“Well I just don’t know where to begin.” Perhaps that’s no way to embark on a summary of a book/conversation/Gorilla event but then a prior appointment with Elvis Costello at the Apollo proved a double booking too far. Apologies, then to Dave and Paul, but luckily LoneLady and Fat Roland chipped in to provide LTW’s unrivalled 3D coverage.

It’s all too easy for the cultural observer to be ambivalent about Mr Morley, immersed, as is Mr Haslam, in the alleged systematic regurgitation of Manchester’s heritage. If this is a cottage industry, let’s face it: these two have a master bedroom each.

Paul_Morley
Paul Morley

And there’s another rich seam for the pedant or potential heckler this particular night. Not for the first time, the North appears to find itself requisitioned selectively in the way that Andy Murray is British when it suits and a brat without a home to lay his hat when he’s either lost or deemed to have let the side down.

The rest of the time, anyone in Sheffield, say, or Southport or Scarborough could surely claim, all this north/south stuff goes up and down a corridor navigated exclusively by noisy denizens of the M1 and M6.

Which kind of brings us to Stockport, coincidentally the name of the road which starts at The Apollo as well as the place Morley elevates as the springboard to his latest piece of detective work (his words).

A superb black-and-white photo of Coronation Street’s Violet Carson on a balcony prompted a challenge from Haslam about the book’s lack of women. Morley’s answer, that his book can only relay his own experience and to do otherwise would have been dishonest, may or may not have missed the point, but it did remind us that the story of the North has so often been restricted to the male POV.

Happily then, LoneLady, an artist championed by Morley, a fellow audience member and a native of neighbouring Audenshaw, wasn’t having any of this afterwards.

“He talked about the condescension towards  so-called Northerness that is embedded in many of our cultural institutions, such as cliched reviews that refer to whippets/clogs/cobbles/mocking Lowry etc,” she countered. “I think it’s important that a prominent figure like him highlights this. I like that he’s the Northern upstart regularly trouncing his colleagues on The Review Show [on the BBC].”

Did LoneLady share Haslam’s concern at the lack of female influence on Morley’s recollections? “I thought this was irrelevant as it is a personal memoir, so I wouldn’t expect things about women to be shoe-horned in there in order to tick some sort of box.

“In the 60s/70s I figure roles for women were pretty rigid ie get married, have kids, that’s it. Not much room for: be a rock star. There needs to be more visible/influential female figures across all walks of life but I think that belongs to a much bigger discussion about society/changing attitudes/preconceptions about what women can do or should be etc, etc… which isn’t really what the book is about.”

Through his friendly but frank questioning, Dave Haslam proceeded to dig under the skin of Morley, from childhood through the Art Of Noise; infamous Frankie Goes To Hollywood t-shirts; running ZTT with Trevor Horn to, eventually, the new book.

First up, though, was a This Is Your Life-style photograph trawl: a ticket to an old T-Rex gig; a picture of Stockport Grammar; a snap of him in the back of a taxi with JG Ballard. The latter meeting was a personal highlight and led to Haslam’s guest referring henceforth to his own outlook as “Ballardian”.

“This photo is about you,” said Haslam of yet another meet-and-greet. With this comment, in a way he summed up the book on sale under Gorilla’s Merch sign for £20. Despite its authoritative weight (“heavier than a bag of sugar” pointed out one audience member), the book does miss huge swathes of northern Britain in favour of a subjective, Stockport-heavy reflection on Paul Morley’s life.

Morley painted a hilarious image of Stopfordians being so bewitched by the source of the Mersey in their town centre that they built a shopping centre over it and sent it off to Liverpool. He also spoke beautifully about Reddish Vale and squeezed in a dig at “Brinny”, a reference for true locals.

The minutes devoted to Morley’s reflection on his father and Ian Curtis were inevitable and appropriate. His father’s depression was a constant presence during his childhood, and Morley’s connection with the North is referred to by himself as a way of asserting his identity against a background of tragedy.

Even so, said Morley, despite his father’s suicide, the first dead body he saw was actually that of Curtis. Morley was an NME journalist considering writing a book about Joy Division at the time, so Tony Wilson duly shut him in a room with the coffin because “a writer should do his research”!

Maybe this should have been a profound moment, but for Morley, and for us, it told us more about the Factory supremo than anything. In the same way that, quite understandably, The North tells us much more about Paul Morley’s character than it does about our factories and whippets and bewitched Stopfordians.

There are nuggets galore… for example, about the symbolic, disputed suicide of adopted Mancunian Alan Turing and its own supposed subsequent place in marketing history. On the other hand there’s some curious composite figure by the name of Bob Shankly… a glaring error if ever there was one.

LoneLady, however, offers further reason to keep such things in perspective, given the density of its 559 pages: “I first encountered Paul Morley in Joy Division’s Heart And Soul box set; which is a package I love… the booklet, the writing, the photographs and not least, of course, the amazing music.

“I was really struck by the piece he wrote for this and since then have pretty much read everything he’s written. I particularly love how he writes about the magic and atmosphere surrounding a subject, rather than reporting mere facts.

“I also think he is not afraid to be serious, emotional and fanatical and these are all qualities I would like to see more of when talking about music/art/anything. He is, I think, the perfect person to bring the North alive on the page. I’m enjoying the historical detail and regional minutiae, and the idea of the psyche of place.”

Morley, Haslam, LoneLady, Costello and a curious case of déjà vu in the North
Elvis and less than sinister prop

 

Later on, Jimmie Standing In The Rain/Brother can you Spare a Dime alone proved worth the price of admission to Elvis Costello, even if Tramp the Dirt Down ran it close… and Ardwick’s 2,000+ capacity Apollo somehow never seemed more intimate.

Costello’s exquisite hats and guitars may well have been entirely predictable, whereas the bestockinged form of official tour “go-go dancer” Trixie, complete with podium, could hardly be justified purely by the fact this was the last kind of device the audience might have expected.

A night of bittersweet, pricey nostalgia thus ended with the insistent suspicion that some things are destined never to change. “It’s the words that we don’t say/That scare me so…”

Dave Haslam will interview Neneh Cherry on July 7 as part of Manchester International Festival and on  August 22 he will interview David Peace onstage at the National Football Museum.

Words: Alex G and Fat Roland

Morley, Haslam, LoneLady, Costello and a curious case of déjà vu in the North

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. “Systematic regurgitation of Manchester’s heritage” Fuck you, you know fuck all. Why not just write about what went on and leave your lazy preconceptions at the door. This is bullshit LTW.

  2. So Alex wasn’t even there? He went to see Elvis Costello but still wrote a review of my event with Paul based on what two people told him about it afterwards? Or he was there for ten minutes then scuttled off?

    This “systematic regurgitation of Manchester’s heritage” bullshit, where does this come from?

    I turn down 3 out of every 4 Hacienda style DJ gigs (I’ve done one in the last 2 years). In 1995 I wrote “Nostalgia is a device created by old people to deny young people their dreams”. The last sentence of my Manchester book is “the future is yet to be told”. The last words of most talks I give to students is “Do what we did; make your own culture”. I get an email a day from someone wanting me to talk about the Hacienda on TV or radio or somewhere and most of them I say No, apart from students who are writing dissertations because it seems more kindly to help them out than to say No.

    In recent years I’ve put loads of energy into staging in-conversations with, among others, Jonathan Franzen, Nile Rodgers, Will Self, Jeanette Winterson and Vini Reilly.

    Where’s evidence of “systematic regurgitation of Manchester’s heritage”?? A book I wrote 15 years ago that started with Engels and ended with the IRA bomb?

    I’ve turned down TV and radio shows, probably a dozen or more last year, people wanting to talk about the Roses blah blah, the Mondays blah blah. Bored to fuck.

    The last half dozen gigs I’ve promoted in Manchester have featured bands including DRUGS, XXXY, Everything Everything, Egyptian Hip Hop etc.

    Is that “heritage”???

    I asked Morley at length about the Mancentricity of ‘The North’ didn’t I??? Oh, you weren’t there Alex so you don’t know. I asked him about the non-appearance of Sunderland, and the very brief mentions of Newcastle. Those were my examples. Shall I send a tape so you can hear what he said?

    I’m surprised if Lonelady thinks a conversation about how “Northern” identity has tended to marginalise women is “irrelevant” but is it not a legitimate thing to debate? The Suffragettes, Shelagh Delaney and Linder Sterling might think it is…

    That sentence “”This photo is about you,” said Haslam of yet another meet-and-greet”. I’ve no idea what this is about.

    It’s lazy bullshit writing.

    Just looked to see if Alex Griffiths has written anything else for LTW. Oh, an interview with Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks. Ha ha. A band at the cutting edge 30 years ago. Tell us about this “Systematic regurgitation of Manchester’s heritage” again Alex?

  3. Actually thought this was very well written and somewhat ironic to have two middle aged white men discuss lack of women in the north media and music when they are the problem themselves clogging up the media with their retro reminisces.

  4. UPDATE – This “review” has been re-written a little since it was posted. We now have the word “alleged” in the 2nd paragraph (odd little compromise that) and some added words on the subject of the representation of women in Northern identity. I’m glad some of my concerns about this article have been acknowledged. I still find the idea of someone not at the event writing a review very odd. I assume the latest amendments to the piece, making it slightly more intelligible, are by Fat Roland; he was actually there.

  5. Alleged was always in Dave. Sorry if it wasnt crystal clear that you and Morley get grief from people concerned with the whole north v south construct when all it does is distract from bigger issues. Having bought your fanzine as an impressionable teen I will always vouch for your commitment to those issues. Its legitimate of course to question a review split three ways but you can hardly say I did not both front up AND apologise. Fat Roland and LoneLady have valid opinions which don’t fit your Review Rule Book either. All grist to the debating mill, surely? Alex G

  6. Even in the heady world of social media that we live in, I find it odd to have the temerity to write a piece on an event that you openly didn’t attend. To then use quotes from a ‘credible’ mate to add credibility to the piece seemed like a cop-out. Wouldn’t have read quite the same if it had merely been ‘oh my mate rocked up’

    The point that is seemingly being made about a lack of women in the ‘Manchester’ story is a nonsense as you can’t change history. These two men (how dare they) did discuss significant women in Manchester/The Norths history – but why let the facts etc…

    In terms of revisionism/nostalgia, I’d say Dave Haslam could easily have trotted out event after event of Madchester luminaries/casualties but has resolutely not done so. Nile Rodgers, Kevin Rowland & John Taylor spring to mind but again why let the facts.

    The ‘chat show’ evenings might not be for everyone, but for small and usually pretty intimate and insightful events, they are good value and highly enjoyable.

    I think there are far more ‘fish in barrel’ to be shot at if your gripe is people making money pedalling the past….

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