Friday, 28 September 2018

“It’s not the programme mate”

'Hull, Hell & Happiness', the first Hull City entry into the brave new world of fanzines was first launched on 28th September 1988. The thirtieth anniversary appears as good a time as ever to do a bit of reminiscing...

An early afternoon in late-September 1988. My boss just stood there, his face bearing a rather nonplussed expression as countless sheets of amber paper, adorned with a picture of Hull City kit-wearing comedian Jasper Carrott, continued to drop into the office copier’s output tray directly in front of him. After what appeared an excruciatingly long wait he simply said, “I won’t ask” and left the room. I heaved a sigh of relief. Although I was still on my lunch-break, a charge of using works’ equipment for private business was probably enough to get me severely reprimanded or even sacked. It had been a close call. The first Hull, Hell & Happiness had nearly been strangled at birth. Instead it went almost immediately from the production line (i.e. the works printer and long-handle stapler) to the streets around Boothferry Park, where I would be one of the “vendors” trying to sell it. As unlikely as it sounded I was embarking on a short-term career as a “purveyor of subversive literature”. Whatever next? And what’s more, I wasn’t even supposed to be going to City anymore. After eight years of watching football on a Saturday afternoon, I'd decided it might be nice to start playing again and so I'd signed East Riding County League forms for my local village club, Easington United.

My decision to give my Saturdays over to playing didn’t prevent me catching the start of City’s 1988/89 campaign. This in turn meant I could get to see one of my boyhood heroes in the flesh. Eddie Gray, yes the Eddie Gray was the new Hull City manager. It was a surprise appointment as most fans thought Dennis Booth was a shoo-in. Not only had he overseen team matters after Brian Horton’s sacking but he’d also been allowed to spend £100,000 on Watford defender Steve Terry during the summer (a move that would eventually see fans’ favourite Pete Skipper depart to Oldham). But, according to David Goodman (author of 'Look Back In Amber', the title of which was taken from a later City fanzine) Robinson wanted someone who wasn’t “too close to the club”. Gray was a hero of his and although The Don would later admit to have “done no research on him really” it was the “name in his head” he went for. The man in charge of Leeds on that first meeting with City at Elland Road back in September 1985 was in the Boothferry hot seat three years later. I was fairly giddy about the news and was determined to be a part of this new era in spite of my new-found weekend commitments. Gambling on postponements, scheduled blank Saturdays and midweek games at Boothferry, I reckoned I could do at least a dozen City matches over the course of the season. That surely still warranted recognition as a fan? Anyway, as things turned out, opting to limit my Tiger-trekking proved the right decision. This wouldn’t be a season to remember - well, not on the field.

The warning signs were there from day one. Manchester City arrived as favourites for promotion. Their large away following, complete with inflatable bananas helped generate an opening day attendance of 11,653 and an atmosphere that helped me ignore a stonking hangover, courtesy of the previous night’s Spiders cocktails. I watched the game from the Kempton (having renewed my Membership Pass despite my new Saturday plans). A City side including three debutants – Terry being joined in the starting line-up by fellow signings Lee Warren and John Moore – looked stylish enough in their new ‘Riding Bitter’ kit (albeit with still too much red in it) but their performance was less so. It was one of the most one-sided matches I’ve ever seen. So much so, that a mixture of disbelief and hilarity greeted Keith Edwards’ winning goal from City’s only effort on target. I went home thinking “lucky” Eddie might just be the man to lead us to the top flight after all.

Two days later reality kicked-in. On Bank Holiday Monday I was up and at ‘em early for the trip to Oxford. I paid seven quid to sit in the “infamous” Cuckoo Lane East Stand at the Manor Ground and watched City go down to a narrow defeat against Mark Lawrenson’s hosts, a team looking to make a swift return to Division 1. At least there were no missiles thrown on this occasion (as had been the case a few years earlier). Another defeat followed at Plymouth on the first Saturday in September and City would go on to win just three of their first thirteen competitive matches. It was a run of form ripe for the launch of a fanzine...

The football fanzine boom that spawned Hull, Hell & Happiness (or HH&H as it soon became known) was in its early stages. London-based When Saturday Comes (WSC), first printed in March 1986, was seen as the mother of such publications, along with the Birmingham-based On the Ball. Some of the earliest club ‘zines included Notts County’s The Pie, The Leyton Orientear and closer to home, The City Gent (Bradford) which, having been launched in 1984, claims to be “the longest continually produced printed fanzine in the country”. As more and more titles came into being, the bar was continually raised in terms of quality. Al Needham, writing in WSC twenty years later, had his opinion on why: 

“Of course, fanzines had been around since the late Sixties, but – apart from Foul!, the ground-breaking mid-Seventies dirt-sheet – they were exclusively put together by people desperate to work on the NME asking members of the Newtown Neurotics if they thought pit closures were a good idea or not.”
Hull City fans may well cite late-1940s publication Tiger Mag as one of the earliest supporters’ magazines but by the time HH&H first hit the streets it had been many years since they had had anything similar to read. The brains behind it belonged to Withernsea’s Andy Medcalf, a student at Stafford University, where he first mooted the launch of a fanzine in conjunction with fellow City fan Ian Websdale.  The duo’s aims were five-fold:

1)   To produce a fanzine dedicated to the activities of Hull City AFC, and to those of local music groups.
2)  To get as many people involved as possible by appealing for contributions.
3)  To print interesting/humorous articles, and also pieces which express people’s own personal opinions. We class ourselves as “independent” and are not accountable to anyone.
4)   To donate all our profits to Hull City AFC and The Hull Music Collective in some way. None of us makes any personal gain from this venture.
5)   To sell the fanzine in as many places as possible, to allow supporters to buy it wherever they live.

On gaining an internship at BP, Andy soon picked up on my interest in City (albeit one that could be described as ‘lapsed’ due to my new Saturday commitments) and asked me if I’d like to come on board. It seemed a really good idea...until that first encounter with the boss! Eventually we managed to produce 350 copies thanks to a succession of “working lunches” and staying back after hours. And although looking back now, some of that first issue’s content borders on cringe-worthy (not least my pen name of Grip 66) there was a real sense of achievement when the finished items were neatly boxed up and ready to go. The 44 pages were split between football and ‘local’ music, although as Hull Daily Mail reviewer Angus Young pointed out, The Cardiacs (“not remotely from Hull”) didn’t really warrant “three rambling pages”. A live review of Rush was equally dismissed, while both Andy and I acknowledged that four pages of flyers from local blue-eyed soulsters The Mighty Strike also came across as something of a cop-out. Overall, though, we felt we’d struck what appeared to be a good balance between life’s two greatest pleasures. We’d soon know for sure.

Wednesday, 28th September 1988 and a second round, first leg home tie in the League Cup against the Arsenal. Anticipation surrounding the appearance of our modest (i.e. tacky) first edition wasn’t quite as great as that for the visit of The Gunners and the return to Boothferry Park of one of its heroes of the early 1980s. It was four years since Brian Marwood’s last City game on that desperate night at Burnley. A move to Sheffield Wednesday had seen his career blossom enough to tempt the Gunners to spend £800,000 on him in March 1988. He was guaranteed a warm reception. But would our fanzine receive the same? If I’m being honest, I don’t think many people had a clue what it was. If I had a pound for every time the words “No, it’s not the programme mate” left my lips, as another unsuspecting customer attempted to pay me 60p in order to get Eddie Gray’s latest view on things, I’d probably have taken in more than we did in sales. But after a hesitant start and a bit of welcome local publicity, the first issue figures proved very respectable and within a week or so the initial print run had all but gone. 

On the whole, reviews were favourable both from City supporters and those of other clubs. When Saturday Comes called it “a very impressive first issue”.  It contained “plenty of good reading” according to The Arsenal Echo Echo, while the Hull Daily Mail described it as “a Hull of a good idea”. And we even earned ourselves a bit of publicity elsewhere, with pieces on the fanzine appearing in the Yorkshire Post. Even more beneficial was the coverage on the wireless, with an appearance on local radio’s Great Northern Rock programme to be followed in time by regular plugs on Radio 1. Indeed the only disappointments were the HDM’s refusal to allow use of their photographs and the attitude of the club itself. City’s initial refusal to sell the fanzine in the club shop was apparently in response to an article suggesting that Garreth Roberts was “perhaps past his best”, while a similar knock-back to our offer of player sponsorship was little short of ridiculous. As for the game itself, City lost 1-2, making the second leg fairly academic. But we still planned to go, if only to shift a few fanzines.

As expected the second leg was a low-key affair; the Arse completing a 5-1 aggregate win in front of a seventeen-thousand strong crowd that included just a few hundred from East Yorkshire. Old Trafford the previous year this was certainly not. But then again, City were not the side of twelve months earlier. According to Andy’s next HH&H editorial, results simply reminded us that “nothing’s really changed…we follow a crap team”. But at least now we had a half-decent fanzine to support! Several names would come to the fore over the next few issues - Gary Hook, Gary Clark, Jeff Pullen, Tim Allison and Kieran Burns - as a sort of core team to be relied upon, with plenty of others willing to chip in with excellent one-off contributions.

From those first few lunch breaks spent covertly using the office copier eventually grew what came to be regarded as one of the more professional looking fanzines on the market, one that would become a firm favourite among the football and music fans of Hull (local mod band Chase Ambition even penned a song titled “Hull, Hell & Happiness” though I can’t claim with absolute certainty that it was done with us in mind). Ironically, it was this initial success that indirectly led to the first piece of adverse feedback, courtesy of our decision to use the proceeds of Issue 1 to get subsequent editions printed professionally. Choosing Sheffield-based Juma Printers riled a few people who felt we should be supporting local business.  But Juma ticked all the boxes. They were cheap, they already printed a whole range of football-based publications and owner Martin Lacey was a fanzine editor himself. They knew what we wanted. The result was a much more professional looking magazine. Issue 2 came out in late November and despite the increased production costs, at 50p for 44 pages it remained an attractive proposition. Sales were better than for Issue 1.

Along with the standard fanzine fare, HH&H was lauded in some quarters for its slightly offbeat content, such as our “Auntie Social” problem page and “An Outsider Writes In...” in which we invited submissions from supporters of other clubs. In future issues we would gain access to City’s players for interviews and we also had pieces in which managers of The Tigers’ opponents could pen their thoughts. We even set aside space for local grassroots clubs and this, alongside the music content, helped set us apart from many other efforts.

Football fanzines were deemed newsworthy and HH&H continued to attract plenty of media attention. The Yorkshire Post came calling on Boxing Day when we joined forces with The City Gent ahead of the Bradford game at Boothferry in a united front against the Government’s planned membership scheme. We took about a thousand signatures in a move that appeared to be well received by all with the notable exception of Hull City themselves. When a club director eventually deemed our delegation worthy of a visit, it was in order to tell us he disagreed with what we were doing - despite the club having publicly stated its opposition to the Scheme.

We shouldn’t have been surprised. Our relationship with the City regime would prove a strange one. On the one hand they were (belatedly) glad to accept our player sponsorship, they would eventually agree to stock HH&H in the club shop (quite a coup back then) and they allowed us to conduct player interviews. On the other they would often distance themselves from this new, unofficial mouthpiece. An item in Issue 2 aroused Don Robinson’s displeasure to the extent that we were summoned to a meeting with him at The Royal Station Hotel. There he slated us over a cartoon depiction of a penis and scrotum that bore a rather uncanny resemblance to Robert Maxwell and carried the accompanying caption, “Not all Chairmen are arseholes”. Robinson was less than pleased with this portrayal of his “good friend”. He ordered us to apologise publicly and threatened legal action should anything similar appear in future. Although the rest of our talk was amicable enough and finished off with a handshake, The Don left us under no illusions about what he would or wouldn’t tolerate…and the drinks bill!

By issue 3 (Jan/Feb 1989) I had replaced Ian as Andy’s co-editor and helped produce a whopping 64-page edition, for which we had to up the price to 60p. The increased quantity (most fanzines averaged 24 pages) and quality was beginning to produce better sales. We were shifting nearly 1,500 copies, which was about a quarter of City’s average home crowd at the time. We were also selling well outside the city, in Nottingham and Glasgow as well as two London outlets (Sportspages bookshop and Rough Trade records). Joining the ever-growing Alternative Football Network mail order list also had a positive effect. It wasn’t enough to make a living from but at least we could dream of doing so should City ever hit the big time. 

In contrast to the fortunes of the team the fanzine continued to flourish during the early part of the 1989/90 season. National exposure continued to come via the football-supporting DJ’s of Radio 1. Spurs fan Simon Mayo gave issue 7 a plug on his Breakfast Show and John Peel regularly spread the word at the other end of the day. Indeed twice I had the pleasure of speaking to the latter during his late-night show, bringing him up-to-speed on what we were doing. The fact he appeared genuinely interested and not just paying lip service was wonderful. Locally, Andy and I were featured in the weekly Holderness Gazette and the HDM's Target publications. At one stage it appeared you couldn’t open a local rag without one or both of our ugly mugs smiling back at you. But by this time we were not the only kids on the block...

In August 1989 the first issue of On Cloud Seven appeared. “Dedicated to 85 years of under-achievement by Hull City F.C.” the fanzine’s title was inspired by Colin Appleton’s reaction when asked how it felt to be back at the club: “…Err, I’m on cloud seven, really…” The editorial explained the reasons behind this new addition to the fanzine world: “The Editors all enjoy making themselves comfortable in a pub, arming themselves with ale and embarking on intensive and increasingly far-fetched discussions about football. This magazine contains some of the fruits, ripe or otherwise, of such consultations…” That first issue set the tone for what was to follow. OC7 was a fanzine whose editors certainly knew their onions. It was a welcome addition to the City stable of subversive literature and the fact it didn’t touch music meant we were not in direct competition. 

As for Hull, Hell & Happiness, it would eventually last four years and fourteen issues, before the last edition rolled off the presses at Juma Printers in the spring of 1992. I wasn't involved by then. In the summer of Italia 90, Gary Hook and I had embarked on another project, one that resulted in From Hull To Eternity, an A4-sized publication that survived five issues and came to an end at about the same time. The reason for the almost synchronised finishes became apparent at the start of the 1992/93 season, when - under the rather grandiosely-termed "umbrella" Blind Faith organisation - a new fanzine was launched. Entitled Look Back In Amber it saw the collective brains between its two forerunners come together to provide City supporters with their latest alternative to the match programme. To show how far we'd come, we also got ourselves a monthly two-page spread in the Hull Daily Mail's Saturday Sportsmail edition, something that would've been quite unheard of back in the September of 1988. 

During this period 1988-92 it wasn't just fanzines that were produced. Gary's t-shirt operation proved particularly successful, the fanzine football team 'The Coasters' somewhat less so! There were several gigs (both benefit and otherwise) held at the legendary Adelphi featuring local bands, along with a compilation tape ('There's Something Stirring In King Billy's Bogs') produced in conjunction with Rangers' fanzine 'Follow Follow'. We struck up excellent relationships with fans of other clubs at a time when such things were a rarity (the one with the lads behind the Manchester Hearts fanzine springs to mind, resulting in the bizarre appearance of dozens of Hull City/Hearts half-and-half ski hats among the the Tigers support). Even the City players eventually bought into what we were doing, with subsequent interviews with Leigh Palin and Dean Windass being memorable more for what they told us off the record rather than what we could quote! Meanwhile, Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Alan Fettis became almost a walking advert for the fanzine movement, so close was his relationship with us (who remembers the visit of his brother and the 'First Northern Ireland Hull City Supporters Club'??!!). All-in-all, the fanzine years produced the sort of memories that would not otherwise have come with supporting Hull City. And for that I'll forever remain grateful. 

In time, a succession of City 'zines would follow in the wake of HH&H, From Hull To Eternity and Look Back In Amber. Among them, in no particular order: Tiger Rag (almost a direct successor to the Blind Faith publications); the weird and wonderful Fearful Symmetry; Gary's one-off Last Train To Boothferry Halt, The Three O'Clock At Kempton; T.O.S.S. (aka Tigers On Shit Street) and its successor, City Independent; and of course the marvellous Amber Nectar, now a thriving online 'zine. Meanwhile, outlasting us all has been the Hull City Southern Supporters' publication, Tigers Eye, still going and along with afrementioned titles continuing to spread the word among the Tiger Nation. Apologies to any I've missed. It's comforting to know that at various times over the past thirty years, when things have been far from rosy in the City garden, there has always been an outlet for those wanting to try and make things just that little bit more bearable. 

So tonight, as I prepare to listen and/or read more rumblings about the state of City on 'Sports Talk' and the various social media platforms, I will simply raise a glass and wish a "Happy 30th Anniversary" to my fellow "purveyors of subversive literature" at #hcafc. Cheers and thanks for the memories! 

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.