Hit The North: Real Gone meets Paul Hanley

For most people, Paul Hanley will be best known as the drummer with The Fall during their “two drummers period” between 1980 and 1985. He is currently a member of Brix and The Extricated, a band comprising several ex-Fall members. In the last quarter of 2017, Paul’s book ‘Leave The Capital’, in which he looks at the history of various recordings made in Manchester, was published by Route Publishing. In March 2018, Paul met with Lee from Real Gone to discuss ‘Leave The Capital’ and more besides.


RG:  Hello Paul! Thanks for meeting with Real Gone.

Paul:  No problem at all! From the articles I’ve read, Real Gone seems to be promoting really serious music writing, which is rare these days. Although any website that tries to make a case for the rehabilitation of Tin Machine has got to have a sense of humour as well!

[Laughs] Poor, unloved Tin Machine! As a huge Bowie fan, I’ve never understood the stick those albums got…and still get, especially when some of David’s other “mis-steps” are treated less harshly.

I think they were a necessary reset for him, to kind of shake off the audience that picked up on him after ‘Let’s Dance’. To be honest, I think those albums get less flak than ‘Never Let Me Down’, and so they should!

They’re certainly better than ‘Never Let Me Down’ – you’re right there! So… We’re here to talk about your new book, ‘Leave The Capital’. There have been a lot of books written about the music from Manchester previously. What made you want to throw your hat into the ring?

My original idea was to write about the recording studios of the Greater Manchester. It hasn’t really been done before, and it would have taken in Cargo in Rochdale, Indigo – where Buzzcocks’ ‘Spiral Scratch’ was recorded – and several others as well as Strawberry and Pluto. When I started researching those last two, I realised you could tell a whole interconnected story through them. They were started by Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart from The Mindbenders [and later, 10cc] and Keith Hopwood and Derek Leckenby from Herman’s Hermits in 1967. They were refugees from the Manchester beat boom who wanted to give something back. It’s my attempt to put some meat on the bones of Tony Wilson’s theory that attitude is what makes Manchester unique. That’s why the book starts with a quote from him.

If you ask anyone who grew up in the 70s or 80s about music from Manchester, they’ll almost certainly say The Smiths, Joy Division, The Fall…but it’s unlikely Graham Gouldman would get a look in. To those guys he’ll be “that guy from 10cc” if he’s anything at all. As for Herman’s Hermits, they’ve kind of become this 60s relic, rarely mentioned in the same breath as The Beatles, Stones, Kinks and Small Faces. Without them looking at Manchester as a creative hub, things could have turned out differently. Do you hope that those who read ‘Leave The Capital’ will finally look at those guys in a more serious light?

That’s exactly what I want! In some ways Herman’s Hermit’s have only got themselves to blame for releasing stuff like ‘Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter’, but ‘No Milk Today’ is the equal of anything on ‘Beatles for Sale’ or ‘Rubber Soul’. One of the things I say in the book is that if ‘Bus Stop’, ‘Look Through Any Window’, ‘East West’ and ‘No Milk Today’ had been released sequentially by one artist they’d be as big as the fab four. Just look at what the four members of 10cc did between them: they had some of the biggest US hits of the 60s, collectively became one of the biggest bands of the 70s, then pretty much invented music video and gave Manchester one of the best studios Britain ever saw… The fact that they could ever be overlooked is astonishing… ‘Leave The Capital’ should be on the national curriculum, obviously! [laughs]

What else makes ‘Leave The Capital’ different from other books about music made in Manchester?

Well, I’ve read plenty of books about Manchester’s music, and the vast majority start the story after the two Sex Pistols gigs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976. I was determined to show that the Manchester post punk bands were standing on the shoulders of giants. 10cc brought recording studios to Manchester, and Buzzcocks brought The Sex Pistols. That whole attitude of “Why does it have to be in London?” is absolutely central to the book.

You’ve specifically chosen to explore the history via thirteen recordings. Why thirteen? What is it, other than Manchester, that links them as the heart of the new book?

From day one I wanted to look at recording…and the thirteen was just how it worked out. Rather than a sprawling narrative I wanted to introduce several seemingly discreet vignettes. When you read the book you realise that they form one complete story. The book’s in two halves: the first half discusses the work that Graham Gouldman did with The Hermits, The Hollies and The Mindbenders and in particular what I refer to as his “Manchester Quadrilogy” – the four singles I mentioned just now. Those four singles, I count amongst the finest work ever committed to vinyl by Manchester artists. The second half concerns recordings that were done at either the Strawberry or Pluto studios, and how the sound and ambience was influenced by the Mancunian atmosphere. The whole book becomes a piece of psycho-geography in a way. Even the Clash were different when they recorded in Manchester…

How so?

Well, if you listen to live recordings of ‘Bankrobber’ from before they recorded it, it’s like this sprightly ska-ish affair. The recorded version is more like ‘New Dawn Fades’, especially the drums. It’s far more downbeat. Structurally, too, it’s more akin to Manchester stuff than the usual carefully-thought out arrangements of their other singles.

It’s interesting that just a studio would have such an effect, but that comes through elsewhere in the book, particularly when talking about Joy Division…

Definitely. While I think ‘Unknown Pleasures’ was a result of the coming together of Martin Hannett and Strawberry itself, it was more Manchester’s vibe that affected The Clash.

You mention that when Top of The Pops was first launched, it was filmed in Manchester. Did the Beeb really have such a low opinion of pop music in 1964 that it wasn’t deemed worthy of being filmed at one of their more prestigious London studios? London got almost everything else, after all.

Well, I can’t think of any other reason it was filmed in Manchester. Not much else was! …And they moved it to London in 1966, when pop’s profile was considerably higher.

It seems the north of England was ignored by the media wherever possible for years. There weren’t recording studios in the north until Strawberry opened in 67…and the first TV advert to feature kids with northern accents as opposed to “proper BBC English” didn’t appear on the screen until 1974…

You never got proper northern accents on TV in the sixties. If you compare ‘The Likely Lads’ to ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’, the Geordie accents are so watered down it’s incredible. Even ‘Coronation Street’ fetishised the accent to the extent that it was like a zoo exhibit… “Look at these Northern Oiks and their funny ways”.

[Laughs]… I’d not reallythought about the differences in the accents and the way they were portrayed, even when they were. Now you mention it, Rodney Bewes in ‘The Likely Lads’ is only gently northern, isn’t he?

Very gentle! Apart from saying “pet” occasionally, he could be from anywhere.

For anyone just expecting another viewpoint on Buzzcocks and Joy Division recordings, or whatever, ‘Leave The Capital’ is a far broader and educational read. The beginning, in particular, throws a lot of light on overlooked or forgotten recordings like the Whirlwinds’ 7″ and the subsequent work by The Mockingbirds. In that respect, it’s occasionally reminiscent of Bob Stanley’s ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ and its fascination with guys like Peanuts Wilson and old rockabilly 45s. Your book has more focus, though…

Bob’s book was one the influences, but as you say, that’s a much more eclectic work… I was very keen to focus as much as possible, to the point where I turned my back on stuff I’d initially wanted to write about other studios. I felt it was more important to be centred than comprehensive.

Despite taking in a lot of history, the way the book flows is very accessible. Occasionally, though, you’ll find a link between two disparate acts that isn’t just geographically related. You’ve managed to link The Mindbenders with Oasis – decades apart, but tenuously connected via drums!

Yes, there’s a few things like that, such as Buzzcocks’ backing vocals being reminiscent of The Mindbenders, and the parallels between Eric Stewart and Bernard Sumner. They’re a good way to get the reader to think about the narrative thread.

You talk a lot about The Mindbenders. It’s easy to forget how many great songs Gouldman wrote before hitting the big time himself. ‘Look Through Any Window’, in particular, became one of the great Hollies singles.

Yeah…He must have been mystified why he never had a hit in his own right. The Yardbirds’ version of ‘For Your Love’ was released on the same label that turned it down for a Mockingbirds single!

The Mockingbirds didn’t have a lot of luck… Also, in a pre-‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Revolver’ world, their single ‘You Stole My Love’, on paper at least, sounds years ahead of its time. It’s no wonder Gouldman was keen to immerse himself in the studio…

That’s an interesting point. The Beatles and the Beach Boys were the first bands to be given free range to explore what a studio could do. Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman had to build their own! It’s a really difficult thing to pull off, unlimited studio time. For every ‘Pet Sounds’ or ‘Sgt Pepper’ or ‘Rumours’, there’s a million things like ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’. You only have to watch Godard’s ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ to realise The Stones weren’t suited to open-ended studio sessions with no-one watching the clock! Not until they got to ‘Exile on Main St.’ anyway!

That’s interesting in itself, because for all the plaudits and praise it gets, at least a third of ‘Exile’ isn’t that interesting. People talk about it being a masterpiece, but in terms of songs, ‘Beggars Banquet’ beats it at almost every turn and in terms of experimentation, whilst still being obviously The Stones, ‘Goats Head Soup’ is massively ignored. It’s like the world has this idea that ‘Exile’ is almost untouchable. Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom will surely argue its merits until the proverbial cows come home, but it’s possible that a good proportion of the album’s appeal comes from those rose tints that some people seem to have for 1970s double albums…

I think you’re right about ‘Exile’, certainly compared with ‘Goats Head Soup’ and ‘Beggars Banquet’, even ‘Sticky Fingers’ is far more consistent. There is something about double albums, though – I think they can give a platform to stuff that’s ‘interesting’ rather than particularly strong in its own right. Sometimes it’s no bad thing. [The Beatles’] ‘Revolution 9’ is interesting, though probably not interesting enough to bear listening to as often as say ‘Blackbird’ or ‘Julia’. In fact there’s a number of tracks on ‘The White Album’ that wouldn’t make the cut if it were a single LP. But I think a single album of just the killer tracks wouldn’t be either as good an album or as startling a change from ‘Sgt. Pepper’. ‘Exile’, on the other hand, would definitely benefit from some pruning. But let’s face it, The Stones aren’t as good as The Beatles.

Can’t argue with that. The Stones made a few terrific albums but have constantly pissed on their own legacy, whereas the Beatles took a new leap into something interesting whenever they hit the studio, certainly after ‘Beatles For Sale’. You could probably argue that their legacy would have been weakened, too, had they limped on into the 70s, but we’ll never really know for sure. You’re also right about ‘The White Album’, too; scaling that down to a single record seems to be an omnipresent discussion on music forums. The best thing about it, though, is that no-one — no-one — can agree on which tracks are left on the cutting room floor.

I’d definitely get rid of ‘Savoy Truffle’; ‘Rocky Raccoon’ and ‘Wild Honey Pie’ – I can find no redeeming features in those songs at all. Also ‘Yer Blues’ would be straight in the bin. I feel the same about ‘Yer Blues’ as I do about similar fare from the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton – I’ve never had any time for white millionaires playing the blues.
It gets a bit more contentious after that – ‘Honey Pie’ is unlikeable, but at least it’s quite clever. Conversely, ‘Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da’ and ‘Bungalow Bill’ are a bit trite but they do have a sort of gormless charm. ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ isn’t a great song, but I wouldn’t have the heart to bin Ringo’s first effort.
The rest of the album’s untouchable, in my opinion.

It’s certainly one of a kind.

So, going back to the heart of your book… It’s an interesting coincidence that Manchester’s first two studios actually operated on different floors of the same building.

Well, no-one was building studios anywhere, so the guys from The Hermits naturally were getting advice from Eric Stewart and Peter Tattersall. So from that respect, it’s not really a coincidence at all…

How exactly did Strawberry end up with a multi-million selling single on their hands with ‘Neanderthal Man’ by Hotlegs? It’s utterly bewildering. It sounds like a man practising on a drum kit while a band are playing something else at the other end of a corridor!

That’s astounding isn’t it? There’s certainly a bit of luck involved…the arrival of Dick Leahy from Philips just as they finished it for a start. But while it’s certainly infectious in a football chant kind of a way, it’s hardly ‘Eight Days a Week’ is it? Two million copies…for a band that didn’t even technically exist? Go figure. In the UK, but far less so in The US, you occasionally get these bizarre anomalies. Usually they’re novelty records like ‘Shaddap You Face’ or ‘The Birdy Song’ but once in a while they’re less explainable: ‘O Superman’ by Laurie Anderson being one example off the top of my head.

O Superman’ was, and remains, bloody terrifying.

In the context of the charts and ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’, it’s amazing isn’t it? Who was buying it in such numbers? And were they playing it?

I certainly wasn’t and I’ll still go to lengths to avoid it! [laughs]…
Could the success of Hotlegs’ ‘Neanderthal Man’ not also be partly due to that Manchester spirit you often allude to? After all, it was recorded by Mancunians in the first Mancunian studio. Is it possible that it had a fair bit of grass roots support?

It would be nice to think that, but I’m not sure. Outside of the industry, nobody really paid attention to where records were made in those days, and Hotlegs were hardly all over the press. I imagine most people assumed it was made in London.

Speaking of records that could be dismissed as novelty: your approach of discussing the ins and outs of a studio has meant that you’ve kind of approached Brian & Michael’s ‘Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats & Dogs’ as a historically important recording. The same goes for the single by Doctor Father which, of course, like the Hotlegs single featured Godley, Creme and Stewart in a fictional band set up. At which point did you decide those should get a look in, especially when there are probably other better loved recordings from Strawberry or Pluto that don’t?

As I looked at all the stuff that was recorded at Strawberry and Pluto with a view to decide what to include, what was “important” definitely trumped “good”. I did try and mention as much as I could, but I took a conscious decision to limit my coverage of Factory Records acts. Firstly, because I thought it would unbalance the book, but also because they’re already well documented elsewhere. The reason I went for a full chapter about ‘Matchstalk Men’ is because I think its subject matter has interesting parallels with the book’s subject matter – Manchester artists who refused to move to London.

Makes sense. In the book, you make no secret of the fact that Eric Stewart’s Strawberry Studios – at least to begin with – was superior to Keith Hopwood’s Pluto upstairs…

It was definitely superior while Pluto was upstairs and probably still was when Pluto moved to a different location. Keith was less concerned with innovation for innovation’s sake, I think, which isn’t a criticism. Pluto was cheaper, because he used his commercial recording revenue to subsidise music recording throughout its lifetime. That’s why the Smiths did a single at Strawberry but when it came to making a full album they plumbed for Pluto.

Interesting that they can claim to have recorded at both. How many other bands did that?

The Fall and Buzzcocks did. …And Sour Mash of course!

Sour Mash… It’s unfortunate that their first long player – the first to emerge from Pluto Studios – got shelved. That had to be a blow to the studio owners as well as the band, especially with Strawberry seemingly gaining momentum?

I think they must have been pretty gutted – but they coped with it in different ways. Keith put all his efforts into the studio while the rest of the band went back to working with Peter Noone. That was a pretty brave move on Keith’s part because he was turning down easy money. A top guy, whose contribution to Manchester music got overlooked for years.

The beginning of the second half of ‘Leave The Capital’ throws some light on what was good about 10cc and their mastery of the studio. For anyone vaguely interested – though not necessarily interested enough to delve into Dave Thompson’s ‘Cost of Living In Dreams’ – your book manages to succinctly cover why they were important, while also opening up a rabbit hole of Godley & Creme’s ‘Consequences’ [which was also recorded at Strawberry]. That’s almost covered in a “carrot on a stick” fashion. Given the scope and self-indulgent aspects of that triple LP – entirely a product of the studio itself – were you not tempted to make that one of your 13 pivotal recordings? The time spent on that alone must’ve been staggering!

No, not tempted at all! Each of the recordings were chosen because, as well as discussing them in their own right, I could use them to move the bigger story on – hence ‘A Groovy Kind Love’ could take Eric Stewart from being Wayne Fontana’s guitarist to the point where he was ready to build his own studio. ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ meant I could tie in with that Pistols gig and also with Buzzcocks’ kick-start of the indie scene and so on. While I was happy to talk about ‘Consequences’ a bit, I couldn’t have done a whole chapter on it. Not least because I’d have had to listen to some more! [laughs]

Your discussions about Godley and Creme’s studio innovation inspired me to dig out [their 1979 LP] ‘Freeze Frame’ – not a Strawberry recording, but still a work dictated by the studio and their innovation. Everything has been manipulated by tape drag, echo and all sorts of ugliness. During ‘I Pity Inanimate Objects’, I actually forgot what was on the stereo and it was like “what the bloody hell is this?

Godley and Creme were really inventive in the studio. I think it shows just how much talent was contained within 10cc: they had serious songwriters and arrangers, brilliantly inventive producers as well as a top engineer and studio owner all within the group. It was unprecedented – even The Beatles needed George Martin and Geoff Emerick…

Even Godley and Creme’s more pop oriented ‘IsmIsm’ album is really arty. You only have to look at the massive hit single ‘Under Your Thumb’. It has a fairly accessible pop melody for a vocal, but strip that away and you’re actually left with fairly atonal tape loops and multi layered keyboard noises. It’s to their credit they managed to score a massive hit with it.

It’s quite an achievement. Even the lyric is like an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’. I think ‘Under Your Thumb’ and ‘Cry’ were motivated by an attempt to recreate what was great about the original 10cc. That combination of bonkers production with old-fashioned song writing, which is a really difficult thing to get right. …And most people would have neither the balls nor the inclination to say “this is a great song…but that’s not enough.”

Obviously, no document about the history of music recorded in Manchester would be complete without a look at Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Leave The Capital’ gives readers what they want in that respect. However, maybe because so much has been written about the album in depth previously, or perhaps due to your digging deeper for earlier musical nuggets, it feels…almost unnecessary in a way. Almost like an obligation.

I think that’s a legitimate point, that maybe this book needed a chapter on Joy Division more than the world did. But, that said, I genuinely believe that chaper – ‘A Special Moment in Time’ – offers something that I haven’t read elsewhere. I wouldn’t have put it in otherwise. Plenty of people have expressed the opinion that the album sounds like it does because it was recorded in Stockport, but as far as I know no-one has attempted to explain exactly how that would work. I think by discussing how Eric Stewart’s ideas for what a studio could be capable of directly affecting Martin Hannett’s vision, you get a perspective on the album that hasn’t really been touched on before. I also think it’s refreshing to discuss Joy Division in the context of 10cc and Buzzcocks rather than the other Factory bands.

That last point really gives it some context. Joy Division aren’t usually approached with such knowledge and love unless it’s part of a book that already speaks to extant fans. The end of that chapter, though – without giving too much away – reads like the ultimate cliff-hanger. In some ways, it would have been more interesting to find out more about New Order’s rebirth at the studio…

I could have done that. I was tempted to discuss ‘Ceremony’ but then I love ‘Unknown Pleasures’ so much I went with just that. If I’d done New Order, your point about it being an obligation would have applied equally.

You recorded ‘Perverted By Language’ with The Fall at Pluto. The lyrics of that album’s ‘Garden’ refer to a brown baize lift-shaft, immediately painting a picture of late 60s architecture. In this case, it’s a reference to the studio itself? Did Mark E. Smith often conjure lyrics that late in the recording process?

I think it is, as the entire studio was clad in brown baize. Mark could change a lyric at any point in the life cycle of a song. He would still amend the lyrics after songs were recorded. If you listen to the live album ‘Fall In A Hole’ the lyrics to the songs on ‘Hex’ and ‘Room to Live’ are still evolving.

Obviously, you didn’t want to derail ‘Leave The Capital’ with too many personal anecdotes, but what do you remember about recording the album?

It was fantastic to record a bus ride away. It meant that you could turn up when you wanted – I loved being in the studio (still do) so I liked getting there early. When you were away from home (or even recording at Rochdale) you were beholden on somebody else to get you there. Being a bit of a Clash fan I was also quite impressed that it was where ‘Bankrobber’ was recorded. In my brother Steve’s book he mentions being aware that it was owned by one of Herman’s Hermits – I suspect that might be a retcon…I’ll have to ask him. I certainly wasn’t aware, and I’m not sure I’d have been as impressed at the time as I came to be later.

Me and Steve used to get the 108 bus in every day and get off at Cambridge Street, which was where my dad worked, funnily enough. We’d walk from there and usually had a bit of time before Mark and Craig [Scanlon] turned up. Karl [Burns] was always late, unless he’d slept in the studio, which wasn’t unheard of. Brix was with Mark most days, and for a while we had the slightly surreal experience of her having a little corner with a guitar and mic, with no official confirmation she was going to contribute at all. Recording followed the usual pattern – start at 11, couple of hours recording, then adjourn to the Old Garrett pub till they shut at 3, back to the studio till 8 or 9, back to The Garrett till half 10. Then we’d carry on till 1 or 2 in the morning. Pub grub was in its infancy then so food was mainly confined to crisps!

The album was a mixture of stuff we’d been playing live, with new stuff written especially. ‘Feel Voxish’ we’d been doing live for ages, with Karl on second bass. ‘Tempo House’ we’d also had a while, which meant me and Karl got some really good interplay. I loved that we had two drummers – ‘Smile’ and ‘Garden’ are my two favourites on the album and I don’t think the two drum thing was ever better than on those two. I also started playing keyboards around then. They’re just small overdubs on this album – a little bit on ‘Neighbourhood of Infinity’ and ‘Eat Y’self Fitter’ – but after that I started playing them on some songs instead of drums. The other thing I remember is that there were video cameras around on a couple of occasions, which was really unusual in those days. Most of the footage turned up on the ‘Perverted By Language Bis’ video.

Mark is on record somewhere as referring to Pluto as “a crappy studio“. That’s big talk coming from a man who sounds like he recorded 1979’s ‘Dragnet’ in a garden shed. What were your feelings?

I don’t think Mark’s idea of what constituted a great recording facility necessarily chimed with most people’s, let’s put it that way. I thought Pluto was great, actually. 24 track was much better for recording two kits, and consequently I thought the drums sounded much better than on ‘Hex’. It had a professional set-up…engineers were great, and It also had a really good “early evening” vibe no matter the time of day. …And it was next to The Old Garrett, which was always handy…

You were a Fall member for approximately six years. That’s quite a long stretch by Fall standards! From various stories circulating, aside from lack of job security, it seems it could be both thrilling and nerve-racking all at once, with Mark changing his mind from minute to minute…

I’d say that was accurate. The only time I really felt a lack of job security was when we went to Iceland. They’d just come back from a tour of the USA with Karl, who was never less than brilliant. I think Mark would have been happy to get rid of me at that point, but the rest of the band wouldn’t stand for it. Which is more than can be said for me when Marc Riley was sacked, to my eternal regret! For me it was an interesting and rewarding experience working with Mark, because in those days his mad ideas and odd decisions usually worked out for the best. I don’t think that was the case later on.

...For a job that doesn’t sound like it was ever the easiest, most times in ‘Leave The Capital’, you refer to your experiences with Mark with a great deal of humour…

Well, I’m certainly not bitter. I was in The Fall – how could you be bitter about that? There was a lot to moan about, for other ex-members much more than me…but we’re done moaning now.

You were in the band when they played Hammersmith in ’82, which included a really improvised version of ‘…And This Day’ with Alan Pellay. What do you remember about that night? Being a huge fan of The Comic Strip – and specifically their often overlooked ‘Gino’ story featuring Pellay – I’ve often wondered what it was like that night.

Pellay was a friend of Mark’s for years; used to send us Christmas cards wishing us ‘Peace Love & Sequins’, as I recall. I think that’s the version of ‘And This Day’ that’s on ‘Hip Priest and Kamerads’, which I only heard recently. I was quite taken aback by how good it is. The main thing I remember about that song is how relentless it was – “no fucking respite”, to quote the recording. Me and Karl never made allowances for its length – we used to really go for it, as you can hear. My other main memory of that night is that we were supported by The Birthday Party, who had [Magazine’s] Barry Adamson on bass because Tracey Pew was in prison. I played drums with them on ‘Dead Joe’ in the soundcheck. They were absolutely brilliant, as always.

Returning to ‘Leave The Capital’ and the penultimate chapter on The Smiths – it seems rather perverse that your own rules for the book’s structure has limited you to talking about what’s arguably the band’s weakest album!

It could be argued it’s the weakest album. In fact I probably would argue that myself, but the story of how that album came together is really interesting and if you’re writing about music, as opposed to writing music. As I said before, “interesting” beats “good” every time, I think.

When The Smiths played their first live show in London, it was as support to The Fall…and again, you were there. Do you recall much about that night?

I’d been at college with Johnny Marr. We’d never really spoken, but I knew who he was. Everyone there knew who he was. I could see they were a good band, but I didn’t come away saying “I’ve seen the future and it’s the Smiths”. The main thing I remember is Karl raiding their dressing room while they were on and nicking their beer. That’s a terrible thing to do, isn’t it? They only got about ten cans of crap lager! Most support bands would have just let it go, but Johnny Marr demanded them back…he got them too, and therein lies the real secret of The Smiths’ success.

The close of the book – again, without giving too much away – does a very neat job in linking The Smiths with Joy Division, Joy Division with The Stone Roses, The Fall with Joy Division, Martin Hannett with about half of the book and the members of 10cc with almost everyone in a way… It must have been a tall order to cram so much detail into just over 200 pages?

The fact that it links all these seemingly distinct elements is, I hope, ‘Leave The Capital’s unique selling proposition. I was aware that if the links came across as in any way forced, or artificial, then I’d have blown it…but they don’t because they’re real. I also didn’t want it to feel like I was labouring the points, so while I wasn’t tied to a set length, I knew I had to make it snappy.
Which I think it is.

It definitely is. As far as a book discussing a musical history goes, it’s got the balance just right between detail and energy. Despite covering several bands and three decades, though, the lasting feeling is that it’s far more a book about the extracurricular works of 10cc. It was released in 2017 at a similar time to an anthology of Eric Stewart solo recordings and a comprehensive 10cc box set. Since both are pivotal to the book’s genetic makeup, was the timing coincidental?

Funnily enough it was. I didn’t find out about either of them until the book was all but finished…

It’s gotta have helped, though?

I certainly hope so. The Strawberry Exhibition at Stockport Museum and the subsequent recreation of the studio in its original premises both happened just as the book was coming out as well, which was gratifying. “It’s time the tale were told…” as it were!


Leave The Capital is published by Route Publishing.
Visit their website here.

Read Real Gone’s “Beginners Guide To The Fall” here.

March 2018

4 thoughts on “Hit The North: Real Gone meets Paul Hanley

  1. Great interview. Enjoying the various songs mentioned within. Time to explore the early career of Graham Gouldman & Eric Stewart me thinks.

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