11th September, 2013
Come morning I’m back out on the balcony again, sunning myself like a retired military man. I put on Curtis Mayfield then listen again to young Lloyd’s album, Standards. Myrtle and Rose is very touching. Then I listen to a bit of Neu’s second album and I am struck by the obvious lifts Martin Hannett and Joy Division took for Unknown Pleasures. The heavy plate reverb on the gated snare, the unsettling sound effects. It’s funny to think that Joy Division were essentially a seventies band. But they sounded like the future and the future sounded like hell. So here we are.
We motor north to London burning diesel, the great belt with its white stitches tugging us forward. An eiderdown of cloud blankets us as the sun slants between the sheets bringing the road alive with a trembling light.
I have to head straight to Manchester for a breakfast TV thing after tonight’s show and the journey is on my mind, nagging me. I need to dispel such irrelevances and focus on the show. I slap myself in the face, twice.
We enter the twisted thicket of London and get caught in its gorgon’s embrace. We cross the Abbey Road zebra crossing without so much as a raised eyebrow. We’re hardened old pros, us. Ooh, look there’s the Shard!
I sit for hours in the frigid environs of the Union Chapel dressing room, a huge hall of a place that I’ve never known to be warm. I attempt to get a little sampler I bought in Brighton to run my backing tracks. It won’t. Another porridge umbrella, then. My legs get so cold I consider buying a travel blanket. I’m sure Islington must have an appropriate outlet. Something tartan with a nice pile. Something manufactured by appointment to some minor buffoon from the royal family. Something that warms your lap in the back of the Land Rover as you are driven back to the lodge with a dead stag on the bonnet.
I actually enjoy the soundcheck through the sheer boredom of the rest of the day and afterwards waste an hour or so listening to Thelonious Monk, which as anyone knows, is not a waste at all.
After an efficient show to a warm bunch of listeners, two of us make for Manchester while the rest go to a hotel. I’m riding shotgun on the journey north, turning the dial through the stations. Late-night radio – that constant comfort to all-night drivers. James Dean Bradfield is talking about books and Richard Hawley with Janice Long. He reads a long passage from Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families which is an impressive use of mainstream radio.
We get to Salford’s futuristic cityscape around half three and I manage to sleep for a few hours before walking across a plaza to the BBC to enter the surreal and serene domain of TV world. If I’m honest I quite like it. I’ve always liked doing live TV, it’s a nice little buzz. Although there’s always a tiny voice screaming way, way down in the depths of me -”Say cunt! Say CUNTS!!!” I presume this never shows, but who knows? People at home might be watching on their sofas, clutching their mugs of tea increasingly tightly. “Go on. Go on! Say cunt. Say CUNTS!!”
My sofa hosts are charm and professionalism personified and so effortlessly congenial you almost want to invite them round for some tea and cake to meet your mum.
This Salford Media City place is an imposing development. It feels somewhere between Burbank in LA and Docklands in London. It lacks a little greenery. No matter, it will all be pleasantly overgrown mere years after the impending apocalypse.
I re-insert myself within my Holiday Inn cubicle, luxurious in its modern way – lots of white with bits of fake walnut veneer. They put a velvet ribbon round your pillows with the word “soft” written on an attached plastic label. Just in case you were thinking of using one to throw through a plate glass window during a fire. Or starting a riot with one. POLICE BEMUSED BY RIOTERS PILLOW ATTACK
I go back to bed and do this: tap-tap-tap. I’m tapping into your conscience with my fleshy prodder. I’m throwing words out into the morning with the insouciance of a bored wizard. You would not believe the spells I cast.