Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Where were you in ’82?

By remembering ‘Ron’s Twenty Two’, Gary Jordan’s book makes for a perfect read for another World Cup year...

Where was I in the summer of ’82? I was at school. More precisely, in the June of that year I was in the final throes of the fifth form and sitting the last of my O-level exams before getting to enjoy an extended school holiday ahead of a further two years’ education. It’s a period in time that has been brought back to life by a new book, Out of the Shadows: The Story of the 1982 England World Cup Team by Gary Jordan.

The story provides the perfect preparation for another World Cup year, not least in the fact that it sets you up nicely for the ultimate disappointment that comes with being an England fan. Out of the Shadows actually begins further back than the Spain World Cup, with the fall-out from England’s previous tournament failure in Mexico ‘70. It then charts the national team’s progress through twelve barren years, focussing in particular on fortunes under the stewardship of Ron Greenwood, appointed to the post in 1977. Although painful reading at times – in particular the travails of the Don Revie era – the book evokes memories of some magical times spent watching the big games on my cousin’s colour telly next door (we only had black and white in our house). Among these were: ‘The Clown’ Tomaszewski denying England at Wembley in 1973, the rousing 5-1 drubbing of Scotland in 1975, a comeback win against Italy on a baseball field in New York in 1976 and the ultimately-to-no-avail 2-0 victory over the Italians at Wembley the following year, which formed part of the unsuccessful 1978 World Cup qualifying campaign. When watching on the television was impractical – such as for the midweek afternoon game in Rome in October ’76 that would ultimately cost England their place in Argentina – other methods were employed; in this case the transistor radio that Martin Wilson smuggled into our class at Easington Primary School and continued to feed us details from over the course of the game.

Jordan’s book also details the first England fixture I attended in person. That came courtesy of a school trip to Wembley in November 1978 when reigning European champions Czechoslovakia were the visitors for a prestigious friendly. Steve Coppell scored the game’s only goal, capitalising on the keeper’s error from a Tony Currie cross, after Viv Anderson had created the space. And it was Anderson who occupied most of the pre-match headlines, with the 22-year-old Nottingham Forest full-back becoming the first black player to win a full England cap. The other two things remembered from the night are (a) it was bloody freezing and (b) on the way home some of our older lads got into a scuffle with Mansfield Town fans at a Service station. It was a sign of things to come...

Fast forward four years and that shy, retiring second-year pupil had become a slightly less shy, retiring sixteen-year-old, weaned over the previous twelve months on Hull City games and rockabilly music. 1981/82 had been a dramatic season to follow The Tigers home and away, with City experiencing their first ever taste of life in the Football League basement and also becoming the first club to call in the Official Receiver. Thankfully, they survived the latter and indeed briefly mounted what would have been a remarkable tilt at the play-offs. This eventually fizzled out but with summer approaching, Don Robinson was announced as the club’s new Chairman. The Tigers had been saved from extinction.

In addition to my City commitments, weekends were taken up pursuing a love of vintage rock ‘n’ roll music. This had first been forged when watching Matchbox perform “Rockabilly Rebel” on the so-called ’Two Tone Top of the Pops’ in November 1979. The arrival of The Stray Cats the following year had made the music more “credible” in the eyes of the media and a couple of gigs by upcoming British bands at The Goodfellowship on Cott Road brought me into contact with the hip young hepcats of the local rocking scene. It was a shortlived phenomenon though and by the time I got to see one of those Goodfellowship bands (The Jets) again, in May 1982, the scene was on its knees. Unlike The Tigers, the Hull hepcats were in danger of dying out! The evidence was overwhelming. Despite a couple of Top Thirty hits themselves and in spite of having as support act Coast To Coast (recorders of Top Five smash “(Do) The Hucklebuck”) Hull City Hall was barely a third-full. But even allowing for the attendees somewhat rattling around inside, the gig still proved enjoyable and was seen by me as being the perfect start to an extra long summer, one for which the main event was still to come. I'll let Not All Ticket take up the story...

With my penchant for the look and style of yesteryear, I didn’t really fit the standard image of the 1980s football fan. Whether it be the recently-arrived Casuals (‘trendies’), the few remaining shaven-head bovver boys, the leather-clad rockers who I travelled with to away games or your standard run-of-the-mill ‘scarfers’, it was fair to say I stood out from the crowd – though not perhaps in the way I particularly wanted to! Indeed, looking back to those early days of football fandom I don’t recall seeing many fellow flat-tops on the terraces, either among the City support or that of our opponents. On one of the few occasions I did come into contact with a like-minded soul – in the form of a Sheffield United fan who I clocked from the other side of the fencing at the back of The Kempton in October 1983 – it was refreshing to note that we allowed ourselves a nod and a knowing smile (our shared musical affinity obviously transcending club rivalry).

By the time of that second Sheff United visit, I’d moved on from the donkey-jacketed ‘Rockabilly Rebel’ who had successfully avoided the Blades on Anlaby Road two years earlier. Those Goodfellowship nights and first sight of the local ‘in-crowd’ had prompted a subtle change in my appearance, which had by early 1982 taken on more of the hepcat look. It was a look honed by regular trips to some of the more alternative boutiques in Hull. Beasley’s in Trinity Market Square became the store of choice for genuine US zippers, college jackets, vintage 501s and bowling or Hawaiian shirts, all at affordable prices. Changes or Furmans in the city centre were good places for footwear, as was The End (later to become X Clothes) on George Street, which also became a destination for peg/zoot suits and smarter shirts. Mail order items were procured from the Harrow-based ‘All-American Boy’ outlet. To complete the look, after trying a range of barbers (including the one in the Station that asked if “Sir” wanted anything for the weekend) I settled on Paragon Arcade. The younger of the two barbers in there sported a neat quiff so I knew I was on safe ground. 
As a sixteen-year-old with few interests outside my football and music, the state of the nation I lived in was of little concern. Events such as unemployment topping the three million mark, the collapse of Laker Airways, the DeLorean Car factory “doing a City” by going into receivership, and the Miners forcing concessions out of a Government desperate to avoid another damaging strike hardly resonated. They were things for Dad to have an opinion on, one that he would usually share with us whether we showed any interest or not. But during that spring came news headlines that finally did grab my attention; and it was all down to ‘Johnny Foreigner’.

On 19 March 1982, Argentine forces occupied the island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic. Within a month they had raised their national flag in Port Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands. The response involved what many saw as the last great imperial venture mounted by the British Government. It was the type of military operation not previously seen in my lifetime. I could just about remember the deployment of Royal Navy ships during the 'Cod Wars' of the 1970s and anti-terrorist ops against the IRA were almost a fixture of the daily news bulletins. But this was in another league altogether and it fixated me in the same way that the Iranian Embassy siege had a year or so earlier. I'd been born into a family with a strong Forces pedigree. Both my paternal grandad and great-grandad had made careers out of the Army, between them seeing active service in the Boer War and both World Wars, while Grandad Douglas was a Royal Navy stoker during the Second World War, dying of illness in December 1944 aged 46. Dad himself had been an RAF volunteer in the early 1950s and he followed this up with a spell in the Royal Observer Corps on his return to Civvy Street. This saw him based at the nearby RAF Holmpton radar station, which helped bring the Cold War threat of nuclear attack much closer to home than any amount of Protect And Survive booklets could hope to do. Weaned as a kid on war films, Commando comics and 'Dad's Army', the Falklands War was Boys Own stuff to me and many of my mates. We found ourselves swept along on a wave of patriotism and jingoism, one that was almost feverishly whipped up by the tabloids. Headlines such as "Stick it up your Junta" and "Gotcha", coupled with that image of the soldier yomping across the barren frozen landscape, Union flag fluttering from his radio aerial, couldn't fail to stir the so-called Bulldog spirit.

The Falklands War lasted 74 days before General Menendez's surrender on 14 June confirmed the end of hostilities and the return of the Islands to British sovereignty. British losses amounted to 255 military personnel and three Islanders, while the Argentines suffered 649 casualties. Mrs Thatcher said the victory had "put the Great back into Britain". Rightly or wrongly, most people in the country appeared to agree with her. There was a patriotic fervour across the land of the sort previously confined to the Royal Wedding, Botham's Ashes and 'Chariots of Fire'. Britons were encouraged to feel good about themselves again. With three of the Home Nations represented at the summer's World Cup, the hope was that there would be plenty more opportunities for doing so...

16 June 1982 
FIFA World Cup Finals Group 4:
England 3 France 1
Easington Methodist Chapel steps (sort of) – no ticket

Just days after the successful conclusion of one British expedition, "Ron's Twenty-Two" (plus the teams of Scotland and Northern Ireland) began a very different type of campaign involving the citizens of another Spanish-speaking nation. Thankfully, none of the teams was expected to face Argentina - at least until the latter stages. Another blessing for England in particular was their base in Bilbao, in the Basque region "among friendly people" as manager Ron Greenwood described them. And the team could certainly do with some friends. The heightened tension caused by the Falklands conflict, allied to the reputation of England's 10,000-strong travelling support prompted a massive security operation on the part of the hosts. In fact there was even talk at Government level of pulling the British teams out of the competition due to the associated risks. Thankfully, such a move wasn't deemed necessary. 

Having been too young for Mexico, the 1982 World Cup was the first involving England that I got to watch. As such it would prove the first time I truly experienced the now familiar cycle of hope, despair and recriminations that is involved when watching the Three Lions at a major tournament - even from afar. Ridiculously I'd mistaken the good news emanating from the South Atlantic for some sort of sign that this was to be England's year. Despite a rollercoaster of a qualifying campaign that had included defeats in Switzerland and, memorably, Norway ("Maggie Thatcher...your boys took one hell of a beating!") England came into the tournament as one of the form teams and on the back of a six-game winning run. Thus, with the naive optimism of youth, I believed the lyrics of the team's official World Cup song: "This time, more than any other time, we'll find a way...we'll get it right!"

And intitially they did. 

Despite being weighted down by their ill-designed Admiral shirts in the sweltering afternoon heat of the San Mames Stadium, England got off to a flyer. Bryan Robson latched on to Terry Butcher's flick from a Coppell throw-in to give them the lead after just 27 seconds of their opening group game against France. Gerard Soler levelled matters before half-time but a second half Robson header and Paul Mariner's fifth goal in successive internationals completed a 3-1 win. England had got it right. Ron's twenty-two were on their way.

Routine wins against Czechoslovakia and Kuwait ensured England headed into the ridiculous round-robin second phase as group winners. But in a sign of things to come, our optimism would prove misplaced. Due to freak results elsewhere - West Germany's defeat to Algeria, Northern Ireland's win over Spain and most notoriously the so-called "Second Anschluss" affair between the Germans and Austrians in Gijon - Greenwood's side were now placed in a "group of death". Hampered by injuries that restricted Trevor Brooking and talisman Kevin Keegan to just 26 minutes' football apiece, England failed to beat either of their opponents, drawing both games 0-0. They returned home early, albeit undefeated and with the team's reputation enhanced. It was the kind of anti-climax I have become well accustomed to over the past three decades.

Had I known then how things would pan out, I’d perhaps have acted differently on the afternoon of that opening game in Bilbao. The tea-time kick-off had implications for my attempts to get home from school, get changed and deliver thirty-odd copies of the Hull Daily Mail in time. My itinerary allowed no scope for loitering, which wasn’t usually a problem on a Wednesday. What I hadn’t accounted for on this particular Wednesday was that two of the best looking girls in fifth form would just happen to be out on a bike ride along my paper round route. 

With the clock ticking to kick-off time, I came away from the Tower House on Seaside Road having shoved my last issue through a typically stiff letter-box and I was eager to race home for the game. Instead, I was greeted by the two aforementioned young lovelies sat taking a breather on the steps of the nearby Methodist chapel. They asked me what I was doing and – more importantly – whether I’d like to stop “for a chat”. A chat? These were two girls who I could never recall having wanted to chat to me about anything. What was so different now; surely my luminous green Hull Daily Mail bag wasn’t that big a draw?! My mind was racing. I couldn’t believe my luck. And of course, the old Piscean traits soon came to the fore. Within seconds I had my own interpretation of what stopping for a chat might entail and it didn’t involve much talking. This was my chance for some real fun in the sun... Thankfully, before I embarrassed myself, reality kicked-in. I looked at my watch and suddenly remembered where my real loyalties lay. “Errrr, I-I can’t, errr, England are on. See ya!” And with that I was gone. I had a World Cup to win.

Even though I missed that opening goal, the win over France and England’s subsequent serene progress through Group 4 was enough to convince me that I’d made the right decision. My loyalty to the cause would be rewarded. It was only after Brooking and Keegan had passed up crucial chances in the stalemate against Spain that my mind wandered back to those Chapel steps. As they do with every passing failure at World Cups and Euros. As every major tournament comes and goes I’m left wondering why I invest so much emotion in this seemingly lost cause; emotion that could surely be put to better use elsewhere. Wistfully, I also reflect on that decision I made on that Wednesday afternoon back in the summer of 1982. Given my time again, I’d almost certainly opt for that chat and catch highlights of the game later. Only those two voluptuous young ladies know whether my doing so would have been as big a letdown as another England World Cup failure.

That 1982 disappointment has been replicated numerous times in the 36 years since Brooking and Keegan bid farewell to the World stage. Genuine highs have been few and far between, Italia 90 and Euro 96 the obvious ones, but despite such a barren run that hope of seeing England triumph again remains embedded in me and rises to the fore whenever another tournament draw takes place. To actually attend a World Cup or European Championships is something I'm still yet to do. Indeed, that 1978 trip to Wembley has not been replicated many times since. I was there for the 1-1 draw with Brazil that heralded the "opening" of the newly all-seated Stadium in May 1992, as well as the "last match played under Wembley's Twin Towers", the defeat by Germany on 7 October 2000 that led to Kevin Keegan's resignation as manager. My only other viewing of the England team amounted to the first half of the Rous Cup game against Scotland at Hampden Park in May 1985 - my "enjoyment" of proceedings on the pitch being curtailed when the Police decided to eject all England fans at half-time!

Looking back, it may well have been that experience in Glasgow that put paid to any genuine thoughts of travelling anywhere with England. I certainly never seriously looked into going to Italia 90 or France eight years later, the two tournaments that my domestic arrangements (i.e. being single) would have allowed scope for. Instead, as with that first World Cup in Spain and every tournament since, I followed events either at home or in the pub. However, unlike that 1982 competition, the only nagging feelings of "what if" that I've been left with afterwards, have related solely to the football. At least this summer, that will all change. Because this time - in Russia - we'll get it right...   

Picture of Don Robinson courtesy of Amber Nectar
Picture of rockabillies courtesy of Adrian Sensicle ('Rockin' London in the 1980s')

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Remembering a time when the Festive Season was all about the annual fanzine gigs, The Chip Shop Boys and ‘the only band in the world to be named after a Third Division goalkeeper’...

Back in the day before football fanzines went digital and started winning awards for things like podcasts (well done Amber Nectar by the way!!) various means were explored in order to gain exposure beyond the club’s core support. One of the advantages we had with Hull, Hell & Happiness and From Hull To Eternity in the late-1980s/early-1990s was our local music content, which not only opened up another audience to us but also another avenue in which to get our name out there i.e. the live promotional gig. And so back in the day when most Hull City winters appeared full of discontent, a rare bright spot amid the darkness was the annual “Christmas football fanzine gig”. Held at the legendary Adelphi Club, this yuletide get-together allowed City fans with a liking for local bands to momentarily forget their team’s troubles and instead take in some of the finest talent the city had to offer... and The Chip Shop Boys.

Christmas 1989/90
The first such event took place in 1989 and is recounted in (the still-to-be-published) ‘Not All Ticket’

14 December 1989
Hull, Hell & Happiness Christmas Bash:
The Von Trapps | Pink Noise | Ian Beharrell | Sheldon Carmichael
The Adelphi Club – Ticket £2.50
Given our football-music crossover appeal, it was perhaps predictable that the idea of a ‘Hull, Hell & Happiness’ gig was first mooted. With plenty of local bands by now on board with what we were trying to do for the Hull Music Scene, we were never going to be short of takers to appear on the bill. And there was genuine talent out there. Although The Beautiful South were a touch out of our league, there was no shortage of bands from in and around the city who could and more importantly would be only too glad to oblige. Sadly, fanzine faves The Mighty Strike weren’t among them. They had recently split, with frontman Biz opting to pursue a solo route. Of the others, noise/punk outfit Milkfloat (formerly Death By Milkfloat) were high profile having already recorded a couple of John Peel Sessions. They were reportedly set to sign an album deal with Manchester record label Imaginary and had also recently received favourable Press when asked to stand in as last-minute support for The Wonder Stuff at the City Hall. Hull soulsters Smart Alix, “Blow Monkeys sound-alikes” The Hitchcocks and thrash-metal outfit Re-animator were other Hull bands attracting plenty of attention and were examples of the many differing sounds to be found on the city’s live scene.
Along with The Adelphi and The Welly, local bands had another two new venues made available to them in 1989: The Jailhouse (down Norfolk Street) and the “infamous” Tower Nightclub on Anlaby Road. The latter hosted the popular Soundtrack ‘89 competition in conjunction with the Hull Daily Mail. Winners Looking For Adam were rewarded with a headlining showcase gig at the venue on 14 November, supported by The Penny Candles and girl trio Cheap Day Return. I’d seen both support acts a couple of weeks earlier at the Adelphi (with The Rainy Days) and had been completely bowled over. I described it as “one of those infuriating evenings when you’re stood in the Adelphi with a hundred or so others and you just wish that the whole world’s population was with you”. Cheap Day Return in particular had me swooning. Combined with the aforementioned Tower show, it convinced me that Hull’s scene really was looking up. We hoped that our first fanzine gig would act as another showcase and help spread the word.
The inaugural HH&H Christmas Bash took place a month on from that Soundtrack showcase. It was plugged in the Hull Daily Mail as “A cracker of a gig” and (eventually) proved hugely popular, attracting a near full-house “although at one point early on we must admit we felt about as busy as City’s turnstile operators”[i]. Unfortunately The Penny Candles were forced to cancel at the last minute, meaning a step-up to headliners for east Hull’s finest The Von Trapps. They didn’t disappoint and neither did Pink Noise or Biz in his first post-TMS performance. However the surprise star of the show was our mate Sheldon. His appearance as Compere, which according to the HDM had “had tickets selling faster than Kylie albums” (!), wowed the crowd. In a taste of things to come, the big man, complete with oversized Santa outfit, kept a packed house thoroughly entertained. Despite the team’s travails on the pitch, nights like this made me feel it was a good time to be a Hull City fan.

Pre-Season 1990/91
By the following Christmas, I was no longer part of the HH&H team, Gary H and I having “branched out” over that Italia 90 summer to produce a brand new fanzine, From Hull To Eternity. We held an Adelphi launch gig in August, billed for some reason as a “Mad Duck Party”?! Headliners were Driffield band The Brontes, supported by Cheap Day Return who were late replacements for the absent Biz. However, for many of those among the hundred or so present that night, the gig will perhaps be remembered more for the debut performance of The Chip Shop Boys.
Yes, The Chip Shop Boys, The CSBs as local music mag Where? would label them. The origins of this small by-line in the history of the Hull music scene have long since been forgotten but probably involved alcohol. What we do know is that as a result of several conversations (and even some rehearsals) Thursday, 16 August saw Sheldon, Steve Fry, Jivin’ Jeff Pullen and I take to the stage as part of our very own fanzine “super group”. Er, sort of. If that’s hard enough to comprehend, it’s also worth recording here that within a year, this supposed "one-off" performance had led to several follow-ups and certain reviewers would mention The CSBs in the same breath as The Beautiful South and Kingmaker. I’ll leave that one there for now…

“Best night of 1990 so far!” was how my diary records the “Mad Duck Party”. The Chip Shop Boys’ live debut proved hugely successful (even if it did pass me by a touch thanks to too much steadying of the nerves beforehand). It should be added that Cheap Day Return played their part to the full and The Brontes were simply magnificent. There was also a special appearance (“due to popular demand”) from Hull’s World Cup rappers The England Posse, returning to the stage for one last time after their summer of “so near yet so far”.

Christmas 1990/91
With some welcome publicity courtesy of Angus Young in the Hull Daily Mail and Tim Maitland at Viking FM, the gig succeeded in getting the From Hull To Eternity name out there on the streets, which in turn did wonders for our sales. Tim would also prove a decent contact to have come December, when The Adelphi’s “What’s On” listings sheet carried another fanzine name on its Christmas Bash billing. On Tuesday, 11 December 1990, Sheldon was invited on to Viking FM to publicise his forthcoming “Gangshow”, at which The Chip Shop Boys would be joined by Ian Beharrell, The Scallywags Outing and headliners MG Greaves & The Lonesome Too. With a share of the proceeds going to the Viking FM Help Appeal, it was hoped such extra publicity would shift extra tickets. It did. The gig was scheduled for nine days later on the 20th.

Before then came a Saturday that just about summed up our experiences following The Tigers at this time. What should have been a routine away game at Notts County, instead turned into an all-dayer beset by incident. We set off early aboard Jivin’ Jeff’s minibus for a 10am kick-off for our fanzine team (The Hull City Coasters) against one representing Notts County’s The Pie fanzine. We weren’t known as “East Yorkshire’s worst football team” for nothing and a 5-1 reverse duly followed on a mud-bath of a Nottingham pitch. From there we progressed via The Pie’s local pub to Meadow Lane where City were duly dispatched 2-1 by a home side reduced to ten men. Could things get any worse? Oh yes. We returned to our vehicle to find every window had been put through. A long night in Nottingham and Stapleford ensued, resulting in an arrival for me back in Easington at gone three the following morning. Merry bloody Christmas!
Still, at least there was still the gig to look forward to. Not All Ticket again takes up the story…
20 December 1990
Sheldon’s Christmas Gangshow:
MG Greaves & the Lonesome Too | The Chip Shop Boys | Ian Beharrell | The Scallywags Outing
The Adelphi Club – Ticket £2.50
The Thursday before Christmas was chosen as the fanzine Christmas Bash date. Arranged in conjunction with Hull, Hell & Happiness, it featured our very own Chip Shop Boys again, on a bill topped by alternative-country act MG Greaves & The Lonesome Too, a band remembered in time for their wonderful “Withernsea Rain”. Also playing on the night were Biz (doing a solo slot) and Gargoyles members Eddie Smith and Ted Key, collectively known as The Scallywags Outing.
The Adelphi was somewhere I’d shamefully neglected since the summer’s Anti-Poll Tax gigs. Unfortunately, on the few occasions I had made it down De Grey Street I’d been disappointed: attending “average” gigs by Brilliant Corners and Cheap Day Return, while a show by The Guana Batz, The Juvies and Hull’s own Overriders had done nothing to lure me back to the psychobilly fold.
At least the fanzine bash lived up to expectations (well, from what I remember of it!). The usual alcoholic intake required ahead of a CSBs performance ensured much of the night became a blur. Fortunately, Dave Prescott had the foresight to video the damn thing, which allows me to relive every terrifying moment again as if live. The audience appeared to enjoy our ripped-off contributions – “If I Could Get The Spices” (from The Pet Shop Boys’ “Left To My Own Devices”) and a rugby league take on The Shangri La’s “Leader Of The Pack” featuring none other than Cheryl Parker from Cheap Day Return. Her role as the Hull KR maiden hopelessly besotted by Sheldon’s Tubby Lard of The Boulevard hero was musical theatre of the highest, perhaps. Anyway, in short, everyone appeared to have a bloody good time and the £265 raised towards the Viking FM Help Appeal made it all very worthy.

Christmas 1991/92
Hard as it was to believe, The Chip Shop Boys were actually building a head of steam, with Paul Jackson at The Adelphi particularly keen to put us on again. To this end we began to compile our very own set list – well, five songs – and by the time the 1991 Xmas Bash came along we were primed to headline the bloody thing. Our egos really did know no bounds. But even we had to admit that the biggest draw this time round was an even newer band on the block, one that could not only play but had the added attraction of being named after Hull City’s new young Northern Irish goalkeeper…

11 December 1991
The Chip Shop Boys | The Mighty Strike | Fettis
The Adelphi Club – Ticket £2.00

According to the Hull Daily Mail, City keeper Alan Fettis “was surprised to learn that he was the inspiration behind” the band bearing his name. He was quoted as saying, “At first I thought it was all a big wind-up but I’ve since met the lads and I’m really chuffed about it”. Born out of the ashes of The Von Trapps, Fettis comprised vocalist Karl Vint, Sam Beasty (guitar), Dave Prescott (bass) and Jivin’ Jeff on drums. Their debut attracted a favourable response, with the Hull Daily Mail’s Scene column suggesting that “the only band in the world to be named after a Third Division goalkeeper...did enough to suggest more first-team appearances lie ahead”. Fettis (complete with a pint of the black stuff in his hand) joined his namesakes on stage “just long enough to remind everyone why he should stick to his day job”.
Biz was on top form, although a mooted TMS reunion didn’t materialise (save for Andrew Meadowcroft joining him for the second of two short sets). Chris Warkup summed things up perfectly when writing, “Again questions must be asked...when someone as dubious as Kenny Thomas is hyped as the Great White Soul Voice Of British Pop, why can’t Ian get what he deserves?” The surprise felt by The Temptations at Biz’s lack of recording contract was one shared by many of those in the Adelphi that night.

And so to the, erm, main event and this time we’d pulled out all the stops. Taking the KLF hit “Grim Up North”, we’d adapted it to pour scorn on the nearest seaside resort to my home village. A large banner hanging on the back of the stage told you all you needed to know. It read, “It’s Shit in With” and against a backdrop of Steve and me reciting countless weird and wonderful Holderness village names, Sheldon would interject at chorus time to inform the gathered punters just how bad Withernsea was. HH&H editor (and Withernsea resident) Andy Medcalf’s face on walking into the Adelphi that night to be confronted by the banner has lived with me to this day. Priceless. In total we did five songs (including “four subversive covers” according to Scene). Among these, “Leader Of The Pack” now featured our very own “Pattie-slappin’ Debs” on lead, whilst the finale “Bestiality” was a take on the Billy Bragg hit of a slightly different title. The HDM said we “romped through” our set and Warkup termed us “the biggest laugh at The Adelphi each year, if nothing else”. He described our act as “quite unique and bloody funny”. I’d take that.
More importantly, that Christmas gig was the first time when I felt we’d really tapped into the mood of the City support. There was a bond between everyone in the place that night, including our esteemed keeper. The following evening, The Face and In The City[ii] faves The Farm played Hull Uni. It was such a shame for them that the real cool folk had been out the previous night…

Pre-Season 1992/93
The ‘Tiger kit summer’ of 1992 brought two more Adelphi events, the first of which came in June and again featured Fettis, headlining the FHTE “Put A Tiger In Your Team” gig. The gig was the fanzine’s contribution to a concerted effort by City fans to raise enough funds to buy new players for the cash-strapped club. (It would eventually yield £11,000 and the signing of “Knees up” Linton Brown, a 24-year-old striker from Non-League Guiseley where he’d just netted 16 goals in 20 games.) The Brontes were also on the bill, alongside Young Amber & Black, a City-inspired "reggae/hip-hop offering" comprising Jivin’ Jeff, me and guest “toaster” Leon (and one that needs far more space than can be afforded here to explain).

It proved to be the last great soiree for From Hull To Eternity. By the time we next reconvened down De Grey Street it was to celebrate the new Blind Faith ‘92 movement, which was basically a rejoining of HH&H and FHTE into one again. Pooling resources to push a new fanzine (Look Back In Amber) we marked its launch in time-honoured fashion with a gig on Friday, 14 August – the eve of the new season. The Chip Shop Boys were restored to top slot, with another cameo appearance from Young, Amber & Black, along with upcoming Hull popsters Joyce Victoria and the completely zany Hubert The Tree.
In the event the Blind Faith gig proved something of a watershed for The CSBs. Described in Pulse magazine as “cabaret-comedy as much as a band and they really are very funny and very good”, on this particular occasion our pre-match alcohol consumption proved our downfall as reflected in Where?’s review...

After Young Amber ‘N’ Black came the highlight (!) of the night, the world famous, fat, bad, beered Chip Shop Boys. Flying into a stomping ‘Busterbeat’ (i.e. ‘Boxerbeat’), it rapidly became apparent too much beer had been consumed methinks!! Nevertheless, like old stage pros, they battled on with the crowd eating out of their fish slices. Old faves were mixed with a couple of new ones: ‘Don’t You Want My Gravy’ was a bit dodgy with Pattie-Slappin’ Debs struggling to be heard; ‘Leader Of The Pack’, ‘It’s Shit in With’, ‘Bestiality’ and ‘If I Could Get The Spices’ were all rolled out. The crowd went barmy and yelled for more, but from my high and mighty critic’s box I was a bit disappointed. I know it’s all for fun and that, but the CSBs have been a lot better and a lot funnier – definitely 10 pints less next time please!  
Despite the lukewarm review, the Chip Shop Boys still appeared a draw. Indeed, the September edition of Where? described them as “the band who (apart from Kingmaker) are the only local band guaranteed to pack out the Adelphi.” It went on: “It does seem a little strange to realise that Hull’s third biggest band is in fact…yes, The Chip Shop Boys!” As an aside it hinted that the reason The Adelphi’s Paul Jackson was smiling so much at the Blind Faith gig was because “your CSB supporter drinks around 6 times the amount consumed by your average Heavenly fan”. 

Christmas 1992/93
Surprisingly, the CSBs were nowhere to be found on the bill for Blind Faith’s “All I Want For Christmas Is A Hull City Home Shirt” Adelphi show, on Wednesday 16 December 1992. I don't think the last review had as much to do with our absence as much as a feeling on the part of some members (Steve? Jeff?) that the band had run its course. The "novelty" effect was lost forever. What I do know is that the effect on the attendance would be very, very noticeable; and this despite a decent line-up headed by The Brontes and also including upcoming Hull band Hub and a return for Hubert The Tree (or not as turned out!). Ian Farrow (of CityIndependent) reviewed it for Where?:..

Hubert The Tree was/is sick!
A disappointing turnout for this “Look Back In Amber” Christmas bash, but hardly surprising as there were among other attractions that night a “Where?” benefit… Apart from a tree named Hubert, numbers were all tonight lacked, but the poor turnout was particularly unfortunate for Hub, who I imagine are better when facing an audience response. With singer Fred Flintstone and guitarist Steve Hillage fronting 5 Happy Prole idiots on Pro Plus, disco biscuits and drip-fed liquid gold, strong reaction is inevitable. I like ‘em but they are one of those demonically entertaining groups like Bogshed, Stump, Foreheads In A Fishtank, and early James that loads claim to like but nobody buys.
Everyone always liked The Brontes, and most people still do. Now Elder Statespersons, their sound has hardened while remaining danceable, listenable and consumer-friendly. Even so, they have not garnered deserved wider attention as yet, and I fail to see how they will do so now. To change too much would rob them of being The Brontes. Perhaps they will have to settle for being a local institution, which is OK for me and those who cherish the group in the Adelphi’s confines, but surely bad news for them.
Well, we certainly couldn’t be accused of going out on a high! Little did we know it then but that Blind Faith bash of Christmas 1992 would prove our last. Not that it was quite the end of the fanzine; in fact things were looking up for Look Back In Amber and we'd just secured a two-page monthly piece in the Hull Daily Mail’s Sports Mail. But it was to signal the end of an era in terms of the football-music tie-up, as well as removing one of the few guaranteed ways to lift the gloom of another depressing Festive fixture list. Sadly, all evidence of The CSBs' live performances would appear to have, er, been mislaid but as a final reminder of those halcyon nights down De Grey Street, here's a snatch of Fettis at the 1992 Xmas Bash, complete with cameo appearance onstage of Ulster's Number One (at about the 4:27 mark). Merry Christmas everyone... 

[i] From Hull, Hell & Happiness
[ii] Hull’s “Bible of Unity and Style” edited by Swift Nick

Many thanks to Sam Beasty for the Fettis video.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Not like anyone I’ve ever met…

Saturday saw The Wedding Present play ‘George Best’ live for the final time. I felt I had to be there…

I’ll start with a confession. I don’t class myself as a fan of The Wedding Present as much as a fan of ‘George Best’, their 1987 debut LP. In addition, I must also confess to never having bought or owned the original vinyl version of ‘George Best’. Indeed I never bought it in any form until purchasing the ‘Plus’ version on CD several years later. Nevertheless, it has remained one of my “go to” listens for the past three decades and is the reason I felt compelled to share this post with you.

My enjoyment of the Leeds band’s original twelve-track LP came courtesy of a TDK C90 cassette prepared for me by my mate Gary in the early part of 1988. It had ‘George Best’ on one side and The Chesterfields’ ‘Kettle’ on the other and formed part of my then ongoing transition from retro-kid to indie-kid. With the Nineties appearing on the horizon, I was finally getting up to speed with the changing sounds of the Eighties. It was a transition that had been first forged in the company of John Peel and via early exposure to New Order, The Smiths and especially the so-called ‘C86’ world of jangly guitars. I liked what I heard but hitherto still not enough to divert money that would otherwise be spent on the next reissue from the vast Ace Records stable. As such, I relied on the wonderful world of the cassette to keep me abreast of the latest ‘in-bands’ that Peel and my hipper mates were raving about. ‘George Best’ would be a clincher.
I wasn’t the only one to be swept away by vocalist David Gedge’s “bittersweet, breathtakingly honest love songs immersed in whirlwind guitars”[i]. The NME described ‘George Best’ as “an unmitigated delight” and named it among its Top 500 Albums of all-time. Within two months of its release, five ‘George Best’ tracks had made it into John Peel’s legendary Festive 50 (four of them in the top ten). In a recent interview in the Yorkshire Post, Gedge himself said he regards it as one of his “three most personal albums”. I’d hazard a guess that many of the band’s fans felt/feel the same. In my case it certainly didn’t take long before the ‘George Best’ tape became one to slip into my Walkman on those long coach journeys back from another City away defeat and lose myself in whilst staring wistfully out the window. As the cliché goes, ‘George Best’ really did say something to me about my life.
According to their own Concertography, The Wedding Present played their first live gig in Hull at the University on 25 June 1986. I first got to see them at the same venue two years later on 17 October 1988, as part of their biggest tour to date and in front of a “packed, heaving crowd”[ii]. I’d offered to review the gig for Hull, Hell & Happiness[iii], which proved not the wisest move given my consumption of alcohol beforehand and my positioning in the middle of the front-of-stage melee. Already undermined by having missed excellent support act, The Heart Throbs, my eventual offering was not one to arouse the attention of the mainstream music press…     
“From the opening bars of ‘Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft’ to the closing encore of ‘This Boy Can Wait’ every song was met with a large barrage of cheers. The chart near miss ‘Why Are You Being so Reasonable Now?’ appeared early on, but the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for ‘Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm’, which Mr Gedge dedicated to all people from Hull: “You’re from Yorkshire and don’t let anyone tell you different!”
Originally, the plan was for the fanzine to also interview the band – which would have been a first for me. Sadly, this didn’t happen due to lack of time but The Weddoes generously offered to accommodate us at a later date. So a couple of weeks later, Gary and “friend of the fanzine” Sean P walked into The Hyde Park pub in Leeds where Mr Gedge and guitarist Peter Solowka were waiting. I should have been with them but a heavy night at Spiders curtailed my involvement – much to my later regret. In time-honoured fanzine fashion the interview wasn’t written up in time for the next edition, or indeed the one after that! And when it did finally appear it had to be split over two issues due to the band’s willingness to talk at some length about topics as wide-ranging as the workings of the music scene, football ID cards, boyhood heroes, touring East Germany, Top Of The Pops and, of course, ‘George Best’. They also gave their thoughts on the recent Hull University gig.
“I imagine the majority of people wouldn’t have been able to see what was going on. It’s narrow and there’s all those pillars. For people right at the front, there’s obviously a great atmosphere. There was a lot of movement, dancing shouting and that.”
Ironically, Gary’s main memory of the afternoon wasn’t the happiest: “I asked Dave Gedge, ‘Why George Best?’ and he immediately stormed off to the bogs. Peter replied, ‘Don’t worry, he just hates people asking him that!’” Quite. “It’s just a good name” was the eventual typed-up reply to a question the band had “answered about four hundred times now”. For those who don’t know and perhaps think it strange for a Leeds band to name a record after one of Manchester United’s greatest footballers, Duncan Seaman had more luck when asking the same question in the aforementioned Yorkshire Post piece. Although born in Leeds, Gedge was brought up in Manchester where as a kid he supported United. Best was his favourite player:
“He was like the first football pop star, if you like, his long hair and shirt was never tucked in his shorts like everybody else, he’d get into trouble for missing practices because he’d been out dating Miss World last night and he went to discos with The Beatles. For a kid, he was a great role model – here’s this rebellious, reckless character who happens to be brilliant at what he does as well, I think that was very appealing.”  
Shortly after the Hull University gig, The Wedding Present wound-up their independent Reasonable Records label and signed with RCA. As they told HH&H the move was purely down to the need to sell more records. Previous distributors Red Rhino’s limitations meant many fans overseas had struggled to obtain a copy of ‘George Best’. This really upset Gedge who holds his band’s foreign following in particular high esteem. In short, the success of the record had meant The Weddoes “had got a little too big for Red Rhino…it costs a lot of money to press up to 30 or 40,000 records”. In total, ‘George Best’ cost £60,000 – “not bad when you think Spurs paid £2m for Gazza!”   
In November 1990, in-between their two RCA studio albums (‘Bizarro’ and ‘Seamonsters’) the band played “a sweat-box of a gig” to a full house at The Tower. It was one of the first events attended by Gary and me since launching From Hull To Eternity. In what we thought would be an excellent coup for the new fanzine, we sent David Gedge one of our stylish ‘hull’ t-shirts (based on the best-selling ‘James’ design) to wear onstage. Alas, it never happened. Our hero failed to open the package in time, a fact he pointed out on a postcard sent to me from Minnesota, USA where ‘Seamonsters’ was being recorded in eleven days. (Incidentally, this was only the second postcard I’d ever received from a “pop star”. The first was from Sade…but that’s for another time).
‘Bizarro’ had spawned the band’s first UK Top 40 hit, ‘Kennedy’. It was followed in 1992 by twelve more as The Wedding Present equalled Elvis Presley’s record for most UK Top 30 hits in one year, courtesy of a dozen 7” singles released on a monthly basis. In total the band would enjoy eighteen stints in the Top 40. It’s an impressive figure, bettered only perhaps by the number of band members they’ve had! The aforementioned Solowka was the second of nearly twenty departures witnessed over the next three decades. But this wasn’t something that concerned me inasmuch as I’ve already stated – it’s ‘George Best’ the album rather than The Wedding Present the band that has always been the safety net for me to fall back on…
And so to Saturday, 9 December 2017: the final ever live performance of ‘George Best’ at the O2 Academy in the band’s hometown. It was a gig we couldn’t afford to miss – especially given that what we thought would be our final chance to see the album played live, at The Welly in Hull back in March, had turned out to be a standard Weddoes gig, albeit an excellent one.
For this occasion, the show formed the focal point of a weekend already steeped in nostalgia. Even local radio DJ Andy Comfort got into the spirit, airing ‘A Million Miles’ as part of his Friday request slot. I demanded silence from the two Slushettes for the duration of the track, which was only broken when my eldest said: “If this was X-Factor he’d be voted off first week”. I rather fancy that Mr Gedge would take that as a huge compliment! 
Later that night I joined several other like-minded folk at the “Cleveland Classics Christmas Cracker” at Halfway House on Spring Bank, with ‘Mr Spiders’ himself, Chris Von Trapp taking us on a wonderful musical trip down memory lane. Only the quality of the beer let things down, but given our plans for the Saturday that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. And come the following lunchtime all memories of poor ale were forgotten as my mate Steve and I sat in Amy’s Café Bar in Patrington, enjoying a couple of lovely pints of ChamALEon (The Crafty Little Brewery, Brough). From there it was a hop aboard the Withernsea-to-Hull service bus, a meet-up with Gary and Sheldon at the other end and then on to the 14.32 train to Leeds. Before four o’clock we were dropping our bags off at The Boundary Hotel, with Headingley cricket ground providing a somewhat ill-fitting backdrop on a day made for brass monkeys.

The lead-up to the gig involved copious amounts of ale, some good (Greene King Rocking Rudolph in The Skyrack and Daleside Square Rigger in The Hedley Verity) and some not so good (neither of The Original Oak’s cask offerings were up to scratch). Jeff Stelling’s announcement of City’s first win in seven was duly noted and a tweet of mine received a reply from the legendary @FredBoycott, before it was time for the main event. 
Initially Mr Gedge teased us with a selection of songs from across the past three decades. ‘Once More’, ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’, ‘Corduroy’, ‘Broken Bow’, ‘Deer Caught In The Headlights’, ‘The Girl From The DDR’, ‘No’ and finally ‘England’ (the latter complete with a cameo appearance from Simon Armitage). Having unwittingly missed support act Young Romance, it acted as the perfect warm-up before it was time for the main man to utter those immortal words that lead into 'Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft'...
“Oh why do you catch my eye then turn away?”
Gedge told the Yorkshire Post that when he sings those songs, “straight away I’m back there, 30 years ago, re-living the situations that happened to inspire it”. He’s not alone. I closed my eyes and I was back staring out the coach window again; back to weekdays listening to angry young men at work and back to weeknights listening to angry young men on the wireless. Back to Saturday nights in Spiders and Sunday mornings spent wondering what if? But then, far too soon, it was over, as Gedge spat out the final line of ‘You Can’t Moan Can You’...
“You have got everything that you need”.
And indeed I had.
The last line of ‘George Best’ didn’t actually signal the end of the set as the band threw in ‘Bewitched’ and ‘Kennedy’ to finish. In truth I barely noticed them, save for the chance it offered for a final sing-a-long. Instead I remained immersed in thoughts of the various past acquaintances brought to mind by hearing live again one of the landmark albums of British independent music. It took the bitterly cold air of a December night in Leeds to snap me back to the present, a present perhaps not as “young and naïve” but in many ways just as “flawed”[iv]. While Gary headed home on the last train back to Hull, Sheldon, Steve and I retired to The Cuthbert Brodrick and reflected on what the magnificence we’d just witnessed. Our recollections were aided by several pints of Yorkshire HeartBrewery’s quite wonderful (and aptly named?) The North Remembers.
We arose early Sunday morning to find the threatened snow had failed to materialise and by 9.52 we were safely aboard the TransPennine Express, bound for Hull with no delay. It was a quiet end to an excellent weekend but should there be any danger of a mood of melancholy descending over us, Steve has pointed out that dates are already in the calendar for the 30th anniversary of ‘Tommy’ in 2018. Sheffield Leadmill next February anybody?

[i] From TWP website
[ii] From Hull, Hell & Happiness issue 4
[iii] Issue 2
[iv] From The Yorkshire Post, 8 Dec 2017
1) The 1987 publicity shot with George Best is courtesy of Scopitones - the official home of The Wedding Present and Cinerama
2) 'Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft' (1990) courtesy of Gareth Youngs via YouTube
3) 'My Favourite Dress' video courtesy of kbehnia via YouTube
4) Finale video courtesy of Anthony McDonagh via YouTube