McLager Top

McLager Top

Ian was not by any means your stereotypical parsimonious anti-sassenach Scot. His forefathers had Italian blood and he was born in Glasgow in the late sixties, when that old industrial powerhouse of Europe had an average male life expectancy of just 55 years. I met him by chance in 1986 at The Cornerhouse, a burgeoning arts centre, cafe and cinema. I liked him. His easy-going non-pretentious approach stood out in a niche that was moving swiftly in the opposite direction. McLager proffered a stylish minimalist business card that simply read ‘Mirror Image’. He lived in Fallowfield. It didn’t have Rusholme’s fabulous curry mile and was more of a halfway house, a bit of Moss Side’s volatile ethnic edge mixed up with some of Didsbury’s middle-class leafy dreaminess. And it was there that McLager ushered me into a spacious rambling detached house with a long narrow unkempt garden which he rented with his business partner John. The chilled atmosphere hit me immediately as we sat at their higgledy-piggledy kitchen table and McLager popped a couple of Rolling Rock beers. He never liked to talk shop. After all, we were in theory competitors, with the mutual aim of being big fish in the same small graphic design pond. Ian described his grim tenement block upbringing with five other siblings on the Govan estate, but he didn’t offer me Tatties or deep-fried Mars Bars. Instead a fresh green feta salad with pita bread arrived as I marvelled at his long dexterous chiseled hands and easy hospitality. Shortly afterwards, in his broad Glaswegian working class accent, he introduced me to John. Spotting the array of turntables, guitars and BASF techno gear I asked what music he was into. McLager volunteered the music of the future. ‘I like The Cure, Happy Mondays, Joy Division, The Ramones and ACR’ he replied. ‘That stuff is different. There’s a pub across the road. Lets get a lunch-time pint’. The Coach and Horses was a lovely black and white 17th century drinking hole with an outdoor patio. We sat in the autumnal sunshine. ‘Ambient music, Paul. Do you know much about that ?’ As it happened I knew about Kraftwerk but I’d only scratched the surface. McLager got the beers in but remained aloof. Their teamwork, commercial savvy and communication skills made an immediate impact on me and the intensity of John’s originals compositions shocked me. Later as I purchased a round whilst keeping an eye on a tasty blonde at the bar in Pepe jeans, I heard for the first time the immortal words, ‘Pal, make mine a lager top-shandy. No, you nupty! Just a drop of lemonade on the top’. Ian McLager Top had arrived. His business partner John later got involved with the Cafe del Mar scene and went on to ambient superstardom. In fact a few years later his own compositions, although low key were making the charts. Ian and I enjoyed a residential EAS jolly in Alderley Edge and I never drank a straight lager again. By 1992 John Major was in power and we had all reinvented ourselves. At the top of a steep hill behind Great Ancoats was 24 New Mount Street, a hub for young entrepreneurs lighting up the north’s bleak landscape. I was there flogging advertising space for a dodgy listings magazine and there was McLager. ‘Hello Ian, what are you into now?’ I enquired. He replied ‘The future’. Out came a huge mechanical contraption, one foot long. ‘Mobiles, Paul. The world is now virtual.’ I stared agog at the tall Glaswegian. I never saw Ian McLager Top again but I bet you he’s not living in a tenement block.

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