My formative years were closely associated with this historic city, but I fell out of love having had a series of bad experience in the 80’s. This weekend has seriously rekindled the love.
Being at school in Southport, many of my friends were from the area and Liverpool was the natural city to visit.
I attended my first gig, Golden Earring (supported by Supercharge) with my long standing friend and musical collaborator Tim Wright. I cant actually remember the name of the venue, but it was a big hall near Lime Street station.
Over the next couple of years I went on to see Genesis (Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour), Emerson Lake and Palmer (Brain Salad Surgery tour) and Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon tour) at the Empire. Amazing days indeed!
On leaving school I naturally gravitated to home city Manchester but in the 80’s / 90’s visited Liverpool sporadically, each time having my car broken into: a city in real decline.
Only a couple of years ago, I ran some BSAC Instructor Training Courses in the Liverpool suburbs and this didn’t change my mind.
Living now on the Isle of Man we occasionally drive through the City as it is one of three ferry terminals from the Island and in doing, have seen huge redevelopment.
When my pals Gypo, Jo and Ed (co-presenter of the Ed & Simon Podcast and occasional Manx Radio DJ) mentioned they fancied going to see White Hills in Liverpool I was tempted, but still filled with trepidation.
Gypo is the main man at Ballagroove Records and a very trustworthy chap indeed. He told me that it was the best City in the world so who am I to disagree!
Friday 23 March was the first sailing in 2012 of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ‘fastcraft’ Manannan so the trip to Liverpool was pretty quick at around 2.75 hours.
Following a pint of breakfast Guinness and a stale bacon bap on the boat, we arrived into a misty Mersey around 1000 and made our way to The Egg where the sensible amongst us (Gypo, Jo and Ed) decided to have breakfast. It looked great. The toast had similar dimensions to a copy Encyclopaedia Britannia and the rest filled with Organic, vegetarian goodness.
Walking through the streets felt welcoming and there was a good humoured atmosphere. The route from the ferry took us past the Cavern Club and Eric’s, where I has seen many bands in the late 70’s but sadly didn’t recognise anywhere as all the redevelopment in the area had completely thrown me.
As we approached the ‘Golden Triangle’, the vertices being the two Cathedrals and the bombed of church of St Luke’s, independent stores and café‘s started to appear.
Gypo waxed lyrical about the City’s pubs and not wishing to disappoint, we did try to experience as many as possible.
Following breakfast we slipped up to CAMRA’s ‘Liverpool Pub of the Year’, The Dispensary. Great atmosphere and ale!
Walking on we visited Quiggins at Grand Central, which was until recently a club but now converted into a home for a diverse range of eclectic independent retailers and reminded me of Manchester’s Aflecks Palace.
The star of the retail show however was 69A. An amazing shop containing a diverse range of well, everything, from stuffed animals to antique pipes.
Many would think that load of music types on the way to see three psyc-rock bands would be firing down the beers indiscriminately, but no, we wanted the full Liverpool experience and walked up to Liverpool Cathedral. It is big, very big and makes you feel small, very small.
Following the 1981 riots, Toxteth has an unfortunate reputation and has had its problems but when walking to the enigmatic Peter Kavanagh’s you pass lovely Georgian residences, as lovely as you would see anywhere in Britain.
We now had the taste for beer and strolled down to the famous Ye Cracke, which was frequented by John Lennon and his girlfriend Cynthia when they were at Art School.
Legend has it that a picture that still hangs in the bar inspired the cover to Sergeant Pepper.
We walked back and checked in to the hotel. Ed and I were staying at the super-budget Formulae 1 at £36 per night, amazing value, but allegedly can be little noisy at night with all the stag/hen doo’s! But I can sleep through anything and especially after a skin full of fine ale.
Not wishing to become too pissed before the gig, more food was required and we slipped down to the Shipping Forecast. Of course, besides grub it does feature a selection of excellent real ales!
The queue wasn’t huge so to kick the proceedings a cider was in order and we whipped over to Mellow Mellow
The humour was starting to flow and when we returned to the Kasimier ready to rock.
The venue looks like a converted disco but with tiered flooring which is excellent for the vertically challenged amongst us. It also had a balcony and stairs at either side of the stage. This is ace, allowing geeks like me to see the stage setup and gear in great detail!
The sound system and lights were perfect for the venue, providing a great platform for the bands. It was a ‘tinny’ bar, but at reasonable prices and I ended up drinking ‘Scrumpy Jack’ – a bad move.
First up were three piece Mind Mountain. We had all tried to find more about them before the gig but to no avail, however we have subsequently learned this was their fourth gig and had not recorded anything to date!
I thought they were great with complex time signatures, driving bass and nice guitar / synth playing. Started to become a bit prog in the last song and now looking forward to hearing some recordings!
As an accomplished Kraut Rock outfit, Mugstar stole the show for Gypo. Metronomic beats and lines with sweeping soundscapes. Tight, heavy with good stage presence.
Headliners White Hills were a little disappointing, or was it that the two previous bands from Liverpool were so good? Either way the velvet hot-pants and guitarists makeup didn’t go down great with our team.
The gig was a great success and all this for £7.00 – amazing value!
We finally poured into ‘The Swan’ and after a few pints of Phoenix Brewery Wobbly Bob, things did started to get hazy and can’t really remember walking back to the hotel.
We didn’t get to be really late and I was up pretty early and having my MAC with me, started this article! We had arranged to meet up at 1200, but I decided to take advantage of the sunshine then went for breakfast at The Egg again, this time indulging in a full veggie breakfast.
I met the guys at ‘The Pilgrim’ where they had already ordered breakfast. No alcohol was consumed, just plenty of tea.
We had a list of pubs to get through so disregarding the dull headache we intrepidly forged on, to one of Liverpools most famous purveyors of alcohol, The Philharmonic. The decor throughout is spectacular and as we left, a group of women on a sightseeing bus enquired if I had seen the Gents. Bizarre.
You cant be so close without visiting Paddy’s Wigwam, that is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ The King Liverpool, which poetically is joined to the Anglican Cathedral via ‘Hope Street’. I am not a fan of Roman Catholism but this is an amazing place for sure.
Next stop was the University of Liverpool, Victoria Gallery & Museum where Gypo wanted to show us the display of historic false teeth and dental equipment. Well worth a visit but led me to think all these magnificent buildings around the City were in funded by the slave trade.
All this and we were sober.
A part of the trip was based about visiting the third most important religious building in Liverpool, namely Probe Records).
We arrived and started to feverishly skip through the eclectic vinyl mix, salivating at the selection and found the bass player from Mugstar serving behind the counter! Will he follow the impressive list of stars such as Julian Cope, Paul Rutherford and Pete Burns who have graced the till over the years. I hope so.
Time was marching on and the ferry was leaving at 1915 but more food required so we whipped into Cafe Tebac and following a feast of fajitas and a cool beer we proceeded to meet up with our friends Nell and Justine from The Fletcher Christian Mutiny who were in Liverpool to road tests some amps! Being a rock band and all, the only suitable venue was back at The Swan and more Wobbly Blob.
We were really on the minutes now but had one final pub to visit. Ye Hole in The Wall as apparently Adolf Hitler stayed with his brother in Liverpool between 1912-13, and this was their local.
We had five minutes to reach the boat and just made it in time. Having walked around 15 miles and consumed around 20 pints during this brief vist I slept most of the way home.
This 36 hours in Liverpool has really revived my interest in the City and will be back soon. Thanks to the people of Liverpool, Gypo and Jo for their almost fanatical enthusiasm about the City and the whole crowd for superb company and stimulating conversation.
Now, just off to play my little gift to myself from Probe.
‘The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.’
James A. Michener (1907-1997)