Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Clubbing, football and mates - two nostalgic memoirs

If you'd asked me 25 years ago what I enjoyed the most about life I'd probably have said clubbing and playing football. Sadly, now I do neither.

Over summer I read James Brown's Above Head Height, a memoir based around his footballing life, mostly playing five-a-side. As he's roughly my age and hung around various overlapping media circles, I'd be amazed that we didn't play with some of the same people at some point in the 1990s. I played for a Sunday team called Shepherds Tuesdays, as well as the Blackburn Rovers London Branch and was a regular in various 5, 8, 9 a-sides all around London. His observations are familiar and amusing, his namedropping impressive. His playing with Woody Harrelson definitely trumps my Neil Arthur from Blancmange.

That all said, I find James a far more interesting character than just as a park footballer. I bought a fanzine off him at Leeds Poly in 1982 (Attack on Bzag) and was inspired to produce my own. I've followed his journalism ever since, NME, Loaded, GQ, Jack and Sabotage Times, which I occasionally write for.
Others have told the story of Loaded magazine and the lad mag culture of the era, and he tip-toes around it. But I think he's found an angle with the football, a social arena that brings disparate men together in regular games of football that outlast marriages. It's full of fond recollections, many stemming from the death of one of his footballing pals, who he realised he knew very little about.

I'd have been quite interested in James Brown taking on a memoir similar to the terrain of Dave Haslam's delightful tome Sonic Youth Slept on my Floor. Dave is someone else I've known about for 30 years through his Djing and his writing, but have actually got to know him more recently. His book takes us from Birmingham, where he was born, to Manchester, where music plays a central role. His stories are reflective, rather than riotous. Melancholic, as opposed to embittered score settling. I like his recollections of his complicated relationships which never sound nasty, but lay out home truths. The fall out with Tony Wilson sounds achingly familiar to anyone who actually worked with him, and it's sad that they never reconciled before Tony died in 2007. There's a lesson there, for sure.

I'm probably dwelling on this kind of retrospective as the old crew are getting back together this weekend. It's more than 30 years since we graduated, 7 of us sharing 245 Upper Brook Street over two years, though one left to tour Europe with Sonic Youth and we took on a squatter. We all have memories of Manchester, though of course I've been drawn back, even showing the daughter of one of our number around our old stomping ground, while my eldest son is also enrolled nearby. Obviously I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone, but I very much doubt we'll be playing five-a-side, or even clubbing for that matter. Afterall, we have our memories for that.

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