Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Peter Hook Glee Club Birmingham 11/04/2010

It was billed as Peter Hook: An evening of Unknown Pleasures. Tales from Joy Division, New order and The Hacienda. But as the Compere was Howard Marks, they introduced themselves as The Hook and The Crook.

The Glee Club was the first stop on a 16-date jaunt. It was a bit of an odd night really partly down to Howard Marks compere role and the mix of pre-submitted questions and questions from the audience. However it did turn out to be an entertaining evening and Hooky looked relaxed and amenable on the sofa. So yes…the stage set up really was amp, guitars, sofas.

Early arrivals got to peer at Hooky's memorabilia, which was much more enjoyable than it sounds. I'd already got my moneys worth by seeing a receipt for a Transit van that Hooky had bought for £150, a Hacienda membership application form where Tony Wilson had answered the question “What do you want from the Hacienda” with a scrawled “My money back”. Never mind the signed footy shirts, New Order trainers and photos for the Hacienda looking gorgeous and empty. (which was exactly how it looked in 1984 when my band, the unlovable and unloved Awesome Precinct played there)

After a bit of archive film, a seated Hooky played along to two backing tracks, one of which was Elagia from Low Life. A great reminder of just how distinctive his reedy, metallic 6 string bass sound is. Instantly recognizable and distinctly genius. Even sitting down, he still plays the lowest slung bass in rock. Johnny Marr was only partly joking when he said the most important thing to master when you learn guitar is to sort out your strap length. The lower the better. Temperamental technology, and tardiness meant that New Order were rarely better than shit live. So those first 2 tracks at the Glee were a vast improvement on the times I’d seen New Order. Cheers Hooky…. Sorry Barney!

Still we were back to familiar territory with Howard Marks rambling and shambolic intro and opening questions. Eventually though (and probably to some relief on his part) Hooky just started talking about what he was probably going to say anyway. And yes he’s got a string of great stories to tell. He was in 2 pivotal bands (that would be the 2 before Monaco and Revenge) and it was New Orders money that bankrolled the Hacienda as it went from groundbreaking and empty to Madchester and gangsters.

The Hacienda was staggeringly badly run. Hooky’s book that ties in with this tour is subtitled How Not To Run A Club. It’s a great read. He passed on some of these lessons during the evening too. You may want to take notes! Lessons Hooky learnt included, just because your mates are great at getting pissed doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be good at running a club. Another problem was what he touchingly referred to as a short attention span and describes a meeting where they threw the accountant out rather than hear about how much money they were losing.

For all the business failings of the Hacienda Hooky was genuinely pleased to have owned the club and to have given something back to the city and people of Manchester. (Apart from large amounts of cash). He loved that fact that when eventually the Hacienda started to work as a club, and he was in the band who travelled all round the world (he really didn’t try to undersell his lifestyle) he still couldn’t wait to get home because he could have a better time at the Hacienda. He also loved having a club where he could lord it up over other bands and enjoyed people knowing who he was…even if it did amount to kids saying, “My dad loves you-he told me to come and say hello”

Sometimes it didn’t always go so well though. One night a young American came up and introduced himself, said how much he loved the band and how pleased he was to have finally got to the Hacienda. At which point Hooky’s minder kicked open the fire doors and bundled the unfortunate fan out. A giggling Hooky summed it up as “People travelled from all round the world to come to our club…and we welcomed them in.”

By the end the club had become unmanageable. People were running round the club with guns. One night the manager had a gun pushed in her face and the next thing she knew she was at the bottom of a stairwell. A bouncer had rescued her by throwing her over the balcony. But Hooky and the management were all accepting this as part of a normal night and just didn’t know how to stop it.

He talked about the sense of relief when they finally closed the club, and the lifting of the weight of responsibility for trying to keep people safe. There was also the sense of almost smugness when the gangs promptly moved onto another venue and closed that. He talked about how Tony Wilson had railed against the Police and the local authority who had seen it as an issue that was solely The Hacienda’s problem.

His favourite New Order was Technique because, even though the band were still arguing furiously, he thought the album captured the Balearic sound he had in his head. However at the time Tony Wilson said that the weeks they spent recording it were going to be the most expensive holiday they’d ever had.

Hooky said the band had come back with 17 drum tracks because Stephen Morris was the only one of the band who could stay out of the clubs and actually do any work. Even when it was finished there were still parts of the album that were news to Hooky. He described walking through Heaton Park and hearing an unfamiliar but fantastic track on a ghetto blaster. He actually had to ask what it was…turned out to be Run.

He acknowledged that there were large chunks of the past that he’d forgotten (or been incapable of remembering) but that fortunately people had kindly reminded him “But I left those bits out because I didn’t want to look like a twat…I just used the bits that made other people look like twats”

He talked about the seeing Sex Pistols in Manchester and their attitude was everything he felt and wanted at the time. ”They were shit. They were so shit, but they did it so well”. He made it sound quite profound.

He described Morrissey as still having his clothes bought by his mum, and that complaints about him went directly to her. “Ooh no, not our Stephen, you must be thinking of someone else”. Stephen Morris from New Order, also apparently wears mum sourced clothing. Amidst all the clothing slander, I think we need to remember the Stuart Maconie advice on how to recognise Peter Hook in the 80’s…. He’ll be the only person in the room dressed as a U boat captain.

He didn’t go along with the idea of Shaun Ryder as a poet, instead offering, “He’ll nick your wallet” and telling a story about how the Happy Mondays absolutely trashed a dressing room and argued that they were helping to make sure that the cleaners kept their jobs.

He told a good story about the release of Substance. Tony Wilson wanted to be able to play the New Order singles in his car. Obviously the best and easiest way to do this was to release an album. New Order and Factory were famously on a 50/50 split, however at the time of the deal Factory had been unaware that the label would also be paying the mechanical royalties (paid for each copy of a record sold). It was always a source of great amusement to New Order Manager Rob Gretton that the deal had ended up as effectively a 42/58 split. Because of Factory’s financial problems, the band agreed to a lower rate for Substance…which went on to sell shed loads

Of course the thing is that despite everything Hooky still owns a club and is also releasing compilations and DJing under the Hacienda banner. He recently opened FAC251 in the old Factory building with the idea that he’d already paid for it once and might as well buy it again. And he’s still making music.

Freebass is the surprisingly underused concept of having 3 bass players (Hooky, Mani from The Stone Roses, Andy Rourke from The Smiths) and a floating line up of mates on vocals. Which is where Howard Marks comes in. It’s also how the evening finished, with Hooky and Marks doing Dark Star. A Velvets style grind with a stream of consciousness rant over the top. It was grisly and words fail me. But they didn’t fail Howard Marks who has described it as being about
"The light of Lucifer - the lightness of darkness, the archetypal permanence of the right bass line, the pain of a crowded Heaven, the seminal nature of spunk, and the elusive recipe for the concoction in the Holy Grail.”


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Marlena Shaw Hare and Hounds Birmingham 19th March

There was a great big Marlena Shaw sized musical gap in my musical knowledge and the first I knew of her was the advert featuring California Soul. It’s a phenomenal; record. Joyful, uplifting and loose. As a singer she’s swung from Swing, Jazz, Disco, and Millie Jackson style monologues, sung with The Count Basie Orchestra, released albums on Blue Note and played with Sammy Davies Jr.
The Hare and Hounds is a great place to be see bands and the booking policy means you are likely to see much bigger names than you would credit for a suburban pub. I saw her second set of the set of the evening.

The small band (bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, sax/flute and a variety of jazz hats) warmed up with something funky before easing into Wade In The Water. I could see Marlena Shaw leaning on her walking stick in the Victorian tiled hallway to the left of the stage but she’d shaken off her frailty when she got onto the stage to sing the last few lines of the of the song…and she can still sing!
She may be an old Soul trooper, still able to shrug off the years with a fairly relentless touring schedule but there is a slight whiff of cabaret about the proceedings. The Jazz leanings mean there is always the threat of an “ooh biddi boo boo ” and the MOR soul of Feel Like Makin' Love sounds like it could be a busy night as she sings the line Vegas Cabaret Style “Feel like making love, to you and you and you”
I can never resist between song chat and Soulful adlibs, even if they are as unnerving as “Your Daddy likes it. Your Mamma does too. And if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be no you”

One of the songs is about rhythm as a language and Slave Traders attempt to control it. Part history lesson, part drum lesson as the Nick Hornby lookalike drummer and Shaw play off each other. It sounded great, albeit a bit incongruous when she concludes “Talk to me Crispin”.

Fittingly she played Ain’t Doin’ Too Bad by Bobby Bland. The master of that Big Band orchestrated Soul sound. Her version had plenty of R&B swagger.
Inevitably the last song was California Soul. No encore but earlier on there had been a false start and she joked that she’d got mixed up with the set. So maybe she’d had enough and didn’t want to go through the ritual of keeping the hit back. I was a bit disappointed and slightly underwhelmed by the gig. The band had played impeccably but never really caught fire. Shaw’s voice is still intact and if the years have put a cabaret edge to her, she’s probably not that bothered. She’s still working!

Wade In The Water
Rhythm Of Love
Feel Like Makin’ Love
Talk To Me Crispin…..but it’s almost certainly not called that!
Ain’t Doin’ Too Bad
Hope In A Hopeless World
Woman Of The Ghetto
California Soul