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Change of tack for a while.....Prince at Maine Rd. Aug. ’90.
Up to this point I’d never really known what to make of Prince; it kind of fluctuated between thinking he was some sort of genius, or a cross between a prat and a wanker....a pranker if you will. It usually coincided with whatever his latest musical offering would be which again, to my mind, varied from bloody brilliant to borderline mediocre/ naff. Anyway he was including Manchester in this tour; might have been his first time as “The Sign of the Times” tour in’87 didn’t manage to get north of Watford. So along we went on the night, a beautiful evening as I recall.
I have to say I was a bit of a lapsed City fan by then and hadn’t set foot in that hallowed ground for some time, never mind on the actual turf ,so that was something special. I used to tag along with my old man who was a season ticket holder most of his life which consequently meant going to reserve games, sometimes in the depths of winter ,with a cup of Bovril and the old lady with the bell to help while away the time. He would also go and watch ‘Latics, and once in a blue moon United. It sounds odd now, but his family were from Flixton ,and like many they worked in Trafford Park which was heavily bombed during the war.Because of this United ended up playing home games on alternate weekends at Maine Rd. and so when he and many like him returned from their stint in the war they went along to watch the games at Maine Rd. It was old skool days and players were local lads so I’m sure many thought a game by any means was worth catching in the post war gloom; I think that's how it went..... The Munich Air Disaster would also would have had a deep impact and certainly would've united the city (so to speak) at a much later date. Actually the first game he ever took me to was United against Leeds, maybe ’70, when George Best got Player of the Month and Dennis Law got sent off for punching someone out in the goal mouth. So the likes of Big Joe, Ron Healey....who used to give us a bob or two for washing his car, Frannie with his pigeon chest, Asa with the hole in his heart, Colin with his big comeback, Boxing Day ’78, Dennis Tueart with his overhead kick, Dennis Law with his life-changing back kick...poor fella, and super-cool Rodney Marsh who really wanted to be a ” cat burglar” but only made it as professional footballer instead; these and many others made it from a full page picture in “The Pink” ,up onto many a bedroom wall all over the city, and then, as now ,home-grown bands affiliated themselves with either team....”where have all the bootboys gone....?”; the eternal question...I kinda laid off towards the mid Eighties, unlike a lot of my Wythenshawe mates who were mostly United fans anyway; and when people started throwing darts at games I thought that’s not very nice, and knocked it on the head, choosing bands/ clubs/nights out, over games.
Well it would be hard to write about Manchester music in the 70’s and ‘80’s without ever mentioning football as it defined, and both polarised and galvanised the city. It was a constant undercurrent weaved into the fabric of the place,and a life-affirming pulse beneath the general goings on of life in a Northern town; where things often weren’t so great under a Tory Home Counties-centric government, and with the smell of recession heavy in the air. There were the masses who would gather round city centre pubs; out to the peripheries of Hulme, particularly The Gamecock, where both home and away fans would accumulate for an early pre-match heavy drinking session with a certain amount of tension in the air; often kicking off post match. And then there were the massive police escorts “protecting” away fans along the Parkway from Hough End (which had been the original Manchester Airport and site of Alcock and Brown’s triumphant “Atlantic Crossing “ home town return, long before Rod Stewart even thought about it). If all was good for the hometown teams then it would permeate the weekend air and if not, there could be trouble afoot. The sound and feel of thousands of people charging and chanting through old narrow streets is something that stays with you. Of course post Hillsborough and Heysal most things changed very much for the better.
Well enough about that; can’t help feeling that it has relevance and currency though. I don’t believe you can remove music/art clinically from its social context without losing something of its essence in translation. If you do it often just becomes a pale reflection; or a passing phase...
Back to that Prince fella. Well I was blown away by him and left that ground a convert. The man had it all. He could sing, dance, play almost any instrument; the consummate showman. He was like a cross between Miles and Jimi with a touch of J. B. and maybe a hint of the Liberace’s about him; you could let that bit slide though....well impressed. So going from “1999” (which I seem to remember buying in a record shop half way up Tib St. near the old joke shop and the ace Oasis Garden Centre;... there was also a second hand record shop on a corner in Stevenson’s Square which springs to mind too..?.), through to P.S.V. floor-filler faves like “Alphabet St”, “Boys and Girls” etc. In this new light it was “all good” as young folk are wont to say. I still think “Sign ‘o the Times” is one almighty mega-tune. Besides being a brilliant piece of music, the lyrical content just makes it that much better. It’s always kinda puzzled me why more bands/ musicians don’t put more effort into their lyrics, if they are at all capable. If Marvin’s “What’s Going On” masterpiece had just been full of “I love love and I hate hate...” and “ooh baby...” it still would have been great, but throw in a good lyric, which costs almost nothing except for a little sweat, you could end up with a work of art.( I remember hear tell from my brother’s girlfriend how she and her sister spent an evening in the mid ‘70’s in the company of Marvin at The Millionaire club behind Lewis’s and he was completely off his tits. She went on to start up the kitchen in The Hac when it first opened before the luvly Suzanne took that does seem like a long time ago!).The Isleys, Mr. Mayfield, Mavis and so on all excelled at conscious lyrical content; nowt wrong with a good cheesy luv song now and again though...I think Prince’s Sheena Easton moment may have been his one faux pas ; can’t all be perfect....
So when I departed Old Blighty’s shores to a predominantly traditional rock ‘n roll country and culture, the likes of , Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls”, Massive Attacks “Blue Lines”, along with Roses, On- U Sound stuff, selected dancehall etc... helped ease the separation anxiety of missing music until we found our niche. A year or so in, a friend posted us some tapes a friend of hers had made with “Jonathan at Dry Bar” written on them (ta Mr. for your selection), and they were like the musical equivalent of Red Cross parcels to us and got played to death. Didn’t see that Dry Bar till later, by which time that corner of town had changed a lot and moved on a pace.
I also saw The Stones at Maine Rd. maybe ’89 (?), having last seen them at Roundheys Park, Leeds some years earlier. Also remember a great summer’s evening stood on our balcony in The Crescents in Hulme (from which you could quite easily see Maine Rd.), listening to Dave Bowie doing a show there, maybe on “The Serious Moonlight Tour”. Because of the acoustics of the crescents and the breeze blowing in the right direction on the night, you could hear the whole show crisp and clear, and so many people were out doing the same thing. Cheers Davo, I owe you one...still never seen him in person to this day though; surprising really as I grew up hearing his music....Recollections of elder siblings off to see him at Hard Rock round '72, and some time later Queen. I remember that being a bowling alley when I were a sprog as we had an auntie who lived over the road, (and getting arrested there many years later when it became a B & Q.....the folly of youth....). The Golden Garter was also an ex bowling alley....
Next time I’m home it’s definitely down The City of Manchester Stadium for me, with a swift ‘alf at Mike Summerbee’s pub, hopefully in the not too distant future....
Here endeth the lesson; ramble No. 62 part B....etc......
Artefact added : 24th January 2011
by dubwise-er
Abigail Says –
COMMENT ADDED 24th January 2011
OT Says –
we used to get in free at these maine rd gigs - it was fairly easy...
COMMENT ADDED 24th January 2011
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