse push me-pull you of wanting a loved one at peace and not wanting to say goodbye. The piss taking and mischief between Jimmy and Tully is still there, but underneath is cruel inevitability rather than hope. We think death as something powerful and  poetic, but when it’s all said and done, underneath the harsh brightness of the lights and silence of hospital corridors it’s something harsh, unjust and maddeningly untriumphant. A sobering and startling reminder that all we have, all we really ever have, is love and the now. This book is a testament to the joy and importance of love and companionship and the fragility and conciseness of life. I implore you to read it. 

Saturday 16 May 2020

Astrid and Stu

Klaus Voorman buried his fists in the pockets of his duffle coat ,bowed his head and kept walking. He was stomping the streets of Hamburg after a debate with his friend Jurgan Vollmer and his girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr got a little too heated and flamed into an argument. It was not uncommon for the 20 year olds to get into very long, very serious debates, they all identified as an Existentialist.
The gateway in Existentialism was a feeling of “Existential dread”, a baseless loose feeling of disorientation in an apparently meaningless and absurd world. For the three young German’s, the subconscious guilt of the horrors of the second world war had, on surface at least, robbed them of the folly of youth and turned them into ultra serious, contemplative young people. The Exis’s uniform was to dress head head to toe in black clothes and look incredibly serious. Guilt was still rife, young fun and excitement a taboo. What could change to interject these kids with vitality, with lust, with verve, with life? Klaus turned left, and his feet carried him into St Pauli.

Stuart Sutcliffe sat on the red leather seat backstage at the Kaiserkeller club and ran his calloused fingers over the strings of his Hofner President 500/5 bass guitar and let out a yawn so loud it temporally drowned out the the muffled thudding of the band round the corner. The young Scotsman was knackered. Playing from 8:30-9:30, 10 until 11, 11:30-12:30, and finishing the evening playing from one until two o'clock in the morning was taking its toll.
He could feel Paul's eyes burning into him. There had been another row last night, about Stuart’s inability to play his bass properly. He was right of course. Stuart had started to play with his back to the crowd in to disguise his fumbled bass playing from any proper musicians watching.
“Maybe if he took those bloody sunglasses off he could see what he was doing”he had heard Paul moaning to John. But he was no fool. He knew the the girls loved the sunglasses and tight leather trousers. He noticed them gather closer to the stage when he did his solo spot of‘Love Me Tender’. It had not escaped Paul's attention either. But John always, much to Paul's bile, take Stu ‘s side.
Bruno Koschmider enters the room and starts screaming‘Mach Schau! Mach Schau!’through his moustache.
John squeezed Stuart’s shoulder and they made their way through the gloom and noise , past the stripper, and on to the stage. Klaus lifted his face from his glass and looked up.


Astrid was dressed in a black polo neck and squeezed into a tight, tight leather skirt and fishnets. In front of Jurgan and behind Klaus she descended the steps of the Kaiserkeller into the loud, dark furnace below. She was nervous, the Reeperbhan was dangerous place, full of prostitution, drunks and fighting. It was no place for young Existentialists. But she was curious. Klaus had returned from his sulk practically foaming at the mouth about this English band playing rock and roll. Rock and roll? But Klaus was trained in classical piano! He was insistent though. You have to see them! You must! And not wishing to look scared she agreed. She paid her money and walked into the dark, packed, smelly room.

On stage, John Lennon wearing black leather trousers, a black t-shirt and a toilet seat draped around his neck, stuck his left index finger under his nose and stretched out his right arm. “Hiel Hitler!”he screamed into the mic. The war had also deeply effected John, he was born during an air raid, but it was the death of his mother two years earlier that cut him deepest. Not for John were the guilt or sadness the Existentialists found solace in, his was more of a blind and violent fury with a bitter, sarcastic and cruel chip on his shoulder. 
“Sieg Hiel! You bloody Krauts! Who won the bloody war?”he shouts. The dockers, rockers, pimps and thieves didn’t speak English looked on puzzled as a table of American sailors fall about laughing.

Astrid, Jurgan and Klaus do speak English , and speak it rather well. Klaus looked up at the stage, his eyes glazed, his mouth a huge smile. Jurgan and Astrid shot each other uncomfortable looks.
Maybe we should goshe whispered in Jurgans ear. What? I cant hear you!.

John gripped his guitar a one two three four.

The Beatles tore into a rock and roll number, something about Johnny being good. Klaus was right thought Astrid, there is something about it.
 Just as furiously as the song started it finished and the boy with the bass guitar who had his back to the audience for the whole song turned around to share a joke in Johns ear. Astrid looked at his sunglasses and smile and knew. She just knew.

Astrid goes to bed that night and thinks of a way of getting closer to the band. She bought them all a beer after their set and blushed as they all chatted her up. John distant and sarcastic, loud and funny but oddly isolated. Pete the drummer, the girls favourite back in Liverpool is out of his depth here and he knows it. Paul is polite and curious and charming and George boyish and shy. But it’s Stu who takes her fancy though.
He’s honest enough to admit he’s no musician but he is an artist. A very good one John tells her. Stuart is just along for the ride, to have a laugh with his mates. He doesn’t want to be in the biggest band in the world. That’s more John’s thing. Pipe dreams. He does, he tells her, want to be the best painter.
Then suddenly it hits her. She silently thanks Reinhard Wolf, her old her tutor who persuaded her to drop her fashion design course and take up photography. She has an eye and gift for black and white photography, all of her friends tell her so.
The next day she takes her Rolliecord 24.2 camera and the band to a fairground at the Hamburger Dom muncipal park. It was a master stroke. The lads loved the idea of having a free session for promo photo’s, with the added bonus of getting to flirt with that arty German girl.
She set up her tripod, directed the boys where and how to stand and *click* recorded history.

Up to that point, all pictures of the Beatles were snaps shots taken by mates. All of them fail to capture the magic on stage. The boys always look a little nervous and overly showy, as if dropping their guard for a second would make all these dreams disappear into a puff of smoke. Astrid’s photographs not only capture the period in incredible clarity, but she also manages to hold up a mirror the group. Until then all the daydreams of their image are in their head. Look, say Astrid’s pictures, look how cool you are, look how sexy.

*Click* and all of sudden a sex based music with it’s roots in raw black American R&B star crossed with the clean, modern and cerebral ideas of European expressionism and something changes forever.


Two years later on the plane to Flughafen Hamburg, John takes out an rereads his letters from Stuart. He can't wait to see his pal and there’s lots to catch up on.

The Beatles run in the Reeperbahn came to a sticky end when George was busted for being under age and the group is deported. Back in Blighty the Beatles, having their craft honed after playing hour after hour in Germany, are the best group in Liverpool and attract the attention of local entrepreneur Brian Epstein. As John sits on the plane, plans are afoot to record. Their first single, Love Me Do, will be released in six months time.

The record will, however, not have the playing of Stuart Sutcliffe on it. When George turned eighteen and the Beatles returned to Hamburg last year, Stu decided to leave the band to concentrate on painting, sportingly lending Paul McCartney his bass. Before the deportation Astrid and Stuart fell deeply in love, and though Astrid felt guilty (what is it about Existentialism and guilt?) about doing so whilst still in a relationship with Klaus. She moves Stu in with her and her mum. Klaus, sportingly, takes the break up on the chin. They were too beautiful not to be together.

Stu had chosen wisely. He is awarded a postgraduate scholarship and enrolls at Hochshule Fur bildende Kunste Hamburg, where he studies under the tutelage of Eduardo Paolozzi. Though his moody and dark art sold for serious money back in Liverpool, his Hamburg paintings are influenced by British and European abstract artists contemporary with the Abstract Impressionist movement in the United States. His work from this period will later hang in the Liverpool Walker Gallery as well as the homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Astrid and Stuart continue to live with Astrid’s mum, they exchange rings and become engaged. He paints and she works part time to support him. She knows how good his work is, how important it can be. He complains of headaches but keeps working working working in his studio in Astrid’s loft. The paintings improve daily. The future is fascinating and bright. He misses his friend John, and can’t wait to hear what the band are up to.

The safety belt lights flashes and John folds Stuart’s letter and put’s it in his pocket. When the plane finally lands in Hamburg he races off it in search of his mate Stu. He doesn’t see him, but he does see Astrid wearing Stu’s leather jacket. He see’s she is alone and that she is crying.

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Andrew Weatherall 1963-2020

The last time I saw Primal Scream live was in Sheffield when Rachel was about three weeks pregnant (Primal Scream, not bad for a first gig Martha) and it was a bit of a disaster. Rachel’s mate had failed to read the ticket properly and we ended going in just as the encores started. I spent the evening feeling paranoid that some pisshead would barge into Rach and the Scream were a bit lumpy and static compared to previous gigs going back three decades.

Afterwards, over a pint (or orange juice depending on your present state of propagation) I felt a bit bad and conceded that it was possibly my reception of the music that was floored rather than what was coming off the stage. Except the tepid version of Loaded. That was unforgivable.

One my most treasured memories of JLH was playing Loaded back to back with I'm Losing More.. at the very first night and the whole floor just totally got into it. I remember looking at John Kertland, both of us grinning and thinking 'fucking hell, we got this'. As a result we played it at every night we did. Not the coolest record at the time, but we never cared about cool, we cared about fucking genius.

How can anyone recreate a record as perfect as Loaded? It still sounds like it was made tomorrow. It still sounds fresh, sexy and vital. Deadly serious and devilishly fun. It’s still sounds like teenage car journeys and Anita Cash dancing in slow motion in dry ice in 1992. It’s still Just Want to Dance the Night Away by the Mavericks for perpetually cool and the seekers of thrills.  It still makes me get up and dance. If Loaded was Andrew Weatherall’s only artistic contribution he’d always be an icon. But he was so much more.

Like all indie kids, the first time I heard the name Andrew Weatherall it was in the credits of Screamadelica. I thought he was a producer, someone who added a bit of shine and radio friendly-ness to a record. I had no idea he actually created the music himself. The second time I heard his name he was being described as DJing at an Acid House party wearing a Wonder Stuff t-shirt. This was something I could relate too and this was the secret of Andrew Weatherall’s genius.

I remember reading a magazine, probably the NME, with Norman Cook, Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold on the cover and in the article they were basically saying dance music was the future, guitar music was shit and anyone who listened to it was an idiot. Andrew Weatherall came from a club culture but had an incredible ear and adoration for music. Not dance music, not indie music, music full stop. It was an incredible gift. His ability to blend genres, blend ideas, to take little bits and make something beautiful and new was talismanic and inspiring as fuck.

It was Weatherall who reviewed the second Primal Scream LP and banged on and on about how great the ballads where when everyone else had written them off. It was him who made the remix of Soon by MBV, and a record that by rights shouldn't even exist. The idea you could create a club banger from a shoegaze band on the same label as The Jazz Butcher and The Loft? Incredible.

But this was Andrew Weatherall. Constantly and consistently (he never stopped, he recently reworked a single by indie band The Orielles) pushing boundaries, reaching for the stars and seeing how far he could go and what he could get away with. He will, of course, be remembered for making music that made clubs full of people go mental and his impeccable taste. I’ll always remember him for making dance music you can actually sit down and listen to and inviting skinny awkward indie kids to the party.

Come together as one, I cant think of a more perfect epitaph.