Thirty years ago, losing one’s mojo was related purely to losing a half-penny sweet, which you thought was in there with the sherbet dib-dabs and drumsticks. Ten years ago, losing said mythical Mojo pertained to the misplacement of an old-before-my-time music magazine that I could have sworn was either next to my bed or the toilet. It would have probably also featured drumsticks.
But, approaching my fortieth year, the actual reality of the lesser-spotted mojo going walkabout has had a very different effect: scribing these particular pages of piffle happens when the confluence of three elements collide: energy, time and inspiration. Over the last few weeks, these three amigos have found themselves in different places. Probably hiding either inside a penny sweet bag, or between the classified adverts at the back of the magazine, or prostrate on my sofa, dribbling away to old episodes of The West Wing trying not to nod off, like a valium-dosed narcoleptic after a day down the mines. And as a result, these pages have been neglected. And to the three people that missed them, I apologise.
In fact, it was the prodding of some regular, long-suffering – some would say masochistic – readers that reminded me that they actually enjoyed reading them, almost as much I have enjoyed writing them. It was also the reminder one needed, of a weekend one year ago, that when energy is low, seeing old and new friends, with a bloody good lager session in a park is what the doctor would order (if the doctor were to prescribe standing in a field, hammered, singing at the top of your voice). I have yet to meet such a doctor, but getting an appointment would be as easy as identifying which of Nick Griffin’s racistly-bulging, bug-fuck eyes actually worked. So you could poke it. With a knitting needle. That had been up a monkey’s arsehole. After it had the shits for a month. From eating rotten bananas. Stuffed with chillies.
So, to shake things up, to peel myself off the sofa of apathy, it was time to bring together some more elements: Manchester, Glasgow, music and friends. I’ve lived in Manchester for three years now, and also lived in Glasgow for a similar time period after the turn of this century. To return to that city, to see The Stone Roses a year after their magnificent Heaton Park reunion, with friends both old and new, was a placebo infinitely more medicinal than any that can be taken.
When I lived in Glasgow, being a soft-as-shite Southerner, people thought I was a bit mental. Why would I choose to live and work there? The weather was shit, infrastructure ravaged by under investment, horrendous mortality and unemployment rates, and divided by sectarianism and football tribalism. Whilst some of these media allegations could be upheld – it was ‘summer’ for about a week a year – the truth was very different.
The city has a reputation for being hard, and violent. No Mean City, the 1935 novel depicting life in the slum of the now-rebuilt but still uneasy Gorbals featuring rampaging razor gangs, by Alexander McArthur and H. Kingsley Long, went some way to cementing the projected image of the city. Edinburgh, by contrast, was where tourists and “the English” went (according to Glaswegians). Glasgow was where the Scots went to university. Edinburgh was the political centre, whereas Glasgow was the industrial heartbeat of Scotland, forged in Govan’s shipyards, and accommodating the influx of Irish immigrants at the end of the nineteenth century. The tenement flats, from the red brick in the east end of Dennistoun and Bridgeton Cross, to the more rarified and sandstone of Hyndland and Byres Road in the west, give the city a condensed and intimate feeling that many sprawling conurbations lack. It has soul.
And it is this intensity and reputation that gives Glasgow its edge above the majority of cities in Britain. It has an energy, an underlying nervousness that means you never quite know what is going to happen next. And, standing on Glasgow Green on a June Saturday evening, all of these different pieces of the jigsaw stood side by side in the box of the arena. There were no football songs, no hint of the inexplicable but overwhelming divide that both separates and galvanises this strong city between green and blue. The only green was the one we were standing on, and that being smoked all around.
Glasgow Green has an affinity with The Stone Roses that few other cities do. In 1990, two weeks after the infamous Spike Island gig that has recently been the subject of a ‘co-Manc-of-age’ movie, they played to 10,000 people – a gig that tuneless troubadour Ian Brown has said was the best gig the band ever played. And, as the year-long reunion roadshow came full circle, the anticipation was palpable.
Well, it would have been, if the scene itself hadn’t had more casualties than Omaha Beach on D-Day. By the time your scribe arrived, as with Heaton Park last year, being “up for it” meant being very much “down with it” for plenty: a woman in her late 40’s laid lifeless on the beer-sodden turf, with her companions stood astride her, to protect her from fellow stumblers, as they would a round of beers or a handbag with a wig on.
The crush and scramble to get into the bar queue threatened to overturn the barriers meant for protection, as bottles of amyl nitrate were passed around and the staggering continued. People shoved, barged, and dug their elbows in as temperatures became raised, and that sense of collective, party-time bonhomie gave way to an each-for-his-own selfishness and aggression. Indecipherable swear words were thrown at faceless and oblivious bastards, and turned the atmosphere temporarily poisonous. At the bar itself, big bruisers ordered Bacardi Breezers, realising that after forty five minutes of rough and tumble, it was easier to carry sixteen bottles of alcoholic Irn Bru in a box than it was to juggle four pints of fast-flattening Fosters.
Amazingly, though, it hadn’t rained. And we prayed as one that this would last. It didn’t. After Primal Scream’s lacklustre set finished, and the toilet-to-bar relay began before the headliners imminent arrival, the heavens opened. For ten minutes it increased, as rave anthems blasted out of the various sets of speakers. But, as the intensity of the rain accelerated, the resistance of the crowd grew – fuck this, fuck the rain, fuck the beer queue, it’s party time. Jackets were taken off, tee shirts were thrown in the air, and as the rain fell, the sun came out, and a rainbow arched across the sky, inverted to the grins that were appearing on people’s faces. The atmosphere had turned for the good.
And, as The Supremes’ ‘Stone Love’ trumpeted the band’s entrance, the antagonism, resistance and selfishness evaporated. When I thought about why, as the Finsbury Park and Glasgow shows were announced, that I would go and see them here ahead of London, I wasn’t sure exactly why. But it was this: I knew that the contrast between the moodiness and the ecstasy would be significantly heightened. And it was.
The band were better – and to be fair, if you’ve been doing the same set for a year, you would expect it to be more polished – and the atmosphere was celebratory. And, during ‘She Bangs The Drum’, standing there with friends old and new, people that I loved and strangers that were buddies for life, all singing and grinning and crying tears of sheer joy, I could feel it returning. The mojo was beginning to flow again. And I had missed it.
With no encore following ‘I Am The Resurrection’, thousands of shambling sun hats and baggy jeans stumbled towards the Trongate and Merchant City, and back on buses to all parts of Scotland. The thin blue line of police, leaning against the solitary van they had to protect them and the public, realised that they were being swamped, and just smiled, and asked for a review:
“Any good tha’night, lads?”
“Aye, the berries. Tha. Fuckin’. Berries, son….”
This post is dedicated to those that played their part that night. Thank you.
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