WORDS & PHOTOS by Chester Whelks
Market Street: Where once leant ramshackle stalls now parades homogenised malls, but the varying competing degrees of Mancunian humanity are thronged on its cobbles just the same. The greasy black-clad weasel of doom in his dandruff dappled black jacket, paces up and down, his pants half-mast, hee-hawing out his damnation lambast at you all. The ‘mature student’-looking lefty protesters are all bench-prepared vying for the leftovers of your soul: a scribble or quid. Some dreadlocked honky tosspot whose Gap Year fell short of what their parental ordained shortfall could afford, tries Gameshow-hosting their way into your affections in order to lighten-you of what you can ill-afford for a cause theoretically simpatico with their newly expanded moral horizons. As his bean-methane-laden-spiel bleeds over the Lilliputian hillsides of his wooden necklace beads, you scan frantically for an ‘out’…
The façade of The Turnpike on Wilmslow Road in Withington is positively throbbing with animosity. Look at it: it’s nullifying your existence with a stony-faced obliviousness to your ant-like insignificance. Behind the mottled glass of its door’s panes dances light, but you’d still be forgiven for tricking yourself into thinking there was no one home. It’d be so much easier to ponce-on down the road and pass under the hanging baskets, through the Hobbiton portal of the Red Lion and carouse among the recreational Rugger Buggers and affably mannered menopausal…But no – boldly go, I beseech thee: for those hair and blood-encrusted glass shards peppered on the threshold are but a mirage.
Like warm, all-encompassing amber, untouched since The Beatles broke in 1963: The Turnpike, Wilmslow Rd.
Those wishing for a true taste of unfettered Mancunia would be better placed reclining on the cigarette-burn peppered upholstered leather benches of the Turnpike on a weekday afternoon, than mouth-agog, tongue lolling and tumbling their clenched fist in the air to the unexpurgated version of ‘I Am The Resurrection’ at 42nd Street at 01:36am on a Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, or getting their instagram snapped outside Salford Lad’s Club.
above: Kurt R.I.P. Graffiti on London Road Fire Station, Whitworth street appeared the night Kurt Cobain’s death was announced: Fri 8th/Sat 9th April 1994. Oasis’ ‘Supersonic’ was released the ensuing Monday, 11th April 1994
Manchester’s modern musical ascendancy can be tracked back to Oasis occupying the fertile cultural chasm left by the hole in Kurt Cobain’s head. Britpop itself was only ever viable as a pseudo-movement once Oasis offered up their “rum cunt” juxtaposition to Blur’s cheeky-chappery. While Blur proffered well thought-out and executed pantomimes of British culture, Oasis were too busy actually living the Northern equivalent; the authenticity of which turned out to be something that many in this country, irrespective of the North/South divide could identify-with and clamoured for a piece of.
Oasis it turned-out were, for a brief moment in time – too good for any one of their members to actually get a handle on, and so unfortunately sometime in 1996 or 97, disappeared up the nearest rolled-up note, or Gallagher backside (lets not split nasal/anal hairs: its the same thing). These Beatle-wannabes could manage nothing more than the odd string arrangement or Helicopter populated promo in progression’s stead. But thanks to these much needed testosterone envoys, Manchester managed to wrest the baton from, and circumnavigate the overblown and preposterous ‘Second Coming’ of The Stone Roses. Though ultimately both these cases in point; some of Manchester’s ballsiest, most celebrated sons – were seen to inexplicably suffer an embarrassing drubbing in public.
In the absence of anything left to actually get excited about, the luke-warm corpse of ‘Madchester’ was duly exhumed, melon well and truly twisted to clear the airways, porridgey narcotic vomit brushed from the spongey circumference of it’s cracked mouth and set-upon zombily and frantically CPR’d by the young, menial-job working men-folk of the City and it’s scattered outposts, hoping to carve-out an identity for themselves – one last perfunctory couplet worthy of shyster-messiah Shaun Ryder by which to live their dead-end lives.
Adopting the simian haircut and gait (maybe at the same ‘finishing’ school the scallies learn their intimidating limp?), this new breed of common-man music fan could, for the week’s swansong, feel like a Rock N’ Roll Star by blowing all their hard-earned minimum wage on cigarettes and alcohol chased by the occasional white line – and scattershot themselves across the length and breadth of the City centre, dragging their B&H stained knuckles along the hallowed, piss-stained ground where once trod the 18-hole Doc Martens of the survivors of the original Punk community, seemingly (fittingly) blown away by the bomb of 15/6/96…or maybe purged by Councillor Pat Karney?
John Robb, perhaps fearing for his own pompadour could not be reached for comment.
There have been a lot of great bands emerge from Manchester over the last 30 years…
…all of them have been The Fall.
Insouciance personified: Mark E. Smith nullifying your existence with a stony-faced obliviousness to your ant-like insignificance…sporting the hackneyed skin and description of an intellectual Gecko, haranguing a slew of personnel to play the part of burnt-out sparks along his comet’s tail, gluttons for the inevitable punishment of his revolving door policy: All are pushed, none Fall…that is of course unless you’re the sassy young lass behind the Keyboard Elena Poulou a.k.a. Mrs Mark E. Smith…immovable for as long as she can put up with him.
Check the record, check the record check the guy’s track record.
(Photo courtesy of Dullhunk)
The Fall: ‘New Big Prinz’
While perhaps not transcending divides of musical taste in the same sense as the genre-straddling, populace pleasing Roses or Mondays – the decades have succumbed to his constant onslaught. Plaudits of the highest caliber abound, they’re just relatively thin on the ground. A Market Street Poll would probably garner only the odd spot of praise based on the vague knowledge that they originate from Manchester – the same endemic bollocks-logic that sees certain Mancunians adopt anyone of note to have farted within the City limits before making it big.
“Always different, always the same…” is how the oft-paraphrased John Peel quote goes.
Like a City, whose citizens blister in and out of existence.
A terrifying specimen of a Mancunian – The bile simmering in his distended belly is prophesied in his chewing away at the inside of his face as he readies to spew his next torrent of vitriolic lyrics, chunky gold wrist bracelet tapping across a beer-soaked bar top, inadvertently gathering soggy crisp bits…
…like this guy in the vault of The Turnpike with a bandage crowning his completely bald head. I set myself-to ‘eye contact avoidance’ until he welcomes us outsiders to his second home, before rejoining his table to play some archaic card game. Its possible I’m guilty of expanding my accent a little when reciprocating his salutation, but I needn’t have bothered, as when 9 O’clock rolls round, The Turnpike is suddenly deluged with students while the regulars bob along as obliviously as they have since the 60s.