Monday, April 28, 2014

Eurosceptic takedown

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Stone Roses in Marple

Made of Stone, the Shane Meadows film on the Stone Roses, was on telly last week. It brought back loads of memories about this important and totemic band. I never managed to see them live; I was living abroad the first time round and didn't fancy braving the flying bottles of piss at Heaton Park.
I don't actually think Ian Brown has a good enough voice to carry a big concert - he has the charisma and the Bez-like sense of timing that holds it together.
Anyway, towards the end of the film there's an interlude about the difficult days of recording Second Coming. Archive footage shows them arriving in a studio in Bury and hanging out at a house in Marple (above). Press cutting here and here pick up the story.
I froze the frame above and could recognise that view straight away - in fact, I narrowed it down to a small number of houses on Strines Road. Coincidentally, it's only a few hundred yards from where Tony Wilson grew up.
A little bit of digging has pinpointed the exact spot and that it was loaned to them by a guy called Derek Bull. There is no more to say, no more to pry. And there is no blue plaque. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ear Ere Records - the greatest record shop ever

Today is Record Store Day. It's brought back a flood of nostalgia for the greatest record store that ever existed.

Anyone who remembers 'Ear 'Ere In Lancaster knows what I mean. It was a cosier and friendlier version of the record shop in Nick Hornby's Hi-Fidelity. It was also where you could get tickets for gigs at all kinds of places around the North of England.

But from my early forays in there after school, to look meaningfully at prog album covers from the likes of Genesis and King Crimson, to the more serious record buyer I became it was the centre of my world.

I remember going in as a young teen one Saturday and looking through the racks. Some lad approached me and asked me what music I liked. He was probably just being friendly, but it seemed at the time to be the equivalent of the "got the time, mate?" question at a concert or football match. So I bolted and caught up with my Mum on Lancaster market. Back then there was a ferocious mob called the Marsh Mods who had lined up outside punk gigs and battered anyone in sight. Then there was the Morecambe Punks who would use belts and chains to mash anyone who crossed them. We developed myths and scare stories about the violence these gangs would inflict on you. Most of it wildly exaggerated, but it hung over you and was a caution not to stray too far from safety.

But in reality Ear Ere was safe neutral ground. As I became more confident (cocky?) I became a regular in there. You could listen on the headphones by the counter, get recommendations from the staff, especially one character who worked there called Malcolm. The manager was Roger, or to most of us "beardie". A nostalgic Facebook post earlier has elicited the comment from an old mate that these guys had as big a stamp on his musical DNA as John Peel.

You could put your name down to pre-order records and it was the first time I'd use a nickname rather than my surname with adults. I remember a few of us sneaking out at lunch break from school to buy Going Underground by The Jam in 1980. Swaggering back in with possession of the fastest selling single of that era.

I used to be in awe of people who would ask for rare records that they didn't have in stock, but would get the staff working hard looking through books and old stock lists and seeing if they could try and order it for you. They'd also sell fanzines,  a few t-shirts and badges, some they'd even give away, but mostly it was shifting units in the golden age of pop music.

And these plastic bags were such a status symbol around school. You'd cart your school books to lessons in an 'Ear 'Ere bag, the height of cool, but woefully impractical for such a purpose.

I don't buy much music these days, but I fervently stick to the principle that the local record store is a totem of a civilised culturally advanced society. So when I want a new album by a band I still follow slightly slavishly - Elbow, Manics, etc - then Piccadilly Records in Oldham Street, Manchester get my custom. I also love their devotion to new music and always sample something new from their top 100 of the year. It's hit and miss, but those moments of serendipity are what makes life interesting. It's what has always made life interesting - so on this day of all days, I raise a glass to the greatest record shop ever - Ear Ere in Lancaster. May perpetual light shine upon your memory.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kevin Sampson's Extra Time

All football fans have their own culture, their own stock of stories and their own memories. These drip through Kevin Sampson's Extra Time - A Season in the Life of a Football Fan, which has been lurking in my reading pile and I've just finished. His club is Liverpool.

First up, it's entertaining, honest, funny and really well written. You'd expect that from Kevin Sampson and I'm on record of liking the cut of his jib.

We've been reminded this week how much Hillsborough is etched on the psyche of Liverpool's loyal core of fans.
But reading a book that details the experiences of a group of fans through 1997 and 1998, I was struck by how little Hillsborough seems to feature in their thoughts and pub discussions. It was written 9 years after the tragedy and merits only a few scant paragraphs during the trip to watch the Reds at Sheffield Wednesday, where home supporters are wearing novelty hats produced by The Sun newspaper. On that observation the anger bursts through. The sense of injustice grows, then Jack Straw says there are no further grounds for an enquiry. But then no more. It simmers, one imagines, rather than boils over. I guess grief does that.

That we're only gripping the importance of justice now, 16 years later, is staggering.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Manchester's next generation of leaders

Leaders Lunch
We had a Downtown Leaders Lunch today. It’s part of a series of lunches where we ask leaders from the city to speak - that’s why there’s no apostrophe, my grammar pedant friends.
The speaker was billed as Sir Howard Bernstein, the chief executive of the city council, but he was unwell. He sent Sara Tomkins instead. Once I’d got over the disappointment and concern over Howard, I must admit I was really quite pleased. Not that Howard was ill - but that we can expose another civic leader to the very people who are drawn to the magnetism of Howard.
I wish I had a pound for every time I get told that Manchester would be lost without Sir Howard and Sir Richard Leese, the council leader. The theory goes that there is a talent vacuum beyond the two knights, and that their eventual retirement will expose a chasm. In a sense they are a remarkable double act, but I have hopefully seen enough to recognise that there’s something else going on.
It’s actually one of the mightiest forces of their leadership that they lead from the front. But also that they lead and inspire the small army of policy creators, delivery teams and political campaigners.
Sara is one of those. As the assistant chief executive for communications, customer and IT, her brief covers some crucial aspects of the council’s work. She spoke about the leadership of the local authority today - how a municipal culture of hard pragmatic politics (and Politics) encourages younger executives and officers to take risks and be innovative.
She also didn’t shy away from issuing a few challenges - property developers and planners need to think much, much more about the kind of digital infrastructure their buildings need. She also faced up to some tough questions over broadband vouchers, disruption caused by the Second City Crossing and traffic congestion.
I think everyone at the Grill on New York Street this lunchtime will have enjoyed what she had to say - they will have also left a little more confident that there are a generation of articulate younger leaders around with the right levels of intelligence and pragmatism to lead the city in the future.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Blue tape is strangling small business

This is an Audioboo of a blog I did on "blue tape" the rules, restrictions and bureaucracy that businesses put on other businesses.