Review: Leave the Capital by Paul Hanley

leave the capitalI didn’t know what a Graham Gouldman fan I was until I made my way through this book. To be fair, I only have two speeds: not interested and totally obsessed. Unfortunately, the obsessions can be really off kilter and sometimes I’m running so fast after the thing that I think is interesting, I don’t stop to question the assumptions passed along the way.

Like 10cc=Godley & Creme. Ha!

10cc (and Godley & Creme)  has been one of those fading in and out interests. Of course Consequences because of the Peter Cook obsession, but one of my top fave singles as a youngster was ‘I’m Not in Love’ and yet it didn’t really sink in that the song was ‘written by band members Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman.’ Ditto ‘Things We Do for Love’ which was the only 10cc record I bought at that time. I know: eejit.

But it goes back further. On my scratchy hand-me-down but beloved Herman’s Hermits LP the best song by a mile (much as I enjoyed all the bubblegum) was clearly ‘No Milk Today’ which of course is also Gouldman. So I’ve been catching up on his solo stuff and kicking myself for being obtuse.

Now about the rest of this book: there’s tons of reviews here and there, and some great interviews (including this new one with Real Gone), so I won’t drone on about the usual things. It’s an inventive angle (A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings) which really brings out the deliberate desire of many Mancunians to ignore London and its machinations as much as possible.

It doesn’t matter that this London isn’t entirely real. The fact that the elitist, greedy, insular, condescending Emerald City exists as much in the collective minds of the North as it does on the streets of the capital doesn’t make its rejection any less important.

The intimacy of the recording tradition in Manchester has a lot to do with it starting small — minuscule even — but also that it’s rooted in the musicians and sound folk wanting to give back to their community. Hanley contrasts this with the whole-hearted embrace of the capital by groups like The Beatles, who not only set up there but in the richest neighbourhoods, too. Savile Row and Mayfair certainly radiated ‘success’ but left them a little rootless.

It’s worth emphasising this again, when Eric Stewart first pondered the possibility of building a professional-standard recording studio outside London, he was completely alone. The thought hadn’t struck anyone else at all.

Strawberry Studios became a nexus of creative sound for the next three decades, an influence that’s still felt. ‘You could tell it was built with love rather than profit in mind,’ the studio’s first female engineer, Julia Adamson, told Hanley.

It’s a fascinating look at pop music, recording, musical influences and the history that binds together any given record made in the city in these formative years. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a terrifically funny book. I read most of it on the train then on a cross-Atlantic flight and I’m sure I annoyed the people around me by constantly chortling at Hanley’s mordant wit (cf footnote 161). What might have been a dull listing of names and dates instead sounds like the best pub conversation you ever overheard.

 

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Film for a Friday: Office Killer

Cindy Sherman’s surreally effective film starring the amazing Carol Kane

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Song for a Saturday: Hole – Gutless

I want to drink your honey blood (preferably from your skull)

Song for a Saturday: Beach Baby – First Class

I blame Marko and the Thanksgiving in Hell show for putting this in my head since Thursday, so I’m working to exorcise it. A song of fake nostalgia, written by Brits pretending to be Californians (seriously, who gets excited about driving to San Jose?) for a band that didn’t exist. The tune that kicked off that K-Tel LP you had which also had ‘Life is a Rock’ that I listened to over an over to figure out all the lyrics though nobody cared about it. Faux nostalgia but we’d stay up all night listening to that pop music on the record player and talking about things like how miserable we were and if it were worth going on and whether things would ever get better, if we’d be stuck in that piddly town forever and marry the stupid guys we knew and have kids and die never having gone anywhere ever or living fabulous lives that we knew we ought to have — but we have survived and we remember those old dumb songs with a fondness and we’re still here so somehow fake nostalgia has become real memories, and I hear that in this silly song even though it’s no better than it was, but I am — and I got out. So I salute you, my friend.