A 1991 Manchester Musical Special : H is for Happy Mondays and J is for James
In January 1991 the British Music Industry decided to curate three evenings of live music at Wembley Arena. The evenings were called the Great British Music Weekend and they were designed to showcase the cream of British musical talent. The first two days were dedicated to indie guitars and at the time the line ups were incredible. Thousands of people tried to get tickets, thousands of people failed to get tickets. Me being one of them. I remember Dubstar Chris phoning me at home and telling me that he was going to get tickets and then him phoning the next day and telling me that it had sold out (and it had). Those who couldn’t get tickets, had to make do with the shows being streamed live on Radio 1 FM (as it was called back then).
Day One was the indie dance evening. It was headlined by the emerging champions of the scene, the Happy Mondays, also on the bill were James, The Farm, Northside, Beats International, 808 State and a band called Candyland who were, rumour had it, playing their first ever gig after being personally recommended by Paul Weller. Candyland I think were the only band on the bill who didn’t come from a town or city north of Watford.
If I had got tickets it would have been my first ever concert and I think at the time I would have loved it what with it featuring bands that I was growing to love, bands like James, 808 State and the Happy Mondays. However, I remember the radio broadcast being disappointing – the concerts turned out to be a series of mini gigs with the bands playing for around 15 minutes each and the headliners being pushed to a full 25 minutes.
James (who were second on the bill) I remember played three songs (Stutter, Johnny Yen and Sit Down) and despite the short set the NME called it a ‘triumph’ and stating (correctly) that ‘fairly soon James will be massive’. Indeed in seven months they would be headlining the Reading Festival.
The Mondays were allowed, as headliners to stretch out a bit – and got to play five songs- the first three were ‘Donovan’, ‘Step On’ and ‘Kinky Afro’ and they ended with ‘WFL’ I forget what the fourth one was.
The two records were nestled together in Badgers Box, the James single is an immaculate grey sleeved 12” with ‘James’ printed on the sleeve in a dark blue colour – it has a daisy over the top of the ‘J’ and inside it is a James stencil – so you can spray paint their logo all over the place. I don’t know if this is a standard release or not but the stencil in Badgers record has barely been touched by the look of it. The Mondays one is the standard ‘Kinky Afro’ 12”.
There were a couple of other Mondays records in the box the best of them being this
‘Hallelujah’ (Taken from a 12” version of ‘Madchester Rave On’ EP) –
which is shame because it doesn’t contain the ‘McColl Mix, which I love to bits.
There was a couple of other James records as well – The Green 12” of ‘Come Home’ and a really really battered version of this
I is For Inspiral Carpets
Inspiral Carpets – Find Out Why (Mute Records Taken from ‘Cool As Fuck EP’, 1990)
1991 was also the year in which I went to my first proper music festival. It was the Slough Festival and tickets were if I recall it correctly a bargain at £6. We had decided to go to this one as a warm up for the big one around the corner in Reading. The line-up was very shoegaze heavy with Ride headlining ably supported by bands such as Curve, Slowdive and Chapterhouse. It kind of blew my mind a little bit. It was about six weeks after my 16th birthday and suddenly I was surrounded by thousands of people who liked the same music as I did.
It was around four pm that Dubstar Chris had gone off to buy some chips, and as he looked older than I did, some beer. I decided to stay in the arena and watch what was left of local heroes Thousand Yard Stare’s set. It was at about ten past four that I fell in love with a girl who I never spoke to and whose name I never knew. I say love, it probably, definitely, wasn’t that on reflection, but there I sat for the next twenty five minutes or so just kind of gazing at her.
She was wearing a Cool as Fuck T Shirt, cut off denim shorts and Converse Trainers and I thought she was incredible. She was about twenty metres away from me and I sat there thinking up ways to strike up a conversation with her. All of them were useless because I never did. I willed her friend (Revolver Tshirt, Mani Hat) to get up and wander off to get chips like Chris had done but nope she stayed perfectly still next to her. It wouldn’t have mattered because I still wouldn’t have gone and spoke to her.
At one point I sort of shuffled our stuff a little bit closer to Cool as Fuck Girl (sounds wrong typing that) and her mate and saw her smiling at me. Well smiling in my direction, she might of course been squinting as the sun was in her eyes – that I decided was enough and I stood up, took a deep breath, and took one step and then I heard Chris call my name as he had returned with the food and somehow, four pints of liberally watered down beer.
So I sat back down again. What I should have done is taken two of the pints over to Cool as Fuck Girl (still wrong) and her Revolver Tshirt wearing friend and introduced myself, but when I spun around two minutes later ready to suggest this idea to Chris, they had gone. Never to be seen again.
When I was a kid the ‘Cool as Fuck’ EP was like some sort of indie Holy Grail. It was famous for being as rare as rocking horse shit, yet everyone knew someone who had a copy. I’m pretty sure the Inspiral Carpets sold more Cool As Fuck T Shirts than they did copies of the EP ( a bit like James, who famously sold way more TShirts than they did records for the first eight or nine years of their careers) Of course there were cassette copies of it around, badly recorded ones that themselves were copies of copies.
Badgers copy is in mint condition and tucked right behind it was another fairly rare early Inspirals 12”
Inspiral Carpets – Butterfly – Taken from ‘Trainsurfing EP’ (1989, Cow Records)