Some of this is true, and some of it isn’t.
I`m sitting in a pub called The Railway, by the bridge, in South Norwood. It`s Thursday, and it`s packed. Full of kids, maybe my sister Becky’s age. A lot of them I recognize, old friends of hers, younger brothers of old friends of mine. It`s pretty mixed, which is a sign of the times, and a damn fine thing to see. Before I went away you’d never find a black face in here. I don’t know where they went but they wouldn’t drink in a shit hole like this. The place is buzzing with people planning their weekend. Passing around flyers. Talking about raves. I`m here to do the same. I`m waiting for Martin. Dave`s off at Poly in Portsmouth, and now I’m back it`s just me and Martin.
To begin with I don’t think either of us were sure how this was going to work. Dave had been the buffer, the glue, the common ground, between us. But we needn’t have worried. I fucking loved Martin. He was smart. He was funny, verging on cocky, with a Mick Jagger via Ian McCulloch pout. Plus he was so sweet when he was off his nut. There was this vulnerability, that you’d never have glimpsed otherwise. With me I suppose what you saw is what you got. The first time I gave him an E it took the top of his head clean off. I spent the whole evening walking round and round The Fridge holding his hand while he told me how wonderful everything was. He must have been blessed because he was like that every time he was on one. Every night out was the best night of his life. But then he didn’t puff, do speed, poppers, and he certainly didn’t do coke…and he never over indulged. He also didn’t have a bag of pills stashed under the bed, calling his name all week.
I didn’t have a car so Martin would drive over from Norbury with a copy of Time Out and we`d scour the listings for a Friday or Saturday night. Basing out selections solely on what DJs were playing. To begin with we went wherever Tony Wilson was, then as we got a bit more upmarket, it was Andrew Weatherall. We checked out a lot of different parties. We rarely went to the same do twice. That seemed pretty boring, when there was so much choice. Each weekend was an adventure. In some ways a test. Getting ready was a big adrenalin hit in itself. A mix of excitement and fear. Not knowing what was going to happen, quite where and in what state, we`d end up. A bit like preparing for fight.
For me there was definitely some method acting involved. I mean I had to pull on this role. I had to appear clued-up, or we wouldn’t even get in…and then once through the door, if I hadn’t managed to get us sorted beforehand, I`d have to find someone serving-up. We`d stand at the bar and I`d look for suitable candidates. Then Martin would wait while I`d be off in dark, unlit, corners, glad-handing drug-dealing strangers. Convincing them I was kosher, not undercover. Slipping into acid house argot and counting in 15s. Within weeks of returning home I`d gone from Stephen Patrick Morrissey to Shaun William Ryder, and every song the Happy Mondays sang sounded like a diary entry read aloud.
Shaun snarled “Hallelujah”, like he was experiencing a chemical epiphany. His hooligan, terrace, threat stretched out through the puckered lips of a rush. Vaguely demonic and the menace only slightly dampened by the ecstasy. Snarling over a gutter funk clatter of delay-drenched drums, growling bass, and arcs of screaming, squealing, guitar. Fucked, but still knocking out X through the fog, collecting dollars, in the alcoves of The Hacienda. Remixers Oakenfold and Weatherall milked the religious theme by adding a chorus of Gregorian monks. Then adding Italian pianos for the ruffians out on a Thursday, at The Future, doing the Monkey Drum mooch. In their hands Shaun’s shout was an anthem at The Downham Tavern all-dayers. Chanted by an army of Thatcher’s Britain’s blackmarket-eers.
I didn’t really have any money for records and clothes at that point. What I had on all came out the back of the Paul Smith shop on Floral Street, where Becky’s ex worked part-time. Music-wise we were limited to comps: House Hallucinates, Ethno Beats, Balearic Beats, and that first Acid Jazz one. AJA`s Shaft In Acton was a favourite as we drove down deserted dual carriageways to Echoes in Bow. The radio dial kept locked to pirates like Centreforce, where the DJs always seemed to be spinning either Patti Day or Debbie Malone.
Of course eventually Martin and me, we started bumping into the same bods in various places. Amoral anti-heroes with grown out barnets, “rave curtains”, pony-tails, and gear hidden in their socks. We`d be greeted by a string of acknowledging nods which by the end of the night were huge grins, firm handshakes and hugs. As they accepted us as fellow outlaws. Way out East, past Bethnal Green. Where heaven help you, you’d be scalped, if you didn’t know the apple.
Ewan Pearson has respectfully remixed Happy Mondays` Hallelujah for London Recordings. The DJ / producer with a Masters in Philosophy & Cultural Studies turns in two takes, based on Steve Lillywhite`s lesser known In Out Mix . Both versions are intro`d by the dearly missed Factory Records head honcho, Anthony H. Wilson, who breaks down the art of manning a 24-track desk. Mark Day`s guitars sing solo like whales in distress, before being joined by bass drum, cowbell and a ruthless bottom end. Distorting, fizzing, big enough to destroy buildings. Then familiar fills start tumbling. The sustained synth line. The pianos from Oakenfold and Weatherall`s remix. Ewan stirring in a few tabs of acid.
“With Mr. Bitter, we`ll take a bit of this and that.”
Shaun’s “Come and have a go if you think you`re hard enough” hectoring softened significantly by pushing the harmonies of Steve`s then wife, the also tragically departed, Kirsty MacColl, to the fore. The dub again, focuses on Kirsty, and Mark`s searing slide. Shaun reduced to a coda – a mantra – mutating the track`s title to “Ha-le-lose-ya”.
“Not sent to save you, just here to spike and play a game.”
Ewan Pearson`s remix of Happy Mondays` Hallelujah is released today, July 17th, on London Recordings. You can purchase a copy here.