Barry White and his partner-in-crime, Joan Hoverstadt used to love sending us art students out sketching, probably so he could spend the afternoon in The Salutation or playing snooker. Armed with a big wooden board for leaning on, loads of sheets of paper and a healthy supply of charcoal, we’d head off towards the Castlefield area or the railway tracks behind the old Central Station. When we got back we’d douse our masterpieces with a healthy coating of hair-spray. This acted like a fixative and stopped them going all smudgy. The station was still a car-park in those far-off days before G-Mexification. There were a lot worse things to do on a hot afternoon and you could wander for quite a distance on an old elevated section with great views out towards the Ship Canal and Old Trafford. I loved these artistic meanderings, though best of all were the organised trips out into the countryside-proper, to places like Ramsbottom, Glossop and a week in Hebden Bridge in the heart of the Pennines. On a less exotic mission, around 1982, I was sitting by the side of the canal round the back of Granada Studios, furiously charcoaling some soot-covered remnant of the industrial revolution. Who should stroll past, arm-in-arm but Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan. In the heady days of early courtship and lost in the pleasure of each other’s company they didn’t even notice me. Playing very much a junior role to the likes of Stuart Hall and Tony Wilson, both were minor local news anchors and I wouldn’t have known their names but I vaguely recognised their faces. Even then though, they had a glamour and a sheen which made them stand apart from the harsh warehouses and grim post-industrial decline on all sides. Touching me momentarily with their stardust, the burberry-clad angels left me on my lonely canalside and travelled on down the road to daytime TV iconhood.
I just realised today that quite a few of my eighties heroes passed away this year. Sid Waddell and Jocky Wilson were two of them. Sid, the loquacious BBC commentator corresponded with me when I was a schoolboy, sending me a programme signed by all the top players at the World Championships. I was completely mesmerised by the outrageous antics of the oversized arrowsmiths at Jollees Cabaret Club in Stoke-on-Trent. Not so much their expert marksmanship as the madness that went with it. When I got to Manchester I couldn’t wait to get down there – it was only about 45 minutes away. It was a freezing cold early January afternoon and I stood outside The Snooty Fox on Princess Road for two hours before getting a ride all the way. Jollees was a cavernous nightclub more suited to an evening of offensive banter with Bernard Manning or a night of crooning with Matt Munro. But the top players in those days all looked like Les Dawson, so they didn’t seem out of place. I’d played darts since I was about fourteen and used to practise my A-level revision whilst throwing. In spite of all that I was never much good but found something very therapeutic in the dull thud of tungsten into a bristle board and the slight hint of resistance when you went to pull your arrows out of it. We had one in St Clements Road and goodness knows what might have happened if Barry White had found out. Life-drawing classes with Leighton Rees, anyone? I did try bringing it into college but Pam wouldn’t swallow my line that it was a good way of concentrating the mind and stimulating creativity.
In the later half of the decade there was a notable shift in the type of student arriving – these were louder, brasher, card-carrying Thatcher-youth. Weaned on The Sun, they were largely from the south, where their parents had indoctrinated them in the culture of right-to-buy, share ownership and mistrust of the unions. They worshipped at the shrine of Samantha Fox and Jim Davidson. Welcome to the Loadsamoney era. But the good times being enjoyed in London and the south of England had not yet filtered up north. We were immune to the mid-eighties property-grab and high street boom which so consumed the south of England. After the 1987 General Election there wasn’t a single Alan Beresford B’stard MP left in Greater Manchester, but nationally Labour were routed as Maggie completed her hat-trick. The Fred Perry/Pringle look so beloved by casual football hooligans was now adopted by Business Studies students – though thankfully they drew the line at carrying stanley knives. It was all about labels, money and front. Doing Fine Art or wearing a second-hand overcoat marked you down as the enemy within. In their pastel cardigans and David Coleman pullovers, these noisy Pet Shop Boy listening Thatcher-Jugend arrivistes clashed with the older militant leftovers of the miner-supporting rump. These they saw as lazy, sponging losers who weren’t prepared to ride their bicycles in the manner suggested by Norman Tebbit. The newcomers gobbled up shares in British Airways and BP and sneered at Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot. They had no interest in collecting glasses and emptying ash-trays or living in a horrible Crescent in Hulme. Instead Daddy would buy Ben and his mates a house on the Didsbury-Withington borderlands. Even then it was noted that you could buy three streets worth of terraced houses in Longsight for the same price as a three-bedroomed semi in Finchley. When they graduated they could fill the house with immigrants and spend the profits on a gap year before joining the Management Trainee Scheme at Vickers. What a wizzard plan. ‘I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks – let’s make lots of money’.
This roguish but loveable individual who has just worked out how to pick the lock on Janice’s payphone shared a room with me for a year. His name was Richard but for a reason I can’t remember we called him Barry, though he looked and sounded just how you might expect a young Boris Johnson would. He had very strong Spanish connections, I suspect his father was probably involved in the Brinks-Mat gold bullion heist because he suddenly disappeared there at the end of his first year. Adding to his unhinged appeal was the fact that as a Hotel and Catering student, he was required to kit himself with a state-of-the-art set of carving knives. When Jan had a night off he sometimes took charge in the kitchen, flashing his blades and cackling manically as he fired sliced potatoes into the boiling fat. I remember him kindly though. We worked in the hotel together and on more than one occasion after a night of pot-collecting, he sat around waiting for a night-bus, allowing me to share a taxi with a barmaid I fancied. I’m not sure what’s more remarkable – his act of charity or the fact we got paid about £12 a night but rode home in a taxi.
We lived in quite a little ecclesiastical hot-spot in Chorlton. St Clement’s Church was directly across the road and I got a good view of it from my bedroom window. Behind it was a school and scout hall and attached to that, a gravel playing surface upon which we nursed our hangovers on every Sunday afternoon – Albany Road against St Clement’s Road with a liberal sprinkling of softlads making an appearance. It was on this unforgiving surface that the nucleus of Teenage Kicks was formed and many a youthful apprentice learned how to handle the grazes and burns which would come their way in future astroturf battles. Red Rog used to worship there occasionally when he lived with us but Paul went to St John’s Catholic Church which was opposite and next door to our house. A lot of balls went over the wall but the Priest was very good about kicking them back. It was quite an important centre, so much so that when the Pope visited Manchester in June 1982, they parked his Popemobile here overnight. I’m sure I’ve got a photo somewhere of a couple of irreverent softlads on the roof, pretending to wave to the faithful. There was even a little brick Evangelical Church a wee bit further down the road on the way to The Bowling Green. Limited edition prints of this drypoint etching are available for £24.99 including post and packing.
In December 1920 the Black and Tans burnt his beloved city of Corcaigh to the ground and Mad Dog wasn’t going to let anyone forget it. Once on a weekend visit to London we walked past Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square and he spat on the ground and cursed ‘the imperialist warlord’. He made Roy Keane seem like a pussycat. Given his intense rebel heart we were unlikely compadres but we rubbed along very nicely and shared a great many scrapes. Though we got off to a bad start when he berated me for giving the time of day to Fred Silvester, prospective Conservative MP for Withington, who came a-knocking at the door on the 1983 General Election campaign trail. I think he would have preferred it if I’d given him the Captain Farrell treatment and ‘jumped up, fired off my pistol and shot him with both barrels’. He really was a wild card, modelling himself on Johnny Boy from Martin Scorcese’s ‘Mean Streets’ with a healthy dose of Apocalypse Now and Taxi Driver thrown in for good measure. He was a hell-raiser who refused to suffer fools, but he had a gentle and sensitive side which only those closest to him saw. A bastion of 25 Albany Road, there was no finer way to end an evening in The Feathers or The Bowling Green than walking the streets of Chorlton in the small hours belting out ‘Whiskey in the Jar-o’ – usually with a quarter bottle in the belly-o. There are almost too many memories of him but if there is one single image, he would usually be stripped to the waste, chest hairs a-bristling, ready to take on all-comers. Because he was a little older he graduated and stepped out into the world of work (and UB40) before the rest of us. So we followed his exploits at Simpsons Foods and Stretford DHSS with great interest. Later he brought himself a small terraced house next door to Moss Side Bus Garage and we all moved in. It must’ve been quite a place to coax me away from my cosy St Clement’s Road nest.
Who on earth would want to live in a lonely bedsit, a dingy Hall of Residence or next door to a crack den in one of the Crescents? Maybe we weren’t allowed to have the opposite sex in our bedrooms but with no cooking or washing to be done and good times like these, who needed any of that? And everyone’s a winner, because with the cream of academia at the table every night, any host family were ensured intelligent conversation and informed debate. What’s not to love?
‘Afternoon, The International Club’ ‘Oh hello, it’s Tony from Voice Magazine. How you doing?’ ‘Not bad, friend. How can I help you?’ ‘Listen, mate – we’re doing a spread on Half Man Half Biscuit and were wondering if we could send a couple of guys up to the gig on the 18th. Any chance of getting them on the list?’ ‘Yeah, no problem, chief. What’s the names?’ ‘Cheers, man – Tony… Tony Beresford, he’ll be one and we’ll probably need him to bring along a photographer if that’s ok’. ‘No sweat, pal’. ‘Great. Let’s see, mate…might send Jude up… that’s Jude Martin, mate. Top lensman’. ‘Sound, lad – no problem. Who did you say you were again?’ ‘The Voice, Voice magazine – based in London… the alternative alternative. We broke The Mighty Lemon Drops last year. We’ll pop a couple of issues behind reception when we pick up the tickets’. ‘OK, no worries, my mate – any time’. ‘Any chance of doing The Ramones on 25th?’
Though I didn’t realise it at the time, whilst I was twiddling my magic markers and wolfing Goblin pies in Ardwick, the consequences of the violent industrial dispute which started in January 1986 would turn my life around. At first it seemed like more miners-style agro, only this time the boys-in-blue were truncheoning the workers in London. But it was a case of ‘out with the old, in with the new’. This was all about ‘new technology’, desk-top publishing which was going to revolutionalise the print and design industry in a way not seen for a hundred years or more. In came the word processors and computers – out went letterpress or ‘hot metal’ – the old trays of metallic and wooden letters that Phil and Tony had let us get our hands dirty with in the Manchester Poly print department. ‘Wapping’ as it was known, was a nasty business, the Murdoch empire, backed by the Thatcher government very sneakily played the electricians union against the print union. 6,000 News International employees went on strike and the dispute trundled on for about a year. Despite the pickets and the protests, not a single issue of any of the Murdoch papers failed to get printed. It began an era of press power which we may only now be seeing coming to an end. Not long after that I remember going to a computer show at the newly-opened G-Mex and eyeing up one of the magic beige-coloured boxes which you could do all your artwork on. It cost about £9,000 which was roughly the same price as a terraced house in Moss Side. Even then I could see how it might turn my chosen trade upside down and banish forever my world of rub-down letraset and cut-and-pasting over the photocopier in the library. The prices tumbled eventually but it was another six or seven years before I got my hands on one. Soon we were all hovering over our Apple Macs and the days of typesetting, grant enlargers, overlays, cow gum and magic markers were truly numbered. A leading figure in the SOGAT 82 print union and the acceptable media face of the dispute was Brenda Dean, now Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde. Her autobiography was called Hot Mettle.